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Written by Bruce Normann   
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Card
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 GPU Features
MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Features
Closer Look: MSI N460GTX Cyclone
MSI N460GTX Cyclone Detailed Features
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis
DX10: Devel May Cry 4
DX10: Far Cry 2
DX10: Resident Evil 5
DX11: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DX11: Unigine Heaven
DX11: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
DX11: Aliens Vs. Predator
MSI N460GTX Cyclone Temps
VGA Power Consumption
GTX 460 Final Thoughts
MSI N460GTX Cyclone Conclusion

MSI N460GTX Cyclone Detailed Features

With high-end video cards, the cooling system is an integral part of the performance envelope for the card. Make it run cooler, and you can make it run faster has been the byword for achieving gaming-class performance with all the latest and greatest GPUs. The MSI N460GTX Cyclone uses a fairly standard GPU cooler concept that is similar to the reference design, but it contains some enhancements, some more visible than others.

MSI_N460GTX_Cyclone_1GD5_OC_HSF_Off_The_Cuff.jpg

Two flattened, 6mm diameter heatpipes are clamped between the fairly thick, nickel plated copper mounting plate and a small aluminum heatsink, passing directly over the GPU die. Once they exit from there, they spread to the outer reaches of two semi-circular aluminum fin assemblies. Considering the power density of modern GPU devices, it makes sense to contact every square millimeter of the top surface with the heatsink if you can. The GF104 chip, like most NVIDIA GPU packages has a very large heat spreader mounted to it, and the copper mounting plate covers it with room to spare.

The air all flows out in a radial fashion from the centrally mounted fan, and very little makes it out the vents on the I/O bracket at the rear of the case. Make sure your chassis has plenty of airflow, in the right direction, in order to move the heat generated by this card up and out of the case. This cooler design does not seem all that well suited to multi-card SLI applications. Of course, that doesn't prevent it from doing just that, in a very convincing manner. Sometimes you just have to engineer your way around unusual design choices; the most famous case in point being the Porsche 911, another air-cooled design which succeeds brilliantly.

MSI_N460GTX_Cyclone_1GD5_OC_TIM_Closeup.jpg

The GPU makes direct contact with a copper plate that is soldered to the heatpipes passing directly over the top of the GPU. The thermal interface material (TIM) was very evenly distributed by the factory, but was applied slightly thicker than necessary. One day, anxious manufacturing engineers are going to figure out that too little TIM is better than too much. For the rest of us who pay attention to these things, a thorough discussion of best practices for applying TIM is available here.

MSI_N460GTX_Cyclone_1GD5_OC_Tantalum_Cap_01.jpg

Here is a close-up of one of the Hi-c tantalum capacitors on the back side of the card. They are incredibly small for the amount of charge they hold, which allows them to be placed much closer to the active components they support. This greatly improves the filtering performance at high frequencies. If you remember when ATI upgraded the HD 4870 GPU to HD 4890 status, it was the addition of small filter caps right on the GPU package substrate that allowed the 4890 to reach such high clock rates. Tantalum caps were what made that design change possible.

MSI_N460GTX_Cyclone_1GD5_OC_ON_Semi_PWM_Control.jpg

The main power supply controller chip used on the MSI N460GTX Cyclone is an NCP5388 chip from ON Semiconductor. It is a 2/3/4 Phase PWM control IC that does not supports I2C software voltage control, however the NVIDIA BIOS provides its own software control that interfaces with the controller at the hardware level. The VRM section uses a relatively simple and straightforward 3-phase design for powering the GPU. I've seen some custom GTX 460 designs recently that bump this number up to at least four phases, but the three provided by the reference design seem to work well. A couple of small ANPEC APW71xx integrated controllers provide 1.5 volts to the GDDR5 RAM, and 12V to the board's control circuits.

MSI_N460GTX_Cyclone_1GD5_OC_Power_MOSFETs_01.jpg

The MSI N460GTX Cyclone uses standard Power-SO8 packaging for the Single N-Channel MOSFET power transistors and drivers in the VRM section. This discrete implementation gives up the opportunity to save a little space, but it does give the designer a broader choice in component selection, compared to a DrMOS design. The 4935N devices installed here can source a whopping 93A at an ambient temp of 25C, and are downgraded to 59A at 85C. We all know how hot video cards get, so it's good to have plenty of reserve current capacity for these power devices.

MSI_N460GTX_Cyclone_1GD5_OC_Samsung_GDDR5.jpg

The memory choice for the MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC is consistent with the NVIDIA reference designs. The basic GTX 460 specs only require 900 MHz chips for the memory, but most cards have been using these Samsung K4G10325FE-HC05 GDDR5 parts, which are designed for up to 1000 MHz. The MSI Afterburner software supplied with this Cyclone edition doesn't have the capability to increase memory voltage, so don't presume that you will get much more than the rated memory speed. The 1250 MHz versions of this chip have been mediocre overclockers on the Radeon platform; we'll have to see if the lower specified parts are a little more willing to exceed their ratings.

MSI_N460GTX_Cyclone_1GD5_OC_GDDR5_Specs.png

Now that we've had a good tour of the MSI N460GTX Cyclone, inside and out, it's time to put it to the test. Well, Benchmark is our first name, so don't worry. There are a wide variety of tests waiting for you in the next several sections. Let's start off with a complete description of the Video Card Testing Methodology.



 

Comments 

 
# Has anyone else noticed?Stefan 2010-08-10 22:54
The fins at the base of the heat-sink spiral in the opposite direction to the fan rotation?

Whoops.
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# RE: Has anyone else noticed?Olin Coles 2010-08-11 06:56
That removes laminar air flow through air friction, and delivers better cooling performance.
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# Good Heat TransferBruceBruce 2010-08-11 07:07
For good heat transfer, you basically want the air banging into the surface of the heatsink. Turbulence is good, impingement is even better.
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# I stand corrected!Stefan 2010-08-12 23:35
Well, I guess I should have taken an engineering class :)

I consider myself now a little more educated from your remarks, thanks ;)
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# :DFederico La Morgia 2010-08-11 02:12
same question as always: D this video card and RAM chips mounted?
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# RE: :DServando Silva 2010-08-11 04:49
You really want to read the "Detailed Features" section before asking.
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# RE: RE: :DFederico La Morgia 2010-08-11 06:06
the code :)
Olin know what I mean to ask
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# Yeah, but...BruceBruce 2010-08-11 07:22
All the information is right there, beautiful pictures of the RAM chips and everything.... Just click on the "Detailed Features" page in the table above.
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# RE: Yeah, but...Servando Silva 2010-08-11 08:29
Thanks Bruce... Unless Federico and Olin are talking different things, I think you did a great job about the ICs in the detailed section. Great review!
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Cardmascotzel 2010-08-11 02:16
Mini-HDMI is there on the board because of space constraints. You can't put anything else next to 2 DVI's on a single slot bracket.
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video CardAdam 2010-08-11 08:10
Favourite benchmarks so far! Uses an almost identical system to me and includes the GTX260 (my current card), great stuff for working out if I want to upgrade yet or not.
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video CardDavid Ramsey 2010-08-11 16:42
FWIW, the Porsche 911 has been water cooled for more than a decade, and the tighter temperature regulation afforded by water cooling led to major increases in power and efficiency (parts could be machined to tighter tolerances since the narrower temperature envelope limited expansion of the parts). Still, for the time, the air cooled 911 was pretty good.
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# ImagineBruceBruce 2010-08-12 19:38
Just think what the engineers could have done with heatpipes...LOL

Seriously, you don't want to get into a discussion of air cooled vs. watercooled Porsches, do you? That's just begging for an invasion of the body-snatchers! Don't you think the comment section has suffered enough lately?
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# MSI N460GTXWayne Manor 2010-08-14 00:29
Thanks for the review, very informative! I currently have 2 of these puppies in SLI. I'm curious how the Gainward 2GB version compares with the 1GB versions
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# Excellent reviewDr_b_ 2010-08-18 18:53
excellent review. glad you added the older 200 series in for comparison, there doesn't seem to be a reason to keep using the old 285 that i have now. going to SLI two of these.
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# It was a great card in its day...BruceBruce 2010-08-18 19:05
I'm sure you got lots of good use out of it, but time and progress marches on. One of the things I like about the GTX 460 cards is that there is a variety of implementations. The ASUS that was reviewd here is another example of a solid non-reference design (4 phase PWM, etc...).
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# Question for a purchaseKaelin 2010-08-23 03:58
Thank you for your very interesting article. I must change my graphics card but i hesitate between the MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC and the Asus ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5... I don't know which one to choose =( Which one do you advise ?

(Sorry for my english level)
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# Tough Choice...Bruce Bruce 2010-08-23 07:44
They each have larger fans and bigger HSF assemblies that both improve cooling and reduce noise levels. ASUS rolled their own PC board design, and it looks like they increased the PWM from 3-phase to 4-phase. MSI stuck with the reference design. I can't tell where you are located, but you may want to consider the support services that are available in your location, as well as local warranty provisions.
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# Asus or MSI...Kaelin 2010-08-23 10:03
Thank you for your reply
I am French so the support service is not a problem (usually)
to help me to decide I would like to know wich graphic card has the cooling system more efficient and wich one has the best resistance to a higher overclocking. And to finish wich one do you prefer ^^

Thanks in advance
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# RE: Asus or MSI...sportwarrior 2010-08-24 16:56
I'm also interested in the questions above... it seems that the two cards are quite similar in performance capability, though, so ultimately I'm guessing it doesn't really matter which I would select (I live in SoCal, for what it's worth). I will say I like the look of the ASUS quite a but more than the MSI, but Amazon is making me wait a ridiculously long time to get my card and I NEED to build my new rig very very soon.
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# RE: RE: Asus or MSI...Olin Coles 2010-08-24 17:00
Research the warranty support for each, and go from there.
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# French Pricing?BruceBruce 2010-08-24 18:47
What are the prices for each, locally? I don't want to say that the two cards are the same, because they are not. But.....they both do an admirable job supporting the GF104 chip, in slightly different ways. I like MSI Afterburner better than ASUS Smart Doctor, so that's how I would go... If the ASUS card supported the ASUS iTracker2 software, it might be a different story.
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# The choice is madeKaelin 2010-08-24 23:39
In France, the price difference is about 1 euro for the Asus graphics card. Moreover the Asus ENGTX460 DirectCU TOP/2DI/1GD5 is guaranteed 3 years against 2 for the MSI, that's the reason for why I chose the Asus.

thank you for your help =)
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# RE: The choice is madeWayne Manor 2010-08-25 00:58
I would have gone with the Asus version too if it had come out earlier as it is $35 cheaper here than the MSI cyclone, both with 3 yr warranty.
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# RE: RE: The choice is madeWayne Manor 2010-08-25 01:00
Here in Australia that is :p
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# Wacky PricesBruceBruce 2010-08-25 17:45
That's a major difference Wayne. This is exactly why I asked Kaelin about the pricing in France. You just never know.....
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Cardnax 2010-08-25 23:07
i like asus look kool and my mb is asus also i will go wit asus
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# RE: MSI N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC Video Carddon 2011-01-03 21:27
agree

Oh, and I like your writing (style).
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