From the HD 5770 HAWK to Now
MSI hits the scene with their own version of the AMD HD 6950. This features the Twin Frozr II cooling solution and has a price point slightly above where most reference HD 6950s sit. When combined with MSI's Afterburner software, this card becomes an interesting tool in a gamer's arsenal. We find out how it runs when combined with the Catalyst 11.4 Preview Driver, which delivers some significant improvements in performance for the Cayman family of chips.Last year I reviewed the MSI HD 5770 HAWK video card, and I came away impressed by the engineering that MSI brought to the table. The card was quiet, it was efficient, it didn’t build up any significant levels of heat, and it was pretty affordable as compared to a bone stock HD 5770 based on the reference design. The board could also overclock. It was a budget enthusiast board that wouldn’t empty the pocket, but still give a lot of DX11 bang for the buck.
Then on the other hand we had the MSI HD 5870 Lightning. This was a card that had a lot of promise. This particular card had a custom PCB design with high end power circuitry, quality components, and the TwinFrozr fan design. All of this came to naught. The board would not overclock any further than the reference HD 5870 that we had seen for some months before, and in fact the board appeared to pull a little bit more power at the same speeds as a reference board. This was almost the exact polar opposite of the HD 5770 HAWK.
The product I am looking at today is an interesting hybrid from MSI. MSI has taken the stock HD 6950 reference PCB, populated it with slightly higher rated components (though not up to their “Military Class” standards), and put on the Twin Frozr II cooling solution. This is more in line with the reference version of the HD 6950, but the addition of better cooling and advanced fan profiles gives it a boost above the reference, without going into the stratified air of producing another “Lightning” type of product. This has allowed MSI to get a differentiated product out in fairly short order, and still give consumers something extra to potentially make their buying decision on.
What all that extra power gets you
Just a couple of weeks back AMD released the new Radeon HD 6990 4GB graphics card to world and it was easily crowned the king of the GPU world. With performance that beat out AMD's own Radeon HD 5970 and walked past the single GPU based GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB from NVIDIA, the HD 6990 offered the most performance in the smallest space you could buy - and for a hefty $699 MSRP.The Leftovers
Just a couple of weeks back AMD released the new Radeon HD 6990 4GB graphics card to world and it was easily crowned the king of the GPU world. With performance that beat out AMD's own Radeon HD 5970 and walked past the single GPU based GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB from NVIDIA, the HD 6990 offered the most performance in the smallest space you could buy - and for a hefty $699 MSRP. (Note that they are selling for more than that as of today...)
One of the interesting features of the card was a unique hardware switch on the top of the card that is used to switch between standard clock rates of 830 MHz and a 375 watt power rating and a higher voltage, higher clock rate along with the ability to breach the 375 watt limit set by the PCI Express standard.
Along with the move from 830 MHz core clock to a 880 MHz core clock (which by itself wouldn't really be notable), the HD 6990 cards move from a voltage of 1.175v stock to a slightly improved 1.2v for additional overclocking headroom. In conjunction with this, the PowerTune implementation (which uses hardware to limit maximum power consumption levels) gets tweaked to allow for more power consumption. This is good news for overclockers again.
Here is my quote from the original HD 6990 story:
Unfortunately, because of some time constraints, we didn't get to play around with this overclocked setting originally but today, we rectify that situation.
In our story today you will see a collection of benchmarks, all run at the 2560x1600 resolution that actually stresses the HD 6990, comparing the default 830/1200 speeds to the automatically overclocked settings of 880/1250 that result from flipping that overclocking switch. Though I realize that not many users have 30-in displays with 2560x1600 screens, the higher pixel count should also represent performance scaling and changes on multi-display Eyefinity configurations.
After those tests, you will see our experiences with additional overclocking attempts through AMD's Overdrive software in the Catalyst Control Center.
Our testing configuration was the same as all of our recent GPU articles:
- Testing Configuration
- ASUS P6X58D Premium Motherboard
- Intel Core i7-965 @ 3.33 GHz Processor
- 3 x 2GB Corsair DDR3-1333 MHz Memory
- Western Digital VelociRaptor 600GB HDD
- Corsair Professional Series 1200w PSU
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 15, 2011 - 05:38 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Fremont, CA (March 15, 2010) - ASUS, the world’s number #1 motherboard manufacturer and leading innovator in graphics cards, is proud to introduce NVIDIA’s latest technology, the GTX550 Ti Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) that features superior DirectX 11 performance in its class and solid tessellation performance. The ASUS GTX550 Ti offers cutting edge DirectX 11 game performance by providing the graphics horsepower and video bandwidth needed to experience games in high resolution. This same power allows users to enjoy ultra sharp high-definition Blu-ray movies as well as eye-popping stereoscopic 3D* performance in games and movies.
Redefining Mainstream Gaming Performance.
At the heart of the ASUS GTX550 Ti DirectCU are 192 CUDA cores along with a refined design offering substantial increases in performance while running cooler and quieter than previous generation products. This is allows the GTX550 Ti to have an amazing price to performance ratio as well as great performance to watt numbers. Compared to the previous generation GTS 450, the GTX 550 Ti provides on average 28% faster performance and 20% more performance per watt.
Cutting Edge Microsoft DirectX 11 and NVIDIA Technology Support
ASUS’ GTX550 Ti DirectCU also offers support for the latest in immersive gaming technologies such as DirectX 11 and Tessellation. In addition to these cutting edge graphics technologies the GTX550 Ti Direct CU supports NVIDIA 3D Vision™, NVIDIA Surround™, PhysX™ and CUDA™ technologies. ASUS’ GTX550 Ti DirectCU additionally offers amazing scaling and a superior gaming experience by pushing on-screen resolution and image quality to new performance levels with NVIDIA SLI™ technology by combining multiple NVIDIA graphics solutions in an SLI-Certified motherboard such as ASUS’ Award Winning P8P67 Series. Rounding out the experience is support for NVIDIA CUDA allowing for advanced GPGPU or GPU Compute functionality with outstanding performance allowing for a whole other level of usage outside of gaming and multimedia enjoyment.
Great Overclocking Capabilities for a Superb Performance Experience
The GTX550 Ti continues in the tradition of recent NVIDIA GPU’s in offering a great overclocking experience for increased frame rate performance. ASUS takes this further with specialized designs and implementations such as the Award Winning Voltage Tweak that allows for on-the-fly adjustment to GPU Core voltage to extend overclocking abilities. ASUS GTX550 Ti DirectCU cards apply award-winning DirectCU cooling with all-copper heat pipes touching the GPU core directly for improved heat transference - running up to 20%* cooler than reference designs under full load. DirectCU has been designed to not only ensure cool operation but quiet operation under load meeting the needs of gamers with a design superior to the reference cards.
Super Alloy Power VRM delivery technology offers the best in high current, high quality and clean power to ensure strong performance and stability when overclocking. Used in chokes, capacitors, and MOSFETs, Super Alloy Power technology boosts graphics card performance by 15%*, lowers operating temperatures by 35°C*, and lengthens lifespan by 2.5 times* when compared to reference designs.
ASUS extends the already high performance of the GTX550 Ti by also releasing a pre-overclocked graphics card in our award winning TOP and ULTIMATE series. ASUS uses specially-selected and qualified TOP GPUs clocked at 975MHz and 1015MHz vs the core clock of 900MHz on reference designs. This ensures users an even better out of the box experience from ASUS.
Smart Doctor with Voltage Tweak!– Superior Controls and Maximum Overclocking
ASUS continues the tradition of offering superior graphics tweaking technology with our Award Winning Smart Doctor and Voltage Tweak technology. Users can easily make adjustments to options such as the fan speeds by adjusting a fixed value or defining fan ramp speeds based on temperature. In addition for users looking for the highest levels of performance Voltage Tweak is offered allowing out of the box adjustment of the GPU core voltage designed to increase overclocking headroom. Enthusiasts can take this even further by using the Overclocking Range Enhancement option for class leading overclocks.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 15, 2011 - 11:47 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
It is nice to see NVIDIA refreshing its lower end, the GTS 450 never really shone among AMDs lower end cards so the arrival of the GTX 550 seems like a good thing. Even with such an odd memory configuration, a 192-bit memory interface split into three controllers, two with 256MB of memory available and the third with 512MB, the performance is decent and sits a little slower than what you would expect from a 768MB GTX460 and better than an HD5770 or the older GTS 450. The problem, as The Tech Report points out, is the price. At a $149 price point it is not competing with the HD5770 or GTS 450, at that price you can find an HD6850 or a GTX460 with a full 1GB of RAM and both cards are significantly faster than the new GTX 550.
"At $149, is Nvidia's latest DirectX 11 GPU a compelling step up from cheaper solutions? And could it be a nearly-as-good step down from pricier ones like the GeForce GTX 460 1GB and Radeon HD 6850? TR investigates."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 550 Ti: Coming Up Short At $150 @ AnandTech
- Gainward GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB Golden Sample @ Tweaktown
- ASUS GeForce GTX 550Ti DirectCU TOP 1GB DDR5 DX11 Video Card Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- Nvidia GTX 550 Ti (MSI vs Palit vs Zotac) Review @ t-break
- ASUS GTX550 Ti DirectCU TOP Review @ OCC
- MSI N550GTX Ti 1GB Review @ OCC
- NVidia GeForce GTX550 Ti Video Card Review @ Ninjalane
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti Roundup @ Neoseeker
- MSI GeForce GTX 550 Ti Cyclone II @ Overclockers.com
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB Review @ Hardware Canucks
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti Launch Review (Palit and Zotac) @ HardwareHeaven
- ASUS GeForce GTX 550 Ti Direct CU 1 GB @ techPowerUp
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti Roundup: ASUS, EVGA, Gigabyte & MSI @ Hardware Canucks
- ZOTAC GeForce GTX 550 Ti AMP! Edition @ techPowerUp
- Palit GeForce GTX 550 Ti Sonic 1 GB @ techPowerUp
- MSI GeForce GTX 550 Ti Cyclone II 1 GB @ techPowerUp
- Gigabyte Geforce GTX 560 Ti @ Funky Kit
- MSI GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB Cyclone II @ Tweaktown
- ASUS ENGTX580 and EAH6970 DirectCU II @ [H]ard|OCP
- MSI R6870 Hawk @ [H]ard|OCP
Another Fermi debuts
It is the inevitable march of technology - we see a new GPU released at the high-end of the price spectrum and some subset of it will find its way to the low-end. The slow drizzle of cards in this series started with the 580 and 570, based on the same Fermi architecture as the GTX 400 cards (with some improvements in efficiency), continued with the GTX 560 Ti in January and with the GTX 550 Ti that we are seeing today.Introduction
It is the inevitable march of technology - we see a new GPU released at the high-end of the price spectrum and some subset of it will find its way to the low-end. It could be merely days apart, or it could be months, as we see here with the GTX 580 release coming way back in November of 2010. The slow drizzle of cards in this series started with the 580 and 570, based on the same Fermi architecture as the GTX 400 cards (with some improvements in efficiency), continued with the GTX 560 Ti in January and with the GTX 550 Ti that we are seeing today.
But does this new low cost option from NVIDIA stack up well against competition from AMD or from their own previous designs? Let's first find out the basic specifications of the GPU and dive into the benchmarks.
The GeForce GTX 550 Ti GPU
The GeForce GTX 550 Ti (previously dubbed GF116) continues with the trend NVIDIA has perfected of taking large GPUs and shrinking them down to fit into different price segments, in this case the ~$150 mark. While the GTX 580 is a beast of silicon with 512 shader cores and a 384-bit memory bus to keep it fed, the GTX 560 Ti was shrunk to 384 cores and a more manageable 256-bit memory bus.
The 116 watt power consumption of the GTX 550 Ti comes in at 10 watts higher than what the reference GTS 450 cards were rated at.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 14, 2011 - 12:12 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
With the HD6990 and the up and coming GTX590, the two top single slot GPUs are going to be closer to $1000 than to $500. That might make the enterprising tech enthusiast wonder if perhaps it makes sense to pick up two of the second best HD6970 or GTX570's (the GTX580 is already $500) instead, especially as you don't have to necessarily buy them at the same time. X-bit Labs explores the difference in performance between these cards in single and dual GPU setups as well as contrasting the two manufactures in over a dozen games.
"In our today’s article we are going to learn which of these multi-processor technologies provides maximum performance gain compared with a single graphics accelerator and what obstacles the users may face in either case."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Three HIS HD68xx Graphics Cards @ Metku.net
- Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 4GB Video Card @ 1GHz OC @ Tweaktown
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 Review: Sumptuous Dual-GPU Power @ TechSpot
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 Video Card Review @ Hardware Secrets
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 Graphics Card Review: Monster Evolution on the Way @ X-bit Labs
- Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 FleX Review @ Techgage
- Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 Review @ OCC
- Sapphire FleX Edition Radeon HD 6870 1GB @ Pro-Clockers
- Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 CrossFire Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Asus Radeon HD 6950 & 6970 @ Hardwareoverclock
- A Look at AMD's Catalyst 11.4 Driver @ Techgage
- Zotac Geforce GTX 570 Review @ Tweaknews
- ASUS ENGTS450 DirectCU OC Video Card @ Benchmark Reviews
- Sparkle Calibre X580 Video Card Review @ Madshrimps
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 11, 2011 - 12:25 PM | Ryan Shrout
Sure, AMD impressed everyone with the recent release of the Radeon HD 6990 4GB dual Cayman GPU graphics card, but we all know that NVIDIA is going to respond with the GTX 590 dual-GPU card at some point. But it looks like the gang at EVGA are tired of waiting as well and went ahead and built a combo-card that puts a pair of GeForce GTX 460 GPUs on a single PCB. Yes, 460s not 560s - obviously this a project that was made cheaper by using the widely available previous generation components.
EVGA is promoting the card as the first NVIDIA solution to support 4 monitors and NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround technology with just a single card. The "GTX 460 2WIN", a name that I can't quite decide is humorous or shameful, is not yet available, doesn't have a price but still tickles our fancy.
The PCB design is 11.5-in and is just a half inch short of the HD 6990 and HD 5970 cards from AMD in terms of length. The cooler looks like it is using a set of three fans and hopefully they are able to run at a low noise level.
The output configuration consists of three dual-link DVI connections in order to support triple panel gaming in both 2D and 3D formats. A single mini-HDMI connection completes the support for four total monitors on the card. The small output for air flow exhaust does kind of concern me as I know that running a pair of GTX 460 GPUs is going to create some significant heat likely meaning much of that heat will be sent back into the case rather than out the back of your computer. We'll have to wait to get some hands on time with a card in the near future to see how it actually performs.
Speaking of performance, the EVGA GTX 460 2WIN card will come with 2GB of GDDR5 memory running at 3600 MHz and a core clock of 700 MHz which is just over the original 675 MHz reference speed. So these are NOT underclocked components to make temperatures fit into a smaller form factor.
There a couple of quick performance numbers on the EVGA product page, including this one above that shows the performance of the GTX 460 2WIN against a single NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580. The graph definitely is made to enlarge the appearance of the gap between these two options, since at ~5750 for the GTX 580 and ~5950 for the GTX 460 2WIN, the delta is only about 3.5%.
Without a doubt, whatever the upcoming GeForce GTX 590 turns out to be, it will be faster than the GTX 460 2WIN EVGA has designed. Still, we are glad to see new products that aren't simply reproductions of reference models and we hope that EVGA can price the card properly to make it a compelling card in the grand graphics card market.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 10, 2011 - 05:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
City of Industry, CA – March 3, 2011 – Internationally renowned graphics card and mainboard manufacturer MSI proudly launches the R6950 Twin Frozr III Power Edition today. The all-new graphics card is not only equipped with the latest Twin Frozr III dual fan cooling module, it also incorporates MSI's exclusive Propeller Blade technology for 20% more airflow than conventional fan blade designs. Under full loads, the GPU core runs 11C cooler than the reference thermal solution and noise output is up to 13.9 dB lower. The popular PCB architecture from the R6850 Cyclone 1GD5 Power Edition has been retained as well, with Triple Over-Voltage support and a 6+2 phase power delivery system that ensures overclocking potential and stability, achieving up to 21% more performance than the reference HD 6950! By meeting the needs for increased cooling efficiency, an enhanced power supply, improved overclocking potential, and constant stability— the R6950 Frozr III Power Edition is undoubtedly the best HD6950 graphics card on the market today.
20% More Airflow with Exclusive Propeller Blade Technology
The MSI R6950 Twin Frozr III Power Edition is equipped with the latest Twin Frozr III dual fan thermal solution. The MSI-exclusive Propeller Blade technology features air channels on the edge of the blades to expand total airflow by up to 20%! The twin 8cm PWM fans, heat pipe technology, large surface-area nickel-plated copper base and high fin density all serve to rapidly draw excess heat away from the graphics card. Under a full load, the R6950 Twin Frozr III Power Edition GPU runs 11˚C cooler than the reference design, and noise emission is reduced by 13.9 dB— validating the superior cooling performance and silent running advantages of the Twin Frozr III.
Since active users may use their graphics cards for a variety of applications, MSI developed the exclusive P/S Switch function for controlling the speed of the fans. The Performance Mode is used to achieve an optimal cooling performance, helping to keep the GPU cool even under high loads. For applications or settings where noiselessness is preferred, the Silent Mode can be utilized as the appropriate mode for gaming or movies, ensuring that fan noise is kept to a minimum while still receiving outstanding cooling performance.
21% More Performance than Reference Board with Triple Overvoltage and 6+2 Phase Power System
The R6950 Twin Frozr III Power Edition graphics card retains the architecture of its predecessor, the R6850 Cyclone Power Edition. In addition,, Triple Overvoltage is implemented to greatly improve overclockability by allowing users to utilize the popular MSI –Exclusive Afterburner overclocking utility to adjust the GPU-Memory-VDDCI voltage. To achieve maximum performance, the 6+2 Phase Power System design delivers 37% more power than the reference design for stability at high loads. Under overclocking, the R6950 Twin Frozr III Power Edition offers up to 21% more performance than the reference card!
Handpicked Components for the Best Quality
MSI's Military Class graphic cards became the favorite with enthusiasts that associate military-grade components with superior quality and stability. To get closer to perfecting board design, MSI has now introduced the next-generation Military Class II Components, including the Tantalum Core Hi-C capacitor that lasts 8 times longer, SFC capacitors that deliver 30% more power, and Solid Cap capacitors that get up to 10 years of service life. All combined, together they ensure superior graphics card quality and stability.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 8, 2011 - 11:50 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Perhaps the most surprising thing is that the HD6990 is no longer than the already huge HD6970, not surprising is that the GPUs are the newer Cayman architecture and not the Evergreen that we saw on the 5xxx series. The power draw is impressive, even more so if you plan on overclocking the card or go completely insane and try to set up a Crossfire system. The performance is even more impressive, taking on SLI and Crossfire systems with ease in most scenarios though Ryan is quick to point out that some of those dual card setups will run you less cash that the current king of the single slot graphics card.
"As an enthusiast myself, it is hard to argue with the raw performance that you see when playing with the Radeon HD 6990 4GB graphics card. In a single PCI Express slot you can get the fastest GPU computing solution in the world and support for as many as five monitors and you can't say that from any other AMD or NVIDIA options on the market today. NVIDIA has not tried very hard to hide the fact that they are coming out with a dual-GPU option to compete very soon and if they can get two GTX 570 class GPUs on a single PCB, they might have a strong competitor."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 "Antilles" @ [H]ard|OCP
- AMD's Radeon HD 6990 @ The Tech Report
- AMD's Radeon HD 6990: The New Single Card King @ AnandTech
- Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 4GB @ Tweaktown
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 @ Overclockers.com
- Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 4GB Technical Run Down @ Tweaktown
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 Dual-GPU Graphics Card Review @ Techgage
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB Dual GPU Video Card Review @ Legit Reviews
- AMD HD6990 review @ Bjorn3D
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 Review @ Neoseeker
- PowerColor Radeon HD 6990 CrossFire @ techPowerUp
- ASUS Radeon HD 6990 4 GB @ techPowerUp
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB Review @ Hardware Canucks
- PowerColor HD6990 Crossfire @ OC3D
- AMD HD6990 @ OC3D
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 Graphics Card Review @ HardwareHeaven
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 Antilles Video Card @ Benchmark Reviews
- Second Attempt: Scythe Setsugen 2 VGA Cooler @ X-bit Labs
- Pre- Overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 570: Gainward vs. Zotac @ X-bit Labs
Antilles Architecture and Design
The AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB card has been known by the media and even gamers since the first announcements from the Cayman launch last year but finally today we are able to discuss the technology behind it and the gaming performance it will provide users willing to shell out the $700 it will take to acquire. Stop in and see if your mortgage is worth this graphics card!
Graphics card that are this well endowed don't come along very often; the last was the Radeon HD 5970 from AMD back in November of 2009. In a world where power efficiency is touted as a key feature it has become almost a stigma to have an add-in card in your system that might pull 350-400 watts of power. Considering we were just writing about a complete AMD Fusion platform that used 34 watts IN TOTAL under load, it is an easy task to put killer gaming products like the HD 6990 in an unfair and unreasonable light.
But we aren't those people. Do most people need a $700, 400 watt graphics card? Nope. Do they want it though? Yup. And we are here to show it to you.
A new take on the dual-GPU design
Both AMD and NVIDIA have written this story before: take one of your top level GPUs and double them up on a single PCB or card design to plug into a single PCI Express slot and get maximum performance. CrossFire (or SLI) in a single slot - lots to like about that.
The current GPU lineup paints an interesting picture with the Fermi-based GTX 500 series from NVIDIA and the oddly segregated AMD HD 6800 and HD 6900 series of cards. Cayman, the redesigned architecture AMD released as the HD 6970 and HD 6950, brings a lot of changes to the Evergreen design used in previous cards. It has done fairly well in the market though it didn't improve the landscape for AMD discrete graphics as much as many had thought it would and NVIDIA's graphics chips have remained very relevant.
With the rumors swirling about a new dual-GPU option from AMD there was some discussion on whether it would be an HD 6800 / Evergreen based design or an HD 6900 / Cayman contraption. Let's just get that mystery out of the way:
The memory architecture runs a bit slower as well at 5.0 Gbps (versus the 5.5 Gbps on the HD 6970) but we are still getting a full 2GB per GPU for a grand-spanking-total of 4GB on this single card. Load power on the board is rated at "<375 watts" and just barely makes the budget for PCI Express based solutions with the provided dual 8-pin power connectors.