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GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC Video Card Review

GALAX has a super-stylish GeForce GTX 960 on its hands with the GTX 960 EXOC, a great addition to the GeForce GTX 960 line up.

@anthony256
Published Fri, Feb 27 2015 9:10 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST
Rating: 89%Manufacturer: GALAX

Introduction

Our fourth GeForce GTX 960 video card is here thanks to GALAX, continuing our GTX 960 train of reviews on the back of the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 960 AMP! Edition, continuing with the EVGA GeForce GTX 960 SuperSC ACX 2.0+, and the MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 2G OC Edition review.

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VIEW GALLERY - 70 IMAGES

Some of you might not know who GALAX are, but late last year GALAXY and KFA2 merged to become GALAX. GALAXY was founded back in 1994, but it really kicked things off in 2000 where it started making its "Hall of Fame" series of video cards, with the beautiful white PCBs, and of course, kick ass performance. GALAX doesn't ditch GALAXY and KFA2 away either, as the company will continue to support all of its GALAXY and KFA2 customers and their respective warranties.

What we have here today is my first GALAX video card, but I did use countless GALAXY branded cards in the previous years. I was excited to see what GALAX could offer me against the likes of the ZOTAC, MSI and EVGA cards we've reviewed already, so let's jump straight into the 'Quick Specs' before talking about the pricing and availability on the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC.

Quick Specs

GALAX has steered away from the reference GTX 960 design from NVIDIA, opting to use a different display output configuration. The standard for GTX 960s has been three DisplayPort outputs backed up by a HDMI port. The GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC has a DisplayPort 1.2 port, HDMI port, and two DVI ports. We still have a single 8-pin PCIe power connector, and a great cooling set up that we'll go into very soon.

Availability & Price

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Something that GALAX does that stands out from the rest when it comes to purchasing their products, is that they can sell them to you, direct. The GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC can be purchased from GALAX for $209.99, and at the time of writing they had 19 left in stock.

Packaging & Box Contents

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GALAX has a unique looking box on its hands with the GTX 960 EXOC - with the EXOC standing for 'Extreme Overclocking'. We'll talk about that later in the review. For now, we have the front of the box above.

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There's not much on the back of the box, apart from the usual rundown on NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture. In the bottom left, we have a 'What is Included' section that shows you what you'll get in the box.

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We have a continuation of the front of the box for the top, and on the bottom there's some more information on the card, its features, minimum system requirements and more.

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Inside of the packaging, we have another box that keeps the card and its contents safe.

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Inside of the box, we have a User Manual, CD and brochure. There's also a DVI to D-sub converter, and a PCIe to Molex adapter.

Detailed Look

Here's where we'll take a detailed look around the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC, which is a really great looking card. It mixes a plain look with a great cooler and I guess you could call it military theme on the cooler.

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The front of the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC, where we can see GALAX's dual-fan cooler.

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On the back, we have a back plate that will keep the card cool, with a warning in the top right that it can get hot.

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A closer look at the 'Caution Hot Surface' sticker that warns you to keep your hands off of the back plate, as it does get extremely hot after long gaming sessions.

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We talked about this before, but this is one of the downsides of the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC - its display output configuration. We have one DP 1.2 port, one HDMI port, and DVI-D and DVI-I connections. I do wish GALAX stood next to the reference design, with 3 x DP ports and an HDMI port.

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Here we have the single 8-pin PCIe power connection.

Card Specifications & Cooling Setup

Card Specifications

GALAX has laid down a decent factory overclock onto the GTX 960 EXOC, where the reference GeForce GTX 960 has a Base Clock of 1127MHz with a Boost Clock of 1178MHz, the GTX 960 EXOC pushes this up to 1203MHz and 1266MHz.

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The rest of the specifications on the GTX 960 EXOC, where we can see that we have 1024 CUDA cores, 2GB of GDDR5 RAM at 7010MHz which provides us with 112GB/sec of memory bandwidth. 2-way SLI support is here, with 120W of power allocated to the video card, with 400W required for total system power.

Cooling Setup

GALAX has put some work into the GTX 960 EXOC, deploying its dual-fan cooler with a copper base, triple heat pipes, and improved cooling fin design. On top of this, GALAX has its Silence Extreme Plus technology, which disables the fans when the card is at idle, where no sound is made.

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What good are words, without showing you the cooling setup in detail, huh?

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GALAX has chosen to go with a dual-slot design, which allows for smaller systems to go SLI without running into troubles.

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The dual-fan design is also great, as it will keep the card super cool during idle and even when stressing it out playing games for hours on end.

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We can see the heat pipes popping out from the top of the card, and also through the fan we can see the large heat sink keeping that GM206 core nice and cool.

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Here we have a shot of the plastic shroud covering the entire card, something that looks great in person.

Testing Method & Test System Configuration

Testing Method

Because I'm just starting out reviewing GPUs, we're going to slowly evolve our benchmarking setup. I'm not going to dive into the deep end and start testing out real-time FPS, as this will hurt the quality of the reviews. Instead, I'd like to nail these initial reviews and then we can start doing real-time numbers of games like Far Cry 4, and Star Citizen. For now, I've played Battlefield 4 on a 64-player server to provide some real-world performance numbers.

For now, I'm going to be using the same suite of benchmarks I've been using on my Tweakipedia articles, which uses a mix of synthetic benchmarks with Futuremark's 3DMark and Unigine Heaven. After that, we have a bunch of titles with built-in benchmarks (which does not represent actual in-game performance) but they are repeatable for you at home to gauge the performance of your PC or GPU.

Over time, I will be adding in new benchmarks and a new section that will concentrate solely on real-time gaming benchmarks. This will take more time per review, as I'll have to invest time into actually physically playing the games, but it'll be worth it in the long run. For now, let's get right into the synthetic benchmarks and see how this GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC performs.

Something Different

Most people purchasing this card are only going to be gaming at up to 1080p, as the 128-bit memory bus and 2GB of VRAM is going to severely limit and hinder performance above that resolution. 2560x1440 (1440p) and 3840x2160 (4K) are going to be resolutions that this card won't be used for (mostly). That's not to say that you won't purchase this card for it, but I would highly recommend that people looking to buy any of the GeForce GTX 960s to only get one if you have a 1080p capable monitor, and plan to not upgrade for a while.

Test System Configuration

We only recently built our new X99-powered system, something you can read about here. As for the detailed specifications, this is what we're running:

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  • CPU: Intel Core i7 5820K processor w/Corsair H110 cooler
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE X99 Gaming G1 Wi-Fi
  • RAM: 16GB Corsair Vengeance 2666MHz DDR4
  • Storage: 240GB SanDisk Extreme II and 480GB SanDisk Extreme II
  • Chassis: Lian Li T60 Pit Stop
  • PSU: Corsair AX1200i digital PSU
  • Software: Windows 7 Ultimate x64
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We're running the system at stock CPU speeds, which will provide more of a 'real-world' feel to our benchmarks. Sure, this isn't an i7-5960X at 5GHz, but what person is going to team up an incredibly expensive CPU with a mid-range GPU? Not many.

Our GPU tests are changing, shifting toward more of a real-world feel. But don't worry, we will be doing some crazy balls-to-the-wall tests that will see serious overclocks, Extreme Edition processors, and much more in the coming months. For the most part, we will be doing more real-world testing by teaming up the right processor with the right GPU in its price category.

Even still, most people would be running an LGA 1150 socket Core i5 or mid-range AMD FX-8350 with a GeForce GTX 960, so we're still giving it some better guts as a CPU.

Benchmarks - Synthetic (3DMark and Heaven)

3DMark Fire Strike - 1080p

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3DMark Fire Strike Extreme - 1440p

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3DMark Fire Strike Ultra - 4K

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Heaven - 1080p

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Heaven - 1440p

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Heaven - 4K

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The GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC was actually able to beat the MSI card, kept neck and neck with the ZOTAC card, and lost out to the EVGA card when it came to 3DMark at 1080p. We see nearly the same results with the 1440p 'Fire Strike Extreme' test, and with the 4K 'Fire Strike Ultra' test, the GALAX card comes out on top of all of the cards - beating the MSI, EVGA and ZOTAC GTX 960s.

The results were even tighter when it came to Heaven, with the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC equaling the score of the ZOTAC card, beating the MSI card by 1FPS and losing to the EVGA card by 1FPS in our Heaven testing at 1080p.

Moving up to 2560x1440, the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC takes the lead once again, but equals the results of the EVGA and ZOTAC cards with an average frame rate of 29FPS, beating the MSI card with its 26FPS. Moving on to 4K, we see identical results - the GTX 960 EXOC is equal to the EVGA and ZOTAC cards once again, beating the MSI card by 2FPS.

Game Benchmarks (1080p)

Battlefield 4

This is one game that we did differently, as it does not feature a built-in benchmarking feature. When it comes to Battlefield 4, there are countless ways you can benchmark it. Some find a spot in the single player campaign which is easily repeatable, and use that. For our testing, we've chosen to use a 64-player online multiplayer server for real-time performance statistics.

We joined a 64-player map and played for five minutes using FRAPS, pulling our minimum/average and maximum FPS. We did this for each test, running 1080p at Medium/Ultra and then 1440p at Medium/Ultra - but for the 1440p tests, we disabled AA as it is quite stressful on the GPU at that resolution. We're only doing this to give you a look at what BF4 performance is like on the GTX 960 AMP! Edition, and 1440p with 4x MSAA isn't an ideal way of doing that.

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And again, this time with the Ultra preset.

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Sniper Elite 3

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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DiRT Showdown

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Game Benchmarks (1440p)

Battlefield 4

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Sniper Elite 3

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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DiRT Showdown

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Performance - 4K

Battlefield 4

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Sniper Elite 3

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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DiRT Showdown

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Performance Summary

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 GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC, or any GTX 960 for that matter, will be playing at 1080p or below.

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I've obviously benchmarked the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC 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, noise, price and power consumption.

How Does the MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 2G OC Edition Stack Up?

The GALAX GeForce GTX 960 performed at near identical results to that of the three other GTX 960s that we've already reviewed. We actually saw it beating the competition where it matters most - our real-time Battlefield 4 testing in a 64-player multiplayer server.

Performance at 1080p

The GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC actually lead the rest of the GTX 960s in Battlefield 4 at 1080p, in both our Medium and Ultra presets. Not by much - actually just 1-2 frames per second - but it's still a win for GALAX in Battlefield 4 with the GTX 960 EXOC.

Moving along, we see that the GALAX is about toe and toe with the MSI and EVGA cards in GRID: Autosport, but loses to the ZOTAC at 1080p. Things are even when it comes to Metro: Last Light, with 53FPS average at 1080p. Shadow of Mordor sees the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC next and neck with the EVGA card, losing to the MSI and ZOTAC cards, though.

In the rest of our testing at 1080p, the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC is pretty much neck and neck with the rest of our GTX 960s.

Performance at 1440p

While the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC was able to better the other GTX 960s at 1080p in Battlefield 4, it only lost to the EVGA GeForce GTX 960 SuperSC ACX 2.0+ on our Medium preset, with 101FPS to the GALAX and 105FPS average on the EVGA. On the Ultra preset, the GALAX card beat all of the other GTX 960s with 71FPS, with the closest competitor being the EVGA on its heels with 70FPS average.

In GRID: Autosport, the GALAX card managed 77FPS average, while the EVGA and ZOTAC cards beat it by 2FPS with 79FPS average. Metro: Last Light saw nearly identical results, with the GALAX losing to the EVGA and ZOTAC cards once again, with 34FPS compared to 36FPS and 35FPS, respectively.

As for the rest of our tests, just like our 1080p performance results, the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC performed pretty close to the rest of our GTX 960 lineup.

Performance at 4K

Performance on the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC at 4K was pretty identical to that of the MSI, EVGA and ZOTAC cards that we've reviewed. Starting with Battlefield 4, we have an average of 48FPS at 4K and the Medium preset. On the Ultra preset, that average drops down to a still respectable 33FPS - nudging out the MSI GTX 960, but losing to the EVGA and ZOTAC cards.

GRID: Autosport and Metro: Last Light saw near identical results to our other GTX 960s, as did Shadow of Mordor, Thief and Sniper Elite 3.

At the end of the day, the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC provides a decent gaming experience at 4K, but you won't be buying it to game at this resolution. This isn't going to stop you, and it allows for a great upgrade path if you want to buy it now and use it with your 1080p display, but not have to upgrade your GPU on the day you buy that expensive new 4K monitor.

Overclocking

Overclocking - Let's See How Far We Can Go

The GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC has a great factory overclock, but it still had some wiggle room for an overclock that we were able to perform. We cranked the factory overclock on the Base Clock from 1266MHz to 1380MHz, which resulted in the Boost Clock being pushed up from 1329MHz to 1443MHz.

We weren't able to shift the RAM speed up that much, but when we did we didn't see a shift in our results, so we kept it at 7010MHz. Let's get into the results of this overclock on the GTX 960 EXOC.

Battlefield 4

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Starting our overclocking part of the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC with Battlefield 4 at 1440p and its Medium preset, where we see the minimum frame rate jump up from 74FPS to 81FPS and the average from 101FPS to 109FPS. Not bad for free.

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The same can't be said for the Ultra (minus AA) results, where the average jumps from 71FPS to 72FPS - a single frame per second. But, the minimum FPS which is just as important, leaps from 40FPS to 51FPS - a great result.

Metro: Last Light

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Metro: Last Light always benefits from the overclock on our video cards, with the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC being no exception. We see the average FPS jump up 10%, from 34FPS to 37FPS.

Heaven - 1440p

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I expected more from Heaven and our overclock, but the minimum FPS stays the same at 14FPS, while the average FPS slumps over by a single frame per second, to 30FPS.

Power Consumption and Sound Testing

Power Consumption

GALAX only asks for a 400W PSU when running its GeForce GTX 960 EXOC, but our total system power consumption was only 240W during our testing, right in line with the competitors' cards.

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Sound Testing

Sadly sound testing was not available for this review, but it will be added soon for future reviews.

Software

GALAX has its own overclocking software, like most AIB partners do these days, called XtremeTuner Plus. This can be downloaded from GALAX's website, weighing in at 14.5MB.

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Opening it up, it has an absolutely mammoth UI. There are tabs going all around the information on your GPU, with tabs for GALAX's Facebook page, NVIDIA's driver page, Profiles, Advance Mode, Performance Log, and more.

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Taking a look at the Advance Mode, we can tweak the fan control, GPU voltage, overvoltage, memory voltage, and frame rate target. On the left, you just click 'Apply' to soak in those overclocked settings.

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The Performance Log section of the software shows you everything you need to know about the internals of the card such as the Base Clock and RAM speeds.

What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts

This is where you can fast forward to the final section of the review, and get a quick recap and points on the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC.

What's Hot

Silence: The dual-fan cooler on the GTX 960 EXOC does its job more than well enough, with our all-night sessions of Battlefield 4 and various testing at 1080p, 1440p and 4K handling it all without a problem. Great stuff.

1080p 60FPS For $200: This is the best thing about the GTX 960 - NVIDIA has provided AIBs like GALAX with the ability to offer gamers and consumers with a gaming VGA card for ~$200 that can easily handle 1080p60 gaming.

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Great Cooling System: GALAX has provided a dual-fan cooling system that not only keeps the GTX 960 EXOC cool, but it also looks incredibly cool. If you've got a side window on your PC, you'll want to show this bad boy off.

Maxwell Architecture: As we detailed in our GeForce GTX 960 architecture overview article, NVIDIA has got some magic with its Maxwell architecture. We wouldn't be here today praising up the work of MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 2G OC if it weren't for the engineering efforts NVIDIA went to with Maxwell. Truly impressive stuff.

What's Not

Not So Great OC Software: This is about the only downside of the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC, is its overclocking software. It has most of the features you'd like in overclocking software, but I found the user interface not so intuitive.

Display Outputs: I have been really enjoying where NVIDIA has been going with its GTX 900 series and its full push on DisplayPort, but GALAX decides to ditch DP for DVI ports. This isn't necessarily bad, but it does make the card less futureproof. Especially considering G-SYNC displays are DisplayPort exclusive.

Final Thoughts

GALAX has produced an excellent GeForce GTX 960 with its GTX 960 EXOC. Starting with some great packaging, an even better looking card, and stellar performance. It doesn't do too much to stand out from the competition, so you'd be buying this purely on your market, or the looks of the card.

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Personally, I really dig the look of the GTX 960 EXOC. It has a 'military' feel to it, and its 2-slot cooler allows it to be installed into a small case or thrown into an SLI build easily. The protruding heat sink at the top isn't too much of a problem, either. The stylish back plate is something that might sound like a small detail, but it really creates a great overall look for the card.

We have some great performance once again, as we have seen from all of the GTX 960s, with the GALAX card coming with an excellent out-of-the-box factory overclock, with some additional headroom for overclocking.

The card made absolutely no noise during all of our testing, which was another tick in the 'buy this now' box for GALAX. If you're in the market for a new video card and haven't purchased one of the competitors' cards yet, the GALAX GeForce GTX 960 EXOC definitely deserves your attention.

Performance (overclocking, power)95%
Quality (build, cooling, design)90%
General Features (display outputs, etc)75%
Bundle, Packaging & Software90%
Value for Money95%
Overall89%

The Bottom Line: GALAX hits the right notes with its GeForce GTX 960 EXOC. A refreshingly simple, yet effective cooling setup is only let down by its display output configuration. An overclockers best friend, too!

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Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

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