ASUS has one of the better GTX 960 models at hand with the Strix, it's a petit card with a fairly simple PCB, however the cooler based on DirectCU is where the magic happens. In a single card setup you are looking at 65 Degrees C whilst this card boosts over 1300 MHz, that is pretty impressive. In SLI thigns get a little more problematic if you place the cards close to each other though, roughly 76 Degrees C for the isolated card. If possible please do leave more space inbetween the card by ussing a PCIe slot further away. Then again, even at 76 Degrees C we can't complain as the setup still remains fairly silent. All cards tested to date reach, give or take, the same overclock / noise and heat levels with some offsets here and there of course. ASUS brings a good and proper product to the table, with excellent cooling levels I should add. Most cards we tested have a raised power limiter, you should not be surprised to see your card even clocking in at 1400 MHz on that boost frequency. And that is the savior of the GTX 960 really, a 128-bit memory bus and 2 GB of memory with a GPU shader count half that of the GTX 980. Despite all that these cards do perform nicely for the 1080P gamers, the high clock frequency makes all the difference. So yes, if you are gaming at a monitor resolution up-to 1920x1080 then this product will be pleasant in terms of price versus performance versus a nice quiet product. I can't wait for 4 GB models, though such a release is still not confirmed.
Maxwell GM206 GPU Overall Experience
The GeForce GTX 960 is a pretty complicated piece of technology in terms of what Nvidia offers to its partners and what they made out of it. I am afraid though that Nvidia took it a step too far trying to make the product as cheap as possible. Many of you will not get by the fact that the 128-bit memory bus combined with 2 GB of graphics memory will cripple anything after 1080P. I think people could have lived with the 128-bit bus if the product would have had 3 GB of graphics memory or the other way around. When you place all facts into perspective then we do feel the product is rather capable, but everybody certainly expected somewhat higher specs in this 200 EURO mainstream space. As such my bet is that we'll see a 960 Ti with maybe 256-bit / 1280 shader processors as well. But performance wise the product will sit in-between a GeForce GTX 760 and a Radeon R9 280 / 7970. Like the specs or not, this is still a respectable number. Pricing wise, expect values in the 199 USD/EURO range with the luxurious boards being a tenner or two more expensive.
The reference products are set at an offset threshold of 80 degrees C, with a product of this cooling caliber, the numbers will be much lower. ASUS applied their DirectCU II based dual-slot dual fan cooler. It's a good performing cooler overall; you can expect the temperature to hover around the 60~65 Degrees C threshold with the games that are harder on the GPU. Remember, that is factory overclocked cooling performance for you. Thanks to the fairly low temps, the boost limiters do not kick in as that fast and yeah, as stated, do not be surprised to see this card rendering your games at a boost frequency of over 1400 MHz.
Cooling VS. Noise Levels
Cooling wise we can’t complain, noise wise it is a good product. You can hear only a tiny bit of airflow, that's it. So expect sound pressure values in the 38~39 dBA range at best under load and warm circumstances with a single card. That's measured 75 cm away from the PC, thus a normal distance in-between you and your PC. At best you can hear airflow from the card while using them heavily. In SLI as explained the temps go up with a significant amount. Give the card a better slot or just accept that sub 80 Degrees C temperature. The noise really isn't an issue.
The performance of the GeForce 960 series overall is okay if you stick to 1080P. The biggest danger lies in the fact that 2 GB of graphics memory these days isn't going to cut it with the modern game titles versus good image quality settings. Obviously you can forget about 2560x1440 WHQD resolution gaming, but considering the price, in all fairness we need to say, this is really a 1080P card. Again, the most tricky thing will be 2 GB, once the card runs out of memory frames will start swapping back and forth in the frame-buffer, resulting in a performance loss. The only way to solve that is to lower AA settings or image quality overall. Overall it will be a fun and sweet Full HD gaming product and yeah, though the specs are a little less exciting, really we are not disappointed by the performance if 1920x1080 is your gaming domain.
Once you opt SLI then a 2560x1440 WHQD monitor resolution is viable. SLI scaling is fairly okay with the GTX 960, but for 2x 229 EURO we'd rather recommend you a single GeForce GTX 970 at roughly 300 EURO. That card is perfect for that resolution and does not come with the limited 128-bit memory, has 4 GB memory and the limitations and driver issues that "somtimes" SLI can offer. Albeit SLI is very well supported these days.
Without extra voltage tweaking you can expect a 1450 MHz range for the boost clock frequency. Depending on how much your board will take and allow, with voltage tweaking you’ll reach the 1450 up-to a 1550 MHz range on the dynamic boost frequency. Roughly 1.54 GHz was our absolute maximum.
In SLI we recommend a slightly slower boost frequency, keep it a notch under 1500 MHz as you need to counter the extra heat on the primary GPU. Variables like your PC stability, power supply and so on are important to any overclock, keep that in mind. The memory is clocked standard at 7.0 GHz, you'll fairly easily achieve 7.5 GHz up towards 8 GHz, you should probably settle at 7.8 GHz for utter stability. Since this card is so limited with its 128-bit memory bus, tweaking that memory will help tremendously as it increases memory bandwidth and thus performance.
All said and done, ASUS is offerring a truly great GeFGorce GTX 960 with the Strix model. It ticks all the right boxes when it comes to factory overclock, aesthetics, noise and temperatures.
Realistically though, and I'll write this nit in all our GTX 960 reviews, from top to bottom in terms of factory overclocked cards versus the several brands, the difference in FPS can be up-to 4 frames on average with a modern game and decent image quality settings. So what I am saying is that the ultra fast clocked version won't be heaps faster, we are taking about a margin of roughly 10% overall inbetween a reference clocked and extreme clocked product. Do remember that when you open up your wallet. Gaming at WQHD / 2560x1440 is ill-advised, 1080P is the best match for this card series, and at 1080P that is the maximum with this card combined with pretty decent image quality settings.
So there you have it, proper cooling, proper thermals, proper low noise levels and for a GTX 960 as expected performance, you can't complain really, no Sir. It is amazing to see how high the Maxwell architecture generation products can clock, even on 28 nm. Nvidia should have been on 20 nm already, but we are starting to doubt that will ever happen, they might just hop onward to the next train called 16 nm.
As always we at least one SLI review on launch day, this round it was done with the ASUS STRIX. Scaling is pretty decent and we had no driver issues, that said... go with a Geforce GTX 970 opposed to two GTX 960 cards okay? The better memory bus and 4GB memory volume are the decisive factors here.
Overall the Strix is getting my thumbs up from most viewpoints, I would have liked to see a bit more memory in this price class anno 2015, but perhaps that is wishful thinking. The ASUS GeForce GTX 960 Strix performs well at Full HD, even combined with very decent image quality settings. It card will become available this week and you may find for roughly 225 EURO/ 239 USD.