ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION 2GB Graphics Card Review - zotac gtx 960
ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP EDITION Review

ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION 2GB Graphics Card Review

Price / Where to Buy:

US – Approx.: $210 – ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION on Amazon / Amazon.ca
PH – Approx.: Php9800

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.

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About GeForce GTX 960

The GTX 960 is, to be very concise, a GTX 980 split in half as the table below indicates. Whatever made the GTX 980 a great card has been cut in half, castrated and reduced to make the GTX 960. That means its still the same 28nm Maxwell GPU featuring the same number of transistors but bears the GM206 name whereas the GTX980 and GTX970 bear the GM204 GPU.

Model GeForce GTX 980 GeForce GTX 970 GeForce GTX 960
GPU GM204 GM204 GM206
CUDA cores 2048 1664 1024
Texture Units 128 104 64
ROP 64 64 32
Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 128-bit
Memory Size 4 GB GDDR5 4 GB GDDR5 2 GB GDDR5
Memory Bandwidth 224 GB/s 224 GB/s 112 GB/s

As indicated, the GTX 960 will feature 1024 CUDA cores running with a reference base clock of 1126Mhz and a Boost clock of 1178Mhz. At launch, only a 2GB GTX 960 is available and no word on any other memory capacity model yet. The memory runs at a reference 1753Mhz wired to a 128-bit bus. That last part may sound a bit underwhelming but thanks to delta color compression which enables the GM206 to better utilize its available memory bandwidth (148.8GB/sec effective in GTX 960 vs 144.2GB/sec in GTX 660).

The GTX 960 is aimed squarely at 1080p gamers and the launch price places the GTX 960 at the sweet spot at which most mainstream gamers currently sit with a SRP of $199. AIB partners and their custom boards are expected to hover just below $230 but still, this is lower than the GTX 760’s launch price of $250.

Features

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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.
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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.features4

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.

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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.

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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 ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION

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ZOTAC’s AMP! Edition graphics cards are the company’s top-end offering and featuring distinct designs than their mainstream counterpart. For the latest generation of graphics card, ZOTAC has actually employed a new set of cooler design for their AMP! Edition cards and they look absolutely amazing. For the GTX 960 series, the AMP edition employs a dual-fan configuration cooling the the card with its factory overclocked speeds of 1266Mhz with a 1329Mhz boost clock complemented by a 7010Mhz memory clock wired to a 128-bit wide bus.

ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP EDITION Review
ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION Review

Now if that’s looking impressive already, ZOTAC also has a special edition GTX 960 AMP! EDITION which features Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes artwork on the backplate. Yes, a backplate which not all GTX960 features. The card also runs off a single PCI-e 6-pin power cable and has a great looking cooler thrown in.

Official product page

Product Gallery

Overclocking

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 MSI Afterburner software for this test.

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One of the main promises of the Maxwell GPUs is greater overclocking. As the stock clocks already demonstrate, we have pretty high frequencies in stock already and we’re able to flex that around more using an overclocking tool like MSI Afterburner. All of our units are retail samples off the shelves and aren’t cherry picked so our OC’s should be more comparable to what’s achievable in most cases.

Quite possibly the highest OC we’ve gotten from any GTX 960 we’ve got, the ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! Edition has so much headroom to wiggle around in. We’re getting higher OC than our ASUS Strix GTX960 and GALAX GTX 960 EXOC, on base frequencies but the we would’ve wanted to see past 8000Mhz on that memory range. Still a good solid on this GPU and shows us that ZOTAC’s got some good chips under those AMP! edition cards.

PERFORMANCE

Test Setup Processor: Intel Core i7 3770K 4.4Ghz
Motherboard: MSI Z77 Mpower
Memory: Kingston HyperX Beast DDR3-2400 16GB
Storage: Kingston HyperX FURY 240GB
PSU: Seasonic P1000
Cooling: Custom loop (XSPC Raystorm block, XSPC D5 Dual Bayres, BlackIce Stealth GT 240 rad)
Monitor: LG 42UB820T UltraHD TV
VGA: ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION 2GB

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. Unlike our standard benchmarks, we’ll save OC results for another article or update as needed as we still collect data.

FullHD (1920×1080)

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.

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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.

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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.
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Batman: Arkham Origins is the prequel to the highly successful Arkham series of Batman games from RockSteady. Rocking Unreal Engine 3, the game has superb detail and puts a decent load on modern systems.

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2560×1440

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.

zotac_gtx960_amp_1440_0001

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.

zotac_gtx960_amp_1440_0002

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.

zotac_gtx960_amp_1440_0003

Batman: Arkham Origins is the prequel to the highly successful Arkham series of Batman games from RockSteady. Rocking Unreal Engine 3, the game has superb detail and puts a decent load on modern systems.

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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.

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NVIDIA’s Maxwell GPUs are the pinnacle of efficiency when it comes to existing GPUs in the market right now and the 2nd-gen Maxwells baked into the GTX900 series are certainly the most impressive we’ve seen to date. The GTX 960 continues the great trend in power efficiency, bringing with it better temps and power draw.

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Despite the beefy looking cooler, we’re a bit disappointed about the cooling potential of this new Zotac cooler. While it does manage to keep the card on a nice idle temperature even with the fans sitting idle, it is under load that we feel that cooler is just underperforming as the card soars past 83*C on full load. You can manually tweak the fan to 80% fan speed and one of their main point of interest is that they are absolutely quiet even at 80% fan speed which is just great but still, we want our fans to last a bit longer so a manual temperature curve should be in order if you want better cooling performance under load.

CONCLUSION

ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP EDITION Review
ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION Review

The ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! Edition is one of the rare instances that game artwork is used on the card itself and it is a well-executed in this one also with the Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes artwork really giving the card that stand-out visual pop. Let’s break down the card further:

Performance. NVIDIA tags the GTX 960 for a sweet spot position namely the 1080p market with its [email protected] campaign. We try and fit our benchmarks to the most active games that set a benchmark for today so Battlefield 4 and DOTA2 are up in there with performance definitely well in the playable range. BF4 does hover below 60FPS with in-game settings set to Ultra with 4xMSAA enabled. A few touches down AA should improve performance overall though.

Build Quality.  With the new cooler design really looking intricate we’d have expected some better cooling but the thinner fin stacks are just enough to keep the card just above 80*C. While the card can do still raise its fan speed to compensate, we’d have wanted a semi-passive temps of below 79*C to give GPU Boost more room to push the card further. Still, the ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! Edition is one of the most

Functionality. The GTX 960 is a good mid-range card with power draw perfect for an everyday gaming PC and also an HTPC. That said, the ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! Edition is a pretty good choice given its middling size and will some ITX chassis with ease. The low power draw also makes it a good pair for low-capacity, high-efficiency power supplies.

Bundle.  Its starting to get really tiring writing off a lot of graphics card we’ve reviewed recently and shooting some points off because they don’t come with a free game. If you’re buying right now, NVIDIA is heavily promoting Witcher 3 and any qualified 9-series card purchased recently (during time of writing) are entitled to a free copy of Witcher 3. That said, the ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION MGS:GZ variant features a free copy of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. That’s a wicked offer to pass up and should spice up

Value. At $210, the ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION is competes with many of the higher-end GTX 960s out there but its MGS GZ bundle and backplate makes it an easier pick compared to the other GTX 960s we’ve looked at. If the game isn’t what you’re looking for though, the look of the card is easily a good option if you’re looking for something modest yet stands-out in a certain way. The Metal Gear Solid artwork could be worth it more for fans of the game. As an added incentive, ZOTAC offers an extended warranty period of 3 years for a total of 5 years total warranty coverage. You can read up on the specific warranty duration for more regions in ZOTAC’s warranty info page.

The GTX 960 promises good 1080p gaming and while we didn’t see consistent numbers even in NVIDIA-optimize titles like Batman: Arkham Origins, pumping up the screen to 1440p still sees lower drops vs. those we see in AMD cards in these titles so a few tweaks with GeForce Experience or the in-game details could get the card really flowing in the the [email protected] range for many titles.

The power draw is really where its at and if you are really mostly gaming in the 1080p resolution or heavily focused on MOBAs with a touch of AAA games here and then, the GTX 960 is surely a top choice for you.

ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP EDITION Review
ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION

With an excellent game bundle and great build quality, the ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! Edition combines solid performance with good looks for an excellent out-of-box experience for anyone looking for an affordable, factory overclocked GTX 960. Any Metal Gear Solid fan looking to add a touch of Fox in their rig might also want to check out the limited edition Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes custom artwork on the backplate. An easy card to recommend if you’re in the market for a GTX 960.

Price / Where to Buy:

US – Approx.: $210 – ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! EDITION on Amazon / Amazon.ca
PH – Approx.: Php9800

ZOTAC backs the GTX 960 AMP! EDITION with a 2-year warranty, 5-years after registration. We give it our B2G Silver Award and B2G Value Award.

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