MSI N760 Hawk Reviewccokeman - August 8, 2013
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MSI N760 Hawk Closer Look:
As we saw with the GTX 770 and GTX 780 Gaming series, what you see is what you get in terms of looks and performance with the GTX 760 Hawk. The N760 Hawk is Equipped with a pair of large 100mm PWM-controlled propeller blade technology fans that rotate in reverse on start up to minimize dust retention, keeping the card cool. MSI's N760 Hawk starts out with a pitch black custom eight layer PCB with a 6+2 phase power circuit packed full of Military Class IV technology. The front of the card features the Twin Frozr IV dual fan dual slot cooling solution. The back side of the PCB features a backing plate with the Hawk logo displayed so it is visible when the card is installed in the motherboard. This backing plate is open in areas strategically to allow cooling to the 6+2 phase power circuitry. Just under the core are a pair of Hi-C caps that provide that instantaneous boost in current when the GK104 core calls for it. The top and bottom views give us a look at the heat pipe configuration that uses an 8mm Super Pipe and four 6mm pipes to transfer the thermals to the fin array.
Display connectivity on the MSI N760 Hawk is standard fare for Kepler architecture-based video cards with a single Dual Link DVI-D, Dual Link DVI-I, HDMI 1.4a port, and a full size DisplayPort. A 3+1 display configuration is supported using the available display outputs. Surround gaming is supported on a single card while adding a 3D Vision system for 3D Surround will mean you are really going to have to add another GTX 760 in SLI to get the most out of the technology. MSI ships the card with plugs and covers to prevent dust or debris buildup on the un-used connection points. The I/O mounting bracket supports discharging the thermal load outside the chassis but the design of the Twin Frozr IV cooling solution is going to dictate that most of the thermal load is going to go inside the chassis. The good thing is that most newer chassis have a way to compensate for this with improved airflow. Once we get to the back end of the N760 Hawk we get a little something extra. At the back end of the PCB are the V-Check points that allow you to verify the voltages applied in MSI's own Afterburner tuning utility. This feature comes in handy when pushing the limits in LN2 mode. From the top to the bottom are Vmem, VGPU, and VPLL.
Up top, a pair of SLI bridge connections show that configurations up to three cards are supported in an SLI configuration. Just to the back side of the bridge connections is the Dual BIOS switch that allows the user to switch between a pair of profiles: the LN2 mode BIOS for extreme overclocking and the standard BIOS. What you will find is that the LN2 BIOS has default GTX 760 clock speeds applied when you open a monitoring program. Yet this BIOS is tuned for running max speeds and increases the power limit in MSI's Afterburner utility to 185%. Along the spine and front side of the PCB is a stiffening brace/passive memory cooler to keep your card from turning into a flexible flyer and breaking the power or ground traces in the PCB. Power for the MSI N760 Hawk is supplied by a pair of 8-pin PCIe power connectors. A 600 watt power supply is going to be recommended to handle the 170 watt TDP on this card at stock speeds.
Pulling the Twin Frozr IV cooling solution off of the PCB allows access to the rest of the cooling solution. Under the fin array is an aluminum PCB support/passive memory cooler. Its main purpose is to both improve structural rigidity and function as additional cooling for the memory modules and Military Class IV power circuitry. A custom eight layer black PCB is used on this card and works well with the yellow accents and would look killer installed in MSI's own MPOWER MAX motherboard. Once the PCB support/memory cooler is removed, the 6+2 phase power supply layout on the PCB is clearly visible. MSI uses its Military Class IV components selection that includes solid aluminum capacitors (ten year increase in longevity), new Super Ferrite chokes (SFC 30% power handling increase), and Tantalum core Hi-C caps (stabilize power delivery). This construction philosophy is meant to improve efficiency, longevity, and the current handling capabilities to drive increased overclocking potential, something this card is destined for based on the design. At the bottom right hand side of the PCB is the ON Semiconducter NCP4206 voltage controller used on the GTX 780Gaming to manage the 6+2 phase power layout on the N760 Hawk.
MSI Twin Frozr IV cooling solution is just about the most visible feature of the N760 Hawk. This dual slot dual 100mm propeller blade fan equipped cooling solution has been used on cards in MSI's product stack all the way up to the GTX Lightning series. A quick view shows the five heat pipe design on this fourth generation of the Twin Frozr design. It uses a total of five (four x 6mm + one x 8mm) heat pipes in a direct contact design that delivers the thermal load to the large aluminum fin array. The fin array is where MSI spent some design time by using air diverters to direct the airflow through as much of the fin array as possible so that it spends more time in the heat sink, presumably to increase the thermal transfer and cooling efficiency. After my testing this technology seems to work well with such a thin fin array. The contact surface is flat and makes great contact with the large GK104 die. One feature seen on the N760 Hawk that is not seen on the Gaming series GTX 700 series cards is the inclusion of MSI's dust removal technology. What's that, you say? On start up the fans spin in reverse to remove dust from the large aluminum fin array. Cool looking and self cleaning can't really be beat.
MSI is using the latest iteration of the 28nm GK104 core that houses 5.54 billion transistors, three or four GPCs housing six SMX (Streaming Multiprocessors), each with 192 CUDA cores for a total of 1152 on board the core. A total of 96 texture units and 32 ROPs along with a 512K shared L2 cache also share space in the Streaming multiprocessors. A total of 2GB of GDDR5 memory from Hynix is used on the N760 Hawk and is rated at 1500MHz (6000MHz QDR). NVIDIA improved the memory bandwidth on the GTX 760 by moving to a 4x64 memory bus to deliver 192.26 GB/s of memory bandwidth with reference clock speeds on the GDDR5 memory. Not content to run the N760 at slightly overclocked speeds, MSI runs the core with an 1111MHz base core clock while you see an 1176MHz boost clock in game.
MSI just keeps the hits coming. The N760 Hawk is fully equipped to deliver performance well above the reference design. Let's see if it can live up to the hype.