MSI GeForce GTX 760 HAWK
MSI with the introduction of the Gaming series set a whole new category for the MSI brand in the marketplace and a very necessary one at that. However there is still a gap to fill when it comes to extreme performance and that is where the GTX 760 HAWK that we are looking at today comes in. Must like the bigger brother “Lightning” model cards the hawk series is the mainstream performance equivalent for top end OC board offerings. Now with the GTX 760 is uses a GK104 GPU cut down to GTX 760 spec just like any other GTX760 you will find on that market but this is where the similarities end and the fun begins.
Here as you can see the spec has a very respectable overclock to it right out of the box and you cant help but notice that the cooler design is definitely beefy along with the larger custom PCB and dual 8 Pin PCIe connections feeding the more than capable VRM for the overclocked model card.
The MSI GTX 760 HAWS comes in at a price of $ 289.99 directly from Newegg at the time of writing. This price point puts it a bit above the competition at almost at the 4GB card level but now begs the question of what exactly is there to this card what secrets does it carry to validate the higher cost OCer its competitors outside of just the out of the box clock? Lets take a look below and see what other goodies are hiding below the surface of the new MSI GTX 760 HAWK.
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 like lets say what the extreme enthusiasts community may employ them for. Although I’m 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 should 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 well even if the card survives I’m 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.
Enhanced Power Design
MSI Offers a higher end power solution via a larger VRM feeding both the GPU and memory components by increasing the Memory VRM by 100% or double the phase count to two and increasing the phase count for the GPU by 50% or two extra phases for a total of 6 phases to ensure more than enough power delivery can be pushed to the GPU for even better overclockability and more importantly better overclock stability.
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 you can see a break down of all of the Twin Frozr Advanced components that make up the full cooling solution on the GTX 760 HAWK 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 Airflow control internal fins built into the cooling fins allows channeling the cooling airflow over the heatpipes along with around the fins for an even better cooling performance result which in the end helps the card stay cooler and boost stronger.
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 propeller blade fans on the HAWK have been increased to 100mm or 10CM which allows for a slower rotation speed with similar airflow results allowing for optimum cooling with a lesser noise value added to the equation.
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.
Here you can see one of the key components that makes the HAWK special which is the VRM we already discussed but also the Dip switch used to switch between the standard high performance VBios which allows excellent air cooled gaming and performance overclocking while the flip of a switch enables the LN2 VBios which allows for elimination of many of the GPU protections that normally would hamper overclocking performance in extreme overclocking subzero cooled situations.
The OC Kits as MSI calls them have to do with special features which further help with the overclocking expedition. Firstly would be the “Triple Overvoltage” from within the MSI Afterburner program. This allows for full tuning of GPU Voltage, Memory Voltage and even AUX voltages to better squeeze every bit of performance from your GPU.
Also V-Check points allows for attachment of probes to allow real time monitoring of set voltages directly at the card hardware level. This ensures you can see any fluctuation or even voltage not being applied properly in loaded scenarios to help diagnose issues while benchmarking.
Here you can see the V-Check points which when the supplied lead is attached allows direct voltage readings from the GPU even during benchmark runs without the need for software.
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.
here is the area where afterburner and the MSI cards can gain some definite lead is the ability to adjust the three voltages or “Triple Overvoltage” options which allows for real time adjustment and tuning of key voltages to really push the limits of your card.
A Closer Look at the MSI GTX 760 HAWK
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Here the HAWK series employs the Stealth bomber as an insignia for the GTX 760 HAWK’s ability to knock out the competitions GTX 760 model cards. Overall the shelf appeal is nice here and the front is relatively non cluttered with the HAWK naming taking most of the space and very few icons or marketing actually taking the front space.
The rear is another story as it is packed with as much data as possible for supported features or specs.
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The MSI GTX 760 HAWK comes with a plethora of accessories from the quick start guide and install DVD up to the DVI>VGA Adapter and V-Checkpoint cables. The the dual 6 pin to 8 pin PCIe adapters allow for hookup of this powerful card to even a PSU without the 8 pin PCIe connections. How ever be sure you are using a good supply with a solid rating and plenty of power so that you can rest assured you are getting the best possible performance from your graphics card.
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The card laid out is quite impressive as the cooler is kept at dual slot which means 3 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 is mostly veiled with the HAWK edition backplate which covers about 80% of the rear of the PCB and helps stiffen the card overall for a more stable running and cooler 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 GTX 760 HAWK offers dual 8 Pin PCIe connectors for some serious power capability, This is a bit on the extreme side but being that the card is designed with a LN2 BIOS I can only assume it is supremely overbuilt to make sure that under the more extreme loading scenarios this VRM is ready to pack a punch.
The Dual SLI fingers are in place ready to run up to a 3 Way SLI configuration should you find a usage, game or benchmark for such a level of graphics power.
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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 dual piece heatsink and backplate for the memory and VRM while also pulling double duty making the PCB much more solid for a overall stronger card.
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And here after popping the top you can see the memory employed is Hynix Model which are 6GHz rated ICs which should be more than enough to feed the GTX 760 model GPU.
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 or even LN2 benchmarking.
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Here you can see first up the Dip switch used to switch between the standard performance OC VBios and the high end LN2 no hold barred VBios. With a simple toggle before booting up you can enable much higher performance capability but be cautious to only use this with far superior cooling as key protections are disabled in the LN2 mode so the cards ability to protect itself can be altered or removed entirely causing damage to the card with insufficient cooling in place.
The V-checkpoints can be seen at the cards edge here and with the connection of the supplied leads you get full access to real time voltage monitoring for the card which enables much better control during benchmarking scenarios.
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|
|GPU||MSI GTX 760 HAWK 2GB Video CardNvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB Video CardNvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB Video CardNvidia GeForce GTX 680 2GB Video CardNvidia GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB Video CardNvidia GeForce GTX 690 4GB Video Card|
|GeForce Drivers||320.14 (GTX 680, 690 and TITAN) 320.18 (GTX 780, 770)320.49 (GTX 760)|
Synthetic Benchmarks & Games
We will use the following applications to benchmark the performance of the MSI GTX 760 HAWK 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 HAWK’s extra performance bump comes to good use here as it easily takes a few steps ahead of the competition and shows itself to be one of the fastest 760′s I have tested to date.
In 3DMark Firestrike and extreme the MSI 760 HAWK once again forges ahead with a strong showing which is not necessarily a surprise here as the units simply has a higher clock.
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 MSI HAWK pulling almost a full 2FPS higher in heaven which is actually very good since the Heaven benchmark is extremely hard on the GPUs we have tested.
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 we see that the HAWK simply pulls some lead on the reference card but the lead is not as large since the game is so hard on the GPU system.
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 760 HAWK gets almost a full FPS out of the box vs a reference clocked model.
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 760 HAWK gets a full 2 FPS bump over the reference.
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 760 HAWK definitely cannot pull a full 30FPS consistently as the load is just too high but the HAWK does gain a little over a full FPS just from the overclock itself. You would be better served with a second card in SLI or possibly even tweaking the settings down a bit.
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 760 HAWK pulls in just barely under 20 FPS at 19.99 Average which means definitely you need a multi card setup or settings will have to be turned down quite a bit to get nice playable frame rates.
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 60 FPS mark for average. The MSI 760 HAWK easily peaks at 3FPS+ past the reference clocked models.
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 760 HAWK pulls over 2FPS average higher than the reference clocked models and easily makes for playable framerates.
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 760 HAWK turned out to be a excellent overclocker, taking the GPU from 1176 Boost clock to 1256 Boost clock which gave the boosted clock of 1359MHz on the 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 I was expecting eclipsed the 7GHz mark and helps make for even better performance from the HAWK model.
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 1.3+GHz core and barely break into the 66C range and with no voltage adjustment as well.
One thing worth noting is that this is likely just a scratch to the surface of an otherwise very talented card as the HAWK edition is ideally made to get beaten on with LN2 cooling and pushing for record smashing benchmarks. So I think there is a lot more here waiting to be opened up under better cooling.
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||31C/72C|
|Nvidia GTX 780||30C/65C|
|Nvidia GTX 770||34C/79C|
|MSI GTX 760 HAWK||30C/66C|
The GK104 GPU while I have sen it be on the Warmer side the Twin Frozr cooler helps to keep heat at basy as even when overclocking and benchmarking past the 1.3GHz mark we barely saw small peaks in thermals hitting 66C..
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 760 HAWK shows that even when using dual 8 pins apparently you can pull far less than a dual 6 pin card as IDLE power consumption is 4 Watts below the reference card which speaks well to the efficiency of the MSI tuning and components.
Our Final Thoughts
MSI has made good cards for quite some time but i really feel like their engineering and agility as a team is just now starting to com to fruition with the upcoming GTX 780 Lightning generating lots of buzz via sneak peeks and things of that nature they are garnering a power in the GPU market that could be a force to be reckoned with.
that being said, by splitting the GPU’s into two divisions for the performance models and having both Gaming and Overclock models was a great choice as it gives more granularity to their offerings and may offer a better value to a simple gamer who doesn’t want some of the frills the OC models hold and the price that comes with them. Also the technology and willingness to collect enthusiasts feedback shown by MSI is a huge plus and something I like to see from a forward thinking company.
The MSI HAWK is a nice benchmarking card just waiting for someone to strap a pot to it to show what its real limits are, I am also happy to see Nvidia loosen their grip up a bit on the voltage controls and adjustments for custom model cards as that’s what this crowd is all about at this level card so I am very excited to see what else MSI has up their sleeve.
As for the HAWK there really isn’t anything I don’t like but you do have to understand the target of the card as this is a benchmarkers card by design that can easily be a gamer as well but if your looking just for a card to game on then I would say you might be better served with a MSI gaming series card as you still get the awesome cooler but a easier price point, however if you are looking for a capable card for your bench table and some subzero fun then the MSI GTX 760 HAWK might be right up your alley.