MSI GTX 650 Power Edition OC Review

RHKCommander959 - 2012-10-01 19:53:37 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: October 10, 2012
Price: $129.99


Usually new series start off with their high end offerings and then work their way to mid-range and low-end graphics cards, followed by a refresh. The performance of the high performance cards entice customers and set a pace for the series. Most consumers opt for the more affordable cards. NVIDIA has begun filling in the mid- and low-range cards where it previously had a gap. Coming in above the GT 640 and below the GTX 660 is the new GTX 650 up for review here! The GTX 650 is very closely related to the GT 640 as it too is equipped with the new GK107 core. The card has 384 Stream Processors on a 28nm die with 1GB of GDDR5, a step above the GDDR3 of the GT 640. Memory Bus is still 128-bit. The GTX 660 is quite a bit above in terms of performance since it has 960 Stream Processors, to start listing the differences.

MSI has taken the GTX 650 and applied its Power Edition styling to it similar to the MSI HD R7770 reviewed earlier in the year. A higher clock speed, improved PCB components, and a large heat sink that is able to be custom tailored for short length or high airflow suggest that this card should perform and overclock far better than a stock reference offering!


Closer Look:

The MSI GTX 650 box is primarily black, blue, and green. A large golden “P” sits in the center since this is a Power Edition card, meaning it is overclocked and equipped with the customizable TransThermal cooler. MSI provides a three-year warranty to North American customers as shown at the top right. The lower half of the front boldly states the model – GTX 650 Power Edition, and a few specifications: 1GB GDDR5 memory, PCI-E 3.0 connection, and Microsoft DirectX 11 supported. Flipping over to the back side shows some of the features and specifications listed out, with some of the key features listed out in 30 languages. At the top left a badge shows that the MSI Military Class III components are equipped on this card. These DOD certified components include Hi-C Capacitors, Super Ferrite Chokes, and Solid capacitors that aim to increase reliability and efficiency, and run at lower temperatures than standard components. Some of the features include RoHS compliance, full MSI Afterburner software control, and output through Mini HDMI, Dual Link DVI-I, and Dual Link DVI-D. A minimum of 400W is suggested for the power supply. A QR-code sits at the bottom right.









The top and bottom, and left and right sides each match their opposite sides. Each side is nicely decorated and lists the card model, 1GB GDDR5 memory size, PCI-E 3.0 compatibility, and DirectX 11 support. The shorter sides are black, green, and blue like the front while the longer sides are all blue and similar to the top half of the front.



On the front of the box is a flap that can be opened to peer at the graphics card through a window , and read about some of the key features on the Power Edition card including the Military Class III components and TransThermal Design. The TransThermal Design utilizes improved fan impeller design for more airflow — 22.55 CFM versus 18.7 CFM according to MSI. These fans encorporate Dust Free Technology where they spin in reverse for 30 seconds to pull out any dust that has accumulated in the cooler. This feature is quiet nice as one of the big killers in rigs is dust build up suffocating the hardware! The heat sink can be customized into one of three possible modes: the standard single fan mode is how it ships, this form is compact and more efficient than reference designs. The second configuration is Dual Fan Mode where the fan shroud slides back and allows a second fan to fit next to the original. The third is Double Airflow Mode where the second fan stacks on top of the Single Fan Mode. MSI testing shows that either of the two-fan configurations out perform the single. Both operate very closely in temperature and noise so this means that either setup is ideal — the Dual mode is better if the case is long enough to accommodate it whereas Double Mode is better for shorter cases that don't need to use the nearby expansion slots. The inner flap explains that this card is Triple Over-Voltage by MSI Afterburner compatible, this means that the core, memory, and PLL voltage can be increased! The PWM design has been enhanced to deliver more stable power for better overclocking. This card utilizes the Military Class III Components to improve stability, efficiency both thermal and electrical, and lifespan. Components include Hi-C Capacitors, Super Ferrite Chokes, and Solid Capacitors.



The card and accessories are kept in place safely inside by a piece of black foam that has been cut to hold them. Underneath this is a cardboard hatch that holds the CD and manuals. The standard antistatic bag protects the graphics card from ESD and contamination.


Continue onto the next page to see the card unpacked and examined!

Closer Look:

The MSI GTX 650 Power Edition OC is based off of the GK107 Kepler core. The core is much smaller than the GK106 core, it has 1.3 billion transistors and is manufactured by TSMC on the 28nm fabrication process. The core has 384 CUDA Core processors and is clocked at 1058MHz reference with the MSI variant being overclocked to 1124MHz. Four memory ICs compose 1GB of GDDR5 connected to a 128-bit memory interface. Memory clock speed is set at the reference rate of 5000MHz.

All of the ports except the 6-pin PCIe power are protected by blue caps. The 6-pin power connector faces out of the rear of the card. In Dual Fan Mode it is somewhat difficult to unplug a power cable as the shroud gets in the way, but in Single Fan Mode everything is fine. For output there are two DVI ports and a Mini HDMI port. Two display adapters are included for converting to regular HDMI and D-Sub VGA, covering just about all mainstream connections on the market.













The top of the card has the fan impeller in the center. The shroud design will dump most of the heated air back into the case so having proper airflow will give better temperatures. The power connection exits out of the rear of the card — ths is fine when only the one fan is used but is a nuisance when it is setup in Dual Fan Mode. This version has gray accents on the shroud versus the blue used on the R7770 Power Edition reviewed a few months ago. At the left is a crescent shape, which is there to contour to a second fan when the shroud is slid back. Flipping the card over shows a pretty open layout. Looking at the solder joints can give a sneak peak of what lays under the heat sink such as the 3+1 phases. This PCB has room for a fourth phase and another 1GB of GDDR5 too, each side holding 4 ICs potentially. Four sprung-screws are all that holds the heat sink to the card.



The first side shot shows the lack of an SLI port; NVIDIA has limited SLI. The shroud slides back a couple inches when both clips are depressed; they sit centered with the fan and pop into a hole to lock the shroud in place. No tools are needed to add the second fan. The second PWM fan plugs into a port near the power connection at the rear. The card is intended to fit into two slots but looks like it could have trouble with ventilation or physical interference with the fan(s).



The second fan comes in its own box and sits near the card when shipped. The front has the company logo and a picture of their custom impeller design. The impeller is designed to increase airflow and thus cooling capability while decreasing noise. The back of the box lists the main features of the fan: 12V, 3500 RPM, 98x98x25.5mm, 50.719 CFM air volume, 3.86mm H2O wind pressure, and 46.5dB maximum noise level. Inside the box is the fan and a baggy with two screws. The shroud slides back after pinching the clips on each side of the first fan and pulling the shroud until it clicks. The second fan snaps right into place and then the cord is plugged into the back.




With the heat sink off the major components are readily visible. The GK107 Kepler core sits right in the center with four 256MB Samsung ICs nearby. Three phases feed the core while one feeds the memory. At the top right are two PWM fan ports, one is side mounted and left open for installation of the secondary fan. The power connector exits out the rear, which is fine except it can be problematic with the second fan installed in Dual Fan Mode where the shroud extends over the area and makes it hard to push the release latch. The heat sink uses a copper base plate and heat pipe with four screws attached to an aluminum structure. Two pads of thermal tape are applied, one set cools the power circuitry while the second set cool two of the memory ICs. It is odd that half of the memory is cooled but there is a larger gap over the other two allowing more air circulation. MSI Afterburner provides Triple Over-Voltage capabilities: the core, memory, and PLL voltage can be adjusted along with core and memory clocks and fan speed. The GK107 Kepler core is a 1.3 billion transistor die manufactured by TSMC on its 28nm process. The core has 384 processors. The memory is Samsung brand GDDR5 with 256MB per IC density. Operating voltage ranges from 1.455V to 1.545V.




Next page lists the specifications and features of the card at length.



Graphics Engine:
GeForce GTX 650
PCI Express x16 3.0
Memory Type:
Memory Size(MB):
Memory Interface:
128 bits
Core Clock Speed(MHz):
Sharder Clock Speed (MHz):
Memory Clock Speed(MHz):
Memory Bandwidth(GB/sec):
Texture Fill Rate(billion/sec):
DVI Output:
D-SUB Output:
Mini HDMI-Output:
Mini DisplayPort:
HDTV Support:
HDCP Support:
HDMI Support:
Dual-link DVI:
Display Output (Max Resolution):
DirectX Version Support:
OpenGL Version Support:
CrossFire Support:
SLI Support:
3-way SLI:
HyperMemory Tech.:
TurboCache Tech.:
Card Dimension(mm):
230x105x36.6 mm





All information provided Courtesy of MSI@


Testing of the MSI GTX 650 Power Edition OC will consist of running it and comparison cards through the suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of a range of capabilities to show where each card falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles, which should be able to provide an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.

The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing, with the exception of the 3DMark 11 testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA Control Panel, if applicable. I will first test the cards at stock speeds, and then overclocked to see the effects of an increase in clock speed. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performance in each graph to show where they fall by comparison. All NVIDIA comparison cards will be using the 306.23 drivers; AMD will be using Catalyst 12.8 drivers.


Comparison Video Cards:



It was very easy to overclock the MSI GTX 650, it felt like it wanted to keep on going and going! Eventually it topped out at 1325MHz core and 1400MHz memory. The core overclock is fantastic and surprising for a card at this tier. MSI Afterburner was able to overvolt the core and memory, which definitely gave it an edge. The card ran stable and seemed content with the changes throughout testing. The card was ran in Dual Fan Mode to get the best temperatures as there is plenty of room in the 650D!



Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consists of looping Unigine 3.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds fail when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment fails, then the clock speeds are adjusted and the test is rerun until each card passes the testing.



  1. Metro 2033
  2. Batman: Arkham City
  3. Battlefield 3
  4. Sid Meier’s Civilization V
  5. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0
  6. DiRT 3
  7. Mafia II
  8. 3DMark 11
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption


Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX, and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied – in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses, chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.














Results are not shocking here as this card is the weakest in the lineup. One interesting thing to notice is that the overclocked MSI card performs closely to the NVIDIA reference GTX 650 Ti.


Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum released in 2009. This action adventure game based on DC Comics' Batman super hero was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal 3 engine.
















Overclocking helped the GTX 650 catch up to stock Ti variants in Batman. Overclocking had decent gains too and helped make the game more playable at these settings.


Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 3 uses the Frostbyte 2 game engine and is the direct successor to Battlefield 2. Released in North America on October 25, 2011, the game supports DirectX 10 and 11.


















Battlefield 3 wasn't as forgiving as the prior tests; the GTX 650 lags behind the rest and gets roughly half as many FPS as the GTX 560 Ti.


Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. This was the first DX 11 benchmark to allow testing of DX 11 features. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes – Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.
















The NVIDIA lineup shows the different performance levels well. There is a decent gap left between the GTX 660 and GTX 650 Ti. Overclocking doesn't help much for the GTX 650 in Unigine.


Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead the civilization from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and massive changes to the way the AI is used throughout the game. Civilization V is developed by Firaxis Games and is published by 2K games and was released for Windows in September of 2010. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns, 150 turns into the game.

















Civilization V is decently playable with these extreme settings. Overclocking helped greatly and showed it coming close to stock GTX 650 Ti levels again.


DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.



















Overclocking brought the MSI card into respectable performance for these settings. This card could make a good budget gaming or media card.


Mafia II is a third-person shooter that puts you into the shoes of a poor, Sicilian immigrant, Vito Scarletta. Vito has just returned home from serving overseas in the liberation of fascist Italy, to avoiding his jail sentence, to finding his family in debt. The debt must be repaid by the end of the week, and his childhood friend, Joe Barbaro, conveniently happens to have questionable connections that he assures will help Vito clear the debt by that time. As such, Vito is sucked into a world of quick cash. Released in North America for PC in August of 2010, the game was developed by 2K Czech, published by 2K, and uses the Illusion 1.3 game engine.
















Stock clocks were choppy on Mafia II, overclocking helped some. Settings would need to be lowered for it to play smoothly.


3DMark 11 is the next installment in Futuremark’s 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the year proceeding its release (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 is required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage is only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark, while the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing; one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulation and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.

With the new benchmark comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests. Unlike the tests, however, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and presents a location similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story – they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides – the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version, so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.













3DMark 11 shows a bigger difference than some of the other benchmarks. This line is definitely filling the gap between the transition from mid-range to low end. Still the card has performed greatly for the amount of processing capability it has.


Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 3.0, with Sapphire's TriXX overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920 x 1080 using 8x AA and a five-run sequence to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will involve a 20-minute cool-down, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.













The MSI GTX 650 PE OC is able to achieve the second best temperatures in all four categories here! The heat sink only has a single heat pipe but has a much smaller die size whereas the ASUS has a much large die size with three heat pipes for starts. Load temperatures remained under 50 °C even with the fans running on automatic, great results!


Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak wattage of the entire system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 3.0 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to simulate maximum load with the highest measured wattage value recorded as the result. The idle results will be measured as the lowest wattage value recorded with no activity on the system.














Power consumption reiterates what the benchmarks before were showing like a mirror image. High performance cards consume higher amounts of power while lower performance consume less. That is a given. The MSI card gets the lowest power consumption numbers across the board and by far at load! 175W for total system draw is incredible.


The MSI GTX 650 Power Edition OC did great in all of the testing. It ran perfectly stable and had some of the best temperatures and power consumption numbers around. Hardcore gamers won't be interested in this level of performance but those on a budget should be if the price is right. MSI Afterburner was fully compatible with the card and allowed for some good overclocking. Fan noise wasn't noticeable when it was left on automatic, and full load noise wasn't bad. The innovative heat sink shroud is a great idea that works well and makes the card more one-size-fits-all universal. With the low power consumption and temperatures this would do well in a variety of scenarios: HTPCs, budget gaming/media computers, and so on. It would be nice to see some low-profile models come out.

The only real con that stands out is the placement of the 6-pin PCIe port. Having it exit straight out of the rear of the card makes it more difficult than would be necessary when setup in Dual Fan Mode. Had it been mounted to exit out of the side or had the port flipped over 180° even then there would have been no problems in disconnecting power. It isn't too hard to remove, but is worth noting.

The only thing holding this card back potentially is pricing. It looks like it is priced against the 7770, which is superior, whereas the 7750 would be closer to equal. The AMD cards can Crossfire whereas the NVIDIA cards are not SLI compatible. If a sale, game bundle, or price adjustment occurs this could be more competitive even. The card itself ran great!