Sizing 'em up
Do the math involving the clock speeds and per-clock potency of these cards, and you'll end up with a comparative table that looks something like this:
|Radeon R9 270X||34||84/42||2.7||2.1||179|
|Radeon HD 7950 Boost||30||104/52||3.3||1.9||240|
|Radeon R9 285||29||103/51||3.3||3.7||176|
|Radeon R9 280X||32||128/64||4.1||2.0||288|
|Radeon R9 290||61||152/76||4.8||3.8||320|
|GeForce GTX 560 Ti||26||53/53||1.3||1.6||128|
|GeForce GTX 660||25||83/83||2.0||3.1||144|
|GeForce GTX 760||25||99/99||2.4||4.1||192|
|GeForce GTX 770||35||139/139||3.3||4.3||224|
|GeForce GTX 960||38||75/75||2.4||2.5||112|
|Asus Strix GTX 960||42||84/84||2.7||2.6||115|
|Asus Strix GTX 970||61||130/130||4.2||5.0||224|
Sorry it's so huge. I tested a lot of graphics cards.
As you can see, even with relatively high memory clocks, the GTX 960 just has less memory bandwidth than anything else we tested. Versus its closest competitor from the Radeon camp, the R9 285, the GTX 960 has less of everything except for peak pixel fill rate. (Maxwell GPUs tend to have pretty high pixel rates, likely because Nvidia has tuned them for the new era of high-PPI displays.)
Of course, the numbers above are just theoretical. We can measure how these graphics cards actually perform by running some directed tests.
Traditionally, performance in this color fill test has been limited by memory bandwidth. Few cards reach their theoretical peaks. But check this out: even though it has less memory bandwidth on paper than anything else here, the GTX 960 takes third place in this test. That's Maxwell's color compression tech at work. In fact, the only two cards ahead of the GTX 960 are based on GPUs that also have delta-based color compression.
Texture sampling rate is another weakness of the GTX 960 on paper. In this case, the card's delivered performance is also relatively weak.
The GTX 960's tessellation and particle manipulation performance, however, is pretty much stellar. This is a substantial improvement over the GTX 660 and 760. In TessMark, the GTX 960 is faster than any Radeon we tested, up to the R9 290.
On paper, the GTX 960 gives up nearly a full teraflop to the Radeon R9 285—2.4 versus 3.3 teraflops of peak compute throughput. In these directed tests, though, the GTX 960 only trails the R9 285 slightly. That's Maxwell's vaunted architectural efficiency shining through again.
Now, let's see how these numbers translate into performance in real games.
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