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Doubling Down: 2x Gigabyte GTX 960s in SLI Put to the Test

By Steve · 35 replies
Jan 22, 2015
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  1. Today Nvidia is releasing its most affordable GeForce GTX 900 series GPU yet, bringing Maxwell to the masses by essentially halving a GTX 980 in parts and price. Billed as the company's 'sweet spot' card, the GTX 960 is meant to deliver on value, offering more performance than the competition with considerably better power efficiency.

    Because they're meant to provide the best bang for your buck, sweet spot GPUs have typically been an affordable way to achieve high-end performance via SLI or Crossfire. One of the best examples I can recall was the Radeon HD 4770, which cost just $200 for a two-way Crossfire setup and could outpace GPUs that cost two or three times as much.

    We also have fond memories of GTX 460 SLI setups and although a pair ran $400, neither AMD nor Nvidia flagships of the time stood a chance. With its predecessors having that sort of history, it seems reasonable to expect big things from dual GTX 960s. They probably won't tackle the GTX 980 but for under half the price they might come close enough.

    Read the complete review.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2015
  2. 128bit memory does not help.
    Cryio likes this.
  3. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,005   +2,890

    These GTX960 cards are a real disappointment, I hope AMD releases something a lot better for the same price.
    Having said that it looks like I'll be hanging onto my old GTX770 for a while to come. Looking at future game releases I'll be just as well off with my IGP, apart from GTA 5 there is absolutely nothing to look forward to, at least for me.
    hahahanoobs likes this.
  4. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,044   +794

    I don't know if your car person or not but Project Cars has got a due date the same month as GTA5. That will need more than an IGP xD
  5. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,005   +2,890

    I was being sarcastic. I was looking to replace my 770 with a 960 but that would be stupid, I'll just have to spend a bit more on a 970 or better yet, wait for the next generation.
    Yeah I'm looking forward to Project Cars, in my disappointment I'd overlooked it. :oops:
    Burty117 likes this.
  6. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,044   +794

    Lol, fair enough, yeah I'm waiting for the next gen, my 780 still going strong! I'm thinking more of upgrading my monitor more than my graphics card, Give it something to sweat about, 2k G-sync is what I'm aiming for, then when I get the next top end card it'll feel like a decent boost in performance.
  7. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,005   +2,890

    I forgot to mention I'm also looking forward to the next Batman game.
    I'm really not a fan boy of their manufacturer, I'll buy the one that suits my pocket and needs the best at the time of purchase but I'm not prepared to buy into this FreeSync or G-Sync thing yet, a display is something I don't replace all that often, if I buy an expensive G-Sync monitor and AMD releases a graphics card that I'm keen on 5 minutes later, I'm screwed and vice versa. I'd like to see one standard but that's not gonna happen anytime soon, it's all about the money (and what an understatement that was).
  8. mpribe

    mpribe TS Enthusiast Posts: 31

    Something seems off in TechSpot's BF4 benchmarks here. I consistently get between 60 and 80 FPS running 1900x1200 with settings maxed on my rig:

    G1 Gaming 970 (OC to 1500 mhz); i54690k (stock clock); 16 GB ram, SSD, Z97, etc.
  9. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,358   +1,518

    Are you benchmarking normal game-play or the highly demanding cut-scene that we test?

    If you are testing the same section of the game as us then something seems off with your results ;)
    Burty117 likes this.
  10. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 1,919   +595

    Thanks for the review.

    Dat 2GB VRAM doe!
    I'm interested in seeing if a 3 or 4GB card would be noticeably better... *wink*
  11. Cryio

    Cryio TS Booster Posts: 200   +61

    4 GB on 128 bus ? Ahahahaha. That would be incredibly pointless.
  12. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 1,919   +595

    More than 2GB on the majority of low to mid-range cards is pointless, but the performance is not that impressive with the 960, so I'm curious this time around.
  13. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 1,919   +595

    Enable MFAA and select 2xAA in BF4 and you'll get the same quality as 4xMSAA with less of a hit on your frames. I get 80-120fps @ 1466MHz and 1080p.
  14. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,358   +1,518

    Adding more VRAM won't improve performance by a single frame in any of the tests we ran.
  15. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 1,919   +595

    Perhaps, but that doesn't calm my curiosity. I winked, but it's cool if I don't see it here.
  16. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,358   +1,518

    I have tested GPU's such as the GTX 770 with 2GB and 4GB of memory, zero difference at 2560x1600. Still if I happen upon a 4GB GTX 960 I will confirm for you that it is a waste of money.
  17. This piece of garbage asking for $200 per card! Whom do they think they are kidding?
  18. brettjv

    brettjv TS Rookie

    Quite bold statement there for a reviewer, w/o actual test in-hand to prove the point.

    Fact is, maybe not, but with a slightly higher resolution, and/or perhaps with other (or coming-soon) games, it will. I'm bumping up against the 2GB limit in Far Cry 4 on my GTX670 now, and that's at 1080p. Mem Usage per Afterburner remains pegged at just under 2GB at all times, and the stutter at times (esp when flying in the copter or on ziplines) is blatant ... no DOUBT in my mind ... vram is the issue.

    And I'm sure it's not the only game in existence where that would happen, but even if it is, it's just a matter of time before there's more.

    Hence, something that really should have been mentioned in your review, IMHO, when talking about the option of the 970 ... is the VRAM capacity. In that case (vs 960 SLI), you pay LESS, you get nearly the same performance, you have zero SLI hassles ... AND you have A FAR better upgrade path available to you (SLI 970's) should you choose it ... say if one decides to grab a 4K monitor, for example.

    With the 960 SLI setup, you're stuck at 2GB. The 970 offers double the memory buffer, and an actual viable upgrade path. A lot to be said for that, IMHO.

    And AFAIC (as you correctly noted overall), a 960 SLI setup makes basically ZERO sense.

    Now, given the gaping price point between the 960 and 970, however ... I can imagine that we'll be seeing something like a 965Ti coming along within the next 4 months or so. Imagine a $250-275 price point Maxwell card, with an extra processing cluster enabled with 3GB gddr5, 196-bit Bus (so as to sit right between the 960 and 970 in terms of cores, Mem Cap, TMU and ROP), and with Maxwell's great OC potential and power consumption and new features?

    Yeah ... when THAT card comes out ... that baby is gonna be the 'sweet spot', esp in SLI. THAT setup would crush a 980. And that's the kind of thing we really want from the 'x60' series card from nV ... two of them crushes the flagship, for just a little more dough. It's what we 'expect'.

    This 960, however ... it's ... almost painfully mediocre in every regard save power/heat/noise.
  19. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,358   +1,518

    It isn’t a bold statement at all and it is entirely based on fact and firsthand information.

    Your 4K argument isn’t realistic anyway and I will tell you why. GPU’s such as the GTX 960 don’t have enough power to max out their VRAM capacity. Sure increase the resuloution which requires more VRAM, great point. But to sustain playable frame rates you have to reduce anti-aliasing and texture levels which of course reduces the amount of VRAM and hell you are back at square one.

    The fact is with the GTX 960 you will require the pretty much the amount of VRAM at 1080p as you would with 4x as many pixels at 4K to achieve the best imagine quality possible for playable performance.

    The GTX 970 makes sense with 4GB as it can handle higher textures/resolutions.

    I have done a serious amount of testing with 2GB and 4GB cards are 1080p, 2560x1600 and dual/triple 2560x1600 setups.
  20. mosu

    mosu TS Guru Posts: 465   +77

    I'm really looking forward for a Crossfire of R9 285 tested against the same batch of cards.
  21. skline00

    skline00 TS Member

    Get a GTX970!
  22. I bought BF4 in December 2013 at the same time as my two R9 290's and have 600+ hours played in the game since. I also play on a 144hz monitor at 1920 x 1080 and am struggling to see how your fps are so low. I played on ultra settings for a few months, with 200% scaling and the only reason I changed some of the settings was because of the multiplayer visual advantage some of the lower settings gives. With my current minimal tweaks (most things ultra) my frames average over 180 with a min of maybe 160 and max bouncing off the 200 limit.
    Wish I knew the exact scenario you were running so I could try it myself.
    These cards have full cover water blocks and the only reason they are not overclocked is because nothing taxes them.
    Early part of the year was on a heavily overclocked 2600k and 8GB ram, where as now it's on a slightly overclocked 4790k and 16GB ram.
  23. Cryio

    Cryio TS Booster Posts: 200   +61

    Well, since the 960 is so underwhelming, I'm holding a while longer for a 4 GB version of the R9 285 or something out of the R9 300 series to upgrade from my 560 Ti 1 GB.
  24. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,358   +1,518

    What a 4GB version of the R9 285 ... "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills" - Mugatu

    Again an R9 285 is not nearly powerful enough to take advantage or need 4GB of VRAM.

    Here is how the GTX 680 goes with 4GB of VRAM, granted this is an older test the results haven't changed in the more modern games when using mid-range GPU's...


    The review above perfectly demonstrates how a GPU which is much more powerful than both the GTX 960 and R9 285 needs to be pushed to a resolution of 7680x1600 before a difference between 2GB and 4GB of VRAM can be seen. The problem however is a GTX 680 can't come even close to delivering playable performance in 5 year old games in scenarios where 4GB of VRAM is required, forget modern games.

    These pumped up VRAM versions of mid-range and even high-end graphics cards are just gimmicks to extract more money from gamers who are sucked in by bigger numbers on the box.

    If the R9 285 and GTX 960 were really being held back by limited VRAM you can rest assured more memory would be included, it just simply isn't needed and AMD/Nvidia know this.
  25. mosu

    mosu TS Guru Posts: 465   +77

    I already have a R9 285 and the system is AMD based.

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