How We Judge Performance
Something I'm going to change from our old review style is I'm going to be choosing a segment of where this card will fall into for mainstream consumers. The people buying the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 960 AMP! Edition, or any GTX 960 for that matter, will be playing at 1080p or below.
I've obviously benchmarked the ZOTAC GTX 960 AMP! Edition at 1440p and 4K, but those results will not be impacting my Final Thoughts on the card at all. Any and all judgment on this card is going to come from the 1080p benchmarking, its overclocking potential, features, software, noise, price and power consumption.
How does the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 960 AMP! Edition stack up?
NVIDIA has crafted one of the most impressive GPUs of the last couple of years with the GeForce GTX 960, while ZOTAC has nudged it in the right direction. The two super-quiet and sometimes silent fans really help, while the single 6-pin PCIe power connector makes it an easy choice for the budget and power conscious gamer. For those with a smaller chassis, like an mITX build, this is going to be an easy choice.
When it comes to performance, we're seeing some of our games reach 60FPS without a problem at 1080p, while some of them even scale that wall and make a run for 100FPS or more. There are a few games like Thief and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor that can't quite reach that 60FPS goal, but with a few details turned down, this will not be a problem.
The performance of the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 960 AMP! Edition is something that is really courtesy of NVIDIA, while ZOTAC has slapped on a better cooling system, added in some cool overclocking software, and kept the single 6-pin PCIe power connector for super low power consumption and heat output.
Performance at 1080p
I walked into this review knowing that the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 960 AMP! Edition would perform well, especially in my usual suite of benchmarks. It was only when I started playing around with Battlefield 4 that I began to realize the scope of what NVIDIA had here. A new GPU that uses less than 120W of power, and provides 1080p 60FPS performance in Battlefield 4... even on Ultra settings.
Battlefield 4 at 1080p on Medium settings provides 92.9FPS average, which is just great. I was playing it on my ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q monitor, with a native resolution of 2560x1440 and refresh rate of 144Hz with G-SYNC technology, and it was still amazing. Absolutely amazing. Cranking it up to Ultra though, and still enjoying a huge 69.8FPS average... well then. That's just an entire new thing to be excited about. Considering that at 1920x1080 the GeForce GTX 980 is pulling 108FPS and the GTX 780 is pulling 87FPS, this is quite an achievement for a card that consumes less power, makes next to no noise, and is quite small.
Even games like Metro: Last Light can be played with the Very High preset enabled, and enjoy over 50FPS. Gorgeous driving titles like GRID: Autosport seeing an insane 140.3FPS, edging out our GTX 980 by 0.2FPS... and the GTX 780 by 12FPS, this is a sight to behold, everyone. We achieved over 60FPS in every game except three: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Thief and Metro: Last Light. With some tweaks to their settings, you could easily enjoy 1080p and near maximum in-game graphic settings at 60FPS on a card that costs $209. Insane.
Performance at 1440p
I did state that I would not be judging the performance in my final pages of the review at 2560x1440, but that doens't mean we can't sit down and talk about it, does it? No. So let's do just that. Let's talk about how the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 960 AMP! Edition performs at 1440p.
The first thing I tried to do was play Battlefield 4 at 2560x1440 with Ultra enabled, but it was pretty bad. The 128-bit memory bus and 2GB of VRAM were obviously limiting us, so I decided to tweak the in-game settings. I enabled the Ultra preset, but disabled the 4x MSAA for a custom profile, and the performance was much better. Not 60FPS better, but an average of 44FPS is something you can't complain about at this resolution, on a card for this price.
But, when I nudged it down to Medium to see if I could scale up to over 60FPS, that's when things got much, much better. We were able to achieve an average of 86.5FPS, at 1440p on the Medium preset, with a minimum of 61FPS. This is a stellar result for a game that looks this good, and again, on a card that retails for only $209. When you consider we were 'only' getting 92.9FPS on the Medium preset at 1080p, the performance at 1440p is actually damn impressive.
Again, games like GRID: Autosport with an average of 78FPS, or DiRT Showdown with 70FPS is just stellar. The additional pixels did start to restrain the GTX 960 AMP! Edition, but that's what we expected. Still, one of the most demanding games out there right now - Battlefield 4 - is totally playable at Medium settings, or even Ultra settings with a few tweaks at 2560x1440 for just $209.
Performance at 4K
Did you see those numbers on Battlefield 4? For $209, the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 960 AMP! Edition is pulling 86FPS average at 3840x2160 on Medium detail. Sure, it's not Ultra, but Medium detail in Battlefield 4 looks incredible still. Comparing this to the GeForce GTX 980 which pulls 128FPS, this is definitely something worth bragging about. Things are far different at Ultra though, where the GTX 960 AMP! Edition manages just 44FPS, which is still more than playable, while the GTX 980 pulls far out and ahead with 99FPS.
Every game except for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor can be played on the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 960 AMP! Edition at 4K at 30FPS, with Shadow of Mordor managing 27FPS. I used a mix of Medium to Maximum (usually Ultra/Very High) in-game detail settings to maintain around 30FPS for our tests on the 4K resolution.
I didn't think the 128-bit memory bus would hold up, but I had to shake that old feeling as I explained in our GeForce GTX 960 architecture overview article. The memory bus isn't that important anymore when the architecture is so different to what it used to be years ago. It will be interesting to see what AMD will do with its HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) powered Radeon R9 300 series that's rumored to come out with a reported 4096-bit memory bus, that's for sure.
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