Nvidia's new mid-range marvel is ideal for 1080p gamers, sips power and is practically silent
GPU: Nvidia GTX 960, Memory: 2GB GDDR5, Graphics card length: 211mm
Unlike previous 900-series GPUs, Nvidia hasn’t supplied us with a reference GTX 960 for review; instead, the company is encouraging its board partners to come up with their own heatsink and fan designs rather than rely on a reference cooler. While this makes it difficult to find a baseline card on which to judge performance, it does give us an opportunity to see what manufacturers are doing to set their cards apart from the competition.
We started with the Asus STRIX GTX 960 DirectCU II, which uses an open four heatpipe, twin fan heatsink cooler design to blow hot air back into the case, rather than vent it directly out the back. It’s still very effective, however, keeping the GPU at around 38 degrees when idle and below 70 degrees after a long gaming session.
As the GTX 960 produces so little heat, the heatsink is able to keep it cool without needing the fan when working on the desktop or playing less-demanding games like League of Legends and DOTA 2, or strategy titles like StarCraft II. Once the GPU hits 65 degrees, the twin fans will spin up to keep it cool, but they never became loud enough to notice over the other fans in our test system.
For the most part, the STRIX is completely silent, but after an hour’s gaming the fans had to spin up to keep the GPU cool. Even so, it was very difficult to hear the card over the volume of our test PC’s CPU cooler and case fans. If you’re looking to build a quiet gaming PC for the living room, this strikes an excellent balance between performance and silence.
The card is less than 9in long and although it occupies two PCI Express slots, it’s small enough to fit comfortably in a small form factor PC. This, combined with the incredibly quiet fans, makes the STRIX ideal for gaming HTPC builds as well as larger desktops. As with the reference design, it only requires a single 6-pin PCI-Express connector.
A single HDMI 2.0 and three DisplayPort 1.2 ports on the back of the card will all support 4K displays at 60fps, which will definitely stretch the GTX 960’s gaming abilities but won’t be an issue for multi-screen desktop setups. There’s also a single DVI connection for 1,440p resolution or 21:9 aspect ratio displays.
Asus bundles its GPU Tweak software with the STRIX, which gives you full control over GPU and memory clocks as well as fan speed. Dive into the settings menu and you can enable voltage control as well. The software suite monitors temperatures, power draw and GPU usage so you can see what effects your changes are having on the card.
Using GPU Tweak we increased the GPU clock to the software’s safe maximum 1,469MHz and increased memory clocks to 7,910MHz, which added 3-4fps to our Metro Last Light benchmark (see below). Disabling the safe maximums didn’t result in a higher overclock without increasing GPU voltage, as pushing the card further introduced visual artifacts and crashes.
With our maximum overclocks in place, temperatures hovered around 75 degrees after 30 minutes of gaming. The fans were still incredibly quiet, although they had to spin constantly in order to keep the GPU at an optimal temperature.
|Nvidia GTX 960
|Graphics card length