Best Of The Best: High-End Graphics Card Roundup

MSI N285GTX SuperPipe OC (1,024 MB)

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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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    Top Comments
  • Only one ATi card? What happened to all those OC'd 4890s?
    23
  • Weird test:
    1) Where are the overclocking results?
    2) Bad choice for benchmarks: Too many old DX9 based graphic engines (FEAR 2, Fallout 3, Left4Dead with >100FPS) or Endwar which is limited to 30FPS. Where is Crysis?
    3) 1900x1200 as highest resolution for high-end cards?
    16
  • Ugh, please tell me that The Last Remnant hasnt been added to the benchmark suite.

    And I'm not exactly sure why the writer decided to bench on Endwar instead of World In Conflict. Why is that exactly?

    And despite Quarz2's apparent fanboism, I think HAWX would have been better benched under 10.1 for the ATI cards, and used the highest stable settings instead of dropping off to DX9.
    10
  • Other Comments
  • Only one ATi card? What happened to all those OC'd 4890s?
    23
  • And those HAWX benchmarks look ridiculous. ATi should wipe floor with nvidia with that. Of course you didn't put dx10.1 support on. Bastard...
    8
  • quarzOnly one ATi card? What happened to all those OC'd 4890s?


    These are the same boards that were included in the recent charts update, and are largely contingent on what vendors submit for evaluation. We have a review upcoming comparing Sapphire's new 1 GHz Radeon HD 4890 versus the stock 4890. It'll be up in the next couple of weeks, though.
    1
  • Am i the only one that find this article akward since looking at the tests done on Ati cards on The Last Remnant game makes me wonder what went wrong ... i mean it`s UT3 engine ... why so low performance ?
    4
  • Ugh, please tell me that The Last Remnant hasnt been added to the benchmark suite.

    And I'm not exactly sure why the writer decided to bench on Endwar instead of World In Conflict. Why is that exactly?

    And despite Quarz2's apparent fanboism, I think HAWX would have been better benched under 10.1 for the ATI cards, and used the highest stable settings instead of dropping off to DX9.
    10
  • The EVGA 295 is the stuff gods game with.

    I would love that card. I would have to replace my whole system to work it properly however.
    I want $1500 now... i7 920 (why get better? They all seem to be godly overclockers) and EVGA 295.

    How about a test suit of the EVGA GTX 295 in crossfire for a quad-gpu configuration? I know there's driver issues, but it would be fun to see what it could do regardless. Along with seeing how far Toms can OC the EVGA GTX 295.
    Actually... Toms just needs to do a new system building recommendation roundup. I find them useful personally, and would have used it myself had my cash source had not lost his job...
    -12
  • Weird test:
    1) Where are the overclocking results?
    2) Bad choice for benchmarks: Too many old DX9 based graphic engines (FEAR 2, Fallout 3, Left4Dead with >100FPS) or Endwar which is limited to 30FPS. Where is Crysis?
    3) 1900x1200 as highest resolution for high-end cards?
    16
  • Seems that the cumulative benchmark graphs are going to be a bit skewed if The Last Remnant results are included in there... it's fairly obvious something odd is going on looking at the numbers for that game.
    4
  • Worst article in a long time. Why compare how old games perform on NVIDIA's high end graphic cards? Don't get me wrong i like them but where's all the Atomic stuff from Saphire, Asus and XFX had some good stuff from ATI too. So what.. you just took the reference cards from ATI and tested them? :| That is just wrong.
    9
  • WOW what a piece of s********** is this """"""review"""""" Noobidia pay good in this days.
    -7
  • ok i tried playing The Last Remnant on my comp with my 4870x2 and it failed hardcore >.< the game itself is ridiculously boring too. sooo why is it added to the benching list?? *shakes head* makes me sad...
    -1
  • I find it a lack this tests do not include the 3DMark Vantage suite.
    Ok, there aren't many games using DX10, but some very good ones do !.

    Thats the reason i've switched to vista.

    And with me enough people to justify a proper DX10 benchmark.
    1
  • No mention of the GTX 285 2GB version? I'm planning on picking up three of these for a tri-SLI Core i7 build, all water-cooled and overclocked.
    -6
  • well i'm running an factory overclocked gtx285. only because i like solid drivers and DAAMIT doesn't seem to be able to provide these consistently. thats been my biggest problem in picking up an ATI card.

    This review however is terrible. the benchmark selection is dated if nothing else. even toms other reviews of recent have used better benchmarks than this.
    -9
  • This benchmark is not fair for Ati !!!
    10
  • Lets see some 3dmarkVantage pls
    3
  • Like car review magazine (like the one my friend is working for), I THINK they only have cards that were submitted to them and (not sure if this is the case with Tom's) they're only lended for a limited amount of days.

    Although I'm not very satisfied (coz lack of ATI card in your possession), I thank you for the review with Fallout, Left 4 Dead and Last Remnant with DX9. Yup I'm still using XP coz the bog-down symptom with Vista is too noticeable for my rig.

    1920x1200 as minimum threshold? Cool, as my 23" is limted to 1920x1080 anyway :P
    0
  • I think you guys should cut Tino Kreiss some slack this I believe his first publication? Saying things like "this is the worst article I've read in a long time" doesn't actually help. You can blame the choice of benchmarks suites on sites manager/editor not the author as he only does what he is told to write. So with that in mind............Cangelini your fired.

    I am curious though, HAWX is a game sponsored by ATI so why is the HD4890 getting it's backside tanned by the GTX275? It's not just a few FPS behind either the difference is quite remarkable and yes I do realise the BFG GTX275 is overclocked but it's not overclocked by a lot.
    1
  • JeanLucCangelini your fired.


    Perhaps you'll hire me as a copy editor for your posts instead? ;-)

    In all seriousness, Tino has been with Tom's German office for a long time. I've asked the staff responsible for testing there to drop in and provide some feedback on the products and benchmarks used here.

    Best,
    Chris
    0
  • How lame this article is... i was always wondering why they don't use full potential of gpu, if ATI is capable of using DX10.1 (and game uses that technology), why not use it. it might not be fair for nvidia but ffs, i believe that this kind of review should show all potential of products.
    Shame for TH!
    9