MSI GTX 670 Power Edition: When Reference is Not Reference
Spicing up the GTX 670
The Power Edition graphics card series from MSI is a relatively new addition to its lineup. The Power Edition often mimics that of the higher-end Lightning series, but at a far lower price (and perhaps a smaller feature set). This allows MSI to split the difference between the reference class boards and the high end Lightning GPUs.
Doing this allows users a greater variety of products to choose from, and to better tailor users' purchases by their needs and financial means. Not everyone wants to pay $600 for a GTX 680 Lightning, but what if someone was able to get similar cooling, quality, and overclocking potential for a much lower price? This is what MSI has done with one of its latest Power Edition cards.
The GTX 670 Power Edition
The NVIDIA GTX 670 cards have received accolades throughout the review press. It is a great combination of performance, power consumption, heat production, and price. It certainly caused AMD a great amount of alarm, and it hurriedly cut prices on the HD 7900 series of cards in response. The GTX 670 is a slightly cut-down version of the full GTX 680, and it runs very close to the clock speed of its bigger brother. In fact, other than texture and stream unit count, the cards are nearly identical.
The GTX 670 is, in fact, comprised of 1344 CUDA cores (down from the 680’s 1536) and 112 Texture units (down from 120). ROP count stays at 32 and the 2GB of memory on the 256-bit bus runs at a blistering 1.5 GHz (6 GHz effective). For essentially $100 less than a GTX 680, a user will receive about 90% of the performance (depending on the title) of the full blown GTX 680. These cards were released some months after the initial GTX 680, and demand for them has been impressive. With this demand we are now seeing more aggressive designs based on the GTX 670.
The GTX 670 Power Edition is an interesting beast. Unlike some of the earlier Power Editions, which featured de-tuned designs still based on the Lightning boards, this looks to be a slightly modified reference design. It has a slightly beefier power delivery system which takes the draw from around 100 amps to 125 amps max. TDP is listed as 200 watts, but through the use of overclocking and tweaking it can get closer to the 225 watts delivered by the dual 6 pin PCI-E power connections.
Twin Frozr IV cooling technology is used with this board, and it looks nearly identical to the Lightning and HAWK series using TF-IV. One major difference is that the card uses 80 mm fans rather than the larger 100 mm units on the top end Lightning series. This will slightly diminish cooling performance, but when we consider the conservative 200 watts TDP of the part, it is certainly not holding the design back. The actual heatsink itself is large and cools the board and chip quite effectively.
The video outputs are very nice here compared to some of the latest AMD cards. It features dual link DVI (one DVI-I and the other DVI-D), DisplayPort, and HDMI outputs. AMD’s latest cards only feature a single dual-link DVI port on its boards, which is problematic for users wanting to run non-DisplayPort enabled monitors over 1920x1200 resolutions. Those inexpensive Korean 27” IPS (which we recently reviewed) monitors which only have DVI inputs certainly come to mind. If a user wants to go with a three monitor Surround setup, then they will need to limit themselves to 1920x1200 with a $25 active DP to DVI adapter, or purchase the $100 powered active DP to dual link DVI adapter above 1920x1200.
The card is manufactured using the Military Class III components that MSI has made somewhat famous. These are higher quality hi-c caps, poly caps, and chokes. The choice of components should insure that they last longer, and have slightly higher capabilities which should help improve any overclocking ability. The combination of higher specification components combined with a slightly more robust power delivery system–topped off with an above average cooling solution–should make this a highly overclockable board.
MSI has added another wrinkle to this equation. NVIDIA previously did not allow or support over-volting the GPU and its components with its GTX 600 series of cards. With the PE and the latest version of the MSI Afterburner 2.3 software, users can, in fact, increase the voltage on the GTX 670. This should allow for some higher overclocking of what was previously still a pretty good part. With the non-voltage way of overclocking still working well for many users, this extra feature should give some nice numbers for those really wishing to push their card.
The card itself is overclocked right out of the box already. A standard GTX 670 has a base clock of 915 MHz and a boost clock up to 980 MHz. In the vast majority of applications, the clock would stay pretty steady at 980 MHz. By adjusting the power range of the card so it can pull more watts, these cards could easily hit GTX 680+ speeds. In this particular case, MSI was pretty aggressive off the bat. The GTX 670 PE has a base clock of 1019 MHz (GTX 680's base is 1006) with a max boost of 1079 (the GTX 680 features upwards of 1056 officially). This is a meaningful jump from the base clocks featured on a reference GTX 670.
These things add up to what looks like a pretty nifty part. The best thing about it is the price. The GTX 670 Power Edition is not all that much more expensive than a standard GTX 670. It retails for around $429 US, but carries a $25 MIR. This brings it perilously close to the $399 MSRP of a reference GTX 670.