Does the GTX950 stack up these days?

OK, the GamejunkieNZ new PC build is complete: It’s working perfectly (I just updated to the latest motherboard BIOS last week) but it’s not complete yet.

I still want to buy a better graphics card for it. At the moment, I’m tossing up whether to stick with nVidia, as I have most of my PC gaming life, or do I take a risk and go with an AMD GPU. The thing is, I don’t have an unlimited budget so I have to get a mid-range card and for me, that’s either something like a nVidia GTX1060 6Gb GPU or an AMD RX580 8Gb card – and after a lot of research (well, mainly YouTube comparisons), I’m edging towards the RX580. It just seems a faster card and, frankly, is better priced than nVidia’s equivalent offering. I almost feel nVidia have too many cards on the table these days and is almost diluting its range.

Anyway, until I buy a new GPU, I’ve whacked in an MSi  GTX950 Gaming 2Gb GPU, which I won in a competition a couple of years ago and was released in 2014. Actually, this is the first time it’s been used as the motherboard on my old PC was too old to accept the architecture (not even a motherboard firmware update helped).

Now, according to Steam’s annual hardware survey, the GTX950 GPU is the 16th most popular GPU with Steam users. Surprised? Me too, actually. I wasn’t expecting a card primarily aimed at MOBA games to be ranked at 16th, used by 1.03% of Steam users that completed the survey. Don’t believe me? Here, look at this chart:

 

Anyways, MSi’s GTX950 Gaming GPU supports all the bells and whistles you’d hope a 900 series card from nVidia would: Dynamic Super Resolution, MFAA, nVidia GPU Boost, DirectX 12, Open GL4.5, and it will let you connect upto four displays using DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. So far, so cutting edge.

The MSi card features Zero Frozr cooling, which means the fans don’t spin when your PC is under idle, keeping noise levels low, and has three different modes: OC mode, Gaming mode and silent mode. The GPU’s boost clock, base clock and memory frequency is 1317 MHz / 1127 MHz / 6650 MHz in OC mode; 1279 MHz / 1102 MHz / 6610 MHz in Gaming mode; and 1190 MHz / 1026 MHz / 6610 MHz in silent mode. The card has some rather neat LED lighting effects that you can control via MSi’s Gaming app, but they’re totally redundant in my PC case, to be honest, as it has solid side panels and not see-through.

Anyway, until I get a new GPU I wanted to see how the GTX 950 would handle some of my favourite games in my Steam, GOG.com and Origin library. The GTX950 has one major flaw: It only has 2Gb of GDDR5 Vram, which isn’t a heck of a lot these days, which I guess is why this card was aimed at the MOBA market. The GTX950 is firmly aimed at medium graphics settings on games, especially fast twitch action games.

So, is the GTX950 GPU still relevant today? Let’s finds out.

How I tested

My reason for doing this was pretty simple: I just wanted to see how the GTX950 would perform with a selection of relatively modern titles  until I bought a new GPU. I picked games that I own in my Steam, GOG and Origin libraries: Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Batman Arkham Origins, Astroneer, Dishonoured, Metro Last Light, The Witcher 3,Titanfall 2 and Wolfenstein The New Order. The screen shots below show the graphics options.

Most games were set at the medium graphical options, given the GPU only has 2Gb of VRam, although with Astroneer I was able to set things to high. I used MSi Afterburner to monitor things like GPU temperature, average frame rates and GPU load and I recorded game play footage using nVidia’s GPU’s capture software.

The results

The bottom line is, if I want to play modern games at decent frame rates and with as many bells & whistles turned on, I need a card better than the GTX950 Some games performed better than expected, others about how I expected, given the small memory allocation the GTX950 has.

Running the Deux Ex Mankind Divided benchmark had frame rates hovering around 30fps, but it’s a graphically demanding game – the average frame rate was around 25fps – and I don’t recommend the GTX 950 is the card of choice. Look, it’s playable but I definitely need a better card to get the most of out the game.

Wolfenstein, too, fared a bit better (see game play videos below), with the frame rate hovering around 60fps during a fairly demanding combat sequence, but again, it’s not the latest in the Wolfenstein universe.

Metro Last Light and Dishonoured  fared pretty well, too, with high frame rates but I have to remind myself they are both older games – still great, great games – but not games that are pushing graphical boundaries. Astroneer and Titanfall 2 both performed really well with the GTX950, giving solid frame rates.

The conclusion

When it came out, the GTX 950 would have been a capable card and it’ll play older games at medium to high graphics settings, but there’s no denying the 2Gb of memory is a major handicap: It just can’t handle today’s games at high resolutions or graphics settings.

Now that the GamejunkieNZ PC is built, I want to be able to play more games on PC. I want to be able to play upcoming games like Rage 2 and Cyberpunk on PC, with high frame rates and all the graphical bells & whistles turned on, not be compromised by 2Gb of memory and having to turn down options because the card can’t handle it.

The days of the GTX950 are numbered, at least in my PC.

 

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