Home / Gaming / Nvidia launches GTX 950, boosts game performance at the $159 price point

Nvidia launches GTX 950, boosts game performance at the $159 price point

Over the last year, Nvidia has slowly and steadily introduced a new line of GPUs to replace its aging Kepler family. The latest entry in the GTX 900 series, the GTX 950, is based on the same GM 206 GPU as the GTX 960, but drops a few CUDA cores and some texture mapping units to hit its new targets. The GTX 950 contains two graphics processing clusters (GPCs), 768 cores, 48 texture units, and 32 ROPS. That’s cut back a fair ways from the GTX 960, at 1024 cores, 64 TMUs, and the same 32 ROPs, but it should offer significantly improved performance over both the GTX 750 Ti and the GTX 650 Ti.

GTX 950

Zotac’s GTX 950

The GTX 950 also doubles up on memory (2GB instead of 1GB) and offers 6.6GHz of 128-bit bandwidth. Both the 750 Ti and 650 Ti had just 5.4GHz of GDDR5 bandwidth, though the 750 Ti wowed us back then with its impressive memory bandwidth efficiency and overall performance, even if the card wasn’t an overall performance winner against AMD’s hardware. This time around, the GTX 950 has a better hand to deal, and AMD ends up rocked on its heels.

Because Nvidia decided to launch in the middle of IDF, most publications haven’t had time yet to look at the card itself. One exception is Guru3D, which has put together a fairly comprehensive evaluation of the GTX 950, 960, and AMD’s lower-end products. They also catalog the performance difference between OEM specialty cards, which typically retail for more money ($ 169 – $ 179, compared to a base price of $ 159) and the vanilla-flavored GTX 950.

Unfortunately, AMD is fighting relatively new Maxwell hardware with GCN-based GPUs that are much older. AMD’s $ 149 GPU, the R7 370, does include a 4GB RAM buffer, but its performance can’t quite match the GTX 950. The graph excerpt below shows performance in a common title we also test, BioShock Infinite (for the full set of several dozen GPUs and exhaustive set of games, check Guru3D).

GraphExcerpt

Graph excerpted from Guru3D

This kind of discrepancy typifies the comparison, though the exact figures can vary from title to title. At best, the R7 370 is always a few frames behind the GTX 950, even if you only compare the default GTX 950 and not the Asus or Palit cards. While it’s true that the R7 370 is also slightly cheaper than Nvidia’s card, the $ 10 price difference probably isn’t enough to balance the scales.

We’ve seen this game play out at other price points as Nvidia has introduced the Maxwell family. AMD absolutely has GPUs on the market that can compete against the GTX 950 — the R9 285 / R9 380 (aka Tonga) is significantly faster than the GTX 950. AMD could also answer the GTX 950 by introducing a hypothetical R9 370X. Right now, the $ 149 R7 370 is a rebadged HD 7850, which means the chip carries 1024 cores, 64 TMUs, and 32 ROPs. A hypothetical R9 370X could use the HD 7870 core, which offered 1280 cores, 80 TMUs, and 32 ROPS, as well as a typically higher frequency. Such a card would likely match the GTX 950’s performance, if not its power consumption.

AMD can continue playing the pricing game, and in the near-term future, it’s going to have to. While the company still intends to launch the Radeon Fury Nano in the not-to-distant future, there’s no chance of a new low-end GPU debuting before 14/16nm technology is ready in 2016.

The GTX 950 does have one downside — it’s not really suited to gaming in anything above 1080p. That’s probably not a problem for the majority of buyers in this price point, since 1080p remains the primary resolution of choice. If, however, you want to game in 1440p or 4K, it’s definitely not the card to buy. Then again, there isn’t really a modern GPU capable of running in 4K at maximum detail yet — whether you prefer Team Green or Red, you’re going to wind up using multiple GPUs if you want to render at maximum detail and maximum resolution simultaneously.

If you don’t mind this limitation, the GTX 950 is looking like the new card to beat at the $ 159 price point.

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