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MSI employs a somewhat unusual concept with its Hybrid Freezer. The card is both passively and actively cooled. The fan doesn’t throttle down under mild loads, but is completely deactivated in 2D applications. The card remains silent until the graphics processor (GPU) has heated up the card enough to trigger the fan.
The card is cool at the start, and with the GPU temperature at 40 °C, the fan is completely turned off for complete silence. Without a load in 2D applications, it takes about 15 minutes to heat up the graphics chip to 79 °C, which causes the 70 mm fan to switch on. At 40.7 dB(A) you can hear a faint whirring. It takes about 4 minutes to cool the GPU down to 39 °C, at which point the fan turns off and the card is completely silent again.
These numbers were taken from an open test platform. With better airflow through the cooling solution, or when under different GPU loads (like when you’re watching videos), the times for heating and cooling will naturally vary. Because the bottom of the cooler is open and the fan sits in the middle, a maximum of only 50% of hot air is blown out of the housing; the rest is recirculated inside the PC housing.
In 3D applications, a lot more heat is created. The fan turns on a lot sooner, but stays at a constant noise level of 40.7 dB(A) which is still pretty quiet. Note that when the fan stops, you cannot rely on the information GPU-Z displays because this tool gives different values for fan speed even if it’s not turning.
The GeForce 9600 GT (G94) supports Shader Model 4.0 and DirectX 10. MSI equipped our test sample with 1 GB of DDR3 graphics memory, which doesn’t really give you any advantages at resolutions of up to 1920x1200 pixels without anti-aliasing (AA). When you have anti-aliasing on, the performance of the graphics chip falls below playable levels, although you can measure an increase in performance from 5 to 7.5 fps in Crysis due to the large memory. If you want to run two GeForce 9600 GT cards in SLI mode, you should go with the 1 GB version, as the larger memory ceiling has more of an effect on performance due to the higher GPU power.
The standard clock speeds for the 9600 GT are 650 MHz for the GPU, memory at 900 MHz, and shader clocks at 1,625 MHz. MSI sets the GPU speed at 700 MHz, the shader speed at 1,680 MHz, and the memory speed remains at 900 MHz. The clock speeds are set in the BIOS and therefore can be used with any driver version. In our test, this lightly overclocked card performs 4% better than the standard card. If you want to overclock the memory and shader even more, you can gain another 4% with a 3 GHz CPU. The memory chips are not cooled by the cooler, so if you do overclock, you should keep an eye on chip temperatures.