MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING High Resolution Review

We take the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 GPU based MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 2G and push it to its limits at 1440p. We also include a GeForce GTX 770 and AMD Radeon R9 280X into this evaluation for some unexpected results. How does the GeForce GTX 960 really compare to a wide range of cards?


On January 22nd, 2015 NVIDIA launched a less expensive version of if its next generation GPU architecture, Maxwell, with the introduction of the GeForce GTX 960. The GeForce GTX 960 is a video card meant for the masses, hitting that sweet spot in pricing at $199.

We evaluated a retail custom video card, the MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 2G video card with a high factory overclock. In our evaluation we compared this new video card to a similarly priced MSI Radeon R9 285 GAMING 2G video card.

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The MSI Radeon R9 285 GAMING 2G is based on AMD's Radeon R9 285 (Tonga) GPU. The Radeon R9 285 was launched last September at $249, but with price drops and rebates in online stores the price of the Radeon R9 285 has aligned more closely with the new GeForce GTX 960. The retail MSI GTX 960 video card we are evaluating is $209 after $30 MIR. Newegg has upped the price, but included an MIR as of writing this. The price has fluctuated since launch. The Radeon R9 285 is the perfect comparison by price, and we used an overclocked video card since the MSI GTX 960 card we are using is also overclocked.

We also looked at how the GeForce GTX 960 compared to the previous generation Kepler GPU on the GeForce GTX 760. We feel this is the popular competing product to the GeForce GTX 960 that makes a solid common sense comparison. However, the GeForce GTX 760 was a bit of an odd duck GPU as it was based on cut down and stripped higher end GK104 Kepler GPU.

In fact, something we did not emphasize in our initial evaluation, NVIDIA sees the GeForce GTX 960 as the true successor to the GeForce GTX 660, not the GTX 760. The GeForce GTX 660 was of course Kepler GK106. Regardless of this, our performance tests revealed that GeForce GTX 960 is faster than the GeForce GTX 760 in every game. Even if NVIDIA didn't intend to compete over the GeForce GTX 760, it succeeded by offering a faster GPU in this price range.

Our Goals

In our initial evaluation of GeForce GTX 960 we had ran a bunch more performance tests that did not make it into the review due to time. However, there are a couple of other interesting things about GeForce GTX 960 we want to show you.

High Resolution Testing

The first thing we want to do is see how high resolution gaming (1440p) performs on the GeForce GTX 960. With the seemingly constraining 128-bit 2GB memory bus width and capacity we need to find out if the video card can even run games at 1440p. For this we are going to continue to compare our MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 2G with the MSI Radeon R9 285 GAMING 2G and GeForce GTX 760.

Comparing with Higher-End Cards

Second, we want to look at and see how the GeForce GTX 960 performs against an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 and AMD Radeon R9 280X. You may be thinking that these video cards are absolutely crazy to compare the GeForce GTX 960 to. GeForce GTX 770 launched at a price of $399 when it was brand new. However, with the release of the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 the GTX 770 has gone out of production. That doesn't mean you can't still find deals online, and there are certainly plenty of gamers who currently own one because it was such a great deal for a long time.

Seeing as the GeForce GTX 960 seems to fit in-between the GeForce GTX 760 and GeForce GTX 770 it makes sense to see to which one does it swing closer. If it is faster than a GeForce GTX 760, maybe it is closer in performance to where GeForce GTX 770 was? We must find this out. .

The AMD Radeon R9 280X launched at a price of $299, but price drops and rebates have pushed its price down into the territory of the Radeon R9 285 recently muddying the waters. There are several AMD Radeon R9 280X based video cards with rebates now that bring prices way down. We are seeing $239 after rebate, $229, and even one for $219 after rebate which is the exact same price as the new MSI GTX 960 we are evaluating today!

We absolutely must include these video cards as well in the whole picture of the GeForce GTX 960. Therefore, in this evaluation we are going to push the cards to the extreme at 1440p and also compare at 1080p and 1440p to the GTX 770 and R9 280X.