Another Maxwell Iteration

NVIDIA’s latest GPU release is the budget bomb known as the GTX 950. This card offers a great 1080p gaming experience for users on a budget.

The mainstream end of the graphics card market is about to get a bit more complicated with today’s introduction of the GeForce GTX 950. Based on a slightly cut down GM206 chip, the same used in the GeForce GTX 960 that was released almost 8 months ago, the new GTX 950 will fill a gap in the product stack for NVIDIA, resting right at $160-170 MSRP. Until today that next-down spot from the GTX 960 was filled by the GeForce GTX 750 Ti, the very first iteration of Maxwell (we usually call it Maxwell 1) that came out in February of 2014!

Even though that is a long time to go without refreshing the GTX x50 part of the lineup, NVIDIA was likely hesitant to do so based on the overwhelming success of the GM107 for mainstream gaming. It was low cost, incredibly efficient and didn’t require any external power to run. That led us down the path of upgrading OEM PCs with GTX 750 Ti, an article and video that still gets hundreds of views and dozens of comments a week.

The GTX 950 has some pretty big shoes to fill. I can tell you right now that it uses more power than the GTX 750 Ti, and it requires a 6-pin power connector, but it does so while increasing gaming performance dramatically. The primary competition from AMD is the Radeon R7 370, a Pitcairn GPU that is long in the tooth and missing many of the features that Maxwell provides.

And NVIDIA is taking a secondary angle with the GTX 950 launch –targeting the MOBA players (DOTA 2 in particular) directly and aggressively. With the success of this style of game over the last several years, and the impressive $18M+ purse for the largest DOTA 2 tournament just behind us, there isn’t a better area of PC gaming to be going after today. But are the tweaks and changes to the card and software really going to make a difference for MOBA gamers or is it just marketing fluff?

Let’s dive into everything GeForce GTX 950!

GM206 Makes Another Appearance

As I mentioned above, the GeForce GTX 950 is based on the existing GM206 GPU found in the GTX 960 but with a slight reduction in compute hardware. Let’s take a look at the specifications table.

  GTX 950 GTX 960 GTX 970 GTX 980 GTX 760 GTX 770 GTX 780 GTX 660 GTX 670
GPU GM206 GM206 GM204 GM204 GK104 GK104 GK110 GK106 GK104
GPU Cores 768 1024 1664 2048 1152 1536 2304 960 1344
Rated Clock 1024 MHz 1126 MHz 1050 MHz 1126 MHz 980 MHz 1046 MHz 863 MHz 980 MHz 915 MHz
Texture Units 48 64 104 128 96 128 192 80 112
ROP Units 32 32 64 64 32 32 48 24 32
Memory 2GB 2GB 4GB 4GB 2GB 2GB 3GB 2GB 2GB
Memory Clock 6600 MHz 7000 MHz 7000 MHz 7000 MHz 6000 MHz 7000 MHz 6000 MHz 6000 MHz 6000 MHz
Memory Interface 128-bit 128-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 384-bit 192-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 105.6 GB/s 112 GB/s 224 GB/s 224 GB/s 192 GB/s 224 GB/s 288 GB/s 144 GB/s 192 GB/s
TDP 90 watts 120 watts 145 watts 165 watts 170 watts 230 watts 250 watts 140 watts 170 watts
Peak Compute 1.57 TFLOPS 2.30 TFLOPS 3.49 TFLOPS 4.61 TFLOPS 2.25 TFLOPS 3.21 TFLOPS 3.97 TFLOPS 1.81 TFLOPS 2.46 TFLOPS
Transistor Count 2.94B 2.94B 5.2B 5.2B 3.54B 3.54B 7.08B 2.54B 3.54B
Process Tech 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
MSRP $159 $199 $329 $549 $249 $399 $649 $230 $399

The GTX 950 drops the GM206 from 1024 CUDA cores to 768, a decrease of 33%, along with the texture unit count. The memory configuration remains unchanged with a 128-bit memory bus, 32 ROPs and 2GB of GDDR5 memory. That memory does run a bit slower, 6.6 GHz rather than 7.0 GHz, and thus the memory bandwidth is lower as well hitting 105.6 GB/s compared to the GTX 960 reaching 112 GB/s.

Base clock speed is set at 1024 MHz with a typical boost clock of 1188 MHz. In reality we saw much higher than that in our gaming tests and we have cards from ASUS, EVGA and Zotac that come with further overclocks straight out of the box.

That decrease in core count and clock speed help NVIDIA keep the TDP at just 90 watts for the GTX 950, a fantastic number for a mainstream product but that still requires the use of a 6-pin power connector. The GTX 750 Ti used the lack of external power requirements as a huge selling feature but the GTX 950 won’t offer that – the good news for NVIDIA and GeForce fans is that the GTX 750 Ti will continue as part of the overall product portfolio. The GTX 950 is not replacing the GTX 750 Ti.

With an MSRP of $159, the GTX 950 finds itself directly between the updated GTX 750 Ti pricing (now as low as $99 before rebates) and the GTX 960 (selling for $180-190). That price will adjust as stock starts to enter the market and from what we are hearing this is going to be a hard launch with plenty of stock available starting today. NVIDIA believes that the GTX 950 is really a replacement for the GTX 650, even going so far as including one in the box with our GTX 950 sample as a comparison point.  Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to compare it to it directly but it’s likely something we will get to with further testing in the coming days.

From the AMD side of things the “new” Radeon R7 370 is the best option to combat this new NVIDIA product. With a price tag of ~$175 but based on the aging Pitcairn GPU, the R7 370 also requires just a single power connector.

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