MSI N760 Hawk Review

ccokeman - 2013-08-05 15:27:44 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: August 8, 2013
Price: $289-$299

MSI N760 Hawk Introduction:

Of late MSI has made a real push to put out graphics cards that are capable of pushing overclocking boundaries with a whole slew of capable cards, including the likes of the N780 and N770 Gaming series cards. Pushing down in the product stack we have the N760 Hawk that brings these high end features to the mainstream so that we get high end performance for our mid level dollar. Packed full of features from MSI's own Military Class IV component selection with Super Ferrite Chokes, Dark Solid Capacitors, Hi-C Tantulum filled caps, Dual BIOS, dust removal technology as part of the Twin Frozr IV cooling solution, 6+2 phase power circuit, and a custom eight layer PCB. Add in the higher factory GPU Boost 2.0 clock speeds on the core and you can see that MSI started with a clean sheet approach.

MSI's N760 Hawk is built using NVIDIA's GK104 Kepler core clocked at up to 1176MHz in game and is equipped with 2GB of high speed GDDR5 memory to keep pace with the core. When we first looked at the GTX 760 we know that NVIDIA and its partners had something special when you looked at the performance metrics. Will the N760 Hawk be able to take all the technology and apply it for some truly awe inspiring performance? Let's start with a look at the packaging and see where it leads.

MSI N760 Hawk Closer Look:

The packaging for the N760 Hawk follows previous versions of the Hawk series with a representation of the F-117 Nighthawk on the front panel. Other notables on the front panel are some of the basic specifications of the card as well as an emblem at the top right that shows this is a factory overclocked card. From that you can infer it is going to be faster than the reference cards. The front panel flips open to illustrate many of the MSI-specific feature set including the use of Twin Frozer IV Cooling, Military Class IV component selection, and dust removal technologies. Internally the packaging is black and comes in two components: the accessory box and the N760 Hawk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MSI's accessory bundle includes the standard items you get with just about every card on the market as well as a unique accessory seen on very few. The standard parts include the users guide, DVI to VGA adapter, driver and utility disk, and 6-pin to 8-pin PCIe power adapters, while the unique parts are three pigtails that plug into the V-Check point ports on the back end of the card. These are used to measure with a multimeter the applied voltages to the core, memory, and PCIe bus. Something seen on very few discrete cards.

 

 

MSI's GTX 760 Hawk sports a unique package and is feature packed when compared to some cards on the market in the mainstream segment. Let's dig further into what makes the Hawk something special.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

MSI N760 Hawk Specifications:

Marketing Name
N760 Hawk
Model Name
V300
GPU
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760
Codename
GK104
Stream Processors
1152 Units
Core Base Clock
1111 MHz
Core Boost Clock
1176 MHz
Memory Clock
6008 MHz
Memory Size
2048MB GDDR5
Memory Bus
256 bits
Output
DisplayPort / HDMI /
DL-DVI-I / DL-DVI-D
Power Consumption
170 W
Card Dimension
264x130x40 mm
Form Factor
ATX
DirectX
11
OpenGL
4.3
PCI Express
3.0
CUDA
Y
SLI
Y (3-way)
PhysX
Y
3D Vision Surround
Y,3 output per card
PureVideo HD
Y
HDCP
Y

 

MSI N760 Hawk Features:


 

All information courtesy of MSI@ http://us.msi.com/product/vga/N780-TF-3GD5-OC.html#overview

MSI N760 Hawk Testing:

Testing of the MSI N760 GeForce GTX 760 Hawk will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com 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 adjustments will be made to the respective control panels during the testing to approximate the performance the end user can expect with a stock driver installation. 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. The NVIDIA comparison cards will be using the 320.18 drivers while AMD-based cards will be using the Catalyst 13.5 beta 2 drivers and latest CAP profile. The results generated in my testing reached by utilizing the latest FCAT tools to illustrate the true picture of the gaming experience. To do so will require a second PC setup to capture the data stream generated by the compared video cards.

 

Testing Setup:

FCAT Capture Setup:

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking on NVIDIA's Kepler-based GPUs takes advantage of GPU Boost 2.0 technology to deliver clock speeds that are limited not only by the maximum possible clock speed the core can run but by both a thermal and power envelope. NVIDIA found out that the Kepler GPU was not reaching its thermal limits, leaving clock speed on the table. Now we have a little bit of both to look after. By maximizing these two sliders in MSI's Afterburner GPU overclocking and tuning utility, you get the best chance at reaching the max clock your card can do on air. Second on the list was to increase the fan speed to max while advancing the core voltage slider to the maximum limit of +12mv. MSI's GTX 760 Hawk is one of the cards in its product stack that supports Triple Overvoltage controls to maximize your GPU overclock. On this card the memory and PLL, or PCIe voltage, can be tweaked in addition to the core overvoltage. These sliders were also pegged to give us the best chance at reaching big clock speeds.

MSI put a dual BIOS on the GTX 760 Hawk so that you have a standard BIOS that comes at stockish boost clocks of 1137MHz. The Fun BIOS and the one all of the testing was run under supports a GPU Boost clock speed of 1176MHz under load that for all intents and purposes runs at up to 1267MHz in my testing. Right out of the box this gives the GTX 760 Hawk a distinct clock speed advantage over other GTX 760 models. Unfortunately this did not leave me a lot of head room, but this card was able to run at a Boost clock of 1333MHz consistently without fall off.

Equipped with 2GB of 1500MHz rated Hynix GDDR5 memory, the memory overclocks were substantial at 1763MHz or well above what I have been able to pull from these ICs. Not bad to say the least with this card, as the Triple Overvoltage feature adds that extra bit of voltage needed to make the card sing. All in all the card generated a healthy overclock on the core and an exceptional result on the memory that translates into real performance boosts in game across the board.

 

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consisted of looping Unigine Heaven 4.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds failed when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment failed, then the clock speeds and tests were rerun until they passed a full hour of testing.

 

 

  1. Metro: Last Light
  2. Crysis 3
  3. Far Cry 3
  4. Battlefield 3
  5. Batman: Arkham City
  6. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0
  7. 3DMark

 

  1. Temperatures
  2. Power Consumption

MSI N760 Hawk Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro: Last Light is the followup to the extremely popular game Metro 2033. Developed by 4A games and published by Deepsilver, this game uses the 4A game engine. In this game set a year after the missile strike on the Dark Ones you continue on as Artyom as he digs deeper into the bowels of the Metro.

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1920x1080 and 5760x1080 the baseline bump in clock speed really delivers a significant boost in gaming performance over the reference GTX 760.

 

FCAT Results:

In the percentile charts we can see that the GTX 760 Hawk delivers FPS levels closer to the GTX 770 than the GTX 760 at 1920x1080. At 5760x1080 it splits the difference between the reference cards. The frame time charts show some spikes at the beginning of the run but overall the frame times are pretty tight.

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

MSI N760 Hawk Testing:

This third installment of the Crysis franchise, developed by Crytek and distributed by Electronic Arts, uses the CryEngine 3 game engine, and requires a DirectX 11 ready video card and operating system due to its demanding graphics engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we see that again the GTX 760 Hawk from MSI has a nice FPS advantage over the reference card at 1920x1080. The Hawk also delivers significantly against the HD 7950 with performance only a few FPS slower than the HD 7970.

 

FCAT Results:

Over the course of each run the percentile charts show the GTX 760 Hawk delivers higher FPS at both 1920x1080 and 5760x1080. At 1920x1080 the frame times are quite tight, yet at 5760 they increase slightly with some outliers.

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

MSI N760 Hawk Testing:

Far Cry 3 is the latest iteration in the Far Cry series. Released in the US in early December 2012 the it uses the Dunia 2 game engine and is published and developed by Ubisoft. This Action Adventure First Person Shooter offers both single player and multi-player modes.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In both resolutions MSI's GTX 760 Hawk delivers FPS performance on par with the HD 7970 showing that the significant boost clocks deliver a competitive advantage.

 

FCAT Results:

The percentile charts do not show anything out of the ordinary when you look at the comparison cards. The performance curve is almost flat.

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

MSI N760 Hawk Testing:

Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 3 uses the Frostbite 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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In BF3, the GTX 760 Hawk still holds a three FPS advantage over the reference card and a six FPS lead over the HD 7950.

 

FCAT Results:

Following the FPS levels in the percentile charts shows an almost mirror image between the two GTX 760s at 1920x1080 with the N760 Hawk delivering a higher level of FPS. At 5760x1080 this scenario plays out again with the N760 ahead all the way through the benchmark run. Frame times are tight in this game resulting in smooth game play.

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

MSI N760 Hawk Testing:

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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Batman: Arkham City, MSI's GTX 760 Hawk is only slightly faster than the reference card and is three FPS slower than the HD 7950 in this game. It's one AMD cards traditionally perform well in.

 

FCAT Results:

In both the percentile and frame time charts there is nothing out of the ordinary with the overall results mirrored here. The N760 is ahead of the reference card but not by much once you hit the 99th percentile. Frame time spikes are in the same location for each card and overall very tight.

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

MSI N760 Hawk Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the heavily tessellated test the GTX 760 Hawk delivers well against the reference card and HD 7950.

 

FCAT Results:

Looking through the percentile and frame time charts we see nothing out of the ordinary. The N760 Hawk is faster overall than the reference card. Frame times more closely mirror the GTX 770.

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

MSI N760 Hawk Testing:

3DMark: The just released version of Futuremark's popular 3DMark suite is designed to let a wider range of the user base the ability to make a comparative analysis of the gaming prowess of their systems from entry level PCs to notebooks and Extreme Gaming PCs.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By way of its high core clock boost speeds, the GTX 760 Hawk delivers pretty significant margins over the reference GTX 760, GTX 670, HD 7950, and HD 7870 variants. When you look at the overclocked testing the margins shrink or favor the HD 7950 and GTX 670, yet MSI's GTX 760 Hawk is still faster than the reference card.

MSI N760 Hawk Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 4.0, with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1200 using 8xAA 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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MSI's Twin Frozr IV dual fan cooler that has equipped several of the GTX 700 series cards I have looked at is used here to deliver excellent temperatures by comparison to the blower style cooler used on the reference GTX 760. The reference solution on the GTX 770 and GTX 780 is more robust than the one used on the reference GTX 760, so we see some significant improvement over the reference cooling solution on the GTX 760 Hawk. At stock speeds the GTX 760 Hawk's Twin Frozr IV cooling solution delivers a 15 °C margin over the reference cooler. Overclocked the margin is still 9 °C. Pretty impressive results to say the least.

MSI N760 Hawk Testing:

Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 4.0 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to heat up the GPU, with the highest measured temperature recorded as the result. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system. With dual-GPU setups, the two core temperatures will be averaged.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Idle power consumption on the MSI GTX 760 Hawk is slightly higher than the reference card at both stock and overclocked settings. Load power consumption by the reference card was roughly 20 watts more efficient at stock speeds, but this margin shrinks when both cards are overvolted and have the fan speeds raised to improve cooling performance. Even though the GTX 760 Hawk is equipped with a pair of propeller blade fans, the power consumption is close between the two cards at idle.

MSI N760 Hawk Conclusion:

After seeing what the N760 Hawk is capable of as far as pure gaming performance, it's hard not to be impressed. In every game the N760 Hawk out performed the reference card by some pretty substantial margins. In many of the games it was impressively faster than the HD 7950 and even pushed past the GTX 670 in some of the tests. This alone puts it into the upper echelon of GTX 760 cards and proves to be the fastest card I have tested as far as overclocking is concerned at 1333MHz on the core and 1763MHz on the GDDR5 memory while in game. When you compare maximum core clock speeds against a reference card there is no comparison.

Part of what allows the end user to play in the big leagues is that MSI puts a lot of solid work into the N760 Hawk that all starts out at the PCB level with an eight layer PCB and 6+2 phase power management circuit that is chock full of MSI's Military Class IV components. Each of these components both meet MIL-STD-810-G and are used to improve efficiency, run cooler, and last longer. Additionally the Twin BIOS selector allows the end user to bypass overvoltage protection and run an LN2 ready BIOS to push the overclocking limits even higher. Catering to the overclocking enthusiast, the MSI N760 Hawk also supports Triple Overvoltage controls through the Afterburner tuning utility. With this card you do not have to worry about software reporting, since the V-Check points allow the end user to monitor CPU core, memory, and PCIe voltages with a multimeter.

Running big clock speeds always comes with added heat, but the Twin Frozr IV cooling solution with its five heat pipe design really steps up with load temperatures that were at it worst 9 degrees better than the reference cooling solution. Dust removal technology allows the card to "self clean" on startup by rotating the 100mm propeller blade fans in reverse to pull air through the aluminum fin array. Further design enhancements are found inside the cooler, where MSI uses air deflectors to keep the air flow in the heat sink longer to improve cooling.

Pricing is rumored to be in the $280 to $290 range so this puts a price premium of $30 to $40 over the $250 base price on the reference GTX 760. For those extra dollars you get a whole hell of a lot of upside in terms of performance, cooling, and long term reliability, not to mention the tremendous upswing in gaming performance. Also, the yellow coloring just looks awesome, especially when coupled with MSI's high end Z87-based motherboard offerings, including the MPOWER MAX. All things considered, MSI hits a home run with this card, delivering impressive results across the board. In this price range it's going to be hard to beat the value this card delivers.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: