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nVidia GeForce GTX 950: A Budget Dream?


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 difference.

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 1080p display.

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.