You should by now have heard: Nvidia has made a play for the mainstreams graphics market with the launch of the GeForce GTX 950. Designed with 1080p gaming in mind, the new GPU arrives as the most affordable entrant to the GTX 900-series and for around £130 touts competent games-playing ability at an ubiquitous full-HD resolution.
It's a GPU we like, and sure, the 2GB frame buffer isn't the most future proof, and it's a shame the design isn't efficient enough to run free of PCIe power cables, but the GTX 950 does what it says on the tin by churning out 1080p games without too much trouble.
The catch? Well, it has to be the fact that GTX 960 pricing has taken a similar direction to global stock markets. The next card up the Nvidia ladder has become available for less than £150, and when you consider that GTX 950 is essentially the GTX 960's weakened sibling, there arguably isn't a big enough gap in terms of pricing.
We're of the opinion that custom-cooled, factory-overclocked GTX 950s need to appear in UK stores below the £130 mark if they're to stand out from their brethren. That's already starting to happen with a handful of manufacturers coming in at below the MSRP, and Palit is right on the wire with the GTX 950 StormX Dual.
For £129.99, the StormX Dual is one of the more keenly-priced GTX 950s to be outfitted with a dual-fan cooler. Adopting a familiar dual-slot form factor and measuring 215mm in length, Palit's card is similar in shape to most mainstream cards at this price point but attempts to stand out from the crowd with a blue top cover. It's a nice shade, granted, but perhaps not colour coordinated with most users' other components. Routine black, grey or red would have been a safer choice, though we commend Palit for something different.
What's interesting is that, while the card is dressed to look high-end, it's actually somewhat conservative beneath the imposing dual-fan cooler. There are no heatpipes to speak of, with Palit instead opting to keep costs down with a large aluminium heatsink tasked with spreading the heat being output from the GPU. We'd therefore expect the StormX Dual to run slightly warmer than rival heatpipe-equipped solutions, but noise levels should remain comfortably low - as is the case on most modern GeForce solutions, Palit's two fans turn off completely at low load. Our log files reveal that they only spin up when temperature exceeds 65ºC.
If you're having doubts about the blue top cover, there's a good chance you won't be fond of the brown PCB. We don't imagine GTX 950s will be shown off in elaborate windowed chassis, but even so, a black PCB would have been a nicer fit. There's no backplate, which is to be expected at this price point, and Palit sticks to the reference mandate with a standard six-pin PCIe power connector and a a single SLI connector for dual-GPU configurations.
Now how about the overclock? Well, it's present, but tentative. Out of the box, Palit has Nvidia's 1,024MHz base and 1,188MHz boost clocks notched-up to 1,064MHz and 1,241MHz, respectively. That's a less-than-five-per-cent increase, and though the StormX Dual boosts up to 1,300MHz during real-world use, EVGA's GTX 950 SSC manages 1,456MHz. That's a pretty big difference, so we're surprised to see Palit play it so safe in terms of core frequency, and there's no help on the memory front as the 2GB frame buffer is dialled-in to a default 6,612MHz.
Continuing to play it safe, Palit's quartet of outputs are comprised of HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2 and a pair of dual-link DVI. Enough to cover most bases, and all four can be used concurrently, though we do like to see modern cards outfitted with more than one DisplayPort connector.
Given the mild overclock and the lack of dedicated heatpipes, keen pricing is key to the StormX Dual's success. Let's see how performance stacks up at the £130 price point.