Continuing with the same legacy they have rolled out their much counted upon Xtreme Gaming series cards that aim to take the cards at their very, like the name suggests, extremes!
I'm fortunate to have with me today the entry level card from this series the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 950 Xtreme Gaming 2GB DDR5 graphics card for review. Lets take a quick look at the spec sheet for this card before we move forward in this review.
The card is based on 28nm Nvidia's GM206 Maxwell Chip, which is the same chip that powers all the GTX 900 series cards & even the GTX 750ti card from the manufacturer. It is a washed down version of the chips you find in the GTX 960 but Gigabyte has managed to factory overclock this chips to a whopping 1203Mhz base and 1405Mhz boost clock along with the memory to 7000Mhz all thanks to the new and custom designed PCB from Gigabyte along with their very efficient Windforce 2X cooler narrowing the gap to near negligible! With 128bit bus width and lossless texture compression technology the effective bandwidth increase by 20%
Packing and Contents
Gigabyte packs the GTX 950 in a long and thin box which is mainly orange and brown in color. The front is decorated with a large logo of the Gigabyte Xtreme Gaming in the center and the word Geforce GTX 950 is sitting in the bottom right corner. No photograph of the card is printed in the front.
Looking at the back you'll find all the key details upon the features of the card such as the color changing LED Windforce logo, the 2oz copper coating on the PCB and 3D active fan support. At the bottom a sketch of the I/O layout is also present for the user's reference upon connectivity.
Upon opening the box you'll find the card seated nicely in an anti static plastic cover tucked in a cavity made inside a thick styrofoam block underneath which you'll find an installation manual and driver CD. A Xtreme Gaming decal and DVI adapter is also included with the bundle.
In short the entire packaging is subtle and perfect for a card of this range and level.
Gigabyte has taken an edgy approach to style the Xtreme Gaming GTX 950 with a full matte black shroud which is plastic but feels a bit flimsy at the edges and might break or crack if subjected to a little force while handling or installation. The Gigabyte Xtreme Gaming logo and a grey streak of paint seal the deal quite nicely on this 7' card.
The I/O side shows that it is a two slot card with connectivity options including one DVI port, HDMI port and three display ports. It is a HDMI 2.0 port which means you can run display at over 60Hz on 4K resolution! Good move by Gigabyte and Nvidia to include this as HDMI 2.0 is something that even the high end cards of AMD lack in.
The top of the card has the LED backlit Windforce logo along with two more prints, Silent and Stop which light up when the fan is not spinning. One 8-pin PCIe connector is there to power the card indicating that the card can withdraw around 225W if required.
The cooler on the card is the Gigabyte's own and improved Windforce 2X which indicated to the obvious two fans used. The fans are 90mm in diameter and spin only if the temperature reaches at or around 60°C. Other than that the fans are stationary.
Gigabyte even included a backplate on the Xtreme Gaming GTX 950 not only as a sign of quality but also it was much needed since the cooler is heavy and thick making the card heavier than other GTX 950 variants so a backplate will prevent the card from warping under its own weight! A welcome move indeed since a backplate at this price point is rarely heard of.
Pop the card open and you'll find yourself the cooler and PCB as two distinct units.
Looking at the Windforce 2X cooler we notice that it has a single 6mm heatpipe running through the center of the aluminum base plate. The pipe makes direct contact with the GPU on the PCB and takes the heat off to the edges where we can see the aluminum heat spreader is soldered to the pipe increasing cooling by manifold. The two fans on top feed this arrangement with cool air and maintains a functional temperature for the GPU.
The PCB is custom designed by Gigabyte for the card itself and we can see the 28nm Nvidia's GM206 Maxwell Chip sitting nicely in the center of it with the power delivery system on one side and the memory chips on the other.
Taking a closer look at the power delivery system we realize that the Xtreme Gaming GTX 950 is powered by a 4+1 all digital power delivery system constituted of high quality and durable chokes and caps. The four phases are for the GPU and one phase for the memory. Also a dedicated heatsink is provided to the entire arrangement for cool and constant functioning which is essential for over clocking. Gigabyte is using an OnSemi NCP 81174 voltage controller, a model we've seen on other cards before.
Here we see that the DDR5 memory chips are from Samsung and are model no K4G41325FC-HC28. Samsung chips are famous for overclocking potential & hence is a good choice for this card. There are two on top and two at bottom of the PCB making each of them a 512Mb memory chip working at 1750 MHz.
Gigabyte OC Guru II
Gigabyte bundles their monitoring and maintenance utility with the card in form of the Gigabyte OC Utility II. The one I received was strangely outdated and didn't give me the control over the card's voltage/temperature settings nor over the LED colors. So I downloaded the latest version from the Gigabyte website and had everything sorted out.
The utility is plain and bland but gives you control over everything regarding the card. You can easily over clock the card from here if you don't want to use any third party app like the MSI Afterburner.
Fan speed can either be set to auto or manual through a graphical representation of Temperature vs RPM. This comes in handy if you are looking for extreme over clocks since the auto function works great for default to mildly bumped clock speeds.
I'm adding a picture on how you can control the LED colors which is a great highlight for this card. You have seven colors to choose from and can match them with your gaming setup or in my case with the color LEDs on my Gigabyte Z170X Gaming G1.
Auto keeps the LED off till the fan doesn't start spinning, ON will obviously keep it on all the time and OFF will turn them off. LED style lets you choose from still, breathing, flashing and dual flashing which is a very cool thing for those who love bling in their setup!
Benchmarks and OverclockingThe Gigabyte Xtreme Gaming Geforce GTX 950 is rated at 1203Mhz and 1405Mhz boost clock out of the box which is already a huge leap from what the base model is rated at. But since the boost clock was hitting almost 1417Mhz in load conditions I couldn't help but conclude that there is still some overclocking room left in this card.
The Gigabyte OC Guru II utility bundled with this card comes in handy for overclocking and allowed me to raise the voltage to 108% with 1318 base clock and 8000Mhz as memory frequency which is 9.5% and 14.2% increase respectively over the already overclocked card's default ratings. I'm sure you can over clock even further provided you have the right skills and time.
For the test setup we would like to extend our sincerest thank you to Cooler Master, Gigabyte and Corsair for dropping some of the best components right at my doorstep.
The test configuration was as follows:
Monitor: LG E2360V-PN 23" LED LCD 1920x1080
CPU: Intel i7 6700K quad core 4Ghz LGA 1151
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z170X Gaming G1
RAM: G.Skill Ripjaw 16GB (4x4) 3000Mhz DDR4
Graphics Card: Gigabyte Xtreme Gaming GeForce GTX 950 2GB DDR5
Cooler: Corsair H110 280mm
Storage: Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB SSD -- Intel 750 series 400GB NVMe
PSU: Corsair AX860i 860W 80+ Platinum
Case: Cooler Master MasterCase 5
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-Bit
Driver: NVIDIA ForceWare 355.60
AIDA64 5.30 Enterprise Edition GPGPU BenchmarkAIDA64 is a reliable tool to benchmark any component of your system including graphics cards. It is also a stability test tool so you can use it to see how stable your over clock is on the CPU or GPU.
The results so obtained are satisfactory and there are no issue at all.
3D Mark - Fire StrikeFire Strike by 3D Mark is a test suit that plays a cinematic scene to determine the FPS, GPU temperature and CPU temperature scaling everything via a cumulative score. It is a great tool to benchmark your GPU since the render is GPU dependent.
The score are more than impressive and show the marvelous work Gigabyte has done on this card.
3D Mark 11 Professional EditionAnother variant of the Fire Strike by 3D Mark, used mainly for scoring the GPU performance.
The results are yet again up to the expectations.
Unigine Heaven 4.0A compilation of 26 beautiful scenes rendered and run via the raw GPU power of the system. It emulates any game of graphical work that you'll perform on the system scoring it on various parameters. We ran the test on Custom settings at 1920x1080 resolution setting quality to high.
The scores are really good and show that the GTX 950 from Gigabyte is a budget card by price but not by performance.
I can't start gaming benchmarks without running my all time favorites Crysis 3 but its a game that no system loves! The CryEngine 3 behind this scenic beauty can bring down any system to its knees and I mean any system. I set everything to Very high at 1920x1080 resolution with MSAA 4X and motion blur high.
Tomb Raider 2013
The reincarnation of Laura Croft in the spectacular Tomb Raider 2013 with stunning graphics and TressFX makes it a great game to benchmark with and also to enjoy in the due course! Settings were at Ultra with TressFX enabled on full HD resolution.
Powered by the Havok engine you find yourself in the shoes of a man struggling for survival on a post apocalyptic earth. A beautiful game that we tested at everything cranked up to maximum on full HD resolution.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
A beautiful creation by Ubisoft that can be severely punishing on most of the GPUs since it has a lot of water texture to render and rich distant objects to reproduce on the screen. God rays were enabled at high and details were set at High.
Its a great game for people, like me, who love to hunt down Xenomorphs or aliens with guns blazing all over the place. The game is highly optimized for PC and supports DirectX 11 with Tessellation, real-time DirectCompute radiosity, and shadows making it an ideal game to benchmark with settings at Ultra.
Batman - Arkham Origins
Since the game is powered by Epic's Unreal Engine 3 and supports DX11 tessellation so playing this game on 1920x1080 resolution with all settings maxed out can be any modern system's 'worst nightmare'! Wonder if they were drunk while creating the Arkham Knight *wink*
Based on the DICE's Frostbite Engine 3 this game not only taxes a CPU and GPU both by reproducing lush details on the screen but also utilizes the DX11 and DX11.1 features coupled with 64-bit binaries! Settings were at Ultra with antialiasing deferred at 2x MSAA and ambient occlusion disabled.
Need For Speed - Rivals
One of the best racing games out there today with stunning graphics and scenic areas. The game stresses the GPU along with the CPU and even RAM at places when the player drives really fast through traffic. Tests were run at Ultra settings in busy traffic, as a racer in bay area.
Far Cry 4
A bit poorly optimized game for the PC port adds up to its taxing nature on systems! Powered by the latest version of the Dunia 2 engine, Far Cry 4 takes advantage of DirectX 11 and is extremely resource heavy. Settings at High on 1920x1080 resolution with Fur on, godrays at volumetric fog, ambient occlusion disabled.
Open World games are always heavy on system and Watch Dogs in no different. Powered by the Ubisoft's new Disrupt engine, a deravative of the AnvilNext and Dunia engines. Benchmarked at Ultra Textures enabled, along with DirectX 11 tessellation, and advanced shader and lighting effects, anti aliasing & ambient occlusion were disabled.
I know you were missing this in the list, don't worry I've got your back. The PC port of this game is so well optimized that by utilizing the CPU and GPU alike it produces scenes that can put any console to shame, to put it mildly. We tested the game at Very High settings at 2xMSAA, Grass, Reflection and Post FX at Ultra. Anisotropic Filtering was at x16 and reflections MSAA off.
Temperature and Noise LevelsSince in idle state the noise level was zero due to no fan spinning I didn't put up a chart for it but at full load the noise was at 36dB with all case fans shut and near zero ambient noise.
On the temperature end the Gigabyte Windforce 2X Cooler did it job very well and kept the card cool all the time, the temperature recorded are at full load under an overclocked condition.
My VerdictWith the Xtreme Gaming GTX 950 Gigabyte has certainly outdone themselves both in terms of performance and quality. The build quality considering the backplate coupled with color changing LED on the Windforce logo makes it an exceptionally build card in this price point. The performance is not only way more than what one could've expected from a GTX 950 but also with the 1417Mhz clock speed brings it eerily closer to the ZOTAC AMP! GTX 960 in gaming performance.
I give it a 8.5/10