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MSI N560GTX-Ti HAWK Graphic Card Review

Author: Josh Walrath
Manufacturer: MSI Computers
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The N560GTX-Ti HAWK

The HAWK series are not designed to be “over-the-top” as the higher end Lightning cards are, but they are designed to definitely one-up the reference boards.  MSI redesigns the PCB to improve signaling, power distribution, and component placement.  The next steps are to address power delivery and thermal control.

The Twin Frozr III cooling system is used, which features a whole load of aluminum fins attached to a nickel plated, copper base.  There are four heatpipes radiating from the base, two of which are the infamous “Superpipes” that are 8 mm wide.  Twin 80 mm “propeller blade” fans are specially designed to increase overall airflow while maintaining the same acoustic signature of the previous generation of fans used on Frozr cards.  Part of the airflow is exhausted out of the back of the card, but the majority of it escapes into the case.  This so far has not been a huge issue for MSI, as these cards are typically so efficient at cooling the card that they actually seem to lower CPU and case temperatures.  The final piece is the “form-in-one” heatsink which covers the memory and VRM components to help keep them cool.  The downward draft of the fans also helps to cool both heatsinks, as well as the other exposed components throughout the board.

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The bundle is right about what you would expect for a product at this price range.

The board features twin DVI-I outputs, as well as a mini-HDMI.  Triple screens are supported, but two cards must be used to get this functionality to work.  The GTX 560 does not support triple SLI, as it only has the one connector at the top of the board.  There is a BIOS switch which toggles silent operation, while the other further unlocks the card and spins up the fans.  Another switch on the back unlocks the upper limit of voltages of the card, so that LN2 folks can lay hands on it for some records (if so desired).  This is certainly not something to mess with unless the user knows exactly what they are doing.

The anti-warping bar across the top, as well as the form-in-one heatsink, keep the board from deforming when mounted in a case.  This is something I can appreciate.  I have had a few cards through the years that have warped badly enough to actually break the solder on some components, and the board stopped working.  The board is powered by 2 x PCI-E six pin plugs, which should combine with the PCI-E connector to give a total of 225 watts of peak power.  The board itself is rated for around 180 watts, so there is some leeway here.

There are three voltage monitoring points on the board, and the bundle includes three voltage probe plugs to fit in said monitoring points.  The board also maintains the Military Class style of component choice.  Solid caps populate the board, as well as the higher quality chokes, and the copper-base FETs.  The board itself features an 8+1 PWM array for supplying the GPU and memory with power.  The base reference 560 Ti has a 4+1 setup.  A few of the other higher end boards from Asus and Gigabyte feature 6+1 phases.  In theory this should make for a cooler running card with greater overall stability when the GPU is pulling more current.  The board also has the ability to turn on and off the different power phases, so when the GPU is in a low power state, not all phases are being utilized.  During light load, the board activates as many phases as it thinks it needs.  The card is also fairly unique in that it allows the user to adjust the voltage on the GPU, memory, and PCI-E connection.  MSI Afterburner is needed to complete this, as well as some ini file changes to uncover that functionality.

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The board does feature a classy look and thankfully the cooler works as advertised.

The video card is overclocked out of the box by a hefty amount.  The stock speed is 822 MHz, but the 560-Ti HAWK comes screaming out of the box at 950 MHz.  The memory did not a get a bump from the reference speeds though.  It is sitting at 4.2 GTPS, but of course the user can overclock the memory once they get grubby mitts on it.  The framebuffer is still at 1GB.

Inside the Box

Bundles are not what we used to see, but MSI still packs in some good extras.  Currently the HAWK comes with a free game, and in my case it is “Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light”.  Not exactly flying off the shelves, but it is better than a swift kick to the posterior.  The box itself is nice and sturdy.  The inner box is double walled, and the video card is protected by a good amount of foam and a plastic cover on the top.

Included are the three voltage leads, two 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCI-E power connectors, mini-HDMI to HDMI connector, DVI to DB-15 (VGA) connector, the free game coupon, quick start manual, full manual, and a driver CD.

June 12, 2011 | 03:59 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

this review lacks substance , compairing only a few cards against the MSI card does not give the reader the ability to make a choice if considering buying this card . Like how does it stack up against a standard 560TI ? Or how does it do against older cards . Thats why I never bother much reading the Reviews at PcPer .

June 12, 2011 | 10:53 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

There are some advantages and disadvantages for having a whole slew of video cards for comparison, unfortunately the disadvantages start to overwhelm the advantages once the amount of cards starts to increase. The primary issues that we face are that of time, DirectX level, and changes in performance due to driver adjustments and patches to individual applications. As a reviewer I already spend about 20 to 40 hours on a single review, depending on what product it is.

Benchmarking the cards we have takes up most that time. You are probably thinking, "Why not just leave your setup the same so the numbers and driver revisions match?" Some publications do this, unfortunately we have seen some significant advances in performance due to software optimizations that have changed the competitive landscape between manufacturers. A good example of this are some of the latest Catalyst driver revisions which made products like the HD 6950, which upon introduction was slower than products like the GTX 480, suddenly wake up and outperform that card.

So as a balance, I try to pick and choose the competition for any one card based on what I have available, what price points we are looking at, and what seems to have a lot of interest from our readership (via email and forum posts). I also try to make sure they share the same level of DX compliance. Sure, it would be interesting to see how a GTX 285 would compare against a 560 Ti, but then we see an increase in workload to make sure we match up the DirectX settings... which in most cases would disable things like tessellation in the games that utilize it, or optimized DX11 pathways such as in BF:BC2. There just is not a good way to go about this in a timely manner, and things get messy quickly. Btw, a GTX 285 is slower than a GTX 460, while a standard GTX 560 Ti is about 20% faster than the 460... and the MSI 560Ti here is about 7% faster than a stock clocked 560Ti.

We try to cover as best we can the majority of bases, but oftentimes things get left out due to time constraints on our part.  Keeping a good balance in reviews is hard, and invariably someone is disappointed in our coverage of a product.

June 14, 2011 | 02:33 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I can understand your point but if Reviews at PcPer are going to compete with other major players on the web then Your going to have to adapt and add more hardware to compair with the hardware your reviewing. Just look at any of the other major players reviews and you will soon see that Your view point needs to change if if Your ever going to compete with these sites and bring PcPer review up to a top notch site.

June 15, 2011 | 07:11 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

As a counterpoint to that, if I offer the same type of review as "the big guys" what do I have that differentiates my writing from theirs? Personally when I go to Tom and Anand's, and am greeted by graphs that span 20 products, a lot gets skipped over. It really seems like a lot of noise to me, and I know I am not the only one who pays attention for the first couple of graphs... but then just skip over most of the rest. Unlike reviews like HardOCP, who only bench a couple of cards... but bench them very thoroughly and have some really tremendous insights into actual performance in realworld situations.

I try to take a middle approach to those, and offer a good selection of competing products, yet not overwhelming the reader with so much data that the true advantages and disadvantages of a card are lost because of the sheer amount of data being thrown at the reader.

October 12, 2011 | 07:54 PM - Posted by Mark Harry (not verified)

Anonymous can always go elsewhere to get his headache, I love Tom's and Anand, but overload comes to mind. You guys answered every question about this product and I think I'm buying it since I only have 10.5 inches of space. By the way I'm watching Ryan's stream crash live on TWIT, love you guys.

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