NVIDIA Share, Power, Pricing and Conclusions

NVIDIA Share

Along with the new GPU today NVIDIA is announcing some changes pending for the Shadowplay software portion of GeForce Experience. NVIDIA gamers will likely know that Shadowplay has been NVIDIA’s brand for the ability to both capture gaming content locally as well as to stream it out to services like Twitch.tv for mass consumption.

Sometime in September that will change to NVIDIA Share. Yeah, I’m not a fan of the branding and terminology either, but we’ll work with it.

The idea is to add functionality to the Shadowplay feature including an in-game overlay to control the settings and options for local recording and even an in-overlay editor and previewer for your videos. This allows the gamer to view, edit, ­snip and then upload those completed videos to YouTube directly, without ever having to leave the game. (Though you’ll obviously want to pause it before going through that process.) Capture and “Instant Replay” support is now capable of 4K / 60 Hz capture and upload as well – nice!

Besides added capability for the local recording portion of Share, NVIDIA is also adding some new features to mix. NVIDIA Share will now allow for point to point stream sharing, giving you the ability to send a link to your friend that they can open in a web browser and watch the game that you are playing with very low latency. You could use this as a way to show your friend that new skill you learned for Rocket League, to try and convince him to pick up his own copy or even just for a social event. It supports voice communication for the ability to talk smack if necessary.

But it goes beyond just viewing the game – this point to point streaming allows the remote player to take over the controls to teach the local gamer something new or to finish a difficult portion of the game you might be stuck on. And if the game supports local multiplayer, you can BOTH play as the remote gaming session will emulate a second attached Xbox / SHIELD controller to the system! This does have a time limit of 1 hour as a means to persuede game developers and publishers to not throw a hissy-fit.

The demo I saw recently was very impressive and it all worked surprisingly well out of the box. However, NVIDIA wasn’t ready to get us access to the early stage of the NVIDIA Share update quite yet. They say that users should expect a beta in September.

Power Consumption

In our testing we found that the GTX 950 used approximately 26 watts less power than the GTX 960 and 33 watts less than the Radeon R7 370. If you consider the 15-35% performance advantage that the GTX 950 holds over the R7 370 in our testing, that performance per watt advantage of Maxwell over Pitcairn becomes painfully obvious. Compared to the GTX 750 Ti though, the GTX 950 uses 44 watts more power which indicates why NVIDIA needed to add the 6-pin power connection to this GM206 part.

Performance and Features

I think we talked about performance enough on the previous three pages – you should realize by now that the GTX 950 is within 15% of the GTX 960 and is significantly faster than the GTX 750 Ti. What might have been more surprising was just how much faster the GTX 950 was compared to the R7 370, a card with 4GB of memory and a pedigree that dates back to the Radeon R9 7850.

Speaking of that age, it is definitely something AMD needs to address. The GTX 950 supports NVIDIA’s variable refresh G-Sync technology, HDMI 2.0 display output for possible HTPC integration, and even adds support for DX 12_1 features. The Radeon R7 370 can’t claim any of that – no FreeSync support, no HDMI 2.0 and none of the new DX12 features. It’s just…old. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad graphics card but it does mean that AMD needs to be more aware of its limitations when pricing it and pitting it against what NVIDIA has to offer.

Pricing and Availability

Let’s recap that price breakdown.

Though everything gets compressed in these lower priced tiers of graphics cards, clearly the R7 370 is overpriced. It is $15 more than the GTX 950 and nearly the same price as the GTX 960, two cards that it just can’t compete with on performance, features or efficiency. The GTX 950 and the GTX 960 might also be a bit too close in proximity to be properly placed in order. I am guessing that you’ll often find sales in the near-term that will put the GTX 960 and the GTX 950 on identical price levels which is clearly a reason to select the GTX 960. If we can get things to settle in to more expected pricing gaps then I think the GTX 950 and the GTX 960 can coexist together peacefully.

Speaking to NVIDIA on availability it looks like the GTX 950 should be widely available starting today or tomorrow.

Closing Thoughts

These types of mainstream graphics cards rarely leave us with mouths agape, the one exception of which was the GTX 750 Ti from last year that just turned everything on its head. The new GeForce GTX 950 is a solid graphics card with an aggressive price tag, a compelling feature set, a dominating position over its direct competition from AMD. And it targets a user base that is numerous and eager for hardware. Obviously you don’t have to be a MOBA player to take advantage of the GeForce GTX 950 though it won’t surprise me to see that card become a frequent purchase in those circles.

A slightly cut down GM206 allows NVIDIA to take better advantage of its supply pipeline and fills a gap in the pricing structure that NVIDIA was losing to AMD in with the GTX 750 Ti. I think the MOBA angle is incredibly interesting for the company to take and it makes sense based on the workload of DOTA 2, League of Legends, etc. I am not convinced that advertising the “latency reduction” courtesy of faster frame rates (almost all of it) and automatically configured and tweaked settings through GFE / driver (a very small percentage of the perf change) is the most accurate sales pitch but the truth is the math works. And if NVIDIA rolls out the same tweaks for other GPUs on DOTA 2 and other games as well that are this game-specific, then all users will benefit.

If you or someone you know is using a GTX 650 class graphics card or older and is looking to improve their gaming experience on a 1920×1080 panel, the GeForce GTX 950 is the best option for users that have a price ceiling of $170 or less. You’ll find plenty of overclocked cards with custom and quiet coolers on the market this week, so line up and take your pick.

« PreviousNext »