MSI has hit the GTX 770 scene and it has come out swinging with its GTX 770 gaming model card, which is looking to be not only an awesome performer but even an awesome value for enthusiasts gamers.
MSI GeForce GTX 770 Gaming
MSI makes some very nice graphics offerings especially with their custom PCB offerings as they bring some engineering to the table that is hard to match. This time, instead of a lightning model we were greeted with a MSI gaming card (Model Number N770 TF 2GD5/OC).
Here you can see some of the specs of the card compared to what is offered presently from the Kepler lineup.
|GTX 690||GTX TITAN||GTX 680||GTX 780||GTX 770||MSI GTX 770 Gaming|
|Stream Processors||1536 x 2||2688||
|Texture Units||128 x 2||224||128||192||128||128|
|ROP’s||32 x 2||
|Base Core Clock||915MHz||837MHz||1006MHz||863MHz||1046MHz||1098MHz|
|Memory Interface||256-bit x 2||384-bit||256-bit||384-Bit||256-bit||256-Bit|
|Memory Qty||2GB x 2||6GB||2GB||3GB||2GB or 4GB||2GB|
|Transistors||3.5B x 2||7.1B||3.5B||7.1B||3.54B||3.54B|
When looking at the specs you can see that when compared to the reference design you pay about 10 dollars more, yet you get a full custom PCB and massive dual slot dual fan Twin Frozr cooler, which is not a bad deal.
Military Class 4 Components
MSI has long touted the Military Class components on their cards due to the fact that they are specially tested components, not just by them but by a third party testing center according to the enclosed certificate. “Military Class components” sounds nice, but are they really necessary on a card or motherboard? Honestly, no as most times the reference components are good enough to do their job. However, they are not designed to push the limits to the extreme. The answer is better and stronger components. Most manufacturers worth their salt will use better components, so in order to try and stand out, MSI uses “Military Class” components in an attempt to ensure better hardware reliability.
Military Class Component Testing
When MSI puts military class components to the fire they are not joking as they come to the table claiming to have passed multiple tests following Mil spec (MIL-STD-810G) Tests including:
- Temperature Shock testing: Sudden thermal changes which can normally wreak havoc on electrical components are fully tested on these components to ensure they can last through some of the worst conditions liek lets say what the extreme enthusiasts community may employ them for. Although im sure the Lightning card will be more in that category its still nice to know its there.
- Humidity Testing: Testing of components in different humidity conditions can make a big difference as to the capabilities of the cards as different areas can have much different environments and not every deployment will be like a sterile lab and knowing they can take that kind of abuse once again is a major plus.
- Vibration tests: This one is a little nuts but being in california I guess if I have an earthquake I can ensure the shaking wont affect the components.
- Low Pressure Testing: This once again is a little extreme as deployment for different elevations especially extreme enough to require low pressure testing is gonna be extremely rare if ever but it will handle it.
- High Temperature Testing: This one shoudl be a standard for every component in a high end PC as thermals are the enemy of every enthusiasts rig so I like to see such attention paid here.
- Low Temperature Testing: Once again I think something more targeted at the Lightning model, but the fact that they test these cards to withstand LN2 benchmarking temperatures tells me that under standard gaming stresses this card is gonna run and keep on running.
- Shock Testing: This is once again more extreme as these are similar to drop or rough impact testing which wel even if the card survives im sure other components may not fare so well in this kind of scenario.
So what we can take from this is that this card may survive the nuclear apocalypse or even a Zombie infestation but well in the case of a nuclear apocalypse this card looks like it could probably take it, and with The North Korea situation maybe you can hide behind a stack of these cards.
Advanced Twin Frozr IV Cooler
MSI introduced the Twin Frozr cooler quite some time ago. The Twin Frozr is MSI’s version of the custom cooler to keep the GPU and components cool on the card.
Here we see some advantages of the cooler design, including the dual propeller blade fans which work in tandem to ensure plenty of air is moved through the fin array for a cooler running GPU and also onboard components.
The propeller blade design is made to offer some serious airflow without the fan noise we had heard before and compared to the MSI 660 Ti we had tested previously it definitely sounds like they got the fan noise down quite a bit.
The complete cover heatsink is a nice dual purpose design as it works as a heatspreader for the VRM/memory components but also it helps stiffen the PCB quite a bit which makes for a much stronger and more durable card.
MSI offers its own software utility. MSI Afterburner is co-developed with Rivatuner which is very similar to what the other top manufacturers are offering.
There we see it above with multiple options including voltage control and power limit controls to ensure our overclock ceiling is just a little bit higher. Do note that some options may not show up right away and need to be enabled in settings otherwise they will be hidden.
MSI Gaming App
The Gaming app is a cool design as it offers a simple to use interface where users can quickly set a overclock or even Eco setting without having to work with the Afterburner app which for some can be a bit confusing especially for a newer or inexperienced user
Above you can see with a single click how each setting changed the card and with the accompanying GPUz screen to show how it was set accordingly.
PCI Express Gen 3 Capable
MSI is one of many manufacturers who offer 7 series Nvidia cards supporting PCIe Gen 3 along with motherboards to place them on.
A Closer Look at the MSI GTX 770 Gaming
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Here the gaming series cards come adorned with the Dragon and the shield/crest for the Gaming series products otherwise not a lot of spec info just simply saying what it is. We like this it is eye catching and lets you know its something special. It is one of the more attractive packaging designs we have seen honestly as it tends to jump out at you. The rear is a totally different animal as the specs and features are quite well covered here.
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Here you see what comes in the box which is dual 6 pin to 8 p[in converters and a VGA adapter. This may seem a bit scant but it is everything needed to get the card hooked up and well theres nothing else really needed in this bundle, although bundled games usually help attract more gaming customers, something Nvidia has been good about in the past but recently has offered free online currency for some popular free to play games but nothing really replaces a solid game code in this department.
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The card laid out is quite impressive as the cooler is kept at dual slot which means 3 and even 4 way SLI configurations are easily possible without encroaching on adjacent slots but the cooler is a bit taller so in a slimmer case this could be an issue. However, for most users buying a card of this level there should be no case fitment issues.
The rear of the card does not offer anything in the way of memory IC's as the card is a 2GB model so therefore all the memory is all fitted to the front of the card.
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The display connectivity is about standard for what we have seen on the Kepler based lineup
- 2x DVI
- 1x HDMI
- 1x Displayport
This all digital connector arrangement allows for maxing out the GPU with up to 4 displays and even a surround plus accessory display array should the need arise.
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Here you see that the custom PCB MSI 770 offers dual 8 Pin PCIe connectors for some serious power capability, which is nice although we do kind of question why, since the GPU will not draw enough amperage to need that kind of power and unless it was designed to run under LN2.
The Dual SLI fingers are in place ready to run up to a 4 Way SLI configuration should you find the need for that much horsepower.
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And here after popping the top we get a nice look at the stripped down cooler and the massive contact plate for the GPU. The massive heatpipes definitely are designed for some serious heat transfer and I don't think this card will have any problem pushing some serious clocks. Looking back to the card you see the main cooler plate/frame which acts as a single piece heatsink for the memory and VRM while also pulling double duty making the PCB much more solid for a overall stronger card. Once removed you can see the memory and bare VRM comprised of the Military Class Components.
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And here after popping the top you can see the memory employed is the same Samsung IC model K4G20325FD-FC28 which are 7GHz ICs which in itself is very impressive but if they clock anything like we saw on the reference model it should be absolutely nuts.
Also you can see here the custom VRM composed of the special Military Grade chokes and components which means this card should be ready for a serious beating from some long term gaming sessions.
The OS we use is Windows 8 Pro 64bit with all patches and updates applied. We also use the latest drivers available for the motherboard and any devices attached to the computer. We do not disable background tasks or tweak the OS or system in any way. We turn off drive indexing and daily defragging. We also turn off Prefetch and Superfetch. This is not an attempt to produce bigger benchmark numbers. Drive indexing and defragging can interfere with testing and produce confusing numbers. If a test were to be run while a drive was being indexed or defragged, and then the same test was later run when these processes were off, the two results would be contradictory and erroneous. As we cannot control when defragging and indexing occur precisely enough to guarantee that they won’t interfere with testing, we opt to disable the features entirely.
Prefetch tries to predict what users will load the next time they boot the machine by caching the relevant files and storing them for later use. We want to learn how the program runs without any of the files being cached, and we disable it so that each test run we do not have to clear pre-fetch to get accurate numbers. Lastly we disable Superfetch. Superfetch loads often-used programs into the memory. It is one of the reasons that Windows Vista occupies so much memory. Vista fills the memory in an attempt to predict what users will load. Having one test run with files cached, and another test run with the files un-cached would result in inaccurate numbers. Again, since we can’t control its timings so precisely, it we turn it off. Because these four features can potentially interfere with benchmarking, and and are out of our control, we disable them. We do not disable anything else.
We ran each test a total of 3 times, and reported the average score from all three scores. Benchmark screenshots are of the median result. Anomalous results were discounted and the benchmarks were rerun.
Please note that due to new driver releases with performance improvements, we rebenched every card shown in the results section. The results here will be different than previous reviews due to the performance increases in drivers.
|CPUs||Intel XEON E5-2687W|
|Motherboards||ASUS Rampage IV Extreme|
|Ram||Kingston HyperX Beast 64GB (8x8GB) 2133Mhz 11-12-11 Quad-Channel Kit|
|CPU Cooler||Custom Liquid Cooling|
|Hard Drives||8x Western Digital RE4 2TB 7200RPM 3Gb/s Hard Drives (Raid 5)|
|SSD||3x Kingston HyperX 240GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD|
MSI GTX 770 Gaming
Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB Video Card
Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 2GB Video Card
Nvidia GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB Video Card
Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 4GB Video Card
320.14 (GTX 680, 690 and TITAN)
320.18 (GTX 780, 770)
|PSU||Thermaltake Toughpower XT 1475W Gold|
|Mouse||Tt eSPORTS Theron Gaming Mouse|
|Keyboard||Tt eSPORTS Meks G1 Illuminated|
Synthetic Benchmarks & Games
We will use the following applications to benchmark the performance of the MSI GTX 770 Gaming video card.
|Far Cry 3|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0|
|Batman Arkham City|
|Dirt 3 Showdown|
|Metro Last Light|
|Sniper Elite V2|
Here you see that the gaming card gets a small bump over the reference model from the out of the box overclock which means overall better gaming performance to gamers.
In 3DMark Firestrike and extreme the MSI Gaming model nudges even further ahead of the GTX 680 which is good as every bit of gaming performance means that in future more graphics intensive games you have a better chance of meeting those needs and not needing an upgrade for an even longer period.
Unigine Heaven 4.0
Unigine Heaven is a benchmark program based on Unigine Corp’s latest engine, Unigine. The engine features DirectX 11, Hardware tessellation, DirectCompute, and Shader Model 5.0. All of these new technologies combined with the ability to run each card through the same exact test means this benchmark should be in our arsenal for a long time.
Heaven shows the potential of the MSI model with a solid almost 4FPS gain which is very good as heaven is a very stressful load for any GPU.
Far Cry 3
Moving over to Far Cry 3, we used a pre determined path and re-ran each card to monitor average FPS across the complete run. Each run was completed multiple times to ensure continuity and accuracy. Here the MSI 770 shows some nice gains getting a solid 2FPS higher at max detail settings.
Even after many years, Metro 2033 is still one of the most demanding DX11 video games available to really push the limits of your system. Here the MSI GTX 770 Gaming card shows over 1FPS gain which may not seem like much but we assure you that on a game such as Metro that is quite a lot.
Batman Arkham City
Batman Arkham City is a fun game and utilizes FXAA fully. It is nice to see the full screen anti-aliasing getting picked up by popular titles. When it comes to performance the MSI 770 pulls a couple FPS ahead of the Reference model which shows the worth of that out of the box overclock you pay for.
Crysis 3 is much like the original Crysis in that playing it at max settings is painful for even the highest end hardware. The MSI 770 still falls short of 30FPS average but that’s not necessarily surprising here as even the GK110 powered 780 only gets 34FPS average but the MSI card does get about half of a FPS over the reference card. We think that 2GB framebuffer may be a limiting factor here.
Metro Last Light
Here we have Metro Last Light which is a brand new game added to our testing platform as it just came out. If you thought Metro 2033 was stressful you have seen nothing yet. The particles and lighting, as well as the PhysX effects all add up to an amazing looking game that can put a stun even the most powerful system in its tracks. Here the MSI 770 pulls about half a FPS ahead of the reference card and is able to maintain a over 30FPS average which was quite playable with some minor occasional dips causing a stutter but overall for max settings on a single card it was not bad at all.
Sniper Elite V2
Sniper Elite V2 is a fun game which, when first released, was quite stressful but still playable on most higher end cards. By now, most cards have surpassed it, and all of the cards we are testing here today break the 100 FPS mark. The MSI 770 pulls the standard 2FPS lead here over the reference model.
Dirt 3 Showdown
Dirt 3 Showdown is a visually beautiful game with excellent lighting and overall motion blurring creating a real visual spectacle of a game. The MSI 770 pulls a little over 2FPS here over the reference model but as we did not experience any jumpiness or jerkiness to the game anyways we doubt you would see such a difference.
The new Kepler Architecture with GPU boost has been a bit of a bear when it comes to pushing the clocks. This is due to the throttling mechanisms put in place and the fact that it dynamically clocks. Unlike 500 series where we could set a static clock and it just applied the card, Kepler clocks according to many variables, which means that much more care must be shown when applying overclock settings and even monitoring it during the run.
Things such as the thermal target can play a big role in stone walling your performance during an overclock session as everything has to be adjusted accordingly to ensure expected performance levels are met.
The MSI GTX 770 Gaming turned out to be an awesome clocker just like the reference card, taking the GPU from 1111 Boost clock to 1241 Boost clock which gave the boosted clock of 127MHz GPU by only setting the thermal target setting to 85C. There was no voltage adjustments as we try to keep the overclock simple and to what most users can set easily with much less risk to their components.
Memory much like the reference model rocketed from its 7GHz default setting to over 8GHz and was fully stable. For those of you who do not believe overclocking GPU memory does anything take a look at the score above as the GPU only overclock netted a 3DMark 11 Xtreme score of X3989 and upping the memory to 8GHz jumped the score to X4087 which is a very good gain for just Vram clocking.
This is excellent results and shows that the time and tuning that goes into the fan control, GPU Boost 2.0 and the card overall has been well thought out to have a card run at 1.2+GHz core and barely break into the 80C range and with no voltage adjustment as well.
To measure the temperature of the video card, we used MSI Afterburner and ran Heaven Benchmark in a loop to find the Load temperatures for the video cards. The highest temperature was recorded. After looping for 10 minutes, Heaven was turned off and we let the computer sit at the desktop for another 10 minutes before we measured the idle temperatures.
|GPU Temperatures||Temperature (Idle/Load)|
|Nvidia GTX 690||32C/81C|
|Nvidia GTX TITAN||31C/67C|
|Nvidia GTX 680||
|Nvidia GTX 780||30C/65C|
|Nvidia GTX 770||34C/79C|
|MSI GTX 770 Gaming||32C/79C|
The GK104 GPU seems to definitely run warmer but also having a thermal target means the card will continue to clock itself until it hits its target, so this of course means you can push the gpu farther due to the higher headroom offered by the better cooling solution. However this GPU simply did not wanna run up to 1300MHz mark and actually fell a bit behind the reference card in terms of clocking, though this is really just random variance between cards.
To get our power consumption numbers, we plugged in our Kill A Watt power measurement device and took the Idle reading at the desktop during our temperature readings. We left it at the desktop for about 15 minutes and took the idle reading. Then we ran Heaven Benchmark for a few minutes minutes and recorded the highest power usage.
Here the MSI GTX 770 actually falls a bit below the reference card which I find kind of funny being as it utilizes a dual 8 pin which gives off the idea that it will pull more power but even under load on the exact same test system it pulls approximately 25 less watts.
Our Final Thoughts
MSI always tends to impress with unique custom PCBs but normally these are all built for overclocking and normally have features which many average joes simply will never touch or even understand. It is a definite breath of fresh air to see the gaming line from MSI as these parts are targeted at a more realistic user base who will actually use the cards for gaming and normal computing rather than test bench and record breaking.
With that said it is nice to see some of the over engineering make its way from the high end overclocking models to the gaming lineup to ensure you not only have a nice gaming card but something that is truly capable of miles above that.
Afterburner has been a staple of many overclockers even some who dont have MSI cards use it simply because it is a great program. This continues with even more capabilities and improvements including the predator gameplay recording app to add even more usability for gamers.
The new MSI Game app allows for gamers to get a nice little bump with a single click for even more performance without any tinkering in overclocking settings or and worries of issues which means more free performance from MSI quick and easy.
Overall, for 10 dollars more than a reference model with a very capable cooler, and a factory overclock averaging a gain of approximately 2FPS at 1080p HD resolutions at max settings, the MSI GTX 770 Gaming card is a very nice deal and a amazing value for any gamer looking to build a new high performance gaming rig or even looking for a graphics upgrade.
Military Class Components
Over Engineered like OC Card
8GHz capable VRAM
Almost 1300MHz GPU
Huge dual slot cooler
Dual 8 pin for more than enough power
Out of the box overclock
Easy overclock tools
Dual 8 pins may be a little excessive
Taller cooler can cause some issues with slimmer chassis
Dual 8 pins can cause concern for some users with midrange PSU