Nvidia GeForce GTX 960: Maxwell In The Middle

Gaming Benchmark Results

Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 is one of our de facto benchmarks, and with the upcoming Battlefield: Hardline based on the same Frostbite 3 engine, it's as relevant as ever.

Asus' Strix GTX 960 performs a few frame per second higher than the Radeon R9 285 reference card, serving up a playable result at 1080p with the ultra detail preset enabled. When we increase the resolution to 4K and drop the detail level to medium, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 960 stays above 30 FPS at all times. But it's the Radeon R9 285's turn to take a small lead.

Assassin's Creed Unity

Now let's try Assassin's Creed Unity. This game has incredibly high minimum system requirements, but let's see if the new GeForce GTX 960 can hack it:

Even at the lowest detail setting and 1080p, Asus' GTX 960 barely maintains an average frame rate above 30 FPS. And it falls as low as 26 under load. The Radeon R9 285 fares slightly better, but its minimum frame rate is still below 30.

This game's engine doesn't appear to be well-optimized for 4K, and once we specify a 3840x2160 resolution, these graphics cards only manage a slideshow. Even the GeForce GTX 970 and Radeon R9 290X are unable to achieve a 30 FPS minimum frame rate.

Far Cry 4

At 1920x1080, the Asus Strix GTX 960 can handle Far Cry 4's high detail preset without dropping below 54 frames per second, demonstrating a slight lead over AMD's Radeon R9 285. When we bump the resolution to 4K, neither card produces playable performance, even with the detail level at the minimum setting.

Middle-Earth Shadow Of Mordor

Next up, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, a surprisingly solid title from Monolith:

At 1080p using the game's Ultra detail preset, the factory-overclocked Asus GTX 960 stays above 40 FPS (although the Radeon 285 performs a little better).

After we bump the resolution to 4K and drop the detail level to medium, AMD's Radeon continues to produce a playable frame rate, while the GTX 960 suffers notable frame rate dips.

Thief

Thief isn't the best-reviewed title, but it does have a following. In addition, it gives us a chance to observe AMD's Mantle API in action.

All of the GeForce cards except the GTX 970 suffer a bit in this title. Regardless, the Strix GTX 960 maintains at least 40 FPS at 1920x1080 with the Very High detail preset selected. Increase the resolution to 3840x2160 while reducing details to Low, though, and Asus' Strix 960 pulls ahead of the Radeon R9 285.

Unfortunately, we were unable to test Mantle at 4K with the low detail preset, as it crashed.

ARMA III

At 1080p with the Ultra detail preset enabled, Asus' Strix GTX 960 shows a notable lead over the Radeon R9 285. Increase the resolution to 4K with custom details, though, and the outcome differs.

Alien: Isolation

Finally, let's consider the sci-fi survival-horror game Alien: Isolation.

Using a FHD resolution and the highest details possible, none of the cards we tested fall below 58 FPS. Nvidia's GeForce GTX 960 shows a significant lead over the Radeon it competes against.

Increase the resolution to 4K and dial back the details a little, and these two cards pace each other, both struggling to drive frame rates above 30 FPS during demanding sequences.

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226 comments
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  • Novuake
    This seems meh... Impressive but not phenomenal power consumption to performance numbers. Especially compared the GTX970/980.

    Would have liked to see two more things.

    1. More extensive AA. post processing and memory bandwidth testing. Pretty sure Nvidia hamstrung the card a bit in some scenarios with a 1280bit interface. I had to read it 4 times before I believed it and still am skeptical.

    2. Overclocking benchies.


    So otherwise I guess we are back to the "old" ti-designation setup where the GTX960ti SHOULD be based on GM206 and vanilla GTX960 is not.
  • sconzen
    I may be blind, but I don't see the Zotax Amp! edition in the temperature and noise tests. Confirm?
  • damric
    The R9 280 is the fast and cheap elephant in the room that was never mentioned in this review,
  • Grognak
    Well, I'm not saying a 10% improvement on top of a reduced power consumption isn't nice, because it really is, however we're still quite far away from the 770. I suppose Nvidia has a card planned to fill the massive performance gap between the 960 and 970, one at 4Gb of VRAM maybe?
  • ykki
    The damn arrows are STILL blocking the charts!
  • sconzen
    I may be blind, but I don't see the Zotax Amp! edition in the temperature and noise tests. Confirm?
  • ykki
    Great review.
    Now AMD, time to bust out the 270x!
  • ykki
    Lol I meant the 370x!
  • Novuake
    1427918 said:
    The damn arrows are STILL blocking the charts!


    I am not the only one! Thank you!
  • ykki
    Novoake, I am very sorry but I stole your comment from an earlier review.
    But seriously, those arrows can block out the sun if tom's put 'em right.
  • ImDaBaron
    The Gainward version of this card has to be the ugliest video card I've ever seen
  • maestro0428
    Yes, the arrows on the charts bug me too. I am a bit let down by the performance here. Sure, the efficiency is great, but bandwidth is just to low to play above 1080p. I was hoping to put two of these in SLI, but I am afraid it won't do my Surround set up justice. Looks like I may be going with a single 980 or eventually two 970s. Bummer.
  • Novuake
    1427918 said:
    Novoake, I am very sorry but I stole your comment from an earlier review. But seriously, those arrows can block out the sun if tom's put 'em right.


    I do not recall posting such a comment? But I may have been frustrated that day. Hehe I am quite outspoken.
  • silverblue
    Not bad at all. R9 285 or better performance for 2/3 the power (or better), and for a little cheaper as well - a great 1080p card.
  • xXComputer_Nerd1625Xx
    Honestly I'm a little let down by the specs. I know specs aren't everything, but I really would've liked to see a beefier GPU compared to the last-gen 760 (which on paper looks better) and that also surpassed the last-gen 770, which this card can hardly do. I've got to admit though, at $200 it still is a great card, and maybe I'm asking for too much.
  • gudomlig
    power charts seem questionable to me. 10 minutes running furmark drew an average of 280 watts with my sapphire 7950 boost and draws about 330 watts with my MSI gaming gtx 970. the power consumption torture charts show GTX 970 running at less watts than a 7950...I call BS. Even the older reviews here on Tom's show GTX 970 draws more power than 7950 boost so not sure where they pulled these numbers and makes me question the integrity of the entire article
  • Agera One
    Why don't you always put the Anti-aliasing GIF on a screen with no moving objects? That would be more accurate to see what changes !!
  • cmi86
    I appreciate what this card was able to do in regards to the lower TDP and slightly higher performance than the 760. That said I don't think this card did enough to win my vote. I am currently shopping for a new GPU and was really looking forward to this release thinking it would be a huge game changer like the 760 but it just wasn't. Now I'll be waiting for the 3XX release before making a decision.
  • mapesdhs
    Where are the EVGA ACX 2.0 960 results?

    Ian.
  • elbert
    It requires an overclock to match the 280/285 in 1080p and totally gets crushed in 4k. While costing more than 280. Most of the gtx960 8 pin overclocking versions are more than the 285. The power saving may offset one disadvantage but costing more while under performing lol.

    I was planing on buy two but this so bad ill wait and check out GTX960ti 1280sp.
  • salgado18
    And why did you use the Asus Strix overclocked card for performance benchmarks, but for power you use Gainwards, which can be downclocked to reference specs? That's heavy bias on the numbers, and saying "A reference-clocked GeForce GTX 960 would have been slower than Asus' specimen..." is no excuse, when you did make one! Come on, great review and writing, but that is one major slip!
  • logainofhades
    Really disappointed with this card. Hopefully a 960ti will be released to be what this card should have been. Guess I am going to buy a GTX 770, from a friend of mine instead. Odd to see that all the sudden the HD 7970/R9 280x is faster than the GTX 770 now. First time I have really seen that.
  • cleeve
    120171 said:
    And why did you use the Asus Strix overclocked card for performance benchmarks, but for power you use Gainwards, which can be downclocked to reference specs? That's heavy bias on the numbers, and saying "A reference-clocked GeForce GTX 960 would have been slower than Asus' specimen..." is no excuse, when you did make one! Come on, great review and writing, but that is one major slip!


    The answer is timing.

    Game benchmarks were don in our Canadian lab. The Asus card was the only one sent early enough for us to get game benchmarks in time.

    Power tests are done at the German lab, where the Asus card arrived later than the other samples. Unfortunately, it was unavoidable.
  • fw1374
    At page 9 three times it is written GeForce GTX 690 instead of 960. Just a typo but it is there :)