Nvidia GeForce GTX 960: Maxwell In The Middle

Power Consumption Details

Power Consumption Measurement

We measure the power consumption of the graphics cards just like we described in our foundations story. It’s particularly interesting to see large differences between the relatively well-balanced power consumption during the gaming loop and the comparatively high values during constantly high load. However, these maximums, which are determined by the power target, aren’t really all that relevant, unless the goal is to massively overclock the graphics card. These cards’ sweet spot is somewhere around 80 to 90W, so, naturally, the efficiency for gaming operation with quickly changing loads is the focus.

Since we don’t have access to a reference Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, and the existing tools don’t allow for more than a slight reduction in clock speed, we made the decision to use the Galax GTX 960 EX OC instead. It uses the reference board design and was also the only graphics card that could be “underclocked” all the way to a 1113MHz base frequency. The power target of 120 W fits as well, which means that our measurements should be spot on.

Model
Idle
Gaming
Torture
Power Target
Nvidia GTX 960 Reference (Emulated)
10W
85W119W
120W
Asus GTX 960 Strix OC
7W
100W
144W
130W
Gainward GTX 960 Phantom OC
7W
100W
133W
140W
Galax/KFA² GTX 960 EX OC
11W
90W
119W
120W
Gigabyte GTX 960 WindForce OC11W
97W
165W
160W
Gigabyte GTX 960 Gaming G1
15W
108W
170W
160W
inno3D GTX 960 iChill
9W
98W
162W
160W
Palit GTX 970 Super JetStream
10W
108W
133W
140W

Overall, all of the graphics cards post reasonable power consumption numbers. At least this is the case as long as the telemetry in conjunction with the driver can keep up and is able to adjust it to the load fluctuations that occur during gaming.

Problems at the Motherboard Slot

We’ve got to go back to the foundations article mentioned above to put the measurements at separate rails into context. This is because the otherwise very good Asus GTX 960 Strix leaves the motherboard connector to deal with unprecedented unfiltered power spikes all on its own:

For comparison, here’s a look at the Gainward GTX 960 Phantom OC, which presents a much more calm picture, while being almost as fast as the Asus GTX 960 Strix.

The very frequent spikes beyond the motherboard slot’s supposed limit won’t cause immediate damage to the hardware, but there might well be long-term repercussions that are hard to judge now. The same goes for how the system might otherwise be impacted with problems such as “chirping” on-board sound when the mouse is moved. The Asus GTX 960 Strix should do a much better job smoothing these spikes out.

Finally, we’re presenting the detailed measurement results of all the graphics cards we tested in a picture gallery. This provides additional detail for those interested readers who’d like to see a bit more than just a short table with overall numbers.

Asus GTX 960 Strix

Gainward GTX 960 Phantom OC

Galax/KFA² GTX 960 EX OC

Gigabyte GTX 960 WindForce OC

Gigabyte GTX 960 Gaming G1

inno3D GTX 960 iChill

Palit GTX 960 Super JetStream

This thread is closed for comments
226 comments
    Your comment
  • 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 :)