We recently covered the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 launch and a week later followed this up with an in-depth overclocking guide. The GTX 780 launched last month and in many ways is a cut down GeForce Titan at a much healthier price tag (if you can call £550 healthy). There really is nothing else out there right now which can match the performance of a GTX 780, it’s numero uno at present and it doesn’t look set to change any time soon. Today we are following up our GTX 780 coverage by looking at our first non-reference card from MSI, the GTX 780 Gaming.
NVIDIA most certainly raised the bar with it’s Titan derived all metal cooler. It’s a gorgeous looking thing, and does a damn fine job of dissipating the 250 Watt TDP the GTX 780 demands, yet I’m confident there is still room for improvement from add-in card partners (AIC), especially at load where the GTX 780 reference cooler is still a little too noisy for comfort.
|GTX Titan||MSI GTX 780 Gaming||GTX 780||GTX 770||HD 7970 GHz Ed.|
|Max Boost||992 MHz||1084MHz||1006MHz||1136MHz||n/a|
|Memory Clock||6GHz GDDR5||6GHz GDDR5||6GHz GDDR5||7GHz GDDR5||6GHz GDDR5|
|Memory Bus Width||384-bit||384-bit||384-bit||256-bit||384-bit|
|Memory Bandwidth||288 GB/s||288GB/s||288GB/s||224GB/s||288 GB/s|
|Die Size (mm^2)||551||551||551||294||352|
|Manufacturing Process||TSMC 28nm||TSMC 28nm||TSMC 28nm||TSMC 28nm||TSMC 28nm|
|Launch Price||£830/ $999||£519/ $620||£550/ $649||£319/ $399||£430/ $499|
At present, this is MSI’s highest performance GTX 780, but we can expect a ‘Lightning’ model sometime in the near future, I’m sure. The main draw of this card is three fold. It has a custom cooler, an increased core clock when at max boost (the clock you are most likely to hit while gaming) is 80 MHz faster than a reference card, and it’s MSRP was mentioned by MSI to be around £519, which if realised will make it one of the lowest priced GTX 780 out there, certainly when it comes to non-reference overclocked cards.
The cooler on the MSI GTX 780 Gaming has been seen before on HD 7970 Lightning cards but with yellow instead of red. MSI appears to have streamlined some of it’s branding and you’ll now see MSI’s non-reference cards go under the Gaming and Lightning monikers. Expect extra overclocking orientated features on the Lighting series (as per usual), while the Gaming line fills in the gap where those hardcore features may not be required. Looking at this card though, it’s obvious no corners have been cut, the cooler, as we’ll find out later, does a great job of taming the GTX 780.
The card is fairly nice looking, though it’s perhaps not the most proportionally pleasing card I’ve ever seen, but it’s all personal preference in the end. In many ways we’ve been royally spoiled by the GTX 780 Titan-derived reference coolers sexiness, so I doubt any non-reference GTX 780 cooler is going to set my loins on fire.
The card is quite a bit lighter than the reference GTX 780, weighing in at 786 grams – the reference card is 946 grams. The PCB is the same size as the reference card (10.5 inches), but the cooler is fatter in width and shorter in length.
You won’t find much in the box, just the following:
- A quick users guide.
- DVI to VGA.
- 2x 4 pin molex to 6-pin power adaptor.
- 6 pin to 8 pin power adaptor.
The two fans on the Twin Frozr IV cooler are some rather large Power Logic 95mm Brushless DC Fans, Model No: PLD10010S 12HH. We couldn’t find the specifications for this fan as of writing, but Power Logic fans show up in many custom GPU coolers these days. I’m an advocate of larger fans on GPU’s as they help keep cards cooler at lower noise levels. These are some of the larger fans possible without making a monstrously big cooler, so all signs point towards a quiet card, theoretically.
Above is the MSI GTX 780 Gaming dismantled. The memory and VRM cooling is handled by a sub-frame which has no contact with the main cooler, which itself is a large aluminium fan grid cooler with five heatpipes. GDDR5 memory doesn’t really require active cooling, so this is perfectly normal.
Above are the obligatory naked shots of the PCB. You can click (and save) these images for ultra-hi resolution (4k) shots to help aid with vmods if you so wish.
A final feature of this card is the MSI Gaming App. The idea here is to install and run this software to allow you to swap between three different core clock profiles: Silent, Gaming and OC Mode. The following are the modes in detail as reported from EVGA Precision 4.20.
|Core||Boost||Max Boost||Voltage||Power Target||Temp Target||KBoost|
The first thing to note is that the native core clock of our card with no third party software intervention is those reported for ‘Gaming Mode’. The MSI GTX 780 Gaming is marketed as having a Boost Clock of 1006 MHz in the literature, yet without installing this app or something like MSI Afterburner you won’t reach it, you’ll get 954 MHz Boost. You must enter ‘OC Mode’ for the advertised clocks to kick in. I am not sure this is a very good idea on MSI’s part as you are now required to install an additional software layer to get the advertised clocks. This could have been alleviated by making ‘OC Mode’ the cards native BIOS set clocks, allowing the Gaming and Silent Modes to simply be extra profiles.This would then have allowed the software to be an option rather than a necessity.
Also note that when Gaming or OC mode are selected, the card kicks into Kboost mode, which means voltage, memory and core clocks are fixed at maximum regardless of the load on the card. So after you’ve finished gaming, you’ll need to either shut down the app or enter Silent mode to get out of it or you’ll be stuck in a far higher power mode where temperatures, power draw and noise levels will be higher.
While the Gaming app pretty much did what it was meant to and never felt intrusive in practice, I fail to see its purpose. The only change other than enabling KBoost is to raise the core clock by a margin of 100 MHz, nothing much else really changes. In OC Mode the temp target is raised to 94c, but the cards custom cooler does such a good job of cooling that all this fiddling is unnecessary anyway. Do these minor tweaks really deserve three special performance modes where the user has to intervene? I’m not so sure.
Small tip – if you are an MSI Afterburner / EVGA Precision user (other tools are available), simply raise the core clock to +52 and you’ll have manually set the card to what is essentially OC Mode but with KBoost disabled. In my opinion, this is how the card should have behaved in the first place. And for those who do not use third-party overclocking software, perhaps MSI could consider an updated BIOS where the native clocks are the OC Mode ones.Testing Methods