Review: Slight overclock and super quiet cooling
We got the chance to test MSI’s N285GTX Super Pipe OC graphics card, and MSI claims that this card should be super quiet. The box has “Dual Fan” and “OC Edition” written on it, and while that’s not quite what you’d call impressive, we were quite intrigued with the “Super Pipe” technology and what’s it about.
The back of the box reveals that MSI ended up using thicker, 8mm heatpipes and MSI claims up to 90% better heat transfer than traditional 6mm or 4mm heatpipes. In our honest opinion, we’d call this card Super Pipe mostly because of the fact that the card packs 5 heatpipes rather than for the diameter, as only two outer heatpipes are 8mm. What’s important though is that the design works great and this is one of the quietest card’s we’ve tested so far.
As the writings on the box say, MSI put its N285GTX Super Pipe OC card in its Gamer Series, and note that Geforce GTX 285 with its GT200 graphics processor is currently the fastest single-GPU beast around. MSI also went that extra mile and included the Tomb Raider Underworld game with its card, so that users can immediately get a taste of the sheer muscle this card packs.
As far as overclocking goes, there’s not much to say here – “OC Edition” sign on the box means a 32MHz overclock for the GPU, an 8MHz (16MHz effectively) overclock for the memory and shaders left unchanged from reference 1476MHz. While the reference core runs at 648MHz, SuperPipe’s core runs at 680MHz and its memory at 2500MHz, compared to reference memory speed of 2484MHz. You can check out all the important specs on the GPUZ screenshot below.
You should know by now that Geforce GTX 285 is basically a refresh of the GTX 280, as both cards use the GT200 graphics processor but unlike the GTX280’s 65nm GPU, the GTX285’s GPU is built in more advanced 55nm process. The shader and ROP count are still the same – 240 shaders and 32 ROPs, but it’s the clocks that changed and it brought about the name change. So, the GTX 285 is faster and more efficient, as it performs better with same or lower consumption.
GTX 285/280 cards have 1024MB of memory which on the GTX 285, as we’ve mentioned before runs at 1242MHz (2484MHz effectively), whereas the GTX 280’s runs at 1107MHz (2214MHz effectively).
The reference GTX 285 card uses dual-slot cooling which does a good job and isn’t too loud. As far as the “golden silence” goes however, you can’t compare it to MSI’s N285GTX Super Pipe OC, but MSI’s design isn’t without flaws either. The reference dual-slot cooler covers the card’s face and pushes the air outside the case. MSI’s design allows for only a fraction of heat to be pushed out of the case whereas the rest stays in the case. This however shouldn’t be a problem if the airflow inside your case is adequate.
Noise levels are an important thing to consider when buying a graphics card, and we must admit we really liked MSI’s N285GTX Super Pipe OC cooling.
Inside the MSI-branded brushed aluminum frame you’ll find two small and quiet fans.
A glance at N285 GTX Super Pipe from any side reveals some new and interesting details, particularly the method of implementing heatpipes.
Heatpipes are the rails resembling guides on pinball machines and you can see them on the photo below. They hug the heatsink and help it release the heat as fast as possible.
Heatpipes go from the heat source – the GPU, all the way to the furthest points on the heatsink routing the heat to be released off the aluminum fins. Efficiency and silence are the result of using 5 heatpipes with a large heatsink. As we’ve mentioned before, the 8mm heatpipes are the longest and stretch to the furthest points on the heatsink, helping in even heat distribution. Thanks to such large dissipation surface the fans don’t have to spin fast, and the end result is silence.
The memory and power regulators are covered with a heatspreader, also cooled by the fan.
The memory comes from Hynix, and it’s rated at 1.3GHz, leaving headroom from MSI’s set speed of 1250MHz.
The card is powered via two 6-pin power connectors.
The I/O panel features two dual-link DVI outs and an S-video out. You can use the DVI-to-HDMI dongle to bring video to your HDTV, but if you want to route video and audio together via one cable, you’ll have to bring the audio to the card’s SPDIF in from your motherboard’s/soundcard’s SPDIF out.
Motherboard: MSI P45D3 Platinum ( Provided by: MSI );
Processor: Intel Core 2 QX9770 Extreme edition at 3.6GHz ( Provided by: Intel );
Memory: Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24 ( Provided by: Corsair);
HDD: WD VelociRaptor 300G 10,000RPM ( Provided by: SmoothCreation );
Driver: AMD 9-4_vista32_win7_32_dd_ccc_wdm_enu.exe
Vista 32 SP1
MSI’s card runs 30MHz faster than the reference card, and it results in slightly higher scores.
All the games are playable even at the highest 2560x1600 resolution with antialiasing and anisotropic filters on and detail settings at maximum.
Left 4 Dead
World in Conflict
Overclocking the N285GTX Super Pipe OC card depends on the GPU cooling, and our highest overclock to 740MHz required fans running at maximum RPM. Default fan RPM couldn’t muster more than 718MHz. The main question here is whether you want to sacrifice the silence for some additional muscle. The memory did well with our overclocking, and we managed to push it by as much as 130MHz (260MHz effectively).
Overclocking resulted in 8% better scores in FarCry 2 at all of the four tested resolutions.
MSI N285 GTX Super Pipe OC isn’t quite what you’d call cool while gaming, but at the same time it’s far from dangerous levels. The reference GTX 285 is only 1-2°C hotter, but MSI’s card is completely silent unlike the reference card. When the fans are set to run at maximum RPM on MSI’s card, the GPU temperatures don’t exceed 69°C.
MSI card’s consumption is good, and it consumes slightly more than the GTX 275 during operation. In idle mode both cards consume about the same (+/-2%).
MSI N285GTX Super Pipe OC comes with non-reference cooling, and it found its way place in the card’s name as well. Basically it’s a cooler with two 8mm heatpipes, dubbed SuperPipe by MSI, and it enables faster heat transfer to the heatsink. The cooler is dual slot and has two small fans which stay silent even in 3D mode. Core temperatures are slightly lower than on the reference cards, but it’s the silent operation that sets this card apart from the pack. If you crave lower temperatures that won’t be a problem either, but know that it will make your card a bit louder.
Although the core is factory overclocked to 680MHz, shader clocks were left unchanged. The memory could be considered as non-overclocked as well, as it’s only 8MHz faster than the reference 1242MHz.
The card comes with Tomb Raider Underworld gift game, which is a nice touch and should make this card a bit more appealing. Note that Geforce GTX 285 is the fastest single-GPU card on the market, and MSI’s slightly overclocked N285 GTX SuperPipe OC produces slightly better results than those scored by the reference card. Additional overclocking to 740MHz however, boosts the results by about 8%.
The N285GTX SuperPipe OC’s €322,- price point seems justified when taking into account that the reference card is about €290. The card packs non-reference cooling and comes with a gift game, so if you want the fastest single-GPU card but at the same time prefer quiet operation, then look no further than MSI’s N285GTX SuperPipe OC card.