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NVIDIA, MSI, EVGA GTX 960 Review

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NVIDIA, MSI, EVGA GTX 960 Closer Look:

MSI's lineup consists of a pair of cards that will be released initially to market. The packaging you see is consistent with the cards we have looked at over the past couple years, once MSI got serious and really stepped up to the plate with the Gaming series of products, including motherboards and video cards. The Tribal dragon of the "Dragon Army" is the mascot that has lead the charge. Packed full of features, the front of the package lets you know that the contents inside are part of the GeForce GTX 960 product stack. The Gaming series shield is up on the top right, with MSI specific features on the bottom left, including the Twin Frozr V cooling solution, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and that this card is a factory overclocked edition product. The back side of the box hits on a more detailed listing of MSI specific features, including the SuperSU Pipe, Torx Fans, Zero Frozr technology, and MSI's Own Gaming app.

 

 

Inside is a jet black box with an embossed MSI logo to break up the sea of black. The top section of the package includes the accessory bundle, while the bottom half holds the GTX 960 Gaming 2G in an open cell foam cocoon. While not sparse, the bundle includes just the basics to get you going. You get the users guide, MSI Gaming series product catalog, driver and utility disc that includes the drivers and MSI's unique Gaming application, a DVI to VGA adapter, and a 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCIe power adapter if your power supply does not have an 8-pin power connector.

 

 

If the GTX 960 Gaming 2G looks familiar then you would be correct. Visually the card looks like its upscale cousins the GTX 980 Gaming 4G and the GTX 970 Gaming 4G I looked at late last year. With it you get a lot of the same feature set scaled down to fit the usage scenario of this card. Up front you get the feeling that the PCB is a bit taller than the average card and at close to five inches tall, it is. The front view is dominated by the Twin Frozr V cooling solution equipped with a pair of 100mm TORX fans that feature a dispersion blade and support hybrid and Zero Frozr technology to deliver a low noise, high performance cooling solution. At just over 10 inches long, the only size constraints you should run into as far as chassis fitment will be if the height is a bit much for the chassis. The rear view shows the PCB and a pair of Samsung memory modules on the back side. The side view shows the SuperSU heat pipe configuration of two 6mm and one 8mm heat pipes, while the bottom of the card shows that it will take a motherboard with a 16x PCIe slot to run this mid-range monster.

 

 

 

Display connectivity mirrors the EVGA and reference cards with a trio of DisplayPort 1.2 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a single DVI port. This configuration supports resolutions of up to 5K and the ability to use up to four MST displays at one time. Should make for some fine gaming on G-Sync equipped 144Hz monitors. The venting on the mounting bracket is not as wide open as I saw on the EVGA card, but it does function well enough to get the job done. The back end of the card is wide open with not much but the fan header and shroud. The shroud does overhang the back end of the PCB by about 3/8 of an inch; it won't impact fitment, but extends the look and allows airflow through.

 

 

On top of the PCB you can see that the card is not quite a dual-slot design, which helps when running multi-card configurations due to the improved airflow intake spacing. Two way SLI is supported on this card due to the single SLI bridge connection. Going higher than two cards would improve performance, but the cost to get there would be greater than a higher performing single card. The white MSI logo lights up when the card powers on to identify what hardware you are running. Turning this a dark red would not stand out as bright, but would really juice up the integration of the color scheme. Toward the back end of the PCB is the 8-pin power supply that in tandem with the 75 watts brought in from the PCIe slot give the end user 225 watts of power available to the PCB and components. A brace runs down the top of the PCB to keep the PCB from becoming a flexible flyer. Essentially its funtion is to minimize PCB flex that can break traces in the PCB.

 

 

The custom PCB looks a little bare when you get the Twin Frozr V cooler off of the core. MSI uses its Miltary class technology that uses MIL-STD-810G rated Hi-C Caps, Super Ferrite Chokes, and Solid Capacitors to deliver a long term, efficient power circuit. The size of Twin Frozr V cooling solution is no surprise. This iteration of the design uses a pair of 6mm and a single 8mm heat pipe in MSI's SuperSU design that features a large nickel plated copper contact plate to transfer the heat directly to the heat pipes. MSI uses Airflow Control technology to direct airflow through the heat sink fin array improving thermal transfer with a longer circuit through the array. A pair of TORX 100mm fans feature special dispersion blades to push more airflow through the heat sink than you get with smaller, louder designs. With all that you still get Hybrid and Zero Frozr technology that allow the user to run with the cooler passive or with independent fan speed controls to the fans. Cool stuff when you get down to it.

 

 

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. MSI set the base clock at 1216MHz and the Boost Clock at 1279MHz, although in-game the boost clock had a tendancy to trend much higher. Equipped with 2GB of Samsung GDDR5 7010MHz data rate capable memory that runs 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. With these clock speeds NVIDIA has suggested the cards will run even higher speeds with some tuning.

 

 

Packed full of the latest from NVIDIA, the MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G, as well as the EVGA SSC ACX 2.0+ model I am looking at, should deliver the performance gamers are wanting along with a feature set that puts the cards primed and ready for next-gen DX12 games.




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