Decent GPU performance
doesnít come cheap these days. Although onboard GPUs such as Intelís
Iris Pro give great performance to the casual and mainstream user, if
you care at all about devent 3D graphics your only real choice is a
discrete GPU. The sweet spot between price and performance lies with
GPUs like the Geforce GTX 970. A card that provides most of the
performance of a flagship GPU at a significant discount. At $350 the GTX
970 is about $200 cheaper than the GTX 980 and youíd be hard pressed to
tell the difference in most cases at only about a 20% performance
For most users even a $350 GPU is pushing the bounds of fiscal sanity.
Such cards usually make up part of a computer with other equally premium
components. So the expenditure shouldnít be seen in isolation. The
really hot area of competition is the mainstream sub-$200 segment. This
area of GPU development benefits from technology developed for the high
end. These cards either have GPUs meant for high-end that didnít make it
through quality control or chips that are refined versions of the
previous generationís high-end products.
For the current generation of cards this comes down to whether 3D
graphics can be adequately rendered at 4K resolutions. Cards such as the
GTX 970. GTX 980 and GTX 980 Ti are in that product tier. Purchasing
one of these cards now allows you to run games and 3D applications at 4K
resolution with most or all of the bells and whistles switched on. Most
user whose budget is below $200 for a GPU are however likely to own a
This is where a card such as the GTX 950 comes into play. With only a
128-bit memory bus and 2GB of texture memory anything higher than 1080p
is a fantasy. At this resolution however, youíll be pleasantly surprised
at its abilities. With 768 Maxwell CUDA cores and a base clock of
1024Mhz the GTX 950 isnít exactly lazy, but donít fool yourself this is
not a card that will tide you over more than one chip generation. The
GTXís biggest problem is its bigger brother the GTX 960 4GB at about
$200 to $230. The 950ís GPU is a slightly crippled version of the one
found in the 960, which has 1024 CUDA cores. The 4GB version of the card
also makes more sense in light of current texture memory demands from
modern games, even at 1080p. Doubling texture memory for $40 is a
sensible thing to do. Even if you have to cut that from your CPU or
other components budget.
Both cards are very quiet and donít have high PSU requirements. Unless
you really canít swing the extra 40 bucks for the GTX 960, there is no
real reason to go for the 950. If you get the 950 for a good price
though, you should have no complaints.
Are you running either of these cards? Let us know about your experience in the comments.