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NVIDIA, MSI, EVGA GTX 960 Review

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NVIDIA, MSI, EVGA GTX 960 Conclusion:

NVIDIA is fleshing out the product stack and have released the GTX 960 with no small amount of fan fare due to the price/performance point that targets the sweet spot of the market where the majority of the gamers spend their hard earned coin. We have seen over the years that when push comes to shove the X60 series is the go-to card for the majority of gamers. NVIDIA cultivates that market with the X60 series cards and brings added value to the brand with the new feature set that really allow the NVIDIA user to get an entire ecosystem instead out of just one video card.

You get GameWorks that works with the developers to ensure the technology is in the game for NVIDIA users to enjoy. You get G-Sync technology that is a game changer in the way it smooths out gameplay; there really is no other way to explain it as you just have to see it in action. Technology like MFAA that can push FPS performance that much further up to improve marginal framerates in-game when MSAA will bog you down. You get DSR that gives you 4K visuals at 1080 resolutions for a better looking game. There's ShadowPlay, GameStream, and the list goes on and on.

Without good gaming performance it's all a moot point, and that being said the GTX 960 does deliver good, competitive performance when you make the direct comparison to AMD's card that occupies that price/performance spot: the R9 285. If the performance level isn't high enough, then there is always overclocking to ratchet up the performance. When it came to overclocking the GTX 960 really has some built-in head room, and both the EVGA and MSI cards showed that headroom off quite well. All while running cooler and more efficient than prior gen cards, and the competition. The addition of the GTX 960 to the product stack means that the GTX 760, which is a good performer in its own right, is going to be EOL, just like the GTX 780 and GTX 770 were with the introduction of the GTX 980 and GTX 970. At the $199 asking price you get a lot of support that you can bank on.

Now, when it came down to a choice between the EVGA and MSI factory overclocked cards I have looked at, it would be a tough sell to place one over the other. When you look at overclocking, the EVGA card had the better core with a 1577MHz core boost clock, while the MSI card could muster a still impressive 1518MHz boost clock. Looking at the memory clocks the roles are reversed, with MSI's Gaming series delivering a 1937MHz memory clock to the 1912MHz memory clock on the EVGA. See where I am going!

If it comes down to cooling, both deliver a no noise solution with the fans coming on line at 60 °C on the EVGA card and 50 °C on the MSI card. At that point all things being equal, the MSI card was the cooler running in tests, both at stock speeds and when overclocked, and the fans running at 80%. Now let's move on to the noise generated as the fan speeds ramp up. In this contest the MSI wins hands down, as the noise from the ACX 2.0+ fans were louder sitting four feet from the chassis when set to 80%!

If you look at feature set they both come well equipped to deliver long term reliability for the end user, from the VRM implementation to the cooling solution and PCB. It's almost a no-win situation to pull a winner from the two of them. Even when you get to pricing they both sit at $209, respectively. A $10 premium for a non-reference card is one hell of a deal. For $10 the best option going is a non-reference card. Either one, the EVGA GTX 960 SSC ACX 2.0+ or the MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G, offers great performance and looks to earn you money.

The only fly in the ointment will be if AMD decides to drop the pricing on the R9 285. These cards currently sit in the $209 to $259 range, so if the pricing holds true the GTX 960 is going to be a great value at $199 to $209! For my money I'll take the ecosystem and enjoy!

 

Pros:

  • Efficiency
  • NVIDIA ecosystem
  • Thermals

Cons

  • Value dependent on price drops from AMD

 

EVGA SSC ACX 2.0+

Pros:

  • ACX 2.0+ cooling
  • Factory overclocked
  • QSD
  • Quiet (stock)

Cons:

  • Loud when fan speed pushed to 80%

 

MSI Gaming 2G

Pros:

  • Military Class components
  • Twin Frozr cooling
  • Overclocking
  • Great looks

Cons:

  • Height in small chassis




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