msi_geforce_gtx_960_gaming_4g_video_card_review - 1 HARDOCP - Introduction - MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 4G Video Card Review

MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 4G Video Card Review

Today we are examining the MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 4G model, which features a custom build from MSI with the Twin Frozr V thermal design. We will compare the MSI GTX 960 4G to the XFX R9 380 4G, including the highest obtained overclock. Additionally we will examine the GTX 960 2GB and 4GB models clock-for-clock.


Microstar International (MSI) is a Taiwan-based computer hardware manufacturer founded in 1986. Primarily a designer and manufacturer of PC motherboards, MSI has expanded its business into barebones PCs, servers and workstations, communications devices, consumer electronics, Notebooks, Netbooks, graphics cards, and other various electronic products. Its company motto, "Quality Products Create Faithful Customer," believes its underlying corporate strategy of designing and manufacturing quality devices for various markets and letting its high-quality reputation earn it the trust and respect of electronics consumers worldwide.

On our test bench today is the MSI GTX 960 GAMING series, the MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 4G video card.

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In this evaluation we are taking a look at our first 4GB GeForce GTX 960 video card evaluation specifically. We have evaluated three other 2GB GeForce GTX 960 video cards including the 2GB version of this video card from MSI - the MSI GTX 960 GAMING 2G, the ASUS STRIX GTX 960 DC II 2GB and the GIGABYTE GTX 960 G1 GAMING 2GB. This video card sets itself apart from the others packing twice the amount of VRAM on board.

The pricing on NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 GPU based video cards ranges from $189-$239 depending on the manufacturer and whether the video card is a 2GB of 4GB model. This makes the recently released AMD Radeon R9 380 2GB and 4GB models a close comparison in performance and price to the GeForce GTX 960.

The MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 4G's current price tag is $239 at Newegg which includes a coupon for a free copy of Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain, an additional $60 value. This price is the exact same as the XFX R9 380 Double Dissipation 4G, a factory overclocked custom video card. In this evaluation we will be comparing these two video cards head-to-head, including a page specifically targeting apples-to-apples comparisons with each video card flexing its highest stable overclock.

We will also provide a special apples-to-apples page between the GeForce GTX 960 4GB and GTX 960 2GB model video cards. These comparisons will feature the 4GB and 2GB models operating at the default reference frequency of the GeForce GTX 960. We hope to find what gameplay advantages the additional memory provides at 1080p, and if the additional money is worth purchasing a 4GB model over a 2GB model.

MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 4G Video Card

The MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G comes with a factory overclock. It has a base clock speed of 1216 MHz with a boost clock of 1279MHz. Remember, the default GTX 960 boost clock is 1178MHz, so this is running 101MHz faster. In real-world gaming the GPU boost frequency actually operates even faster at 1392MHz. The memory does not have any overclock and operates at the reference speed of 7GHz.

MSI offers a utility called the MSI Gaming App. This utility allows quick and easy overclocking via different operating modes. Unfortunately with this video card the "Silent" and "Gaming" modes decrease the GPU boost speed to 1178MHz and 1253MHz respectively. When activating "OC mode" the boost clock will increase to 1304MHz, an additional 25MHz overclock at the push of a button. To make the most of overclocking the MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G we must use MSI Afterburner to push it to the limit.

This video card utilized the Twin Frozr V cooling setup which has improved circuitry that add into the feature referred to has Zero Frozr. This feature allows either one or both of the fans to turn off, or enables one when a certain zone of the video card needs cooling.

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The Twin Frozr V thermal design also includes a new SuperSU heatpipe design which increases the efficiency of heat dispersion by reducing heat pipe length. This allows heat to travel a shorter distance before being spread across the finned heatsink and dispersed. There are four 8mm copper heat pipes that spread to five areas on the heatsink, improving maximum heat removal.

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The most noticeable feature on the Twin Frozr V cooling setup are the Torx fans. These fans are designed to allow up to 19% more airflow than propeller blades. The blades have 75% higher structural integrity and 5% lower noise which help to provide superior cooling while remaining nearly silent. These fans are placed in a way that the majority of their airflow runs across the copper heat pipes, helping the video card and components remain cool.

MSI also uses top of the line Military Class IV components on the MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G video card. These components include Solid CAP's for a longer lifespan and Hi-Current CAPs for improved energy efficiency. It is also outfitted with solid state chokes that eliminate the vibration sound under heavy power loading and provide 37.5% higher current output. These benefits will help us when overclocking to receive every MHz possible with improved stability and the assurance of remaining cool.

The MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 4G video card can be yours for $239 at Newegg which includes a coupon for a free copy of Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain, an additional $60 value. This offer includes a 3 year limited parts and 2 year limited labor warranty.

MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 4G Pictures

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The MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 4G ships packaged in a regular sized box, well secured with foam and an anti-static bag. MSI always ensures their hardware is prepared well before sending it to the consumer. The accessory package included with this video card includes a driver installation CD, a quick start guide, an MSI product brochure, a 6-pin to 8-pin PCIe power cable and a DVI to VGA dongle.

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The video card is printed on a black PCB and has a red and black theme. The video card also has a back plate to protect the rear-mounted components. This back plate is cooler than we've generally seen, and includes an etch of the MSI dragon. There is also a small MSI logo along the top edge with a dragon with a small LED that lights up behind it when powered on.

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MSI recommends a 400W or greater power supply to ensure proper operation. It requires a single 8-pin PCIe power connector located along the top edge of the video card. The rear I/O panel houses dual-link DVI-I connector, three Display Port connectors and an HDMI port. The video card measures 10.5 inches in length, 5 inches in height and 1.5 inches in width.