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ASUS, MSI, EVGA GTX 950 Review

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ASUS, MSI, EVGA GTX 950 Closer Look:

EVGA's packaging is a bit minimal, but it spent the money where it counts: on the GTX 950 SSC. The front panel of the box lets you know the model of the card, that it is an SSC version equipped with EVGA's ACX 2.0 cooling package, and that the NVIDIA ecosystem is well represented. The back panel makes note of the fact that up to four displays can be connected simultaneously with support for current gen games. Along the bottom, the NVIDIA specific feature set is laid out in multiple languages. EVGA's own overclocking and tuning utility, Precision, is supported with this card. As far as included accessories, the end user gets a user guide, feature set booklet, a note to download the latest drivers from the web rather than a driver disc, and a good looking metal EVGA case badge.

 

 

EVGA went with the blackout treatment on the GTX 950 SSC. As one of four cards in EVGA's GTX 950 product stack, the SSC model comes with a slightly lower base and boost clock speed than the FTW Edition, but gets all the high end gear under the hood. From the front, you get a look at the ACX 2.0 cooling solution equpped with a pair of dual ball bearing fans to push the airflow through the ACX fin array. The back side of the PCB has a pair of GDDR5 modules that make up half the 2GB frame buffer, along with a ton of surface mount components. A single super cap sits under the GM 206 core. While not equipped with it from the factory, EVGA's GTX 950 SSC does have an optional back plate available. EVGA uses a flat heat pipe system to manage the thermals, and from the top and bottom views you can see that this cooling solution covers the vast majority of the card under the fan shroud. This card from EVGA is meant to be used in a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot, but is again backwards compatible.

 

 

 

Display connectivity consists of the reference design featuring three DisplayPort 1.2 ports, one HDMI 2.0 port, and a single Dual-Link DVI connection that supports up to four displays. EVGA ensures plenty of airflow can exit the ACX 2.0 cooling package through the large series of openings in the mounting bracket. Looking at the back end of the card, you get a glimpse of the back end of the cooling solution and the configuration of the flat heat pipe system.

 

 

While both the ASUS and MSI cards use a 6-pin PCIe auxiliary power connection, EVGA is going big with an 8-pin PCIe power connection, ensuring that there is an overabundance of power available for the 6+2 phase power circuit to supply the core even though it's a 90 watt board. The GTX 950 SSC has the cooling to keep up, so go big or go home. In that respect, a 350 watt power supply is recommended, making this card a great add-in upgrade for any system using integrated graphics and a spare 16x PCIe slot. SLI is supported in configurations using two video cards to move to the next level of performance on the cheap. At $169, it's not a huge hit to the budget.

 

 

Stripping the ACX 2.0 cooling package off the GTX 950 SSC, there is a large amount of clean space on the PCB. A 6+2 phase power supply system provides the juice needed to power this factory overclocked video card. Just to the right of the 8-pin PCIe power connection and fan header is a small switch. The function of the switch is a magical overclocking switch that makes the GTX 950 perform like a GTX Titan X. No, not really. It is a dual BIOS switch that is used to toggle between EVGA's low noise dBi BIOS to the left and to the full on performance BIOS on the right. I was not able to overclock any higher on either BIOS, but it's nice to have the option to go silent or use a more aggressive fan profile.

 

One of the key features of the GTX 950 SSC is the ACX 2.0 cooling solution. This large by huge cooling package literally covers most of the PCB from one side to the other. EVGA uses a trio of flattened 8mm heat pipes to pull the thermal load from the GM 206 core and move it into the fin array. The interface between the heat pipes and fins is soldered to aid in thermal transfer. EVGA says this solution runs up to 6% cooler than over and through designs seen on both the ASUS and MSI cards in this review. Testing will verify that remark. EVGA uses a pair of fans that feature a more pliable plastic to ensure the blades do not break. However, it's inside the fans that the magic happens. The company uses a six slot, three phase motor to reduce power consumption by 250%. Dual ball bearings are used to support the shaft of the fan for an improved life cycle.

 

 

Buried under the ACX 2.0 cooling solution is NVIDIA's highly efficient 28nm GM 206 Maxwell core. This modular core houses 2.94 billion transistors packed into a pair of Graphics Processing Clusters, six Streaming Multi Processors, 768 CUDA cores, 48 texture units, and 32 ROPs. A total of 2GB of GDDR5 memory from Samsung runs through a 128-bit (2x64-bit) bus delivering an effective memory clock speed of 6.6Gbps. Maxwell's efficient memory architecture allows just 2GB of GDDR5 to outperform older Kepler cards using the same memory capacity. The base core clock speed that EVGA delivers on the GTX 950 SSC is 1190MHz with a GPU Boost clock speed of 1393MHz, both the highest in the trio of cards I am looking at. Depending on the game, you may see clock speeds well into the 1400MHz range.

 

 

As you can see, the feature set varies, but underneath at the heart of the card you have the GM 206 Maxwell core.




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