MSI N460GTX Hawk Reviewccokeman -
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Like I said earlier, MSI has given this the works when it comes to hardware selection and implementation. The Military Class components, 7+1 Phase PWM design and Active phase switching offer increased power handling capabilities that allow for higher stable overclocks which in turn enable the components to run cooler and more efficiently. The Twin Frozer cooling solution is a more than capable design that has continued to see service on MSI's higher end video cards and it makes another return onto the N460GTX HAWK. This cooling solution has been able to outperform other solutions I have tested on cards which included some pretty heavy duty cooling solutions such as Palit's Sonic, EVGA's FTW and Inno 3D's Arctic Cooling solution. The only problem I saw with the cooler was that once I remounted it, the base did not make contact all the way across the GPU's IHS. This means there is even more cooling performance to be had with the Twin Frozer design.
When it came to overclocking on this card I was looking for the much hyped 1GHz core clock speed that this card was hitting in early release videos. Unfortunately, I was unable to get close to that clock speed level on the HAWK's GF 104 core. What is interesting is that the early Afterburner utility versions for this card were able to increase the core voltage by +200mv but the current beta and release versions only supports a +100mv increase. This does hamper the card's ability (at least my sample) to really push for higher clock speeds. By utilizing the built-in voltage check points, I was able to monitor the voltages applied to the core and could see first hand what the increased level was and how it impacted overclocking. With the latest versions of Afterburner, I was limited to right around 1.16v measured under load. Installing an older version of Afterburner allowed the card to work with NVIDIA's voltage specifications which allowed the core voltage to be increased to almost 1.24v as measured under load. This had the effect of bumping the stable clock speeds on the core from a maximum of 922MHz to 955MHz, a pretty substantial increase for a small voltage bump. If the added voltage options were still available in Afterburner's latest editions, the 1GHz clock speed goals may have had a better chance of being realized. By using the older version, you do not have access to the triple voltage controls. So the "complete" card overclock was impacted by a lower memory speed. The final clock speeds though, when you get down to it, are the highest I have been able to pull from a GTX 460 card to-date at 922Mhz (955Mhz with higher voltage) on the core and memory so there is some advantage to the 7+1 power design and triple voltage controls. This card begs for more juice!
Even if you are not overclocking this card it comes from the factory with a fairly stout overclock of 780Mhz on the core, 1560MHz on the Shader domain and 900Mhz (3600Mhz QDR). So if this meets your needs then so be it but just know there is more on tap! With the N460GTX HAWK you get all the ability to use all of the NVIDIA technologies including SLI, Surround, 3D Vision and 3D Surround and the ability to get the most out of games that make use of NVIDIA's PhysX technology for the added realism it brings. Add in a Blu-ray player and you get the ability to watch 3D Blu-ray content. The power consumption of this overclocked card improved over what I saw with the Palit Sonic version and did deliver lower power consumption numbers (even with dual fans running) in three out of four tests. MSI gives you the tools to overclock a factory hot rod and still gives it a three year warranty that is better than most of the warranties out there, not all, just most. Couple in the new lower pricing structure that NVIDIA just released and you can pick this card up for a cool $199 after rebates. Excellent performance, excellent cooling and the ability to overclock makes the MSI N460GTX HAWK a purpose-built card for the enthusiast on a budget!
- Triple Voltage control
- Excellent cooling solution
- Military Class components
- Voltage monitoring points
- Power Consumption
- 3 Year warranty
- Factory overclocked
- Non reference design
- 3D Vision and Surround capable
- New lower pricing
- Did not reach the hyped 1GHz core speed
- Heat sink base slightly convex