GIGABYTE has been playing the branding game for a while now and despite the disparate styling of both the VGA and MB division has put out, one thing both business units agree upon is that they need to work with the “gaming” branding to push out their best. We’ve seen the iconic GIGABYTE GTX 980 Ti GAMING G1 Windforce hit our labs and decimated the Titan X to show-off that Gigabyte’s Windforce technology, despite its slimmer frame can dissipate very well helping improve performance via Boost clocks. In today’s review we have another offshoot of GIGABYTE’s Gaming line under the VGA line-up, the new GIGABYTE XTREME GAMING series of graphics card and its debut model is what we’ll be looking at: the GIGABYTE GTX 950 XTREME GAMING graphics card.
We’ve seen just how far NVIDIA has taken their 2nd-generation Maxwell GPUs with the GTX TITAN X and GTX 980 Ti and while the rest of the GeForce 900 series Maxwell cards are keeping mainsteam to high-end fans happy, there’s still a sizable population of gamers that position themselves in the lower-mainstream segment. Based on our popular build guides, the GTX 650 and GTX 750 are still very popular cards and according to a July 2015 Steam Hardware Survey, the GTX 650 still sits at #8 as one of the most used card by Steam gamers.
The Maxwell architecture is NVIDIA’s greatest achievement as of late given its efficiency compared to the last generation. While it doesn’t serve as a great leap in terms of performance, many people are still convinced by the excellent performance-per-watt ratio. Both the GTX 980 and GTX 970 have been largely in-demand primarily for the efficiency but the Maxwell-based GTX GPUs also introduced some new features including NVIDIA Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI), Multi-Frame sampled AA (MFAA), and Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR). Maxwell GPUs also support Microsoft’s upcoming DirectX 12 API.
ABOUT THE GTX 950
The GTX 950 is another GM206 based card, which means it features the same architecture as previous 900 series Maxwell cards and the same excellent performance-per-watt ratio as the other cards. Aimed 1080p gamers, the GTX 950 is a lightweight version of the GTX 960 featuring some reduction in its configuration but still deliver performance fitting for its price range.
GeForce GTX 980
GeForce GTX 970
GeForce GTX 960
GeForce GTX 950
4 GB GDDR5
4 GB GDDR5
2 GB GDDR5
2 GB GDDR5
As indicated, the GTX 950 features 768 CUDA cores, that’s 3/4 of a GTX 960, running with a reference base clock of 1024Mhz and a Boost clock of 1188Mhz. At launch, only a 2GB GTX 950 is available and no word on any other memory capacity model yet. The memory runs at a reference 1650Mhz wired to a 128-bit bus. Similar to the GTX 960 also, the memory bus width might sound underwheling but thanks to delta color compression which enables the GM206 to better utilize its available memory bandwidth, its actually just right.
The GTX 950 will displace the GTX 750 Ti as the primary lower-mainstream card for NVIDIA. The GTX 950 will have an SRP of US$159 and the GTX 750 Ti will now be priced with an SRP of $119.
Optimized for MOBA
The GTX 950 is mainly focused on MOBA gamers and feature a lot of optimizations and features dedicated to these games. MOBA gamers know how important a smooth experience is important in such a fast-paced game and with competitive DOTA2 and LoL now raking in millions of dollars in tournaments, those who want to perform at their peak need a similarly responsive machine. With the GTX 950 featuring superior performance over the GTX 650, NVIDIA is able to deliver a more responsive experience in MOBAs with the GTX 950.
With the various improvements NVIDIA has placed in the GTX 950, performance improvements and responsiveness in MOBAs show a significant jump in favor of the GTX 950 compared to the GTX 650.
With the arrival of the GTX 950, NVIDIA will be opening up new options in GeForce Experience to improve the performance and reduce latency in MOBAs.
GeForce Experience: More Ways to Share
With the arrival of the GTX 950, GeForce Experience will also receive an update that enable a new overlay UI for sharing your gaming moments including an instant replay option to replay the last 20 minutes of your game, Record and entire session manually or broadcast directly to Twitch.
A recorded gaming session can be trimmed and uploaded to Youtube all in the overlay which keeps you in the game.
Another new feature for GeForce Experience is Gamestream Co-Op which allows gamers to stream their games to another person and allow both players to enjoy the game together either to play cooperatively or demo a game or broadcast their gaming session.
The new Maxwell graphics cards introduces some new features to NVIDIA cards as mentioned earlier with the main highlights being VXGI and DSR amongst other things.
VXGI or Voxel Global Illumination improves 3D scenes by introducing more realistic lighting to 3D scenes by introducing voxels or volume pixels which makes light interaction of 3D objects have a more dynamic and photo-realistic feel.
DSR or Dynamic Super Resolution is another new featured, integrated via the GeForce Experience application, which add downsampling capabilities to the GTX 900 series graphics cards which lets users of other monitor sizes experience larger resolutions in their monitors without needing say a 4K UltraHD screen or a 1440p monitor. Dynamic Super Resolution works by rendering in the desired resolution and then downscaling the image and applying a filter to the native monitor resolution for an improved image quality of the scene being rendered.
In contrast to DSR, NVIDIA also introduces MFAA or Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing. This AA technique basically is a faster implementation of MSAA which should see 4xMSAA quality at the performance hit of only 2xMSAA. Implementation is in its early stages but is promising nonetheless. MFAA can be set via the GeForce Experience app.
As expected given the earlier announcements, DirectX12 is in the works and the new GTX 900 series graphics cards fully support the DX12 API alongside its many new feature offerings including better CPU utilization and overhead reduction, improved multi-core utilization and efficiency, and plenty more features for developers to use.
All of these features complement the already existing feature set that NVIDIA offers including GeForce Experience and ShadowPlay, etc.
ABOUT THE GIGABYTE GTX 950 XTREME GAMING
As we’ve mentioned, the GIGABYTE GTX 950 XTREME is the first out of the XTREME GAMING sub-brand from GIGABYTE VGA and while it doesn’t really bring anything physically revolutionary as it still brandishes the Windforce cooler design. What the Xtreme Gaming series brings to the table is a tight, cherry-picking method for GPU called GPU Gauntlet Sorting which uses only the most highly-capable GPUs. Similar to the GIGABYTE GTX 980 Ti Gaming G1, GPU Gauntlet Sorting promises higher overclocks because of the cherry-picked GPUs which in this case is a factory-overclocked core clock of 1203Mhz and a boost clock of 1405Mhz. Memory clock is also overclocked to 7000Mhz instead of the reference 6600Mhz. The Xtreme Gaming brand features a stylized version of the Windforce cooler (Windforce 2X for thie GTX 950 here, 3x most likely for higher models).
The new Windforce coolers feature customizable LED lighting and this is also present in the GIGABYTE GTX 950 Xtreme. Along with that, as you’ll see later in the product shots, is the inclusion of a backplate which really rounds out the premium look of the card.
Overclocking any graphics card is pretty straightforward nowadays provided you know what to do and given that most companies also have their own overclocking software, makes it so much more approachable. We use the latest GIGABYTE OC GURU II software for this test.
As with the majority of the second-gen Maxwell cards we’ve tested, the GIGABYTE GTX 950 Xtreme Gaming also gives us very high overclocks. We managed to push the GTX 950 Xtreme to a game-stable 1318Mhz core clock and an 8000Mhz memory clock. We felt the card could go higher with a bit of voltage bump but to keep things uniform, we won’t touch on that. All in all, the GIGABYTE GTX 950 Xtreme already comes with a massive factory OC and taking it further may very well require a voltage bump but as it is, there’s still plenty you can squeeze out of this card.
We test our graphics card with a full-level playthrough of our selected game or the games’ built-in benchmark tool. We record the run with Fraps. Game settings are indicated in the charts. Resolutions are shown in the charts.
Battlefield 4 is one of the hottest titles of 2013 and continues to prove itself a worthy game. Based on DICE’s Frostbite Engine 3, this game’s lush details and visuals are just stunning but can really stress any modern GPU. Level tested is the escape from Baku with wide open space and collapsing building showing what the Frostbite 3 engine can do.
The most visually intense game to ever been made. Prophet is back to take on the Ceph and Cell after a long sleep and the world isn’t what it was when before he got frozen. CryEngine 3 is behind this beautiful beast that will put a lot of systems to their knees. The opening level shows off the particle and water rendering of the engine.
The most popular game on Steam and the biggest competition in eSports; DOTA 2 is powered by the Source engine. The game is fairly light on low to medium settings but maxed out with heavy action on screen especially during clashes can really stress some systsems.
We use the built-in timedemo and benchmarking tool. DOTA2 only shows average FPS so we will be reflecting that in this test. Our timedemo features a heavy clash in the bottom lane for the maximum real-world system load the game can generate. With the recent visual update, DOTA2 has received some graphic makeover that adds a bit of hit for the system and all our date are updated to reflect this.
The reboot of the gaming phenomenon Tomb Raider puts players in Lara Croft’s hiking boots as she explores the ruin of Yamatai in this origins game. Powered by a modified Crystal Engine, the game features TressFX which creates beautifully rendered hair animation.
Ubisoft’s hacker action puts you in the shoes of Aiden Pearce as you piece together a crime that has been haunting you since its occurrence. Rage through Chicago as presented by Ubisoft with its Disrupt engine utilizing vast video memory for high-resolution textures for visually stunning graphics.
CD Projekt Red’s latest installment in the Witcher saga features one of the most graphically intense offering the company has to date. As Geralt of Rivia, slay monsters, beasts and men as you unravel the mysteries of your past. Vast worlds and lush sceneries make this game a visual feast and promises to make any system crawl at its highest settings.
TEMPERATURE & POWER CONSUMPTION
To measure both power consumption and heat, we stress the video card and record the peak values for heat and wattage. We use default values on the cards and stress test them using a mix of Kombustor Dx11 Burn-In Test with Post-FX.
Not surprisingly, the GTX 950 really excels in efficiency. Its low power draw for the performance it gives makes it a really good solution for those looking to build a really efficient build. GIGABYTE’s cooling solution shows us really good performance but from observation, the fans don’t even kick in during some games with the card hovering at 55*C at games like Battlefield 4 and remaining completely fanless at DOTA2.
The NVIDIA GTX 950 shows us what the company is looking to offer in the lower-mainstream market. With this segment proving to be a key market for gamers, NVIDIA has made the GTX 950 a solid product that boasts a great balance of performance, efficiency and price. Let’s break it down further:
Performance. With a very high factory OC versus everything we have right now, its easy to see why the GIGABYTE GTX 950 XTREME edges out most of the GTX 950 cards we have. Overclocking the card pushes it further and that’s really something to consider especially if you’re the kind that’s really satisfied at the level of performance that the GTX 950 can do and want to save the money rather than get a GTX 960.
Build Quality. GIGABYTE doesn’t skimp on this one despite the mainstream positioning of the GTX 950. As the first showing of the Xtreme Gaming lineup, they saved no expense bringing out the best they can do with the card.
Functionality. We’d have placed the GTX 950 as lower-end mainstream card because of its position but from the performance we’ve seen we can safely say this card can go so much further and with SLI support included, those looking to just get a boost in their 1080p gaming can easily upgrade their systems with another GTX 950 for a highly-efficient setup.
Bundle. NVIDIA’s been very giving lately allowing buyers of GeForce cards to avail free games. Do check with the promo duration as which game you can get with your card.
Value. At 179$, the GIGABYTE GTX 950 XTREME graphics card is priced a bit higher than other GTX 950 in the market but with a really solid build quality and choice-components, this is a really premium offering. The main consideration here is that for a few more dollars you can get a GTX 960 which will perform so much more than this card. This decision will eventually boil down to how much power you need and in the case of the GTX 950 Xtreme from GIGABYTE, we’re looking at a scenario wherein MOBAs are the top-priority for the consume and nothing else. Despite the GTX 950 already doing a good job at DOTA2, the GIGABYTE GTX 950 XTREME ensures a bit more performance.
The NVIDIA GTX 950 is an excellent card for its price and it really gives first-time builders something to experience high-performance gaming on a more modest budget. We’ve been recommending the GTX 750 Ti in our budget gaming PC builds and it seems like we have our new top recommendation offering bang-for-the-buck performance, cool operation and high efficiency. NVIDIA’s obvious focus on MOBA also opens up a new way for iCafes to build their machines and start offering high-performance gaming experiences to their customer base.
GIGABYTE has certainly outdone themselves with the GTX 950 Xtreme. While once again it separates itself physically from the G1 Gaming branding GIGABYTE’s motherboard division, its sleek look and slim profile make it an easy match for any build and brings class-leading performance along with it.
If you’re trying to stretch your budget for your next gaming build but don’t want to go for a GTX 960 or can’t afford one yet, especially if you play mostly MMORPGs and MOBAs at 1080p then the GTX 950 is your top choice right now.
GIGABYTE backs the GTX 950 XTREME with a 3-year warranty. We give it our B2G Performance Award and B2G Silver Award!