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NVIDIA, MSI, EVGA GTX 960 Review

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NVIDIA, MSI, EVGA GTX 960 Closer Look:

To start, let's have a look at what EVGA brings to the table. The front panel of the packaging throws a lot of info out to the consumer, first and foremost, with the company identity front and center. Knowing that EVGA is strictly an NVIDIA house is common knowledge, but the green accents around the product name just reinforce that fact. We can see that this is a GTX 960 card equipped with 2GB of GDDR5 memory and is an SSC or Super Super Clocked edition card that features EVGA's own ACX 2.0+ cooling solution. At the bottom right and under the product model number are the list of currently supported technologies on this Maxwell-based card. Included mentions are DSR, G-Sync, DX12, NVIDIA GameStream, and GameWorks. The rear panel features an image of the card over the window that lets you verify the part number and serial number of the card for warranty purposes. EVGA hits the feature set hard on the back as well with the lineup shown in multiple languages.

 

 

Inside the box EVGA packs the card in a plastic clamshell that effectively isolates the card from impacts during shipping. It's been a while since I have seen this method of packing on a video card and now that I remember it my EVGA 8800GTS cards came the same way! The accessory bundle fits in between the top of the card and the rim of the clamshell. The accessory bundle includes both the soft and hard parts with a poster, stickers, driver disc, manual, product advertising, and a notice that lets the end user know that the fans on the ACX 2.0+ cooling system are supposed to be stopped when the GM206 core is running below 60 °C. This in itself is a simple way to eliminate a tech support call. The hardware parts of the bundle include a DVI to VGA adapter and a dual 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCIe power adapter.

 

 

 

The first look at the card shows that it is designed for use in a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot, but is backwards compatible. The front has minimal markings that take away from the overall sleek design of the card. Small silver placards on the shroud of the ACX 2.0+ cooling solution let you know that this is a GTX 960 from EVGA. The top and bottom view show off just how large the physical fin array is and how it fills almost the entire space under the shroud. Measuring 10.1 inches long, the EVGA GTX 960 SSC ACX 2.0+ is going to fit just about every chassis on the market. The dual-slot cooling solution does not have any protruding heat pipes that we normally see on cards in this category due to the design of the ACX 2.0 + heat sink package.

 

 

 

Connectivity on EVGA's GTX 960 SSC is going to be the same as the reference design using a single DVI port, a trio of DisplayPort 1.2 ports, and a single HDMI port that supports the HDMI 2.0 standard. Using this configuration the GTX 960 can support resolutions up to 5K and up to four MST displays. What stands out about the I/O bracket is the amount of it that is opened up for exhaust airflow through it, helping the card discharge the 120W thermal load. The rear of the card is wide open to allow the airflow to pass easily through the ACX 2.0+ cooling solution. The trio of 8mm heat pipes that make up the SHP (Straight Heat Pipe) feature of the cooling solution can be seen here.

 

 

On the top side of the GTX 960 SSC the single SLI bridge connection hints that a two way solution is all that is possible with this card. This usually happens when the next step up the performance chain leads to a card that is capable of running the same numbers in a single card solution and that gamers purchasing in this price point are going to be a bit more cost conscious. The 8-pin PCIe power connection seems a bit out of place on a 120W TDP card since that gives the card that much more capacity to pull with a total of 225W of potential input. The power connection is in an odd spot about a third of the way up the PCB, but it works in that position. Underneath the fin array you can see the base covering the VRM and memory on the front side of the PCB. A small switch is installed near the rear of the top edge of the PCB. This small switch is called the QSD (Quick Switch Dual BIOS) and allows the user to switch between the dBi BIOS and the SSC performance BIOS on the card. The difference is that the dBi BIOS is the zero noise option that stops the fans until the GPU hits 60 °C. The SSC Performance option is a low noise option.

 

 

Pulling the heat sink package off the EVGA GTX 960 SSC ACX 2.0+ allows you to see some additional features of the card. The MMCP (Memory MOSFET Cooling Plate) is said to reduce overall memory temperatures by 9 °C and MOSFET temperatures by up to 11 °C. Through the openings in the MMCP you can see the components that make up the 6+2 phase power circuit that drives this card. The ACX 2.0+ Cooling solution is comprised of a large fin array with a series of 8mm heat pipes running underneath the aluminum fin array from the central copper contact plate. These SHP (Straight Heat Pipes) are said to be more efficient than the U and S shaped designs that other manufacturers use! Providing airflow over the cooling solution is a pair of double ball bearing equipped fan blades that use a 3-phase six slot motor that uses less power. An improved fan blade that is up to 700% stronger while being 25% lighter reduces the rotating mass.

 

 

Powering this card is an NVIDIA 28nm GM206 Maxwell graphics processor that houses 2.94 billion transistors. Inside are two Graphics Processing Clusters, eight Streaming multi processors, 64 Texture units, 32 ROP units, and 1024 CUDA cores. A base clock of 1279MHz and a Boost Clock of 1342MHz get the work done and still leave a bit of meat on the bone for overclocking. This card comes with 2GB of Samsung GDDR5 memory and is factory set to run at a data rate of 7010MHz through a 128-bit bus. Due to the efficiency of the Maxwell GPU's memory architecture, it would take a Kepler-based card running with a data rate of over 9000MHz to get close to the bandwidth delivered by the Maxwell memory architecture.

 

 

EVGA has put together what looks like a stout card that is highly overclocked from the factory. As such the expectation is that it will use all the special features to deliver outstanding long-term gaming performance that is the hallmark of the mid-range sector. The SSC ACX 2.0 falls second on the depth chart of the four GTX 960 cards that EVGA will be introducing today, with only the FTW Edition sporting higher clock speeds.




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