Following the release of Maxwell-based GTX 980 and GTX 970 GPUs for the high-end of the market, Nvidia i sbringing the succesfull GPU architecture to mainstream gamers with the release of the GeForce GTX 960 and the GM206 GPU.
The GTX 960 is designed to be NVIDIA's high-end 1080p card, capable of running most games with maximum image quality at the still most common desktop resolution of 1920x1080. To do this they have brought down Maxwell 2 into GM206, a new, smaller GPU tailored for this market segment.
Compared with the GM204 GPU (GTX 970), the the GM206 features half the shaders, half the memory bus, and half the ROPs, all at the same clockspeed.
The GM206 has 1024 CUDA cores arranged in 8 SMMs over 2 GPCs. The GTX 960 is equipped with a 128-bit memory bus and 7GHz GDDR5. Paired up with the 32 ROPs is 1MB of L2 cache.
The GeForce GTX 960 grants you access to DSR, MFAA, VR Direct and VXGI, enables you to use super smooth G-SYNC monitors, and play next-gen DirectX 12 games.
With faster frame rates you can enable high-quality NVIDIA Multi Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA) in Battlefield 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, War Thunder, and almost all other DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 games, increase the overall quality of a game?s graphics with NVIDIA Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR), and enjoy a smoother Virtual Reality experience bolstered by NVIDIA VR Direct. Furthermore, games of the future will employ NVIDIA Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI), enabling realistic lighting and illumination exclusively on 2nd generation Maxwell GPUs, like the GeForce GTX 960.
Regarding performance, you should expect half the shading, texturing, ROP throughput, and memory bandwidth performance of NVIDIA's flagship GTX 980.
When it comes to HEVC (H.265) decoding, GM204, GM1xx, and GK1xx GPUs all offer limited HEVC decoding via a process that offloads some parts to the GPU fixed function units and shaders, and other parts to software entirely. However as of GM206 NVIDIA?s fixed function HEVC decoder has been completed and rolled into this GPU.
As for power, with 2.94B transistors, the GTX 960 is coming in at a TDP of 120W, and can be powered off of a single 6pin PCIe connector.
NVIDIA says that the GTC 960 is pitched as a 660/560/460 replacement. To that end NVIDIA is touting just a 50% performance increase over GTX 660, with closer to a 2x increase in overall efficiency after factoring in the reduction in power consumption.
NVIDIA will be launching the GTX 960 at $199 MSRP. GTX 960's overclocking prospects are looking very good, and as a result partners are launching with a large number of overclocked cards.
AMD's competitors to the GTX 960 will be the Radeon R9 285 and the Radeon R9 280.