MSI GTX 770 N770 TF 2GD5/OC Reviewccokeman - May 30, 2013
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MSI GTX 770 Gaming Closer Look:
Pulled up and out of the packaging, the MSI GTX 770 Gaming just looks incredible. The large 100mm PWM controlled propeller blade technology fans take center stage from the front view. The red and black theme has always looked "right" on computer parts and this card is no exception. MSI's version of the GTX 770 is still a dual slot solution built around a custom PCB and NVIDIA's GK104 Kepler core. The back side of the PCB does not have much of interest but there are a couple Hi-C caps right under the core to provide some added core voltage stability. Looking at the top and bottom view we can see that the Twin Frozr IV cooling solution uses a quintet of heat pipes coming out from under the core area. Four are 6mm in size and come out the bottom side of the heat sink while the larger 8mm heat pipe pops out of the top side looping back into the aluminum fin array. Just like all of the current crop of video cards, the MSI GTX 770 Gaming is designed for use in a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot on a supporting motherboard but is backwards compatible to earlier standards. The GTX 770 Gaming is just a tad shorter than the reference version at 10.25 inches in length. At this size there should be no size constraints in modern chassis.
Display connectivity is standard 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 have to add another GTX 770 in SLI to have the firepower to play at this level. The I/O 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. The back end of the card is wide open allowing the thermal load out from under the shroud and into the chassis' airstream.
A pair of SLI bridge connections hints at the SLI support for this card running up to four cards in a motherboard that supports the technology. Along the spine of the PCB and under the Twin Frozr IV heat sink runs an aluminum brace and heat sink used to stiffen the PCB as well as cool the memory modules under the main heat sink. Power for the MSI GTX 770 Gaming is supplied by a pair of 8-pin PCIe connectors. A 600 watt power supply is going to be recommended to handle the 229 watt TDP on this card. Factory overclocked and cooled it carries the same operating TDP as the reference version.
Stripping the heat sink off the PCB, the aluminum PCB support/memory cooler is visible as it wraps around the PCB to cover the 7000MHz memory modules and Military Class 4 power circuitry. A black PCB is used on this card and meshes nicely with the design. Once the memory cooler is removed you can see the power supply layout on the PCB. MSI uses its Military Class 4 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.
One of the main features of the MSI GTX 770 Gaming is the Twin Frozr IV cooling solution. Its advanced thermal design is one of the hallmarks of the GAME philosophy that MSI strives to deliver to gamers who want to just put the card in the system and start fraggin'. This fourth generation cooling solution is more than it looks like from the images. It uses a five (four x 6mm + one x 8mm) heat pipe direct contact design that speeds the thermal load out to the aluminum fin array. Here is where MSI spent some time and started channeling the airflow with diverters so that it spends more time in the heat sink presumably to increase the thermal transfer to improve cooling efficiency. Instead of traveling straight through the fin array, the diverters are strategically placed to direct the airflow at angles increasing the time the airflow spends in the heat sink. At this point it seems to work.
Providing the airflow to keep the MSI GTX 770 Gaming cool for maximum clock speeds are a pair of 100mm PWM controlled propeller blade fans. Using this type of fan is needed to push the higher static pressure needs of the heat sink. Surprisingly these fans are dead silent when controlled by the GPU. When ramped up they are still relatively quiet by comparison to the already muffled reference cooling solution. This part of the advanced thermal design concept is another check mark for the gamers - cool, quiet, performance.
Where it seems like we are in familiar territory is when we get to the GK104 28nm Kepler core. If you look back at the spec sheet for the GTX 680 we had a total of four GPCs (Graphics Processing Clusters), two SMX units in each GPC, each SMX with 192 cores for a total of 1536 CUDA cores on board. Each GPC has a single raster engine and dynamically share 512MB of L2 cache. Each GPU core features 128 texture units and 32 ROPs. However it is not the same core as many would surmise. The GTX 770 can be equipped with either 2 or 4GB of high speed GDDR5 memory running through four 64-bit (256-bit) memory controllers. Where the similarities end between the GTX 770 and the GTX 680 are in the clock speeds the core and memory are capable of running. The base core clock on the MSI GTX 770 Gaming is 1098MHz and 1150MHz when in a boost state courtesy of GPU Boost 2.0 technology. That's impressive to start with as it seems with the core maturation process higher clock speeds are the norm. Now where we really see some improvements is in the memory speed department. The reference GTX 770 comes with a memory speed of 7010MHz QDR and MSI has chosen to leave this as it is from the factory. As the first cards to use Samsung-based 7Gbps memory the key is how much will this help the cards at higher resolutions? Out of the box you get memory bandwidth of 224.3 GB/s and up with overclocking.
Let's take a quick look at the reference card before diving into the benchmarks and overclocking.