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MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review

NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture dips down to $159, powering the new GeForce GTX 950 GPU. Today we check out MSI's Gaming 2G version of it.

@anthony256
Anthony Garreffa
Published Thu, Aug 20 2015 8:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction, Quick Specs and Availability & Price

The latest member of the Maxwell family is the new GeForce GTX 950 from NVIDIA, featuring the GM206 GPU. The new GTX 950 supports all of the key features and technologies that the flagship GTX Titan X is capable of, including DirectX 12, GameStream, SLI, and much more.

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VIEW GALLERY - 61 IMAGES

This is the most entry level that Maxwell gets on the desktop, and with the GTX 960 crawling around still, we wonder what type of performance the GTX 950 has in store for us. The GTX 950 is the perfect upgrade for someone still using a GTX 650 (or so), with some great 1080p performance numbers that we'll share with you soon.

The biggest point here with the GeForce GTX 950 is the price. With a $159 price tag, this is going to be one of the best video cards to buy for casual and MOBA gamers. Especially when you consider the GTX 650 vs. GTX 950 debate, where the GTX 950 is 3x faster than the GTX 650 in many games. The new GM206-powered GTX 950 also has 2x the performance per watt of the GTX 650, all while using just 90W of power.

Quick Specs

NVIDIA has pumped 768 CUDA cores into the GM206-powered GeForce GTX 950, with 48 texture units. We have 2GB of GDDR5 RAM spread out on a 128-bit memory bus, with 32 ROPs joining in on the technological fun.

One of the great features of Maxwell was its display connectivity, where we have the same 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI 2.0 and 1 x DVI output. The GTX 950 is even capable of driving four displays, at up to 5K (5120x3200).

Availability & Price

With the release of the GeForce GTX 950, NVIDIA is providing a price of $159 for the GTX 950, while the GTX 960 is priced at $199. This gives AIB partners like MSI a little bit of wiggle room to offer a card for around $160, with a better cooler and factory overclocks out of the box.

Packaging & Detailed Look

The Packaging

MSI is known for using its dragon on its boxes, with the new GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G being no exception.

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On the front of the box, we have the aforementioned dragon, and to the right, we have the model of this card. In the bottom left, we see that it has 2GB of GDDR5, supports PCIe 3.0, and is the OC edition.

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On the back of the card we find out the various technologies that MSI has on the card, such as the use of Torx Fans, SU Pipe, and Zero Frozr technologies.

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Inside, the card is kept nice and safe inside of this box.

Detailed Look

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Starting off with the front of the card, we have the usual red and black theme from MSI which continues to impress. Even though this is the cheapest entry in the GTX 900 series from NVIDIA, MSI isn't cheaping out in the looks department.

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There's no backplate in use here.

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One very good thing that MSI has done with the GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G is continued the Maxwell tradition of display connectivity. We have 3 x DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI 2.0 and 1 x DVI output.

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A single 6-pin PCIe power connector is required, keeping power consumption very low.

Cooling Setup

MSI is known for their Twin Frozr cooling technology, with the new GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G featuring their latest Twin Frozr V cooling. This new cooling has been on the entire range of GTX 900 series cards from MSI, with the great performing TORX Fan being a big stand out, as well as the thermal performance of any Twin Frozr V-powered card.

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Here we have the two TORX Fans that will keep the card cool, with the elaborate heat sink and heat pipe system behind it.

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Underneath the card, we can see the large heat sink keeping the GM206 GPU nice and cool.

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Once again from the top.

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Here you can see the heat pipe system underneath the fan, with the second shot taken from the bottom of the card.

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Once again, from the end of the card (under the second fan).

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A close up shot of the awesome styling and great use of color scheme on the GTX 950 Gaming 2G.

Testing Method & Test System Configuration

Testing Method

I've played Battlefield 4 on a 64-player server to provide some real-world performance numbers. I've found this is one of the best ways to provide the most realistic performance numbers, as it involves actual gameplay in a large server that really strains most setups.

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 video card performs.

Battlefield 4 Testing

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, we run the game for 5 minutes at 1080p/1440p and 4K. We are using a custom Ultra preset (disabling AA). It's time consuming, but it gives us a perfect look into true real-world performance.

Test System Configuration

We are still using our X99-based Core i7-5820K processor, but we'll be replacing this soon with Intel's new Skylake processor and Z170 chipset. We just received our awesome new GIGABYTE Z170 Gaming 7 motherboard and have secured ourselves a shiny Skylake-powered 6700K in the last few days. Expect us to move over to that in the next few weeks.

The current X99-based system is something you can read about here. As for the detailed specifications, this is what we're running:

  • 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
  • Drivers: GeForce 353.30 / Catalyst 15.7.1

Benchmarks - Synthetic

3DMark Fire Strike - 1080p

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 50 | TweakTown.com

3DMark Fire Strike Extreme - 1440p

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3DMark Fire Strike Ultra - 4K

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 71 | TweakTown.com

Heaven - 1080p

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 52 | TweakTown.com

Heaven - 1440p

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 53 | TweakTown.com

Heaven - 4K

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 72 | TweakTown.com

When it comes to synthetic benchmarking, the new GM206-based GeForce GTX 950 from MSI cleans up when compared to the GTX 650. The MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G is a huge 193% faster than the Kepler-based GTX 650 in the 1080p run of 3DMark.

The same thing can be said for Heaven at 1920x1080, where the new Maxwell-based GTX 950 is 187% faster than the GTX 650.

Benchmarks - 1080p

Battlefield 4

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 61 | TweakTown.com

Grand Theft Auto V

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 63 | TweakTown.com

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 65 | TweakTown.com

Tomb Raider

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 67 | TweakTown.com

BioShock Infinite

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 68 | TweakTown.com

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

Benchmarks - 1440p

Battlefield 4

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Grand Theft Auto V

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GRID Autosport

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 81 | TweakTown.com

Metro: Last Light

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 82 | TweakTown.com

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 86 | TweakTown.com

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

Benchmarks - 4K

Battlefield 4

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Grand Theft Auto V

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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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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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

Performance Summary

How is Maxwell at $159?

At just $159, this card is going to be a great upgrade for those who are gaming on an older GTX 600 series card. If you've got a GTX 650 and you've been waiting to upgrade - with the GTX 960 being a little too out of your price range, or you weren't interested in the AMD Radeon R7 370 - the GTX 950 should be a huge blip on your radar.

It offers some damn fine performance at 1080p, where with a bit of tweaking you could easily hit 60FPS solid in virtually all of the games on the market. When it comes to MOBA titles, it's ensured that you're going to hit 60FPS because of the less intense graphics compared to some of the titles we put our video cards through.

The older Kepler-based GTX 650 was one of the big sellers for mainstream/mid-range gamers, so we're comparing our new MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G against the EVGA GeForce GTX 650 - as that's the perfect card to aim for when upgrading from. We've included some numbers from the GTX 960 and a bunch of AMD's mid-range cards to give you a better picture of the GTX 950.

Performance at 1080p

Performance at 1920x1080 in Battlefield 4 was impressive, with an average of 81FPS. This is a great number to start things off on, as it means that you can blast around in BF4 at 60FPS+ without a problem. This is a great achievement for a $159 card in a game as good looking as Battlefield 4.

Moving onto our other games, we had 91FPS average in GRID - which is just fantastic. Metro: Last Light is normally quite harsh on our video cards, but with an average of 46FPS on the highest preset, you could enjoy 60FPS with a few tweaks to in-game visual settings. Most of our other games sat at an average of 50FPS, so again, with some in-game tweaks, you're going to hit 60FPS in most games.

Performance at 1440p

Performance starts to scale down at 1440p, but we're still hitting around 30FPS average. In Battlefield 4, we have a decent 52FPS average, so with some changes to in-game settings 60FPS is achievable. All of our other games averaged 30FPS or so, which has the MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G positioned as a great card for 1440p gaming at 30FPS.

Performance at 4K

With a 128-bit memory bus, we knew that 4K gaming wasn't going to be a strong part of the GTX 950, and the results show it. An average of around 25FPS at 4K at our mixed Medium/High in-game settings. Battlefield 4 performance is surprising at 4K, with 28FPS average - not bad for $159.

Overclocking, Power Consumption and Sound Testing

Overclocking - Let's See How Far We Can Go

This is an area that I didn't expect to squeeze too much from, but the GM206 GPU continued to impress me as I pushed the MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G. I thought I would squeeze another 3-5% out of the card, but I ended up with quite a good overclock in the end.

I was able to push the GPU clock from 1127MHz to 1252MHz, which saw the Boost clock jumping from 1317MHz to 1442MHz. The 2GB of GDDR5 was also overclocked from 1663MHz to 1713MHz. Check out our overclocked results below.

Battlefield 4

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 151 | TweakTown.com

Metro: Last Light

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3DMark Fire Strike Extreme - 1440p

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Heaven - 1440p

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Power Consumption

When it came to power consumption, the MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G sipped just 180W from our system, while the GTX 960 uses 235W.

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Sound Testing

During our gaming and benchmarking sessions, the MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G was ultra-silent. We didn't hear a peep out of it, and while it struck me as strange, I didn't worry about it. The GM206 GPU is just sipping power, but how much power?

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 888 | TweakTown.com

Our entire LGA 2011 system was using just 180W of power under load, which is just great. The card is only using 90W of power itself, so for gamers who don't want to be running up the power bill, the GTX 950 is quite the card.

Software

Overclocking Software

MSI's Afterburner overclocking software is a widely-used kit of software, something that is quite easy to use and is even better to look at.

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You get a few different styles to choose from, with a break away hardware monitor that keeps an eye on all of the separate parts of your GPU.

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I ended up using the original UI, as the new UI is just insane compared to the legacy one.

MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G Video Card Review 32 | TweakTown.com

Back to basics, and pushing our overclock on the MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G.

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 MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G.

What's Hot

A Huge Upgrade Over The GTX 650: The new Maxwell-powered GeForce GTX 950 has close to 3x the performance of the Kepler-based GTX 650. For anyone with the GTX 650 that has been waiting to upgrade, but didn't want to spend the money, the GTX 950 is a perfect upgrade.

Maxwell Goes Mid-Range: While the GTX 960 was a mid-range offering, the GTX 950 is here with an even better price point of $159. This should have countless millions upgrading, especially if their cards are getting to the end of their lifespans.

Silent Gaming: During our testing, the MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G made absolutely no noise in games. It is a totally silent card.

Super-Low Power Consumption: With a TDP of just 95W, our entire system was using just 180W at load. This is the type of card you want for MOBA and casual gaming, where the likes of the GTX 970 and GTX 980 Ti need not apply.

Perfect For 1080p (And Below): If you're gaming at 1280x720, 1680x1080 or 1920x1080, the MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G is a great card. Hell, it's the perfect card. With many display outputs, you can have this plugged into your monitor and TV for MOBA/casual gaming and watching content over your TV.

Overclocking Headroom: There's some decent OC headroom here, much more than you would think!

4K Gaming: This isn't something I would recommend, but you're going to get an average of around 30FPS on this card. Considering the 'next-gen' consoles are barely managing 720p at 30FPS, the MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G is actually capable of 4K gaming on a serious budget.

What's Not

Not Much New: This is just a cut down GTX 960, and we're still using the Maxwell architecture here. So, if you have read up on the GTX 900 series, this is 'one of those', but slower than the rest. It's a great entry into the 900 series, though.

Final Thoughts

Coming into the review of the GeForce GTX 950, I didn't know what to expect. After reviewing so many enthusiast video cards in the last couple of months, you can get a bit swamped. I'm expecting 60FPS+ at 4K, and 100FPS+ at 1080p. But with the GTX 950, you've got to come at it from a different point of view.

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I didn't use any GTX 980, GTX 980 Ti or Titan X cards in our benchmark charts for this reason alone. NVIDIA provided us with an older GeForce GTX 650, and I re-ran the numbers on the GTX 960 so that we have the perfect cards to look at. We've also ran the numbers on AMD's mid-range cards, right up to the Radeon R9 390. When comparing the GTX 950 against the Kepler-based GTX 650, the new Maxwell offering blows it out of the water. NVIDIA claimed up to 3x the performance of the GTX 650, and they were right. Where the GTX 650 was offering 15FPS average, the GTX 950 offered 40-45FPS average at 1080p.

AMD can't compete with its Radeon R7 370 which is priced at around $170 or so, as the GTX 950 beats it in nearly every single test. This is where NVIDIA has AMD by the balls, in the low to mid-range market where gamers are spending less than $200 - and there are many of them. Not only does the GTX 950 have great performance at 1080p, it has even better performance at resolutions like 1280x720 and 1680x1050, which are popular resolutions amongst MOBA and casual gamers.

Even hardcore CS:GO players will play at lower resolutions (even in 4:3 aspect ratio, stretched out), lower than their native resolution as it "feels like it has a wider field of view". This stretched look makes gaps in the game bigger, so if heads are hiding in a small spot they're easier to spot, and then shoot at. It's also a resolution that CS:GO gamers used to play on in previous iterations of Counter-Strike.

Gaming in lower resolutions will bump the frame rate past 60FPS, so for a card priced at just $159, this is quite the goldmine for gamers on a budget. MSI's GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G may cost a little more since it's a custom model, but we expect it to be around the same price.

TweakTown award
Performance (overclocking, power)90%
Quality (build, design, cooling)90%
General Features (display outputs, etc)90%
Bundle, Packaging & Software90%
Value for Money95%
Overall91%

The Bottom Line: At just $159, the new MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2G is the new sweet spot for 720p and 1080p gaming. If you're a MOBA or casual gamer and need an upgrade from a GTX 650 (or so), this is the perfect video card for you.

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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.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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