Graphics Cards

MSI GTX 950 GAMING 2G Graphics Card Review

Price / Where to Buy:

US – Approx. US$175 – MSI GTX 950 GAMING on Amazon
PH – Approx. PHP9999

We’ve seen just how far NVIDIA has taken their 2nd-generation Maxwell GPUs with the GTX TITAN X and GTX 980 Ti and while the rest of the  GeForce 900 series Maxwell cards are keeping mainsteam to high-end fans happy, there’s still a sizable population of gamers that position themselves in the lower-mainstream segment. Based on our popular build guides, the GTX 650 and GTX 750 are still very popular cards and according to a July 2015 Steam Hardware Survey, the GTX 650 still sits at #8 as one of the most used card by Steam gamers.

The Maxwell architecture is NVIDIA’s greatest achievement as of late given its efficiency compared to the last generation. While it doesn’t serve as a great leap in terms of performance, many people are still convinced by the excellent performance-per-watt ratio. Both the GTX 980 and GTX 970 have been largely in-demand primarily for the efficiency but the Maxwell-based GTX GPUs also introduced some new features including NVIDIA Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI), Multi-Frame sampled AA (MFAA), and Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR). Maxwell GPUs also support Microsoft’s upcoming DirectX 12 API.

ABOUT THE GTX 950

The GTX 950 is another GM206 based card, which means it features the same architecture as previous 900 series Maxwell cards and the same excellent performance-per-watt ratio as the other cards. Aimed 1080p gamers, the GTX 950 is a lightweight version of the GTX 960 featuring some reduction in its configuration but still deliver performance fitting for its price range.

[table style=”table-striped”]
Model GeForce GTX 980 GeForce GTX 970 GeForce GTX 960 GeForce GTX 950
GPU GM204 GM204 GM206 GM206
CUDA cores 2048 1664 1024 768
Texture Units 128 104 64 48
ROP 64 64 32 32
Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 128-bit 128-bit
Memory Size 4 GB GDDR5 4 GB GDDR5 2 GB GDDR5 2 GB GDDR5
Memory Bandwidth 224 GB/s 224 GB/s 112 GB/s 105.6 GB/s
[/table]

As indicated, the GTX 950 features 768 CUDA cores, that’s 3/4 of a GTX 960, running with a reference base clock of 1024Mhz and a Boost clock of 1188Mhz. At launch, only a 2GB GTX 950 is available and no word on any other memory capacity model yet. The memory runs at a reference 1650Mhz wired to a 128-bit bus. Similar to the GTX 960 also, the memory bus width might sound underwheling but thanks to delta color compression which enables the GM206 to better utilize its available memory bandwidth, its actually just right.

The GTX 950 will displace the GTX 750 Ti as the primary lower-mainstream card for NVIDIA. The GTX 950 will have an SRP of US$159 and the GTX 750 Ti will now be priced with an SRP of $119.

Optimized for MOBA

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The GTX 950 is mainly focused on MOBA gamers and feature a lot of optimizations and features dedicated to these games. MOBA gamers know how important a smooth experience is important in such a fast-paced game and with competitive DOTA2 and LoL now raking in millions of dollars in tournaments, those who want to perform at their peak need a similarly responsive machine. With the GTX 950 featuring superior performance over the GTX 650, NVIDIA is able to deliver a more responsive experience in MOBAs with the GTX 950.

image_qualityWith the various improvements NVIDIA has placed in the GTX 950, performance improvements and responsiveness in MOBAs show a significant jump in favor of the GTX 950 compared to the GTX 650.

optimize_mobaWith the arrival of the GTX 950, NVIDIA will be opening up new options in GeForce Experience to improve the performance and reduce latency in MOBAs.

GeForce Experience: More Ways to Share

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With the arrival of the GTX 950, GeForce Experience will also receive an update that enable a new overlay UI for sharing your gaming moments including an instant replay option to replay the last 20 minutes of your game, Record and entire session manually or broadcast directly to Twitch.

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A recorded gaming session can be trimmed and uploaded to Youtube all in the overlay which keeps you in the game.

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Another new feature for GeForce Experience is Gamestream Co-Op which allows gamers to stream their games to another person and allow both players to enjoy the game together either to play cooperatively or demo a game or broadcast their gaming session.

Maxwell Features

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The new Maxwell graphics cards introduces some new features to NVIDIA cards as mentioned earlier with the main highlights being VXGI and DSR amongst other things.
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VXGI or Voxel Global Illumination improves 3D scenes by introducing more realistic lighting to 3D scenes by introducing voxels or volume pixels which makes light interaction of 3D objects have a more dynamic and photo-realistic feel.features4

DSR or Dynamic Super Resolution is another new featured, integrated via the GeForce Experience application, which add downsampling capabilities to the GTX 900 series graphics cards which lets users of other monitor sizes experience larger resolutions in their monitors without needing say a 4K UltraHD screen or a 1440p monitor. Dynamic Super Resolution works by rendering in the desired resolution and then downscaling the image and applying a filter to the native monitor resolution for an improved image quality of the scene being rendered.

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In contrast to DSR, NVIDIA also introduces MFAA or Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing. This AA technique basically is a faster implementation of MSAA which should see 4xMSAA quality at the performance hit of only 2xMSAA. Implementation is in its early stages but is promising nonetheless. MFAA can be set via the GeForce Experience app.

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As expected given the earlier announcements, DirectX12 is in the works and the new GTX 900 series graphics cards fully support the DX12 API alongside its many new feature offerings including better CPU utilization and overhead reduction, improved multi-core utilization and efficiency, and plenty more features for developers to use.

All of these features complement the already existing feature set that NVIDIA offers including GeForce Experience and ShadowPlay, etc.

ABOUT THE MSI GTX 950 GAMING 2G

MSI GTX 950 GAMING 2G Review
MSI GTX 950 GAMING 2G Review

The MSI GTX 950 GAMING 2G features the same TwinFrozr V cooling solution found on the latest generation of graphics card from MSI. This cooler guarantees cooler and quieter operation than reference and fits within a dual-slot design. The MSI GTX 950 GAMING 2G is factory overclocked with a core clock of 1127Mhz and boost clock 1317Mhz. Memory clock also receives a small overclock and runs at 6650Mhz.

Product Gallery

 

Overclocking

Overclocking any graphics card is pretty straightforward nowadays provided you know what to do and given that most companies also have their own overclocking software, makes it so much more approachable. We use the latest MSI Afterburner software for this test.

GPUZ

GPU_Z

Overclocking the GTX 950 is pretty easy and not surprisingly we managed to take the MSI GTX 950 to a stable overclocking 1330Mhz core clock and 8000Mhz memory clock. This is really good and with our GPU staying chilly at 60*C, we feel we can still push this card with a little voltage tweaking. For daily use those, this is really a good way to push the card further and squeeze out more FPS from your graphics card.

PERFORMANCE

Test Setup Processor: Intel Core i7 3770K 4.4Ghz
Motherboard: MSI Z77 Mpower
Memory: Kingston HyperX Beast DDR3-2400 16GB
Storage: Kingston HyperX FURY 240GB
PSU: Seasonic P1000
Cooling: Custom loop (XSPC Raystorm block, XSPC D5 Dual Bayres, BlackIce Stealth GT 240 rad)
Monitor: LG 42UB820T UltraHD TV
VGA: MSI GTX 950 GAMING 2G

We test our graphics card with a full-level playthrough of our selected game or the games’ built-in benchmark tool. We record the run with Fraps. Game settings are indicated in the charts. Resolutions are shown in the charts. Unlike our standard benchmarks, we’ll save OC results for another article or update as needed as we still collect data.

FullHD (1920×1080)

Battlefield 4 is one of the hottest titles of 2013 and continues to prove itself a worthy game. Based on DICE’s Frostbite Engine 3, this game’s lush details and visuals are just stunning but can really stress any modern GPU. Level tested is the escape from Baku with wide open space and collapsing building showing what the Frostbite 3 engine can do.

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The most visually intense game to ever been made. Prophet is back to take on the Ceph and Cell after a long sleep and the world isn’t what it was when before he got frozen. CryEngine 3 is behind this beautiful beast that will put a lot of systems to their knees. The opening level shows off the particle and water rendering of the engine.

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The most popular game on Steam and the biggest competition in eSports; DOTA 2 is powered by the Source engine. The game is fairly light on low to medium settings but maxed out with heavy action on screen especially during clashes can really stress some systsems.

We use the built-in timedemo and benchmarking tool. DOTA2 only shows average FPS so we will be reflecting that in this test. Our timedemo features a heavy clash in the bottom lane for the maximum real-world system load the game can generate. With the recent visual update, DOTA2 has received some graphic makeover that adds a bit of hit for the system and all our date are updated to reflect this.

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Batman: Arkham Origins is the prequel to the highly successful Arkham series of Batman games from RockSteady. Rocking Unreal Engine 3, the game has superb detail and puts a decent load on modern systems.

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The reboot of the gaming phenomenon Tomb Raider puts players in Lara Croft’s hiking boots as she explores the ruin of Yamatai in this origins game. Powered by a modified Crystal Engine, the game features TressFX which creates beautifully rendered hair animation.

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Ubisoft’s hacker action puts you in the shoes of Aiden Pearce as you piece together a crime that has been haunting you since its occurrence. Rage through Chicago as presented by Ubisoft with its Disrupt engine utilizing vast video memory for high-resolution textures for visually stunning graphics.

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CD Projekt Red’s latest installment in the Witcher saga features one of the most graphically intense offering the company has to date. As Geralt of Rivia, slay monsters, beasts and men as you unravel the mysteries of your past. Vast worlds and lush sceneries make this game a visual feast and promises to make any system crawl at its highest settings.

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TEMPERATURE & POWER CONSUMPTION

To measure both power consumption and heat, we stress the video card and record the peak values for heat and wattage. We use default values on the cards and stress test them using a mix of Kombustor Dx11 Burn-In Test with Post-FX.

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Not surprisingly, the GTX 950 really excels in efficiency. Its low power draw for the performance it gives makes it a really good solution for those looking to build a really efficient build. MSI’s cooling solution shows us really good performance but from observation, the fans don’t even kick in during some games with the card hovering at 55*C at games like Battlefield 4 and remaining completely fanless at DOTA2.

CONCLUSION

MSI GTX 950 GAMING 2G Review
MSI GTX 950 GAMING 2G Review

The NVIDIA GTX 950 shows us what the company is looking to offer in the lower-mainstream market. With this segment proving to be a key market for gamers, NVIDIA has made the GTX 950 a solid product that boasts a great balance of performance, efficiency and price. Let’s break it down further:

Performance. The GTX 950 puts up really good numbers and while our graphs may show it to be underwhelming at AAA titles like Watch_Dogs and Crysis 3, remember that we’re running settings MAXED OUT. Dropping details to high in these games will improve performance making them visually smoother and with their native graphics being so detailed, there’s only a small change in visual quality and graphics experience. Overclocking the card is simply phenomenal with the card going so much further than its out of box specs. With that kind of headroom, we’ll be able to squeeze a few more FPS from this card.

Build Quality. The Maxwell architecture is really one of the most efficient architecture we’ve seen to date and as we’ve said over and over again this generation, a good cooler is what it takes to really push these cards further. MSI does a good job with their TwinFrozr V keeping the GTX 950 chilly making it boost up its performance. Overall build quality on the PCB is solid although we still mixed about MSI’s plastic in its cooler.

Functionality. We’d have placed the GTX 950 as lower-end mainstream card because of its position but from the performance we’ve seen we can safely say this card can go so much further and with SLI support included, those looking to just get a boost in their 1080p gaming can easily upgrade their systems with another GTX 950 for a highly-efficient setup.

Bundle. Its still unsure if this card will come bundled with any games like Metal Gear Solid The Phantom Pain or any other. For now we’ll focus on the new additions for GeForce Experience which seem really great for those that love sharing video game content.

Value. At $159, the GTX 950 sits on a very critical spot as it sits in both the lower-mainstream segment and the upper-entry level price ceiling of most buyers. While mainstream gamers may opt for the GTX 960, the GTX 950 offers the most compelling option especially for those that want the most out of their money in games but don’t play a lot of AAA titles. This goes further for elite MOBA players that want a specialized machine that doesn’t cost a lot but offer performance that is on a totally different level than what IGPs can offer.

The NVIDIA GTX 950 is an excellent card for its price and it really gives first-time builders something to experience high-performance gaming on a more modest budget. We’ve been recommending the GTX 750 Ti in our budget gaming PC builds and it seems like we have our new top recommendation offering bang-for-the-buck performance, cool operation and high efficiency. NVIDIA’s obvious focus on MOBA also opens up a new way for iCafes to build their machines and start offering high-performance gaming experiences to their customer base.

Price / Where to Buy:

US – Approx. US$175 – MSI GTX 950 GAMING on Amazon
PH – Approx. PHP9999

If you’re trying to stretch your budget for your next gaming build but don’t want to go for a GTX 960 or can’t afford one yet, especially if you play mostly MMORPGs and MOBAs at 1080p then the GTX 950 is your top choice right now.

MSI backs the GTX 950 GAMING 2G with a 3-year warranty. We give it our B2G Value Award and B2G Silver Award!

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29 Comments

    1. Not announced pero it will come sooner or later since iisa lang halos ung 960 and 950, baog lang ng konti ung 950 with 3/4 the CUDA cores. Pero fuckin crazy OC though

  1. You should really test low-end cards with a low-end build (G3258/i3/i5, H97 or lower mobo, 4/8GB 1600 MHz RAM, HDD, 1366×768/1600×900/1080p display) para mas realistic sa target consumers nito since yung mga bibili or mga interested bumili nito malamang hindi high-end ang build.

    1. Yeah I feel you. May G3258 + H81 board and A70M + A10-7700K + R7 240 na hindi ko pa nate-test. It’s more for performance guide rather than review pero I get your point since yun nga ung intended builds para sa mga ganitong market.

      Ang format ko kasi mostly is for uninhibited performance. Still, point taken. Work out ko yan soon. Thanks for suggesting (y)

    1. Yeah its pretty damn blatant if you ask me but it’s kinda scientific how they work it. September pa labas nung new GFE so we can’t test it yet but I’ll see if kasama na sya sa beta drivers.

    1. Right now, the GTX 950 is slightly costly but prices will hopefully settle in a few months and when it reaches sub-8K php local pricing, we can then recommend it. The good news is that if the 750ti pricing goes into effect, its gonna be easier to go forward with the builds based on that. :D

  2. Question, slightly unrelated.

    How long does it usually take before local prices normalize? The mid-priced 950s as of the moment are just at the range of low-priced 960s so choosing a cheap 960 is a no-brainer.

    Totally unrelated: Do local stores apply a price surge during Christmas season? I’m undecided if I should buy a entry-level rig on mid-November or wing it (and hope for price drops) during Christmas season.

    1. Its more of a exchange rate thing, right now (9/22/2015) US/PHP exchange rate is at around 1usd = 47php and since the 950 stocks are just arriving they carry a significantly different local price than the on-stock 960s. Price levelling normally comes at 2-3 months after the release of a product (gtx970 was different because it was so in-demand so it just kept a higher price until NV slashed prices). sa tinginn ko dahil sa taas ng dollar ngayon matatagalan tayo bumaba prices nyan which is bad kasi unti unti nanaman tataas prices ng GTX 960/970/980ti

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