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MSI N285GTX SuperPipe OC (1,024 MB)

Best Of The Best: High-End Graphics Card Roundup

To see all pictures, please click on the photo of the test card below to access our photo gallery.

When you've been testing graphics cards for years, real surprises are rare. But with its GeForce GTX 285 SuperPipe OC, MSI manages to pull a rabbit from its hat. As we removed this card from its anti-static bag, we couldn't help but notice its stunning good looks. What makes this card so attractive is its many long, thick, and shiny heatpipes; dual fans, metal cover, and numerous aluminum heatsinks festooned above the chips and memory components. It must be a combination of shiny objects and techno-lust, because this card invokes Gollum's "Preciousss."

Of course, we also approached this card with high expectations of its cooling and graphics performance in light of its SuperPipe technology and overclocked frequencies. As soon as this device powered up, we were struck by a second pleasant observation: the fans are nearly inaudible when the card runs in 2D mode. We had to disable our test monitor when measuring sound levels because its noise level was louder than that of the card, which was no louder than 36.1 dB(A). At idle, temperatures hovered around 42 degrees Celsius, which were about three degrees cooler than Nvidia's reference cooler on the GeForce GTX 285. Under heavy 3D load, temperatures climbed to 87 degrees Celsius, which was actually two degrees hotter than the Nvidia reference cooler.

However, the extra heat does mean the card is also quieter (for what that's worth). While the reference fan model blasts out 51.4 dB(A), the SuperPipe OC hums along at a mere 38.7 dB(A). In other words, even the water-cooled MSI GeForce GTX 280 HydroGen gets some serious competition from this air-cooled card.

When it comes to clock speed, MSI doesn't push things as far as it probably could, leaving lots of room (in our opinion) for enthusiast overclocking. The standard values here are 648 MHz for the GPU, 1,476 MHz for the shaders, and 2 x 1,242 MHz for the graphics memory. MSI nudges these numbers to 680 MHz (GPU), 1,476 (shaders), and 2 x 1,250 MHz (GDDR3 RAM). The "OC" in the product name may stand for overclocking, but the board really is quite tame. In comparison, Zotac pushes these limits further with its AMP Edition running 2.6% faster, thanks to more aggressive settings. The MSI GeForce GTX 285 SuperPipe OC shares its position with the company's GeForce GTX 280 OC HydroGen, because both deliver very similar overall performance results.

The graphics card supports DirectX 10, PhysX, and CUDA. Its PCB is 10.5" (26.8 cm) long. And the card requires two six-pin PCIe power connectors, both of which attach to its rear edge. As with the reference version, this SuperPipe model with dual fans covers two expansion slots.

MSI's retail package includes Tomb Raider Underworld, a cable splitter for power, an HDMI adapter, as well as S/PDIF, component, and S-Video cables. The I/O bracket sports two dual-link DVI ports and a video output. In desktop mode, the card clocks at 300/100 MHz (GPU/graphics RAM).

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