Gigabyte GTX 960 G1 Gaming VS MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G - Games Weekly

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Gigabyte GTX 960 G1 Gaming VS MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G

The release of the GTX 960 added another SKU to NVIDIA’s 900 series family. This time, the newest addition replaces the GTX 760 which, in comparison to the GTX 780 and the GTX 770, has been short lived on the market. As you would expect the GTX 960 is based on the Maxwell architecture, the GM206 core to be exact.

This core is 2.94 billion gates, and built on the same 28nm TSMC node as all other GPUs in the last two years. Given that the full complement GM204 core that powers the GTX 980 and 970 is 3.5 billion gates, it is suspected that with just half a billion fewer gates, the GM206 core could house more functional parts, but at present are disabled giving us a core that is exactly half that of the GTX 980 in specifications. The GTX 960 has 1,024 shaders instead of 2,048, has half the render outputs at 32 and half the texture samplers at 64. The memory bandwidth has also been cut in half to 112GB/s via a 7GHz 128-bit wide bus. It is in every way, half of the GTX 980 and performance is mostly half of the GTX 980 as well, but just like all other Maxwell cards is DirectX 12 compliant. The pricing however is also half and that is a major draw card for this GPU.

It runs cool, with both cards in this Versus never breaking the 65°C mark even within a case that has poor air flow. The power draw is also very low at anything between 120 and 160W. Pricing varies but you’re looking at anything between R3,500 and R4,200 for the GTX 960. Steep given how the GPU performs, but good enough to play most games at 1080p with the detail levels maximised. These two in particular give performance that is between the older GTX 970 and then sometimes matching the GTX 680. Two cards that retailed for double the price of the GTX 960 when at their debut.

With that said, we picked two GTX 960s and placed them head to head to see how they fared. As usual with these comparisons, buying either one will result in great gaming performance and you’ll not be disappointed. If you’re looking to maximise your investment though, it may be worth taking the time to read the finer details of each one. Then pick the one that suits your needs the most.

GIGABYTE GTX 960 G1 GAMING - Supplier / Rectron

The pricing of this GPU will vary from store to store, but on average you can expect to pay slightly more for this card than the MSI one. It isn’t a large amount of money but if you’re on a very strict budget, this may sway you towards the other card. This isn’t a local pricing difference only as the USD difference between these two is $20 to $30. This one is pretty easy to award to the MSI card as it is just cheaper even if the performance isn’t the same. With the GPUs being the same, the GIGABYTE card is a little on the expensive side.

The performance advantage is with the G1 Gaming here. It is clocked much higher than any other GTX 960 on the market and this makes all the difference. While other cards are mostly faster than the outgoing GTX 760 overclocked editions, the G1 Gaming is consistently faster. For the most part it matched the GTX 680 reference models and in our testing never fell behind except in two games. Prior to release, GIGABYTE issued a firmware update which amongst some other undisclosed changes resulted in additional performance via a clock speed upgrade. As a result the boost clock is stated to be 1,371MHz, but the real clock frequency during gaming is a scorching 1,445MHz.

This makes the G1 Gaming the highest clocked GPU we’ve come across out the box. This clock speed advantage renders it faster in every game and benchmark and is a very clear and obvious win for the GIGABYTE card. If you’re looking for the fastest GTX 960 on the market, the GIGABYTE GTX 960 G1 Gaming is the one to buy. There aren’t any that are faster than this one.

GIGABYTE has used their latest and most popular Windforce cooler on this model, along with providing their 960 with a back-plate. This not only helps keep components on the backside of the card a little cooler, but it gives the card structural rigidity and helps aesthetically as well. The cooler extends past the PCB making it one very big GPU. This is in contrast to the other GTX 960 from GIGABYTE which is only 17cm long, whereas this one is a hair under 30cm in length. The three fans run very quiet even under load and you’re unlikely to ever hear them spinning. The card features a LED lighting system that will let you know when it’s is operating in silent mode with no fans spinning or when they are on. In which case the fans would be actively cooling the card. It is the little touches that obviously add to the cost, but overall deliver an impressive GPU that has all the high-end features like the Flex Display configuration found on more expensive cards. Once again GIGABYTE adds a TMDS chip to manage outputs over and above what comes standard with the GTX 960, thus allowing you to connect up to five displays via a combination of DP, HDMI and DVI. At the time of writing there isn’t another GTX 960 that supports this many displays or configurations.

With overclocking, the GPU managed to complete an entire round of benchmarks at 1,600MHz once again making it the highest clocking GPU core we’ve come across using air cooling. Obviously you cannot use this frequency to run games all day, but it did hit a milestone and it does speak well about the GPU sorting that GIGABYTE claims it performs on their GPUs. Overall a solid offering and one that is certainly worth spending on.

MSI GTX 960 GAMING 2GD - Supplier / Corex

MSI has amongst the cheapest GPUs locally and this holds true for the GTX 960 as well. It retails for less than the others but provides equal, and with the most recent update, better performance than most. It is widely available and the friendlier price means it’ll find fans where others cannot. Against the GIGABYTE offering it is cheaper, and that may be the deciding factor for many. Where value for money is concerned this is an obvious winner and MSI has done well to position their product in such a manner that it makes the GTX 960 in general far more attractive than it otherwise would be at competitor prices.

The MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2GD is overclocked out the box and provides plenty of performance for the price. It has clock speeds that are in line with the other vendor offerings but this time falls short of the GIGABYTE card because that one has an extraordinarily high clock speed. For the most part the MSI card matches all the others and delivers smooth frame rates at full HD resolutions and lower. You’ll be hard pressed to make a distinction between the MSI card and others. It is in the upper echelon as it provides a respectable overclock out the box, but much like the GIGABYTE card leaves the memory operating at reference frequencies, which is a pity as that makes a large difference with such a bandwidth starved GPU. Real clock speeds for the GPU are 1,379MHz on the core which is genuinely high. The best part about this though is that this is the clock speed the GPU will keep throughout all your gaming sessions, and not once did we record any fluctuations in the core clock speed. Performance is solid here, but it does lose out to the GIGABYTE G1 due to the 65 MHz core clock deficit.

If anything can be said about MSI graphics cards it is that they look fantastic. The red and black still strikes a distinct visual aesthetic that cannot be mistaken for any other graphics card and it works on this GPU like it has on many others before. The white dragon light works well in giving the graphics card some character within the case.

There’s no back plate to speak of but then again this is a much shorter PCB than the one on the G1 Gaming and as such the usefulness of such a plate would be diminished. More importantly, the back of the card remains cool even right at the back of the GPU, with temperatures remaining well below the 70C mark.

Overclocking is as always a luck of the draw, but typical of MSI graphics cards the Samsung 7 GHz rated GDDR5 performed very well, able to operate a full 1GHz higher than the reference speed. The GIGABYTE card achieved this as well, but it was the limit at which it could operate. This sample reached a maximum of 8.3GHz and the best part about it was that this frequency was game stable with not a single artifact in sight. As a result of the maximum GPU frequency being fairly close, the resulting memory speed advantage the MSI card had meant that it overall delivered higher scores in the synthetic benchmarks when overclocked. In games the differences were 1fps at most and usually less, so that doesn't mean much but overall we would have to say the MSI card overclocked a little better.

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