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PNY GTX 960 XLR8 Review

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PNY GTX 960 XLR8 Closer Look:

PNY's GTX 960 XLR8 is built around a custom designed PCB and cooling solution that incorporates NVIDIA's Maxwell GM206 core at the heart of the PCB. At nine inches in length, the GTX 960 XLR8 is a smaller form factor card that retains all the performance of a full size card. The XLR8 version of PNY's GTX 960 uses its Elite dual fan cooling system to keep the core and memory cool. The gold accents offset the card's all dark finish. The back side of the PCB has surface mount components and several GDDR5 modules that make up the 2GB frame buffer. This card is built for use in a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot on the motherboard and occupies up to two slots worth of physical space. From the side views you can see how large the dual heat pipe-equipped heat sink is covering a large portion of the card.

 

 

 

Display connectivity mirrors the reference cards, with a trio of DisplayPort 1.2 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a single DVI port. Using this configuration supports resolutions of up to 5K and the ability to use up to four MST displays at one time. Perfect for a trio of G-Sync capable 144MHz panels. PNY does a good job of opening up the mounting plate in any area it could to provide an avenue for the thermals to escape. The design used is appealing and far from the ordinary slotted opening seen on some cards. When you look at the back end of the GTX 960 XLR8, you get an eyeful of the heat pipes used to carry the thermal load from the core to the large fin array. An interesting point to note is that the VRM and memory cooling plate not only helps stiffens the PCB to prevent flex, but it also hangs out over the edge of the PCB. The section that hangs over the PCB is a staggered fin array to catch as much airflow as possible, further reducing the operating temperatures of the Maxwell core, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and the VRM. An interesting design that you don't really see very often.

 

 

Along the top edge of the PCB is a single SLI bridge connection that will allow up to two cards in a multi-GPU SLI configuration. Adding a second card definitely improves performance with the scaling we see in SLI setups. A single 6-pin PCIe power connection is used to deliver 75 watts of power to the PCB that, when added to the 75W pulled from the PCIe slot, gives the card a max capacity of 150 watts. A power supply in the range of 500 to 600 watts would be sufficient to run this card. In the right picture you can see how the VRM and memory cooling plate is built to not only aid cooling, but to keep the PCB from getting a case of the bends that can break internal signal or power traces.

 

 

PNY's cooling solution is held on by four screws, making for easy access to the core and PCB. Covering the PCB is the cooling plate for what looks like a 4-phase VRM circuit and a portion of the 7000MHz rated 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Stripping the heat sink package down to the bare bones shows that we get a shroud covering a large two heat pipe-equipped cooling solution. The contact surface of the heat sink retains the machining marks from when it was cut. In the past this seemed to make a difference, but as thermal pastes improved it is less of a concern now. A pair of 90mm fans push airflow through the heat sink. Initial impressions of the noise generated by these fans is positive.

 

 

 

Under the lid of this card from PNY is NVIDIA's 28nm GM206 Maxwell graphics processor. The 2.94 billion transistors take up space inside the core. Making up the GM206 Maxwell core are two Graphics Processing Clusters, eight Streaming multi processors, 64 Texture units, 32 ROP units, and 1024 CUDA cores. PNY gave us a base core clock speed of 1304MHz and a GPU Boost 2.0 clock speed of 1367MHz right out the door. Currently one of the highest core clock speeds I have seen right out of the box. Much like the two GTX 960 cards I have looked at, there is 2GB of Samsung GDDR5 memory and is factory set to run at a data rate of 7010MHz through a 128-bit bus. Maxwell's efficient memory architecture allows this 2GB of GDDR5 to outperform the same capacity on older Kepler-based cards where you would need a much higher clocked memory speed to deliver the bandwidth delivered by a Maxwell-based card.

 

 

A 1304MHz core clock speed and a 1367MHz GPU Boost 2.0 clock speed should allow PNY's GTX 960 XLR8 to deliver exceptional performance for a GTX 960 card. Hopefully, based on NVIDIA's direction, we should see GPU Boost clocks of up to 1450MHz at will. This should prove a bit interesting.




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