MSI N275GTX Twin Frozer OC Review

ccokeman - 2009-06-15 22:37:13 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: July 19, 2009
Price: $259

Introduction:

When the time comes to buy a video card we all have our "wants" that are tempered with our "needs". This usually comes down to the price we ultimately put as the limit for the purchase. Many times the "needs" will win out with some reasoning and we buy a model just lower than we want. Then we will spend additional money to make improvements to the cooling to try and overclock to reach a higher level of performance for the dollars we spent. What if a manufacturer has added a cooler that was capable of meeting the cooling needs right out of the box with a price tag that was reasonable? Would you allow the "want" to override the "need", since you already have plans for additional cooling? If so MSI has you covered with the MSIN275GTX Twin Frozer OC! This card comes with a massive heatpipe based cooling solution that uses 5 large heatpipes to reduce the operating temperature of the GPU as well as the rest of the heat generating components. On top of that, the card has been given a bit of a performance increase by way of a reasonable overclock to 666MHz on the GPU core, 1476MHz on the shaders and 1161MHz on the 890MB of GDDR3 memory. With the cooling and overclock the Twin Frozer looks to have some serious performance credentials. Let's see if the performance manages to live up to the look!

Closer Look:

The packaging of the MSI N275GTX Twin Frozer features a creature that looks earily familiar to one in a benchmark I used to run and could be an orc or ogre. The name of the card N275GTX Twin Frozer is in silver lettering. The fact that this card is an OC (Overclocked) model is seen at the bottom right of the front panel. Supported technologies are listed as well as the amount of processor cores and that this card is part of MSI's gaming series. The rear panel lists features of the N275GTX, the minimum system requirements and shows how the video signal can be output as HDMI through the Mazerine DVI ports. A handle is part of the deal when you get this card, so that you have less of a chance of dropping it.

 

  

 

 

 

The outer package is just a sleeve that the inner box resides in. When you pull the box out you have a plastic cover over the video card and box containing the accessory bundle. The card is wrapped in both an anti-static and buble wrap bag before it is inserted into a closed cell foam enclosure. The card is well protected in this manner.

 

 

The bundle sent out with the N275GTX Twin Frozer is fairly substantial with a couple quick user guides, the driver disk, DVI and HDMI adapters, an HDTV adapter, S-Video adapter and an SPDIF cable to connect the HD sound to the card, so this signal can be carried to the display if you so desire.

 

Let's see what the Twin Frozer OC has to offer and take a quick look at it before it sees some abuse.

 

Closer Look:

The MSI N275GTX Twin Frozer is a bit different from the reference cards out on the market. First off, the card sports a factory overclock of 33MHz on the core to bring the GPU core speed to 666MHz, the memory up to 1161MHz and the shader cores up to 1476MHz from 1404MHz. The second and most obvious difference is the massive heatsink with not 1, but 2 fans to cool this card down. The specs are pretty much standard fare when it comes down to the internals with 240 unified shader cores, 28 ROP's and 896MB of GDDR3 memory on a 448 bit bus. The heatsink used on the Twin Frozer a heatpipe based design much like most of the high end CPU heatsinks in use today. Technologies supported include Physx, PureVideo, Cuda and SLI. Support is available for both PCIe 2.0 as well as Open GL 3.0.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The business end of the Twin Frozer features 2 HDCP compliant Dual Link DVI ports and an HDTV output. The DVI ports are an MSI exclusive Mazarine DVI ports that allow an HDMI signal to be output in resolutions up to 1920x1200 on digital displays. The the vented mounting bracket has the MSI logo stamped out of the bracket, as well as a few additional slots to allow airflow out the rear of the chassis. A nice little bit of personalization that most likely works as well as or better than the venting on a reference card. The back end of the card is open and shows the power connector for the dual fans, the solid capacitors and the pin matrix heatsink over the voltage regulation circuit. This design has been used on several ATI cards to some success.

 

 

The N275GTX needs additional power as the PCIe slot will not supply nearly enough to run this card. This additional power is brought in via two 6 pin PCIe power connections on the top spine of the PCB. Next to the power connections you will find the SPDIF input to carry sound out through the HDMI cable if used in this capacity. The N275GTX Twin Frozer can be used in both a 2 way and three way SLI configuration for additional gaming or benchmarking horsepower.

 

 

Underneath the massive heatsink the N275GTX features a plate style heatsink to cover not only the VRM circuits but the memory as well. Something many manufacturers have been leaving out when a non reference cooler is used. The heatsink runs almost the entire length of the card and uses five heatpipes to carry the thermal load to the fin array, where the two fans finish the job. The airflow blows down and over the card and board unisink. The main contact surface is fairly thin allowing the thermal load a quicker path to the heatpipes. The only thing I dislike about this design is the fact that much of the heatload will recirculated back into the chassis. Those without a case that has adequate airflow may find that the components in the chassis (CPU, Memory, Motherboard, HDD's) all run at a higher temperatures when the N275GTX is installed.

 

 

Let's get the Twin Frozer installed and see what it can deliver when compared to many of its counterparts.

 

Closer Look:

Just because you put that shiny new graphics card into your computer does not mean that it will work as intended right off the bat. For that to happen you need to install the drivers to make it work correctly. To do this, insert the supplied driver disc, or better yet, go on over to nVidia's website to download the latest drivers for your specific operating system and hardware. In doing so, you guarantee that you have the latest game and performance fixes available. Start the install by choosing the autorun feature if using the disc or double clicking the file you downloaded from nVidia. Make the choices that are applicable and then click finish and you will need to restart the computer to finish the installation process. MSI offers the end user a driver disk that contains the drivers and a few programs to take advantage of the abilities of the N275GTX.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the drivers are installed, you have access to the nVidia control panel. Here is where you can adjust the performance and visual quality settings to the level you like. The first tab is labeled "3D Settings". The first section "Adjust image settings with Preview" offers pretty granular adjustments for performance vs. quality. The second section allows for fine adjustments by application. A new feature in this section is "Ambient Occlusion". This feature is added with the 185 series drivers. What this feature does is simulate shadows where ambient lighting should be blocked by an object. Something as simple as a pay phone on a wall will have its shadow cast on the wall when rendered with this option enabled. You can see examples of this in use on the Extras page. The last part of this section is the option to enable or disable PhysX.

 

 

The second section is strictly about managing the display. Setting the resolution, flat panel scaling, custom resolutions, and managing the color profiles are all done here.

 

 

 

Last in line are the video and television settings. If you had the Geforce 3D Vision installed on your system, this option would be available to you as well.

 

 

There are a few technologies that can be used with nVidia graphics cards to take advantage of the massive performance potential designed into them. First off, there is CUDA, a programming language that takes advantage of the parallel computing power of the nVidia GPU. There are already many applications that take advantage of this technology. Badaboom from Elemental Technologies uses the technology to reduce the time it takes to convert media files between different formats. There is Arcsoft's Total Media Theatre that uses CUDA technology to upscale video to HD levels by leveraging the performance of the GPU to increase the frame rate to a steady 30+ FPS. When run in the compare mode, CPU usage peaks in the high 80+ percent range and offers reduced performance. When using CUDA technology to get the GPU to do the work, the CPU load drops to the 2 to 3% range, resulting in far superior performance.

 

 

One of the other applications that uses the technology is one that is near and dear to our hearts here at OCC, Folding@Home. What this program does, is use the parallel computing power of the nVidia GPU to simulate protein "folding." What is this, you ask? Well, when proteins don't fold correctly the result is some really heinous disease, such as cancer, Alzheimer's, BSE (Mad Cow), and Cystic Fibrosis. By simulating how chains of amino acids fold or misfold, researchers hope to find cures for these diseases and more. You can find more information here. If you decide to join the ranks of the people looking for a cure, make sure you select team 12772!

 

One enhancement that nVidia has had success with is PhysX technology. This technology is used to enable a more realistic gaming experience. Glass that shatters and stays in the environment instead of just fading away into the floor, curtains and cloth that move realistically and react to impacts and the wind, realistic smoke and bullet fragments and ricochets that do more than just flash on a wall. All of these things are visual enhancements that PhysX acceleration brings to the table. As of the end of 2008, there were three major game manufacturers committed to developing games using PhysX technology. These manufacturers are Take Two Interactive, Electronic Arts and THQ. As time goes by, there are even more jumping on the Physx bandwagon. One of the latest is Cryostasis from 1C games. Developed by Action Frames and distributed by 505 games, this game takes Physx effects to a new level with water that is simulated using smoothed particle hydrodynamics.

 

 

 

Specifications:

Processor Cores
240
Graphics Clock (MHz)
666MHz
Processor Clock (MHz)
1476 MHz
Memory Clock (MHz)
11161MHz
Standard Memory Config
896 MB GDDR3
Memory Interface Width
448 Bit
NVIDIA SLI®-ready
2-way/3-way
Bus Support
PCI-E 2.0 
Supplementary Power Connectors
6-pin x2 
Maximum Digital Resolution
2560x1600 
Maximum VGA Resolution
2048x1536 
Audio Input for HDMI
SPDIF
HDMI*
Via adapter
Length
10.5 inches (267 mm) 
Cooling
Twin Frozer 5 heatpipe

 

Features:

All information cortesy of MSI http://www.msicomputer.com/product/p_spec.asp?model=N275GTX_Twin_Frozr_OC&class=vga

Testing:

Testing the MSI N275GTX Twin Frozer will consist of running the card through the Overclockersclub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks and comparing it against many popular competitors to gauge its performance. The games used are some of today's popular titles to give you an idea on 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 Vantage testing where Physx will be disabled in the nVidia control panel. I will test the N275GTX Twin Frozer at both stock speeds and then overclocked to see how much additional performance is available when you choose to overclock the card. Comparisons will be made against the performance of its contemporaries on both sides of the fence.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

With the N275GTX having a little bit of a factory overclock the expectation was that the Twin Frozer cooling system would help reach an overclock that was a bit higher than the other cards I have looked at. I was not disappointed. I started out by increasing the fan speed to 100 percent using Riva Tuner 2.24 to allow the cooler to remove as much of the thermal load generated by the GPU and memory as possible. We all know that cooler running parts will in most cases deliver higher clock speeds. To bump up the clock speeds I used a tool called GPUtool. I started out with the clock speeds delivered by the ASUS ENGTX275 I recently looked at and the N275GTX passed through some preliminary testing without a hitch. Unfortunately the GPU clock and memory clock did not really move much higher and maxed out at 742MHz on the core and an even 1300MHz on the memory. Nothing to be ashamed of there on air. Now where the Twin Frozer took off was on the shader clock speeds. Just over 1500MHz was the barrier on the last 3 GTX 275's we have looked at so I was not expecting to pull 1600MHz out of this card but it kept scaling up to this level. All said and done 742/1600/1300 were the clock speeds reached for day to day operation. This level provided performance increases across the board in each benchmark and resolution tested. The final test was doing some Folding @ Home testing on the card to see if it could run at this level 24/7. This it did!

The only thing is that the noise with the fans at 100% are quite loud, but the cooling performance trade off for the noise level is worth it as long as you wear your headphones. The flip side to this is that with a slightly lower overclock and the fan speed run below the 75% mark the temperatures do not get out of hand. With the maximum overclock and 100% fan speed the N275GTX idled at 31 Celsius and loaded at 51 Celsius after looping 3dmark06 game test 3 for an hour. With the fan speed controlled by the drivers running at the stock clock speeds the card idled at 31 Celsius and loaded at 54 Celsius. Pretty decent numbers when all things are considered. The N275GTX Twin Frozer is at this time the highest overclocking GTX 275 that OCC has tested.

 

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty: World at War
  5. Dead Space
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

 

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real-time effects and damage. This next generation first-person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft, surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this Far Cry game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The N275GTX Twin Frozer performs equal to or better than the HD 4890 Vapor-X in all four resolutions. At 2560x1600 the differential between the 2 cards increases to 4 FPS. As delivered the N275GTX delivers more performance than all of the comparison cards, save the GTX 285.

 

 

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When comparing the performance in Crysis Warhead the Enthusiast level settings are difficult for all of the comparison video cards. The N275GTX does perform slightly better than the reference card in all four resolutions. When compared to its direct competition the HD 4890 the performance is almost identical with only a 1 FPS difference either way.

 

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddy's". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The N275GTX performed a little worse than the Innovatek example from 1280x1024 up to 1920x1200. At 2560x1600 the N275GTX bested all of the cards in the comparison testing, only beating the GTX285 by 1 FPS. When compared to the HD 4890s the Twin Frozer out performed it by between 9 and 29 FPS depending on the resolution.

 

Testing:

Activision's Call Of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

The performance delivered by the N275GTX is higher than that delivered by the HD 4890s. At 2560x1600 the 3 GTX 275s deliver an identical 53FPS. Overclocking allows the N275GTX to deliver performance equal to or better than the GTX 285.

 

Testing:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse, starting with the crash landing of the seemingly silent and "dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional, over-the-shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Space is a game that favors video cards from the green camp. The N275GTX does not disappoint in this game with results within 5 FPS of the GTX 285 at 2560x1600. Overclocking brings along a nice performance bonus allowing the N275GTX out perform the top card in the comparison.

 

Testing:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.

Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The N275GTX holds a performance advantage over the HD 4890 in all four resolutions ranging from 2 to 4 FPS. Fallout 3 does not show a lot of separation between cards in a similar performance envelope.

 

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

The N275GTX out performs the HD 4890's in all four resolutions. It does fall to the Innovatek GTX 275 in head to head competition. Overclocking did not deliver as large a performance boost as I have seen from other cards but there was an increase nevertheless.

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you compare performance from 1280x1024 to 1920x1200, the HD 4890 offers up higher benchmark scores. Once you reach 2560x1600 the N275GTX performs just a couple hundred points less than the GTX 285. Again with overclocking, I did not see a decent performance boost at the lower resolution where the test setup is CPU limited.

 

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024x768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By looking at the graphs it is easy to see which of the cards are the top performers. The N275GTX is only outperformed by the factory overclocked GTX 285 in all four resolutions. When the clock speeds are pushed the N275GTX delivers a higher level of performance. Sure the GTX 285 has a little left in the tank, but it would be a close call.

 

Conclusion:

MSI has installed a cooling solution on the N275GTX that really works, and works quite well. The Twin Frozer cooling solution with its 5 heatpipe design kept load temperatures well into the cool zone at 54 degrees Celsius at the factory overclocked speeds. All this while being virtually quiet. No small feat on either point. Now that's all at the default speeds where it the cooling solution should do well, right? When overclocked as high as it would go with the fan speed at 100% the temperature dropped from a relatively cool 54 Celsius under load to 51 degrees Celsius all the while allowing the card to run at 742MHz on the core, 1600MHz on the shader cores and 1300MHz on the memory. That is amazing. The only downside I see with the Twin Frozer design is that if your chassis is not adequately vented, the heat load dumped into the chassis will increase the operating temperatures of all of the installed components, CPU, memory, motherboard, etc. This increase will depend again on how well your case breaths. The Armour+ case I used vents well enough to not see any impact from the card. Your results may vary from mine based on this fact. Performance wise, the Twin Frozer is also a winner. When compared against only the HD 4890, the N275GTX outperformed it in 29 out of 36 benchmark tests run. If you add the number of tests where the score was even, that number increases to 32 out of 36. This increase in performance over the HD 4890 will come with a price tag. The price tag on the MSI N275GTX comes in at 259 dollars while the HD 4890 Vapor-X runs about 40 dollars cheaper. GTX 275 pricing runs between roughly 200 to 360 dollars, so the price point on the Twin Frozer falls into the lower end of the range. With the volatility of pricing nowadays its hard to tell where the pricing may end up. The customized cooling solution adds a bit to the cost of the Twin Frozer, but what is one of the first upgrades for a CPU or GPU? Better cooling! If you subtract the cost of the 35 to 65 dollars you would spend for cooling enhancements, the price of the N275GTX is right about where a reference GTX 275 is priced. The value of the card and improved cooling solution can't be denied with the numbers it delivers on both the cooling and performance fronts. If your next video card for your gaming rig is a GTX 275, the MSI N275GTX offers factory overclocked performance with a cooling solution that delivers exceptional results. All with a competitive price!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: