In this multi-flavored and Skittles colored array of GPU board manufacturers, it’s hard to find the one perfect for you. Everyone seems to have a different theme and magical offering to get you to come down their line, but what if simple was the best? PNY has never been known to get caught up in throwing a bunch of useless gimmicks but does work hard to give you a performer.

Today I bring you a review of the PNY GeForce GTX 960 OC XLR8 Video Card – VCGGTX9602XPB-XE-OC.

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Check out the specs

Specs and Features

  • PNY XLR8 Elite Cooling Technology
  • Factory Overlocked by PNY
  • 1304MHz Core Speed
    • 1367MHz Boost Speed
  • 1024 CUDA Cores – Physx
  • 2048MB GDDR5
    • 128-bit Memory Interface
    • 7Gbps Effective Memory Frequency
  • 2-Way SLI
  • Dual Slot Width
  • Up to 4096 x 2160 (Digital) Resolution
  • NVIDIA®GPU Boost 2.0
  • NVIDIA® Adaptive Vertical Sync
  • NVIDIA® Surround
    • Supports up to 4 concurrent displays
      • One Dual-Link DVI
      • HDMI® 1.4b
      • 3 x DisplayPort 1.2
    • DirectX® 12
    • PCI-Express 3.0 Support
    • OpenGL 4.4 Support
    • OpenCL Support
    • Dual Slot
    • Card Dimensions
    • 9.5” Length
    • 4.38” Width
    • 1 year warranty, extended after registration

Ok, I think we are good with the specs, let’s check out an unboxing.

They pretty much cover you with accessories; the package includes a DVI to VGA adapter, Molex to PCI-E adapter, Drivers CD, Manual and a Display port to HDMI adapter.

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Something very nice and a little foreshadowing to the review is the fact that the card itself only requires one 6 Pin PCIE power connection, only 1. If we go back through the series of x60 from NVIDIA, they have all required 2 x 6PIN PCIE power connections, at least from all of the cards I have personally worked with. It is a very nice feature here and adds itself to helping you build a lower cost machine; I will get back to this a little later in the review.

Here you can see the video connections on the card, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x HDMI and 3 Display adapters ports. Though you see 5 connections, you can only use 4, though 4 monitors are nice on their own and if you have this setup, I am a bit jealous.

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Here you can see why the card only supports a 2 card SLI connection; it only has 1 SLI bridge connection. NVIDIA wants to leave tri-SLI to the x70 series and above. We can also see PNY’s XLR8 Elite Cooling Technology and the single 6Pin PCI-E connection.

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The XLR8 Elite Cooling Technology consists of a black painted aluminum heatsink shroud covering the card. That plate you see on the side of the card covers the majority of the top of the PCB including the VRM and memory. It helps to cool the components on the surface. The aluminum and heatpipes can’t do all the cooling on their own, the 2 x 75mm fans on top of the cooler blows cool air over the heatpipes, fins amd plate cooling down the card, the air that blows through the fins help keeps the components on the card itself cool. Towards the end of the review you can see a video where I take the card apart, I made a huge mistake, but you can read about it at the end of this review.

I will see how good this cooling technology is and with that I will use GPU-Z GPU Temperature readings, for Wattage testing I use P3 International’s “Kill A Watt”. This lets you see on the fly how many Watts, Amps, Hertz and Kilowatt hours the system takes up so you can see how much anything in the house is pulling, a handy little device for anything around the house.

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Let’s get on to how to actually install the card, in case you don’t know how to, check this video out.


So now that you have done a little learning on how to install or upgrade a video card, let’s get to some benches, one of my favorite parts.

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Notice if you will, the GPU clock, its Boost speed and Memory speed are among the highest if not the highest in its class.

For the benchmark portion, I will throw my usual suite of tests, 3DMark Fire Strike, Metro Last Light, Tomb Raider and Thief.

FutureMark’s 3DMark, while not a game is one of the original GPU benchmarks. With Firestrike, we get to test heavy tessellation, volumetric illumination and complex smoke simulation taking advantage of its compute shaders. Again not a game, and many have wondered why FutureMark has not come out with a game, but they want to keep their niche, even though they were going to make games but Rovio took that over. Anyway, back to the benches.

The stock OC’ PNY provides, is not too bad, bringing the card to some decent speeds, not amazing but decent. The card kept itself runs at a cool 59 degrees during 3DMark Fire Strike, and only maxed out at 246 Watts, not bad.

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Upon validating the score online, it shows me that the score is 65% better than all other results, but one thing that it does not state is what the other results are, that reading is a bit out there. Seeing though that the score is better than more than half of the other machines benching out there, does make it seem not too bad, considering they could be cards $400 and above, but again we don’t know.

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A game that rocks any video card to its core, especially with settings ramped up is Metro Last Light, let’s check that out.

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Here are the settings I ran the benchmark at, of course changing the resolution each time.

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This benchmark kills cards, but the PNY GTX960 OC does a decent job handling it all. Please realize I have anisotropic filtering at 16x which makes most cards struggle, the tessellation is a bit high as well. As you surely know the harder a card has to work the hotter a card gets, it sucks up more wattage but you can see that even though the card toughed it out, they did not pass 67 degrees and did not reach above 270 Watts, they might be right when they say this card only requires a system with a 400Watt power supply.

Let’s check out the rest of the benchmark and see if this holds true.

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The settings for Thief and Tomb Raider are basically the same, but I will show them regardless, again the only change in between benchmarks is the resolution.

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Thief holds it together very nicely, like Metro, you might have to dumb down the graphics a tiny bit to be more playable, at 2560 x 1440. The average peaked at 34.8 but at 1920 x 1080, even at the highest settings, 50 FPS is very playable.

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Tomb Raider shows how well it was developed, not only at 1280 x 1024 and 1920 x 1080 the FPS jump to at times over 100 FPS, amazingly playable of course but it is very playable even at 2560 x 1440 at 59.4 FPS. If you notice, the temps never passed 57 degrees and the wattage never passed 247 Watts, this card keeps getting better.

Overall, this seems like a great card, especially being that it’s one of the highest overclocked GTX960’s around, but can we go higher, of course we can.

Here are the default clocks of the card, remember they are overclocked already at the factory. Here are the base speeds for every GTX960

  • 1127MHz Core Speed
    • 1178MHz Boost Speed
  • 7010MHz effective memory speeds
    • Memory bandwidth of 112GBs

PNY bumps that up a notch to

  • 1304MHz Core Speed (Up 14.56% above NVIDIA Spec)
    • 1367MHz Boost Speed (Up 14.85% above NVIDIA Spec)
  • 7012MHz effective memory speeds
    • Memory bandwidth of 112.2GBs (Up 0.03% above NVIDIA Spec)

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Unfortunately PNY does not have any sort of overclocking software, so I had to use EVGA’s Precision X, here is how the card looks like in Precision X.

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Bumping it up a bit, which might help you if you get this card, here are my Precision X settings.

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And here’s how it looks like in GPU-Z

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So here we brought the default (but still overclocked) clocks to the following:

  • 1428MHz Core Speed (Up 9.09% above PNY’s spec and 23.56% above NVIDIA Spec)
    • 1367MHz Boost Speed (Up 8.68% above PNY’s spec and 23.45% above NVIDIA Spec)
  • 7256MHz effective memory speeds (Up 3.42% above PNY’s spec and 3.48 above NVIDIA Spec)
    • Memory bandwidth of 112.2GBs (Up 3.42% above PNY’s spec and 3.59 above NVIDIA Spec)

This card comes overclocked, but then I overclocked it even further, so let’s see what this means for thermals, wattage and benchmarks.

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We can see here from a simple overclock we raised the 3DMark score by 453 points, a 6.09% increase. With that the Graphics score overall improve by 577 points, an improvement in both Graphics test 1 and 2. The physics score did drop by only 12 points but the combined score went up 174 points. A pretty decent improvement, if you worked on it a little more I am sure that this can be improved upon even more, my overclock was a quick one, though of course I tested for stability, thermals and wattage consumption and all were within good ranges, I would say amazing ranges. Please remember, not all cards will overclock the same.

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Metro being the killer that it is could use any boost in performance possible, so in these benchmarks I show you how not only Metro performs at a PNY OC but how Metro performs on my OC as well.

1280×1024

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An almost 3 FPS improvement at 1280×1024, a little more playable with all the eye candy on. Even without the eye candy turned off, a 7.05% increase is nothing to scoff at.

1920×1080

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Almost 2 FPS at 1920×1080 a 7.14% improvement, not the greatest but you can see an improvement.

2560×1440

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And last but definitely not least, at 2560×1440 we can see an almost 2 FPS increase, a 5.82% difference. Nothing here to write home about, but we can see that the little bump I gave it in performance can make a difference. Let’s see what Thief has to say about that.

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1280×1024

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While the performance was already pretty high to begin with on the stock OC from PNY, it seems that the extra kick popped the average up slightly passed 60 FPS, a 2.16% improvement. What can you get it up to with this card?

1920×1080

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An extra 2.8 FPS in the average area seems a relatively low improvement but turn off a little eye candy and you can easily get 60 FPS and above. Even though 52.8 is under 60FPS, it is playable at 52.8 and a 5.45% gain.

2560×1440

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36.6 is not a very good FPS to report for any game, but as I have mentioned a few times before, with a little eye candy turned down you can easily get to and above 60FPS and still there is a 5.04% increase in performance. Now that Thief has stolen the performance, can Laura bring it back?

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1280×1024

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The numbers have greatly risen here, though the percentages seem to be around the same, but a gain is a gain. The average score improved by 5.99%, though it is only at 1280×1024.

1920×1080

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At the more widely adopted resolution we see a 6.70% increase in FPS, I will gladly take that improvement.

2560×1440

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The resolution I play at, 2560×1440 we see an impressive 6.20% gain in FPS. While 59.4 is not a bad FPS at all, 63.2 is a much more comforting frame rate to be playing at, again at 2560×1440 with all of the eye candy turned up.

One thing you may or may not have noticed is at factory overclocked wattage and speeds, the thermals were at an acceptable range. Overclocking PNY’s own overclock I of course had to raise the wattage and with that bumped up a tiny bit the fan curve which of course raised the noise very slightly, they are very quiet to begin with so the bump generated nearly a whisper, it other words it was still very quiet.

This review of course has been centered around the PNY GTX960 OC, I thought it right to also take a trip down memory lane and review 3 of the x60 series cards from NVIDIA so that you can see what sort of improvements have been made in technology. For this we will compare differences between the EVGA GTX660TI, PNY GTX760OC and back around to the PNY GTX960OC.

Please note, this is not a review on companies, more a review of where we have come in performance over 3 generations of cards.

For this set of benchmarks, I will list only the average scores, the ones that really mater.

FutureMarks 3DMark

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EVGA GTX660TI

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PNY GTX760OC

37

PNY GTX960OC

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As of course you would have imaged the EVGA GTX960OC came up ahead, but of course it would have its NVIDIA’s latest chip. That frame of mind though can get you in trouble; take a look at the rest of the benchmarks and you can see why I state that, not to mention that 3DMark is a synthetic test and while a good point of reference, games are the best reference.

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Now you see what I mean, the GTX660TI came up above the GTX760, even though the GTX760 was overclocked. Even though this is benchmark of the average FPS in Metro, could it have been a fluke, keep watching.

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Ok, so maybe Metro was a fluke, as we can see here there is a noticeable progression in scores. The GTX660TI score 38.3 FPS, while the GTX760 overpowered it at 47.6FPS and the GTX960 just bumped up the score a tiny bit at 50FPS. So does this mean we should dump the GTX660TI in favor of the GTX760 and forget the GTX960 all together and just wait for the next chip, let’s find out.

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Wow, so it looks like the same flip flop in performance occurred again between the GTX660TI and the GTX760. What is even more noticeable is the fact that the GTX960 more than double the performance of the GTX660TI and the GTX760. It is evident that in all 3 benches the GTX960 performed best, possibly to be expected but the GTX660TI did surprise.

What does this mean for games, I tested Battlefield 4 at Ultra, with a few tweaks to answer your question, lets find out.

So towards the beginning of this review I mentioned I would take the card apart to see what made its awesome cooling solution work and I made a huge mistake, don’t try this at home.

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So yeah, I ripped the memory out of its soldering but the card was built so well, I was able to put it back together without having to resolder the card. I edited, rendered and uploaded the entire video using Camtasia that is also configured to take advantage of the CUDA capabilities of this card and as you can see, I was able to finish this review and video using this card, truly amazing.

PNY gives you all the reason to upgrade to this card. Not only does it cool amazingly well, but it is a solid performer and is built with quality, performance and cooling in mind. How many times have you ripped a piece of memory off of the soldering and have been 100% successful putting it back together without bricking the card much less the entire system?

I am obligated to mention, no cards were harmed in the film because I fixed what I broke. I am also obligated to mention, while I was successful in repairing this card, it does not mean you will, I am lucky I was able to fix it, please do not try doing this as it will void your warranty.

With all this said and done, I am also obligated to give this card a solid 5 Stars. Not only was the performance top notch for a card in its class, but the cooling was beyond expectation, build quality was superb, speed was among the top of its class as well and the cost for the quality of this card is not only justified but reasonable.

PNY did an amazing job with this card.

Iggy Castillo

Iggy Castillo

Senior Editor an Reviewer at Dragonblogger.com
I have spent many years in the PC boutique name space as Product Development Engineer for Alienware and later Dell through Alienware's acquisition and finally Velocity Micro. During these years I spent my time developing new configurations, products and technologies with companies such as AMD, Asus, Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA and more. The Arts, Gaming, New & Old technologies drive my interests and passion. Now as my day job, I am an IT Manager but doing reviews on my time and my dime.
Iggy Castillo

@zangza

I love the arts and technology. IT Manager by day at Jewett Automation and Reviewer by night at https://t.co/eYqx0uJofz and my own at @ThisBytesForYou
@EdCrisler This should be marked as adult content, I have to go repent now lol - 1 week ago
Iggy Castillo