MSI N550GTX Ti 1GB Reviewairman - March 15, 2011
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The MSI N550GTX Ti 1GB video card is nearly dwarfed by the cooler that is attached to it. Although the cooler makes the card look tiny, it's only about eight inches long. The interfaces are protected with blue plastic covers, which can prevent these delicate parts from becoming damaged during shipping and handling. Even though it is a relatively small card compared to what is out there today, it is still uses a dual-slot platform — although I do believe it could have been crammed into one. Nevertheless, that's not what MSI was after with this card. The text across the top of the cooler reads "N550GTX-Ti" on the left side, and "Cyclone II" on the right side. Two heatpipes can be seen wrapping around the back of the card and underneath the fan blades. Underneath, the card looks like most others, this one with a black PCB. The four screws in a square pattern secure the cooler to the card, which I will be peeking under momentarily.
Across the front of the card (looking at the long side of it) is a black plastic strip with the MSI logo printed on it. This is one of the first times I've seen this and it seems to be there purely for aesthetics. To the right of this logo, which is hard to read, seems to be something like a date/time stamp. The N550GTX Ti has three outputs, two DVI slots and one mini HDMI slot. As listed, this card is capable of triple monitor displays, which is quite impressive for a lower-end card! With the rising popularity of dual and even triple screen setups, this card fits the bill!
As usual nowadays, there are two slotted connects on this card. The main one, obviously, is a PCI Express x16 slot, with the SLI connector at the top of the card — nothing new here. Running two of these in SLI would be a pretty sweet and relatively affordable setup! However, there was no SLI bridge included with this card, so check the box that your motherboard came in if you're trying to find one!
An area that I am very familiar with is cooling technology, based off of my experience with CPU coolers and other basic knowledge. The main feature of this Cyclone II cooler is the "propeller" blades, which have a different definition in their shape compared to standard fan blades. This small alteration in their shape is said to increase airflow by approximately 20%, due to the additional turbulence induced by them. The base of the cooler and the fins are made from aluminum and the heatpipes seem to be aluminum-plated copper. Something new that is mentioned by MSI on this cooler is the rounded edges on the fins of the base of the cooler. These rounded edges can help prevent dust buildup. Having dealt with coolers like this getting clogged with dust, this is a welcome idea!
Removing the cooler is a very simple task with a small(ish) phillips-head screwdriver. The four screws on the rear of the PCB that I mentioned earlier can be removed, which releases the cooler. The small, metal springs that are built into these screws help provide backpressure and evenly distribute the mounting force over the surface area of the GPU core, which is very important. An uneven distribution of the mounting force over the core can cause "hot spots", which cause the overall temperature to increase.
The contact base of the cooler is made of nickel-plated copper and sandwiches the heatpipes between itself and the middle, lower fin array. These heatpipes then conduct heat to the outer fins, which are cooled by the radiating airflow from the "propeller blade" fins on the fan. The fan is PWM controlled and has a maximum RPM of around 3200 and flows about 23CFM, as listed by MSI's specifications.
With the MSI N550GTX-Ti dissected, it's now time to get ready for the testing scenarios.