MSI N275GTX Twin Frozr OC Review

Author: Kevin Spiess
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, July 16th, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/msingtx275/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Last week we took a look at another card from MSI, the MSI N260GTX OC V3. It proved to be a great card, and we awarded it our Editor's Choice award. This week we will looking at another video card from MSI; one with some similarities. Today we will be reviewing the N275GTX Twin Frozr.

While the worldwide economic nosedive has been mostly terrible for many things, one of the partial silver linings has been a lowering of hardware prices across the board. It's not all that long ago where a mid-range video card could reasonably cost you around $250 -- now a days, it is a completely different ballgame. Video cards around the $100 mark are capable of handling any of today's games, and cards closer to that $250 mark are right near the highest end of performance -- such as today's N275GTX.

It does not seem like there will be any new models of video cards coming out, until the next generation of video cards is revealed. ATI is heavily rumored to be introducing their new line-up of DX11 video cards before Nvidia unveils what they have been working on. Nonetheless, this new generation's initial unveiling is still around four months away, so prices for video cards should not fluctuate massively until then.

In other words, now is not a bad time to buy, if you are looking for a upgrade to your PC gaming potential.

Let's take a look at this bigger brother of last week's N260GTX... the N275GTX.

Impressions

Sharing the same "Twin Frozr" cooler as last week's N260GTX OC V3, we know right away that this video card means business.

The Twin Frozr is a dual-fan cooler. Neither fan makes much noise in regular operation -- you shouldn't notice it much, especially while gaming.

Having the pair of fans is necessary because the heat fins for the N275GTX are extensive, spanning almost right across the length of the video card. Five heat pipes keep the fans warm, and furthermore, metal baseplates cover the top of the memory. This Twin Frozr cooler actually contains as much metal as you would expect on a small CPU cooler.

The only downside with this sort of design is that much of the heat exhaust from the cooler gets recirculated around your chassis, instead out of the back bracket. But if you have a proper setup of fans in your case, this should not cause you any trouble. 

At the end of the card, we have the standard two dual DVI outputs, and one video output.

If it has been a while since you have purchased a video card, keep in mind that this is a fairly massive video card. If you have a mid-tower case with not a lot of free space, you might have a tough time squeezing this baby in. The card is roughly 24.5 cm long and takes up every last millimeter of it's double-slot cooler width allowance.

Specifications

This MSI N275GTX Twin Frozr has a moderate overclock -- nothing too crazy, but at the same time, more than some of the so called 'factory overclocks' we have seen. One important thing to keep in mind is that the MSI N275GTX Twin Frozr also comes in a non-overclocked version. This is identifiable by a "OC Edition" badge on the lower right-hand corner of the box. 

As with other Nvidia cards in this generation, you get the current line-up of technologies: PCIExpress 2.0 support, PhysX support, OpenGl 3.0, DirectX10.0, the PureVideo engine for better on-GPU decoding of high definition video, SLI technology (so you can connect up to three GTX 275 video cards together), and support for CUDA (specialized parallel processing apps for your GPU.)

 

 

GTX 275

GTX 260 (216SP)

GTX 285


GTX 295

HD 4850

HD 4870
 HD 4890 HD 4870 X2 MSI N275GTX

Processing Cores

240

216

240

480*

800

800 800 1600* 240

Core Clock

633

576

648

576

625

750 850 750 666

Shader Clock

1404

1240

1476

1242

625

750 850 750 1476

Memory Clock (effective) 

2268

1998 2484

1998

1986

3600 3900 3600 2322

Memory Interface

448 bit

448 bit

512 bit

896 bit*

256 bit

256 BIT 256 bit 512 bit*  448 bit

Memory Type

896MB GDDR3

896MB GDDR3

1024MB GDDR3

1792MB GDDR3*

512MB GDDR3

512MB
GDDR5
512MB GDDR5 2048MB GDDR5* 896MB GDDR3

Fabrication Process

55nm

55nm

55nm 55nm

55nm

55nm 55nm 55nm 55nm

 * denotes cumulative effective efforts coming from 2 GPU's (i.e GTX 295: two GPUs with 240 cores equal 480)

The GTX 275 has been out for around for many months now -- so you must be familiar with it by now, right? So let's get to some benchmarks to see how MSI's N275GTX Twin Frozr stacks up. 

A reference cooler design for the Asus ENGTX275 and the Powercolor HD 4890

Box and bundle

The MSI N275GTX Twin Frozr comes in a green and black box with a big ogre dominating the left-hand side. The words "Twin Frozr" are written in bold, silver letters, and the "OC Edition" stamp lets you know which version of the card you are getting.

The bundle includes the following assortment of stuff: a DVI-HDMI adapter, a DVI-VGA adapter, a SPDIF audio cable, a quick user guide, composite video cables, RCA-audio cable, and some good MSI-made software like StarOSD, which can be used to tweak your overclocking and appearance settings for games, and MSI's Live Update software, which lets you know when new drivers come out.

However one conspicuously absent part in this bundle is a molex-to-PCIE power adapter. Probably some may miss this part, as many power supplies only have one PCIE power cable by default, and this video requires two six pin PCIE power connectors.

Overall, not a terrible bundle. But seems like it missing something for a higher-end card perhaps.

Overclocking

Last week's MSI N260GTX was a heck of an overclocker, so we had high hopes for today's N275GTX. Although GTX 260 (216 shader core version) have generally better overclocking potential than GTX275 cards, there is still a good potential for pushing that MSI factory-overclock to something a little more extreme .

With the fan running at 100% , we started raising the clock speeds, 5 Mhz at a time. With the default speeds of 666 / 1476 / 1161, it was a while before we settled at the very respectable overclock of 735 / 1613 / 1290  (core / shader / memory clock.) That Twin Frozr can really keep things cool, as this is nice top speed for a GTX 275.

 

Hardware

Video cards used in the benchmarks include, from roughly most powerful and expensive to less powerful and less expensive: the BFG GTX 285, the Asus ENGTX 275, MSI N260GTX OC V3, NVIDIA GTX 280, Leadtek GTX 260 Extreme+, PowerColor Plus HD 4890, VisionTek HD 4870, and an ATI HD 4830.

 

Software

For the drivers, all the ATI cards used the Catalyst 9.6 drivers, and all the Nvidia cards used Forceware 186.18 drivers.

Here is our current line-up of benchmarking programs:

3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage: These popular synthetic benchmarking programs were used at a resolution of 1280x1024. Vantage was run in 'Performance' mode, and only the two GPU tests were used.

Bioshock: For this benchmark, all of the Detail settings were set to 'High'. All of the graphic option switches were set to 'On', with the exception of the following three settings: Vsync, Windowed mode, and Force Global Lighting. We used FRAPS to measure frame rate performance. The FRAPS run was 138 seconds, triggered from pulling the switch in the sub at game's beginning. The sub's dive involves many big models moving around, which should strain the GPUs and be a good measure of the game's engine.

Crysis: Warhead: Games don't get much more demanding than Crysis. We used the 'Gamer' pre-set level of details, which is the middle level setting out of 5 options. We ran the benchmark on the 'avalanche' map, using the FrameBuffer Crysis benchmarking tool, version 0.29, in DX10 mode.

Devil May Cry 4: This Capcom action game runs well on most systems; but at 'Super High' detail settings, even the fastest systems get taxed. This is built-in benchmark.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars: We use this id FPS benchmark to test out higher resolutions. We used the highest possible detail settings. We tested the resolutions at 4x AA as well as at 8x AA. 16x AF was also used.  

Far Cry 2: This open-world FPS is great looking game that really puts the strain on a gaming rig. We used the built-in benchmarking tool, and the overall 'Very High' quality setting was used.

Furmark: This intensive, synthetic benchmark models a ring of fur. We benched at 1680x1050.

Street Fighter IV: You have probably heard of this famous fighting game. It has 3D graphics, but generally does not require much GPU horsepower to run well. We used Capcom's stand-alone PC benchmarking tool for our tests, and ran everything at its highest possible settings, using 4xAA, and the 'Watercolor' setting.

Unreal Tournament 3: We tested the game using a fly-through of the vehicle capture-the-flag map 'Suspense.'ShangriLa (map) running for 90 seconds. Details were set to 'High', and a AF setting of 16x was used.

World In Conflict: We used the built-in benchmark of the demo version of this game. We ran the benchmark in DX9 rendering mode, with a 'High' level of quality. For the AA testing, we used a setting of 4x, and a setting of 16x for AF.

If you would like any further information about our benchmark settings, feel free to ask us in the forums.

A little overclocking can make all the difference, as the N275GTX gets a bit of mileage on the non-overclocked Asus ENGTX275.

We can expect the N275GTX to stay right near the top of our benchmarks for this review.

Nvidia cards just can't get break that 21 FPS barrier with AA engaged in Furmark. When AA is off, here the N275GTX comes in fourth.

The N275GTX brings an extra 5 frames-a-second to the game here, and manages to make even the GTX280 look a bit slow, which is quite the accomplishment.

The N275GTX comes in second here again, but the difference in frames between it and the next few cards dominating the middle of the benchmarks are fairly insignificant.

It is quite odd to see that the N275GTX couldn't break 190 FPS here -- odd indeed!

On the highest resolution of 2560x1600 though, the N275GTX again shows its serious firepower.

Another nice performance, the N275GTX speeds before the HD 4890 again.

The GTX 285 maintains a sizable performance advantage again, while last weeks Editor's Choice MSI N260GTX looks good here, nipping at the heels of the N275GTX a bit.

The N275GTX doesn't have much trouble keeping the 'weaker' cards in line, as it steadily maintains its place behind the GTX 285, and in front of the rest of the pack.

For whatever reason, the BFG 285 choked on the top resolution test of Warhead, allowing the N275GTX to take the cake, holding on to top spot. 

The GTX 280 comes in second place here by an incredibly small fraction of a frame.

The N275GTX puts in even better numbers than expected here in Devil May Cry, leaving the HD 4890 behind in the cyber-dust. 

Temperature

To measure core GPU temperature, we used the hardware monitoring program in RivaTuner 2.24. The idle temperature was taken after leaving nothing running, on Vista's desktop, for a minute. The load temperature was taken after a 100,000ms run of Furmark at 1680x1050 with no AA.

The Twin Frozr cooler is a winner, that is for sure. While the higher operating temperatures of the GTX 275 prevent the N275GTX from coming close to the arctic-cool operating temperature of the N260GTX, nonetheless, considering the performance levels offered by this video card, the N275GTX does quite well. 

Power Usage

To measure power usage, we used a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter. Note that the above numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the video cards themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we took the sustained peak power drain readings at the end of 200,000ms run of Furmark at the maximum resolution.

The GTX275 has a great idling energy requirement -- it is a full 30W lower than the HD4870 idling. At load, when the GPU is fully engaged, it takes a strong current to keep the N275GTX happy -- but a level of power that is reasonable considering the gaming performance at hand here.

The N275GTX requires two PCIE power connectors (6-pin.) You'll want a reliable 500W power supply, at the least, to keep this baby happy. If you are using a no-name brand 500W PSU you might be pushing things. A 640W or better is probably a good investment for you.

Also keep in mind that you'll need a PSU that has two PCIE 6-pin connectors -- there is no molex-to-PCIE power adapters included in the bundle package for this card.

Conclusion

The N275GTX Twin Frozr OC is an all-around solid performer. While we feel the N275GTX doesn't have that rare combination of elements that really set apart last week's N260GTX OC V3, the N275GTX is a great choice if you are looking for a GTX 275.

Surprisingly, there are not that many GTX 275 video cards on the market right now with custom coolers. MSI's Twin Frozr is top-tier cooler, so with the abundance of reference design GTX 275 cards selling this summer, the N275GTX easily stands out. What makes the deal all the sweeter is that although there are some bargain, standard design GTX 275 cards selling for under the $200 mark, for a video card with such a solid cooler, and a bit of an overclock, the N275GTX is selling for a fair price of around $240 USD. 

If you are going to go for a GTX 275, certainly consider MSI's N275GTX Twin Frozr OC. The greatest competition against this video card comes not from other GTX 275's, but other classes of cards, such as highly-overclocked (and surprisingly inexpensive) GTX 260 video cards, and marginally slower, yet notably cheaper, HD 4890 cards.

Also, if you do decide to go with this N275GTX Twin Frozr, we recommend you give it about a 5% overclock. The Twin Frozr will have no problem handling that added temperature strain and you'll be able to push your powerful video card to even greater levels of gaming good-times.

MSI has been up to good things in Taiwan recently. The N275GTX Twin Frozr OC is a safe bet for high-end gaming performance.

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