Nvidia’s Maxwell GPU architecture has been well-received by enthusiasts and gamers. One of the most promising features for Nvidia has been the architecture’s ability to scale positively from low-end to high-end hardware, showing competitive performance and positive power consumption numbers along the way. But the gap between a £100 GTX 750 Ti and £150 GTX 960 is a sizeable one, and it’s an area where AMD currently roams freely with the R7 370. Nvidia’s counter-weapon: GTX 950.
Held together by the same GM206 GPU found on Nvidia’s higher-end GTX 960, albeit with a number of features disabled, the GTX 950 is targeting gamers who want Full HD performance at 60 FPS. While that’s not exactly difficult to achieve, the high-to-ultra image quality settings that the GTX 950 is designed to be used with may be a more appealing point that pricks gamers’ interest.
The Asus STRIX Gaming GTX 950 DC2 OC graphics card uses a dual-slot cooler with two 75mm fans. This is a similar solution to what many GTX 950 board partners will be using on their models because there is unlikely to be a vendor shipping Nvidia’s reference-style design.
Nvidia says that the GTX 950 is designed to offer the best performance in its class. With an MSRP of £129 and a TDP of 90W, the GTX 950’s goal is to beat AMD’s similarly-priced R7 370 while using less power to do so. Both in terms of TDP and price, the GTX 950 is sat directly between its GTX 750 Ti and GTX 960 siblings, both of which will remain in Nvidia’s current product stack.
GTX 750 Ti (Maxwell)
GTX 960 (Maxwell)
GTX 970 (Maxwell)
GTX 980 (Maxwell)
|Base Clock||1020 MHz||1024 MHz||1126 MHz||1050 MHz||1126 MHz|
|GPU Boost Clock||1085 MHz||1188 MHz||1178 MHz||1178 MHz||1216 MHz|
|Total Video memory||2GB||2GB||2GB||4GB||4GB|
|Texture fill-rate||40.8 Gigatexels/sec||49.2 Gigatexels/sec||72.1 Gigatexels/sec||109.2 Gigatexels/sec||144.1 Gigatexels/sec|
|Memory Clock||5400 MHz||6600 MHz||7010 MHz||7000 MHz||7000 MHz|
|Memory Bandwidth||86.4 GB/sec||105.6 GB/sec||112.16 GB/sec||224 GB/s||224 GB/sec|
|TDP||60 Watts||90 Watts||120 Watts||145 Watts||165 Watts|
On a technical level, the cut-down iteration of the GM206 GPU is, in many areas, effectively 75% of the core used on a GTX 960. The GTX 950 version of the GM206 GPU ships with 768 CUDA cores and 48 texture units. Those numbers are more closely aligned with the GTX 750 Ti version of Nvidia’s first-gen Maxwell GM107 core, however specifically focussing on the number of ROPs puts clear daylight between the GTX 950 and its lower-end sibling.
The same 128bit memory interface found on the GTX 960 is present, however that may be less of a potential choking point given the reduced raw horsepower of the GTX 950’s cut-down GPU. As was the case with the GTX 960, the same argument for more efficient utilisation of the GM206’s 128bit memory interface, in comparison to Kepler, is made by Nvidia.
Clock speeds for the GTX 950 are sliced by comparison to GTX 960 frequencies. The reference core clock is rated at 1024MHz, with a maximum boost speed of 1188MHz. The 2GB of GDDR5 memory is rated to run at 1650MHz (6.6Gbps effective) to produce a bandwidth level of 105.6GB/sec. With that said, most board partners will be unlocking the GM206 core’s overclocking potential and shipping their cards with higher, factory-overclocked frequencies.
Asus, for example, ships the STRIX Gaming GTX 950 DC2 OC with a core clock speed of 1165MHz, and rates for a 1355MHz boost frequency, while the memory runs at 1653MHz (6610MHz effective).
Extending to the GTX 950’s features, the card supports the DirectX 12 API at feature level 12.1. A H.265 (HEVC) encoder/decoder engine built into the GPU, along with HDMI 2.0, shout loudly for the GTX 950 to be used inside a gaming HTPC. With the 90W TDP being low enough to comfortably fit inside SFF cases, the ability to output 60Hz video to a 4K TV (most of which do not have DisplayPort connections) is an important feature. HDMI 2.0 is a feature that team red’s competitor card cannot offer.
One of the more notable changes between the GTX 75x cards and the GTX 950 is the TDP differential. While the GTX 750 Ti had a 60W TDP, the GTX 950 ups that number to 90W. Approximating TDP as an indicator of power consumption, the 90W rating narrowly tips the GTX 950 into a region where it requires a 6-pin PCIe power connector. This emphasises that Nvidia is focused on gaming performance with its new card, while the GTX 750 Ti, for example, still remains to cater for those wanting a graphics card to run on a PSU without a 6-pin PCIe cable (think Dell, HP, or some SFF units).
You can read more about the GM206 GPU’s architecture and feature support in my colleague Allan’s GTX 960 review HERE.