|MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Wednesday, 11 August 2010|
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MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Features
Material in this section is based on data from MSI.
Above and beyond the features that come with every graphics card based on an NVIDIA GTX 460 GPU, there are several hardware and software features that MSI brings to the table with the N460GTX Cyclone. The feature set of the N460GTX 1GD5/OC is primarily based on three areas: thermal performance, hardware reliability, and overclocking capability. MSI's Cyclone Thermal Design was first introduced on the ATI HD 4870 and 4890 video cards; both chips are known for their high thermal loads. I won't say that they were the absolute hottest running GPUs at the time, but they certainly raised the average. MSI claims to be using Military Class Components in this design. I take issue with this marketing term, as true MIL-SPEC components are actually very hard to source, tend to be based on older manufacturing technologies, and I don't see any on this board. I'm all for using higher quality components, but let's call them by their real names, please. The third area is overclocking performance. Here is where MSI's Afterburner software helps take the performance of this product to another level. Let's start by examining the special hardware features that MSI provides with the latest Cyclone series.
The Cyclone heat-sink-fan assembly dominates the visual design of the N460GTX, and has the following features:
The MSI Cyclone series features Military Class Components for its power supply components, including:
What they don't specifically mention is the use of tantalum capacitors for localized decoupling at the GPU. Because a high capacitance can be achieved in a small volume, these tantalum caps can be mounted closer to the GPU, where they are more effective at reducing high frequency ripple currents. They are also one of the most reliable types of capacitors, especially in hot environments. The back side of a video card PCB, right below the GPU, certainly qualifies as a hot environment. By combining solid Aluminum electrolytic capacitors for bulk filtering at the power inputs, with tantalum caps at the "point of use", the designers have made a smart move in optimizing the performance of the power supply subsystem. The Solid State Chokes are a common feature in the current PC component market, and anything that can be done to eliminate the awful noise that can emanate from these little hunks of Iron and wire is a worthwhile effort.
The MSI Afterburner overclocking utility supplied with the N460GTX is version 1.6.1, with support for the latest GF104 GPU from NVIDIA. There are a number of distinct features available within the utility:
The benchmarking tool is called "Kombustor", and is based on the very popular Furmark application. The overclocking capabilities of Afterburner are based on RivaTuner, another solid application that many enthusiasts and overclockers have used for several years now.
The monitoring tool supplied as part of MSI Afterburner is one of my favorites. I especially like the fact that you can "detach" the monitor window, and then minimize the controller window separately. Each of the graphs has a scalable vertical axis, and hovering over the line graph with the mouse produces a top-to-bottom listing of values at that time slice. The overall interface of this product is one of the best available, at least for my purposes. I like to keep things simple when I can, so a lot of utility software doesn't do much for me; it ends up creating screen clutter once you get them all up and running. MSI Afterburner combines the features I need into one interface, plus offers capabilities that others can't match. Many different types of video cards have had their GPU core voltage maxed out with Afterburner, not just certain MSI models.
Other than the fan speed control, which is a MUST for benchmarking, I don't use the other features as much. I don't have any applications that require a specialized profile. The basic 2D and 3D settings work well for me. I am waiting for one of the vendors to come out with a form of "Turbo" controller, similar to what Intel, AMD and ASUS have introduced recently for CPUs. A quick burst of speed is sometimes needed while you are in 2D mode, and why not crank it to the max?
We've had a few opportunities to examine different video cards based on NVIDIA's new GF104 chip, but there's always more left to learn. So let's take a closer look at the MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC, and see how this interpretation of the GTX 460 design is different from the others.