How We Test
In order for us to compare results between cards reviewed by any of our reviewers, Tom's Hardware standardized the test bench that we all use for 2015. By doing this, each of our locations can have different sets of cards and still compare from the pool of results that any of us have obtained. Starting with an MSI X99S XPower motherboard, each test bench has an Intel Core i7-5930K overclocked to 4.2GHz, 16GB of Crucial Balistix Sport DDR4, two Crucial 500GB SSDs and an 850W power supply from be quiet!.
Software And Drivers
We retested Asus' GTX 950 Strix with an updated 358.50 driver package for this comparison, and the same was done for Zotac's GTX 960. Nvidia is pushing the GTX 950 as a step up for GeForce GTX 650 owners with a similar budget, but interested in more performance. We tested a 650 in our first look at the GeForce GTX 950 back in August. But for this review, we chose to leave the 650 numbers out. You can find the comparison here if that interests you.
The GTX 750 Ti does make it into our graphics, though its performance wasn't refreshed through a driver update. The numbers come from our GTX 950 Strix review; they were generating using Nvidia's 355.65 package.
There were some complaints about AMD's showing in the last GeForce GTX 950 review, so rather than pulling the same numbers, we re-ran results on the XFX R7 370 and Sapphire R9 380 ITX using Catalyst 15.7.1.
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor||Built-in benchmark, 40-sec Fraps, Very High|
|Battlefield 4||Custom THG Benchmark, 100-sec Fraps, Ultra preset|
|Metro: Last Light||Built-in benchmark, 145-sec Fraps, Very High preset, 16x AF, Normal motion blur|
|Tomb Raider||Version 1.01.748.0, Custom THG Benchmark, 40-sec Fraps, Ultimate preset|
|Far Cry 4||Version 1.9.0, Custom THG benchmark, 60-sec Fraps, Ultra preset|
|Grand Theft Auto V||Build 350, Online 1.26, In-game benchmark sequence #5, 110-sec Fraps, FXAA: On, MSAA: 2x, Texture Quality: Very High, Shader Quality: Very High, Shadow Quality: High, Reflection Quality: Very High, Water Quality: High, Particles Quality: Very High, Grass Quality: High, Soft Shadows: Softer, Post FX: Very High, Anisotropic Filtering: 16x|
To test for noise, a handheld decibel meter records acoustic output two inches behind the graphics card's I/O bracket. The instrument has a floor of 35dB; anything lower and it registers 0dB. To represent a recording that comes back as 0dB, but clearly isn't silent, the graph is made to indicate 34dB. When no sound is generated (such as when the fans stop spinning in a semi-passive mode), the graph shows 0dB.
To test power consumption using our reference platform, a bit of creative math is needed. Since Haswell-E processors don’t have integrated GPU cores, we can’t boot the system without a discrete board installed to get a baseline. We are able to estimate consumption based on the approximate power draw of the test bench, though. In our observations, we’ve found that the approximate power draw from everything other than the GPU is 120W. By deducting that from the recorded wattage reported on our in-line power meter, we can calculate the approximate draw of the GPU.
All of the benchmark runs employ the same game settings used for our higher-end card reviews. The first GTX 950 we wrote about was tested under toned-down detail levels in GTA V, which proved unnecessary. For that reason, we reran the game using more taxing quality settings.
Each benchmark is run at two resolutions. Gamers buying this kind of card won't be playing on QHD or 4K displays. Instead, 1920x1080 and lower are going to be most prevalent. We added 1366x768 for its popularity on the Steam Hardware Survey.