|MSI N560GTX-Ti GeForce Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Sunday, 30 January 2011|
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Closer Look: MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC
The MSI N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC follows the same design spec of the original N460GTX Hawk video card that we reviewed back in September. The Twin Frozr II cooling system is a well proven package that kept the GF104 GPU quite cool, even during stress testing. It's quiet, it looks good, and it offers top-tier performance; MSI would have to be crazy to not capitalize on their prior good work here. It's probably overkill for the GF104/114 class of GPU, but when it comes to cooling, I genuinely like overkill. On my test rig, I run a 38mm Delta AFB1212SHE fan on a Prolimatech Megahalems, which should tell you everything....
The fan shroud is a very open design; there is not much chance that a big portion of the airflow is being directed to the rear outlet. After the air passes through the fin assembly, it hits the components mounted on the face of the card, at the two ends. The center section is taken up by a large copper mounting plate, and the four heat pipes. The two fans are identical, 80mm four-wire PWM types, and have an indicated maximum operating speed of 4400 RPM.
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 N560GTX-Ti Twin Frozr II/OC has a massive cooler device, compared to the reference design; the fin assembly is nearly the same size as the board itself. Although the NVIDIA design now offers three copper heatpipes, instead of only two on the GTX 460, two of the four heatpipes on the MSI Twin Frozr II are 8mm diameter, compared to the standard 6mm pipes on a lot of coolers. One feature that this card does without is the extended baseplate that acts as a heatsink/spreader on the reference design and covers all of the power circuitry and memory modules.
The layout of the various elements of the cooler design is a little easier to see in this straightforward view from the GPU's perspective. All GPUs produce a fair amount of heat, so make sure your chassis has plenty of airflow in the right direction, in order to move hot air out of the case. This cooler design is not particularly suited to multi-card SLI applications, but as the MSI Cyclone versions have shown, getting the heat out of the GPU and transferring it to the air is really the most important part of the job. Where that heat goes is something you definitely need to look at, as some PC gaming cases are much better at moving air through the VGA Zone than others.
The two 6mm and two 8mm diameter heatpipes are clamped between the thick nickel-plated copper mounting plate and the aluminum fin assembly, passing directly over the wider dimension of the GPU heat spreader. Once they exit from there, they spread to the outer reaches of the long 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 GF114 chip, like most NVIDIA GPU packages has a very large heat spreader mounted to it, and the copper mounting plate covers it completely. The threaded standoffs are indirectly mounted to the plate, via brackets on each side, and they seemed very solid. 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.
The power for the MSI N560GTX-Ti enters into two 6-pin PCI Express connector at the far end of the board, with the connectors facing out the back. This is not the preferred orientation for those trying to squeeze a powerful graphics card into a small chassis, but in a typical gaming case I like the cable routing better with this arrangement. On the back side of the board at this end, are six LEDs that show you the amount of power being drawn by the card. The main PWM controller for the GPU Voltage Regulator Modules (VRM) provides the signal to drive the LEDs.
In the next section, let's take a more detailed look at some of the components on this decidedly non-reference board. I did a quick tear-down, so we could see the highlights...