Published on January 22nd, 2015 | by Bob


NVIDIA GTX960 Early Impressions

We knew it was coming, you knew it was coming, your mom knew it was coming, but NVIDIA sure took their sweet ass time launching the $199 MSRP GTX960. We may not have a GTX960 to play with expertly review, but since you’re hungry for information and we’re hungry for clicks I thought we might be able to offer a bit of insight in to what might be your next big purchase.

The GTX960 (GM206) is built on the same “Maxwell” Architecture as the GTX970 and GTX980 (GM204), with 1024 CUDA cores, as opposed to 1664 and 2048 of the 970 and 980 respectively. It has half the texture units (64 vs 128), ROP units (32 vs 64), memory (2GB vs 4GB), and memory interface (128-bit vs 256-bit) of the GTX980, for less than half of the price tag.

NVIDIA has said that the GTX960 is the spiritual successor to the GTX660 rather than the GTX760. Early results from one of my personal favorite review and benchmark sites, PC Perspective, seem to indicate that it is indeed on par with the GTX760 if not holding a slight overall advantage. You can see their testing procedure and results here. Some of the more memory intensive tests show a significant advantage, thanks to its 7GHz GDDR5.

The GTX960 does have some pretty intriguing features, as well:

  • It will be the least expensive card to support HDMI 2.0 (for 4K monitors and TVs)
  • Supports NVIDIA MFAA (Multi-Frame Anti-Aliasing), VXGI (Voxel Global Illumination)
  • Supports DSR (Dynamic Super Resolution – rendering at 4K and downscaling to 1080P)
  • Supports new DX12 features
  • Supports the ability to encode and decode H.265 video (the GTX980 only allows for encode for example)

At 120W TDP, it operates cool and quiet – some of the reviews that I’ve found have noted that several of the models (ASUS Strix DCUII for example) operate so quietly that you can barely tell they’re operating. As a testament to Maxwell’s efficiency, ASUS has even set their Strix DCUII model to operate in passive cooling mode at temperatures below 55C. Sounds to me like it’s the perfect HTPC GPU.

I did find some preliminary GTX960 SLI benchmarks from Techspot.com – the results are a bit difficult to decipher. It appears the benefit is in the 60% to 80% range overall, and depending on the game it can vary between holding a slight advantage over the 970, to besting even the 980. As with every build guide we’ve ever done, everyone here will recommend that you plan and budget for the best single-card solution that you can. In this case, I would recommend buying a 970 ($329-379) over two 960s (around $398) out of the gate.

[Update – 1/25/2015] – After scouring the internet for an opinion that mirrors my own, I stumbled upon this rather handsome gentleman conveniently sporting quite the dapper KBMOD T-shirt – check our our buddy Paul‘s take on GTX960 SLI (make sure to like/favorite/subscribe!):

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11 Responses to NVIDIA GTX960 Early Impressions

  1. Stafunoob says:

    how will Anime look on these things

  2. K9 says:

    Nice lil 1080p card

  3. seanbutnotheard says:

    “Perfect HTPC GPU” is exactly what I thought. Price seems reasonable though. Any rumors of a “ti” version with a bit more oomph?

    • Bob says:

      To be honest I doubt it. There was a 760ti OEM-only part that was essentially a rebadged 670. I don’t expect to see a 960ti. What I DO expect, however, is virtually free-reign for manufacturers in the way that they clock and market the 960 given its massive headroom in TDP. As the articles linked above indicate, the GPU overclock isn’t as impressive as they had hoped, though the headroom is there. What’s really needed is huge memory overclocks. I expect someone will come through on that.
      I also expect/hope for an ASUS ROG 960 MARS edition (2×960’s on one PCB).

    • David says:

      I have a 660ti and the price was a good gap fill between the 660 and the 670. The difference now is the 970 only costs as much as a 660ti used to, so there (IMO) isn’t room for a 960ti. I’m sure the beastly overclocked versions of the 960 will be in the $250 range, while reference 970s can dip down pretty close to $300. 670s used to be closer to $400 so they really needed something in between.

  4. Ryan Kapsar says:

    Typically when companies make chips like this they are effectively looking at the performance and quality along a normal distribution. So it’s not surprising that it’s way underperforming compared to the other GPUs. Do you think that the encoding/decoding is a hardware feature or software features? If it’s software based I’d imagine that they’d upgrade the drivers for the other GPUs to have the same capabilities. Otherwise, I’m wondering what use cases they designed this GPU for that we’re not thinking of aside from gaming or HTPC

    • Bob says:

      Looks like that’s a hardware feature of the GM206 (960) which didn’t make it in to the GM204 (970, 980) – it should make 4k playback smoother and more power-efficient.

      This is COMPLETELY SPECULATIVE but I think what you’re seeing with the GM206 powered GTX960 is actually the lower quality binned GM206 parts, and we might see higher-end GM206 based GPUs in the near future (970ti? 980ti? New Titan?)

  5. Nipnops says:

    Looks very solid at a budget level, but i almost wish it were either better than it is or cheaper. Didn’t need to be both, just one or the other. Slightly underwhelmed.

    • Bob says:

      Looking at its direct competition in that $200 space – the GTX760, the Radeon R9 280, 280X, 285 – it would be the one to go with if you’re starting off from scratch.
      In most of their marketing material they’re specifically addressing the MOBA market, and that’s certainly a place where it will excel.

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