It’s another Kepler launch day for NVIDIA! The thrust behind this launch is to bridge the price/performance gap between the GTX 650 and GTX 660. This time around the GTX 650 Ti takes center stage. The MSI GTX 650 Ti Power edition will be our specimen as we dive in for a look at this new NVIDIA GPU architecture.
As is typical with MSI’s Power Edition video cards, an out-of-the-box factory overclock has been applied in an effort to boost performance even further. NVIDIA has made it known that the GTX 650 Ti is a direct competitor of the AMD HD 7770 series cards. So, let’s head over to the test bench and find out what this latest MSI card brings to the table!
Specifications & Features
The table below lists the specifications of the MSI GTX 650 Ti, courtesy of MSI. When compared to the GTX 660, you will notice a lack of SLI support, reduced data rate memory speed from 6008 MHz to 5400 MHz, and a memory bus speed of 128 bit versus the GTX 660′s 192 bit. However, when compared to the vanilla GTX 650, the memory speed is better than the 5000 MHz it offers. The big performance gains, when compared to the vanilla GTX 650, come in the way of double the CUDA cores and the GK106 GPU architecture. One other item of note would be the absence of the Boost Clock feature; even though it uses the same GK106 GPU as the GTX 660, which does have the Boost Clock feature.
|Media Name||GTX 650 Ti Power Edition|
|Marketing Name||N650Ti PE 1GD5/OC|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti|
|CUDA Core||768 Units|
|Core Clock||993 MHz|
|Memory Clock||5400 MHz|
|Memory Size||1024MB GDDR5|
|Memory Bus||128 bits|
|Output||Mini HDMI / DL-DVI-I / DL-DVI-D|
|Card Dimension||230x131x35 mm|
Because the above specifications are a little light on details, below are the GTX 650 Ti specifications pulled from the NVIDIA press deck. These are the reference design specifications; keep in mind the differences when comparing against the above MSI specifications.
Here is GPU-Z confirming much of what we see in the specifications above.
The features of the MSI GTX 650 Ti Power edition are highlighted by an enhanced PWM design, the Cyclone II Thermal Design, and MSI’s Military Class III Components. Additionally, MSI’s awesome Afterburner overclocking software is compatible with this card; we’ll put that to the test later in the review!
To further expand on the Military Class III components, here is what MSI has to say:
Hi-c Cap (Highly Conductive Capacitor)
- Rare Metal, Incredibly Stable
- Extremely High Conductivity
- 15x Less Leakage
- Stabilizes GPU Power For Better Overclocking
- Used on Space Shuttles and Satellites
Solid CAP (Solid Capacitor)
- Aluminum Core
- 10 Years Ultra Long Lifespan
- Extremely Low ESR
- Lower Temperature
- Higher Efficiency
SFC (Super Ferrite Choke)
- Super-Permeability Ferrite Core
- 10% Power Efficiency Improvement
- 30% Higher Maximum Current Capacity
- Overclocking Stability
Packaging and Accessories
Dark blue, a splash of NVIDIA green, and a predominantly sky blue coloring are becoming the MSI Power Edition trademark, as far as the box graphics are concerned. Other than the specification differences between the many Power Edition cards, you can definitely pick the box out of a crowd, especially the large “Triple Overvoltage – Enhanced PWM Design” logo on the front of all Power Edition boxes. The marketing printed on the box is pretty much a repeat of the specifications and features mentioned above.
There is a lift-up flap on the front of the box, which exposes the video card through a plastic window. Using the available real estate on the inside of the flap, the marketing guys performed their magic by listing the major features of the GTX 650 Ti Power Edition.
Inside the outer carton is the proverbial “black box” containing all the treasures. The video card itself is protected by a thick foam bed that is topped off with a plastic shield on top. The GTX 650 Ti is neatly wrapped in an anti static bag and held securely in the foam bed. Laying at the very bottom of the box are the accessories, which include the following:
- Quick User’s Guide
- Installation Manual
- Driver/Software CD
- Mini HDMI to HDMI Adapter
- DVI to VGA Adapter
- 2×4-Pin Molex to 6-Pin PCIe Adapter Cable
Overall, the packaging is well presented, protects the product nicely, and has a nice accessory pack. Nothing to bark at here!
A Closer Look/Under the Hood
The Cyclone II Thermal Design cooler is circular in design and features a pair of heatpipes that pass through the nickle-plated copper base. The heatpipes then begin their journey in a circular pattern through a set of aluminum fins that are dedicated to the heatpipes themselves. The heatpipe fins are topped off with shields, which I assume direct airflow downward to cool the four memory chips. The base of the cooler has an additional high density aluminum fin structure, which has the 9 cm PWM fan attached to it. The 9 cm fan is said to have “Propeller Blade Technology” that enlarges the angle of airflow thus providing 20% more airflow to enhance the cooling effect.
MSI has implemented their dust removal technology on the Cyclone II cooler, much like their Twin Frozr coolers. What this does is actually turn the fan in reverse for the first thirty seconds during initial system start-up. The idea is to blow dust away from the fins in an effort to keep dust from building up on them.
Like we always do here at Overclockers, the next order of business is to remove the cooling apparatus and have a closer look. All that’s required to remove the Cyclone II cooler is to take off the four spring loaded screws found on the back side of the PCB. Once off, the thermal interface material was found to be applied very well and not overly done.
With the Cyclone II removed, we get our first look at the power delivery area. In keeping with MSI’s Military Class III Components, solid capacitors are used throughout the GTX 650 Ti. The Military Class III Components also include the Hi-c CAP (Highly-Conductive Capacitor) and SFC (Super Ferrite Choke) designs. The four phase GPU power delivery does not appear to use the Super Ferrite Chokes; but I did find one of them at the rear of the PCB, which I assume is used for the memory power delivery. We’ll call this a a 4+1 power phase, which we think is up from the reference card’s 2+1. I say “we” because hokiealumnus received a reference card from NVIDIA, and best we can tell it has two GPU power phases and one more for the memory. Thanks for the assist, Jeremy!
On the memory side of things, we have the ever popular Hynix H5GQ2H24AFR-ROC chips. There are four 256 Mb chips, which make up the available 1 Gb GDDR5. These Hynix chips carry a voltage rating of 1.35 V ~ 1.5 V and a (4x) speed of 5.0 Gbp/s up to 6.0 Gbp/s, depending on application. For this application, they should be near the lower end of those values.
On the connectivity front, this dual slot video card has Dual Link DVI-I, Dual Link DVI-D, and a mini HDMI connection. This adds up to full support for three simultaneous monitors. On the rear of the card, you will find the single PCIe 6-Pin power connection.
As you probably noticed by looking at the specifications above, the GTX 650 Ti series cards use the NVIDIA GK106 GPU architecture. This is the same GPU used on the vanilla GTX 660 graphics cards, albeit trimmed down to meet the price point this card is intended for. The GK106 GPU is, however, a step upward from the GK107 used on the vanilla GTX 650 cards.
For the sake of comparing the MSI GTX 650 Ti Power Edition to the NVIDIA reference design, below are several pictures hokiealumnus has provided. This should give you an idea of how MSI has beefed up the power delivery section over the reference design. Additionally, the physical size of the two cards appear to differ, with the MSI card’s 230 mm length being substantially longer.
The reference card’s specifications can be verified using GPU-Z.
Performance and Overclocking
- ASUS Maximus V Formula Motherboard (Oveclockers Approved!)
- G.SKILL Trident X (2 x 8 GB) DDR3 2400 F3-2400C10D-16GTX @ 18666 MHz 9-9-9-24
- Kingston 3K SSD 240 GB (Overclockers Approved!)
- Intel i7 3770K Processor @ 4.0 GHz (Overclockers Approved!)
- Water Cooled/Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Block
- Corsair HX1050 PSU
- MSI GTX 650 Ti Power Edition
Since June of this year, we have been using our new “Updated Video Card Testing Procedure“. If you are not yet familiar with it, click the provided link to learn more. Below is the down and dirty version of the new procedure.
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run using the “extreme” setting
- Aliens vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- Battlefield 3 – 1920×1080 at Ultra settings (4xAA/HBAO by default)
- Dirt 3 - 1920×1080 with 8x MSAA and all settings enabled and at Ultra where possible
- Metro 2033 – 1920×1080, DX11, Very High, 4x MSAA/ 16x AF, PhysX OFF, DOF enabled, Scene: Frontline
- Civilization V – 1920×1080, 8x MSAA, VSync OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
- Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, VSync off, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation set to high, Extreme Detail Level, PhysX Off
For comparison video cards, we have a couple cards higher up the video card and price ladders in the Power Color PCS+ HD 7850 and the EVGA GTX 660 SC. For a more direct comparison, we have the reference design GTX 650 Ti and the Sapphire HD 7770 GHZ Edition.
MSI’s Afterburner software comes bundled with the GTX 650 Ti Power Edition, but it’s always a good idea to check the Afterburner download page to ensure you get the latest version.
Here is where that big “Tripple Overvoltage” logo on the box comes into play. With Afterburner, you can manipulate GPU core, Memory, and Aux voltages. In order to access those functions, you need to enter Afterburner’s settings and tick the “Unlock Voltage Control” button. Once you have unlocked the voltage control, you simply click the arrow next to the core voltage and all three voltage options will appear. You won’t see the actual voltage listed because it’s based on offset values, which begin with +0 and rise from there.
Worth noting is since NVIDIA put the clamps down on overvolting their GPUs, the voltage control option has no effect on the GPU core voltage. I put the card under 100% load and monitored the GPU core voltage at both +0 and +100 offset; it never changed from a maximum reading of 1.075 V. Hopefully, NVIDIA will reconsider their decision down the road, but for now we have to live with it. The last thing to mention on performance tuning with Afterburner is the grayed out Power Limit % slider. This is because the GTX 650 Ti does not have the Boost Clock feature; without that, it’s really of no value.
Afterburner also has a nifty monitoring area that give you real time readings for fan speed, temperatures, memory usage, GPU clock speed, etc.
Overclocking for stability
If you paid attention to the reference specifications versus the MSI specifications, then you probably noticed the GPU core is overclocked from the reference speed of 925 MHz to 993 MHz. That’s a pretty fair 6% overclock right out of the box, but you know we want more! Without the ability to raise the GPU core voltage, I was still able to raise the core speed 190 MHz, which landed us right at 1183 MHz (21% over reference). Now we’re talking!
Overclocking the memory was very fruitful and resulted in a 400 MHz increase over the stock 1350 MHz. At 1750 MHz (7000 MHz Effective), I’ll retract my earlier statement about these Hynix memory chips falling at the lower end of their spectrum. These memory chips had no problem exceeding the stock speeds found on a GTX 660 Ti, for instance (read 6008 MHz effective). Now we’re really talking!
Below is a picture of GPU-Z’s monitoring file, while the card was under load.
Our synthetic benchmark suite consists of 3DMark03, 3DMark11, 3DMark Vantage, and HWBot Heaven. As expected, because of the higher factory set overclock, the MSI GTX 650 Ti Power Edition nudges out the NVIDIA reference card across the board in these tests. Other than 3DMark03, the MSI card handily beats out the competing HD 7770 in the other three synthetic tests. One thing you will notice through all our benchmark results is how well the GTX 650 Ti Power Edition scales when overclocked. Some of these benchmarks show pretty impressive results when the card is pushed beyond its out-of-box speed.
Beginning with the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark, we see almost identical scores when comparing the MSI GTX 650 Ti PE with the competing HD 7770 and a slightly better score over the reference NVIDIA card. Once overclocked, the MSI card leads the competing cards by a good amount. Keep in mind that the other two comparison cards (GTX 660 SC and HD 7850) are higher up in the video card pecking order with a higher price to match.
The Batman: Arkham City benchmark shows the pecking order remaining intact. The MSI card, in an overclocked state, begins to knock at the door of the HD 7850 here. See what I mean about how well it scales? Pretty impressive.
In the Battlefield 3 results, we again find the MSI card besting the competing HD 7770. The excellent overclock scaling continues to hold true here as well.
Our final three gaming benchmarks start off with Civilization V. Here we see the pecking order remaining the same as the above tests. Only a slight gain from the NVIDIA reference design was observed when the stock scores are compared, but the overclocking prowess of the MSI card again shows its might.
The Dirt 3 benchmark consistently shows the highest FPS scores of all our gaming benchmarks. Take a look at the overclocked score the MSI GTX 650 Ti PE has here. I knew we’d get a win over the HD 7850 somewhere along the line, and it happened here. A 17 FPS increase from stock to overclocked is pretty sweet!
Metro 2033 is about as tough of a benchmark you will come across. It takes a video card that will put a serious dent in your wallet to pass the magical 30 FPS when all settings are at their highest. I hate to beat a dead horse here, but yet again the MSI card scaled extremely well once overclocked. At stock speeds, we have an ever so slight advantage over the NVIDIA reference card. The competing HD 7770 once again fell behind the MSI GTX 650 Ti PE at both stock and overclocked settings.
Cooling and Power Consumption
Because the GPU core voltage was not able to be manipulated, I didn’t expect much difference between the stock and overclocked temperatures. I ran 3DMark11 and HWBot Heaven at both stock and overclocked speeds, and my assumption was correct with almost no difference in temperatures noted. There was only a degree Celsius change between stock and overclocked testing, as seen in the chart below. A large part of this is also because Afterburner does a great job of ramping up the fan speed when needed. I think it’s safe to say the Cyclone II cooler does a terrific job keeping the card well below the maximum temperature threshold.
|Temp Testing||Stock Speed||Overclocked|
|Idle||29° C||30° C|
|3DMark11||51° C||52° C|
|HWBot Heaven||55° C||56° C|
On the power consumption front, this card just sips power, plain and simple. With the card set to its stock settings and sitting at idle, the total system draw was 105 Watts. I then fired up HWBot Heaven and the highest reading I ever recorded was 195 Watts. Boy, today’s video cards and system components sure go light on power draw!
Pushing the Limits
Because I was a bit overzealous during the initial overclocking of this card, I didn’t leave any room for the “Pushing the Limits” section of this review. However, I can toss some CPU overclocking in the mix and see how that impacts a couple of the scores. With the CPU set to 4.8 GHz and the system memory set to 2400 MHz, I ran the HWBot Heaven and 3DMark03 benchmarks. There was only a few point increase in HWBot Heaven, which gives testament to how GPU intensive the test really is. The 3DMark03 score showed a pretty decent increase, topping out at just over 70,000; not bad at all there.
MSI has informed us that the retail price on the GTX 650 Ti Power Edition will be $159.99. That pretty much bridges the gap between the GTX650 and GTX 660 cards. The performance level finds itself in the middle of those two cards as well. I think the targeted price and performance objectives were met as far as this offering goes.
Given the price point of this video card, it’s really difficult to find any reason to complain. It overclocks like a banshee (especially the memory), the Cyclone II keeps the card very cool, and it can play a lot of games with their settings maxed out. Compared against its direct competitor the HD 7770, this card performed much better across the board. A similarly equipped HD 7770 will cost about the same price as this card, albeit there are some out there that run $20 to $30 less.
If you’re a gaming enthusiast on a budget, the MSI GTX 650 Ti Power Edition is definitely worth considering. Very nice job on this MSI!
-Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)