XCOM 2 was the game that finally did in my MSI 650 Ti. I could play to an extent (a slow, jerky extent), and could have waited for Firaxis to fix the engine, but it just wasn't right. I went back and forth between Asus and MSI for an hour until I let fewer online coil whine complaints and a backplate settle the matter in Asus' favour. Too bad the 950 still costs almost the same as a 960 over here, but them's the breaks.
The Asus webpage for the card: http://www.asus.com/Graphics-Cards/STRI ... /overview/.
Techpowerup review of the card's earlier 2 GB version: http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/ASUS ... _STRIX_OC/.
I've used the card since XCOM 2's launch, so that makes 12 days today. Here's what I've found.
- Performance. No slowdowns in sight, even with high detail (Ultra can be challenging though, as expected).
- Silent. The STRIX semipassive cooling works nicely, and even when active the fan is not very audible. Much quieter than the budget-grade MSI 650 Ti cooler. When I booted after installing the card I thought my PC wasn't powering on!
- Compact size. The card is a very comfortable length and the backplate is not terribly tall. Convenient power connector placement.
- 4 GB VRAM. Anything over 2 GB is probably of questionable benefit due to the card's choked memory bus - and knowing Nvidia we only get to use 3/4 of it - but at least it's there if a game wants to use that much, making the card better value. We are firmly in the high-resolution era now.
- Coil whine. The card squeals and buzzes in high FPS scenarios (FPS in the hundreds); I have to use VSync in XCOM 2, and if another game has the same difficulty, I may send the card in for RMA. No squeal in Killing Floor 2, Civ:BE, Dying Light, etc. so this may be bad code in XCOM 2 (like the Crysis menus of old with their THOUSANDS of FPS).
- Crappy software. After using MSI Afterburner for a long time, the Asus solution feels crude; I miss all the tweaking options and my OSD, Asus GPU Tweak II is basically there as a basic monitor where you can push a button to go into a pre-selected mode (OC, Gaming, Silent, User Defined). I also can't get the most recent version(s) to work correctly; to get automatic startup and error-free shutdown, I have to use an older version, and even that doesn't start reliably.
- Cramped slot side. I can barely make out the slot latch under the card. Pray I never have to remove this one...
- Hot-ish power envelope. It's no volcano, but it's twice the consumption of the 650 Ti and sometimes I notice that. I'm dreading the coming summer months with constant light and heat.
From a silence perspective the STRIX 960 4G is mostly great. The cooling is as silent as semipassive stock cooling gets, but the card can exhibit coil whine when stressed in a certain way (way high FPS, I believe). At least you don't have to manually adjust it, so it is certainly a drop-in solution.
As a product, the card has the hardware right so far (bar maybe poor access to the mobo slot latch and no dust-buster reverse spin), but the software is lacking compared to MSI's. I don't know if Gigabyte's is any better, but I miss MSI Afterburner every time I have to access Asus GPU Tweak II or force it to start. I'm sure I can get the ol' OSD back if I want to, but I would prefer to have it come with the GPU management software.
If you can get the MSI equivalent with a backplate for a similar price, I would suggest that one instead of the Asus. The card specs are really close from what I've read from reviews, so the differences come down to software and neat features like dust-clearing fans.