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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 2GB – Gaming Performance Revisited

We take a deeper look into the performance of the GTX 950 as it is our most-recommended buget GPU to date. The ASUS Strix GTX 950 helps us out as we dive into the second with frame time analysis and CPU impact comparison with this card.

Read more in this #B2G special.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 2GB - Gaming Performance Revisited - GTX 950

Earlier this year, we reviewed the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 graphics cards from ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, and Zotac. Performance seemed underwhelming because it was tested on games with demanding graphics using very high image quality settings. The price of GTX 950 have gone down considerably and, as of June 2016, you can find a brand new one for as low as Php 7,200. In this review, we want to show the best performance this budget gaming GPU can offer. No, we are not going to benchmark the games using Medium settings. Instead, we will tweak individual settings to have a good balance between image quality and frame rate. There are differing opinions on as to what is the minimum acceptable frame rate, but for this review, we will aim for 1080p @ 40 FPS using tweaked image quality settings. Why 40 FPS? That is an allowance for possible frame rate drops during game play scenarios where there are lots of effects like smoke, fire, and etc. If the average frame rate is already at 30 FPS, any reduction in frame rate is likely to have a noticeable negative effect on gaming experience.

We would like to thank ASUS for providing us a GeForce GTX 950 graphics card.

How We Tested

The PC we used for testing is shown below.

Processor: Intel Core i7 4790K 4.0 GHz (Turbo disabled)
Graphics Card: ASUS Strix GeForce GTX 950 2GB
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z97-D3H rev 1.0
Memory: 4GBx2 DDR3 2400 MHz
Power Supply: Corsair HX 620
Driver: GeForce 368.39
Operating System: Windows 10 64-bit

Crysis 3, Grand Theft Auto V, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and The Witcher 3 were tested. Four games may seem very limited but we believe those games are well-suited for testing current-generation gaming GPU’s.

Frame rates and frame times of a 60-second game play were recorded using FRAPS. The test results are the average of 3 benchmark runs.

The game settings used for each game are shown below:

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Crysis 3

Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Texture Resolution: Very High
Anti-aliasing: 2Tx SMAA
System Spec: High
Anisotropic Filtering: 16x
Motion Blur: Disabled

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Anti-aliasing: FXAA
Texture Quality: Medium
Anisotropic Filter: 16x
Shadow Quality: High
Sun Soft Shadows: On
Depth of Field: On
Level of Detail: Very High
Dynamic Foliage: High
Ambient Occlusion: On
Pure Hair: On
Specular Reflection Quality: High
Vignette Blur: Off
Motion Blur: Off
Bloom: On
Tessellation: On
Screen Space Reflections: On
Lens Flares: On
Film Grain: Off

The Witcher 3

Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Frame Rate: Unlimited
Nvidia HairWorks: Off
Number of Background Characters: Ultra
Shadow Quality: Medium
Terrain Quality: Ultra
Water Quality: Ultra
Grass Density: Ultra
Texture Quality: Ultra
Foliage Visibility Range: High
Detail Level: Ultra
Motion Blur: Off
Blur: Off
Anti-aliasing: On
Bloom: On
Sharpening: High
Ambient Occlusion: SSAO
Depth of Field: On
Chromatic Aberration: Off
Vignetting: On
Light Shafts: On

Grand Theft Auto V

Ignore Suggested Limits – On
DirectX Version – 11
Resolution – 1920 x 1080
Output Monitor – 1
FXAA – On
MSAA – Off
NVIDIA TXAA – Off
Pause Game on Focus Loss – On
Population Density – Maximum Slider Setting
Population Variety – Maximum Slider Setting
Distance Scaling – Maximum Slider Setting
Texture Quality – Very High
Shader Quality – Very High
Reflection Quality – Very High
Reflection MSAA – Off
Water Quality – Very High
Particles Quality – Very High
Grass Quality – Very High
Soft Shadows – Softest
Post FX – Very High
Motion Blur Strength – Minimum Slider Setting
In-game Depth of Field Effects – On
Anisotropic Filtering – x16
Ambient Occlusion – High
Tessellation – Very High
Long Shadows – Off
High Resolution Shadows – Off
High Detail Streaming While Flying – Off
Extended Distance Scaling – Minimum Slider Setting
Extended Shadows Distance – Minimum Slider Setting

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Gaming Tests with Core i7 4790K

Before we proceed with the test results, we need first to show you the part of the games that we benchmarked. Read this article to know the importance of game benchmark methodology.

GTX 950 is an affordable gaming GPU that can offer a playable gaming experience at 1080p even when using a combination of High settings and Very High settings. It is only with Rise of the Tomb Raider that we have to use a Medium setting. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, Texture Quality setting has almost no impact on performance but enabling High or Very High causes stuttering on the GTX 950 because the 2GB VRAM is all used up. We tested with GTX 980 Ti and found that High setting for Texture Quality uses 3 – 3.5GB while Very High setting maxed out the 6GB VRAM. We were forced to use Medium setting for Texture Quality in Rise of the Tomb Raider and that setting uses 1.8GB VRAM. In the other games we tested, Texture Quality were set to the highest possible setting.

B2G GTX 950 revisited - GPU test - FPS graph

B2G GTX 950 revisited - GPU test - frame time

Gaming Tests with Core i3 4130

We are aware that most people who will buy an affordable gaming GPU like GeForce GTX 950 probably doesn’t have a Core i7 CPU. So, we “crippled” a Core i7 4790K to have a Core i3 4130. It was done by disabling 2 CPU cores of Core i7 4790K and reducing the clock speed to 3.4 GHz through the BIOS. It is not the best approach but it’s good enough for the purpose which is to show you the performance of GTX 950 when using a not-so-powerful CPU.

Crysis 3 is our favorite benchmark for showing the effect of CPU performance on gaming. Before, we thought that high-end GPU’s such as the GeForce GTX 970 are the only ones that benefit from a powerful CPU. We were surprised that GeForce GTX 950 was bottlenecked by Core i3 4130. The bottleneck is evident in the frame rate and the game was unplayable on Core i3 4130 due to frequent stuttering. Setting the System Spec to Medium reduced the bottleneck but stuttering was still evident on Core i3 4130.

B2G GTX 950 revisited - Crysis 3 - FPS graph

B2G GTX 950 revisited - Crysis 3 - frame time

Not much to talk about in Grand Theft Auto V. The game was very playable on both CPU’s.

B2G GTX 950 revisited - GTA V - FPS graph
B2G GTX 950 revisited - GTA V - frame time

Both CPU’s delivered a smooth gaming experience in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Though, we should point out that GPU usage some times drop below 90% when using Core i3 4130.

B2G GTX 950 revisited - RotTR - FPS graph
B2G GTX 950 revisited - RotTR - frame time

Like in Rise of the Tomb Raider and in Grand Theft Auto V, Core i3 4130 delivered a stutter-free gaming experience in The Witcher 3.

B2G GTX 950 revisited - Witcher 3 - FPS graph
B2G GTX 950 revisited - Witcher 3 - frame time

Final Words

Now you know that gaming on an affordable graphics card doesn’t always mean playing the latest games at 1080p @ 30 FPS using Medium settings. We have shown how you can get more out of your GPU by tweaking the individual settings. Finding what the optimal image quality settings are for your PC may take a bit of your time but it is definitely worth the effort. Using preset settings are usually beneficial to reviewers because it saves time in the benchmarking process. But, for gamers, we strongly recommend to tweak the image quality settings. After all, that is one of the benefits of playing games on the PC.

As to what CPU should you use with GeForce GTX 950, 3 out of the 4 games we tested showed that an entry-level CPU like Core i3 4130 should not have a problem. It is only in Crysis 3 that Core i3 4130 failed to deliver an acceptable gaming experience. Of course, we are not recommending to get a Core i7 4790K or a Core i7 6700K if you want to play Crysis 3 using a GeForce GTX 950. We still recommend a Core i3 4130 or a Core i3 6100 as a minimum CPU for gaming, but, get at least a Core i5 6500 if budget allows and if you see yourself upgrading to more powerful GPU’s in the near future.

Written By

I'm a PC gamer and Ubuntu MATE is my recommended OS for gaming.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Winston Ivan Ong

    July 6, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    a solid entry level gaming card

  2. Joe Bernard Bernardo Manuel

    July 6, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    I have that card and it’s AWESOME! Very wallet friendly 🙂

  3. Brian Echeverria Bournes

    July 6, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    This is one big leap for nvidia very reasonable price for a solid entry level gaming card

  4. Ephraim Ugarte

    July 6, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    I. Smell. Giveaway

  5. Chris Rima

    July 6, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    And I’m going to get this card for the time being.

  6. Drej Vida

    July 6, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    my most beloved GPU is now only the most recommended GPU 🙁

  7. Andrian Ace Partosa

    July 6, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    270x performs better … and way more cheaper …

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