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).

  • Only one ATi card? What happened to all those OC'd 4890s?
  • 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...
  • cangelini
    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.
  • ohim
    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 ?
  • curnel_D
    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.
  • anamaniac
    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...
  • 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?
  • EQPlayer
    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.
  • armistitiu
    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.
  • pulasky
    WOW what a piece of s********** is this """"""review"""""" Noobidia pay good in this days.