Table of Contents
Outside of the release of the 7990 and TITAN, from AMD and NVIDIA respectively, the GPU landscape has been a bit mundane in 2013. This week has brought with it the release of something new(ish) from the NVIDIA camp in the GTX 780, today will we look at the MSI GTX 770 OC. These cards, I heard someone say, are ‘a GTX 680 on steroids’. At this point all I know is it sports a new cooler and is part of MSI’s new Gaming Series. Get cozy as I take you on a short journey showing you the new card, and how it stacks up against the competition.
Specifications and Features
Listed below are the specifications of the MSI GTX 770 OC. This card, like other 770-based cards, will ship with 8 SMX units for a total of 1536 CUDA cores (192 for each SMX unit), 128 texture units and 32 ROPs, the same as a GTX 680. The memory interface remains the same 256-bit bus width, however the reference cards come in at 1750 MHz (7000 MHz DDR5) yielding 224.4 GT/s bandwidth versus the 192.2 GT/s in Kepler. So what we basically have here is a refreshed GK104 die with faster memory and a boosted base clock.
What isn’t listed here in the hard specifications are the software differences in the Boost 2.0. So it isn’t exactly the same, however, we can see that there are a lot more similarities than differences in the 770 versus the 680.
|MSI GTX 770 OC Specifications|
|Graphics Processing Clusters||4|
|Base Clock||1059 MHz|
|Boost Clock||1150 Mhz|
|Memory Clock (Data Rate)||1753 MHz (7012 MHz DDR5)|
|L2 Cache Size||512KB|
|Total Video Memory||2048MB or 4096MB GDDR5|
|Total Memory Bandwidth||224.4 GT/s|
|Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear)||133.9 GigaTexels /s|
|Transistor Count||3.54 Billion|
|Connectors||2x DL DVI, HDMI, Displayport|
|Form Factor||Dual Slot|
|Power Connectors||8-pin and 6-pin|
|Recommended Power Supply||600 Watts|
|Thermal Design Power (TDP)||230W|
Most of us know from previous articles, like the GTX Titan and GTX 780 by Hokiealumnus, about the architecture changes such as Boost 2.0 and a different core, GK110, among other things. If not, please take a read of the Titan for Boost 2.0, and the 780 article for the architecture side of things for details. Just know at a high level that this card has the some of the same features as its bigger brother, the GTX 780, albeit on the GK104 (read GTX 680/GK104) core.
Take a quick glance below at the retail packaging and you can see some new box art showing a black and red theme, dubbed, “Gaming Series”. MSI believes they have their finger on the pulse of gamers and their needs. In talking with them (gamers, editors and e-sport players), there were three key points regarding video cards to those users… First, it must be easy to use. Second, cool and quiet, and last, stable. MSI believes they have a solution in this line with the components and software used to help bring these needs to the user (images below from MSI).
The first method is the MSI Gaming App. This is a simple, small in size, overclocking tool for the GPU. It has three modes in total
- Gaming Mode – which overclocks the GPU a bit and adjusts the fan speed
- Eco Mode which actually reduces core clocks and fan speed
- Default Mode which sets it back to factory settings.
It’s a simple tool to save on power or give the card a little boost when gaming.
To help with the cool and quiet part of the equation, MSI is using their Twin Fr0zr IV (TFIV moving forward) heatsink. Any heatsink needs some fans and as usual the TFIV comes with two fans, this time in the 100mm PWM variety utilizing “Propeller Blade Technology” to get more air down on the card. The heatsink itself users Superpipe Technology attached to a Nickel-plated copper base that attaches to the GPU. We will take a look at how it did a bit later, of course.
Next up, MSI also claims Military certifications regarding the caliber of its components. Military Class 4 is their name for it. I’ve expressed concern on the forums with some other military class claims for other vendors but couldn’t find any specific standards it adhered to. I bring that up as this is the first time I have seen specific standards listed, such as the MIL-STD-810G so that is a start. MSI selected several tests, such as High Temperature Test, Temperature Shock Test, Humidity Test, and Low Temperature Test to name a few. Making all this come together are the solid CAPs used (that most cards use now days anyway), a new Solid Ferrite Choke (SFC) supporting 30% more power, and a Hi-c CAP for better thermal stability. I still find these things a bit gimmicky personally, but at least MSI publishes a specific standard and tests within that standard so we can see what exactly was tested.
Last, is the new software piece dubbed Predator. This software positions itself as a replacement for paid version of FRAPS. It’s a screen capture, video recording, and frame rate application for your gaming. You find these abilities in the MSI Afterburner properties section under the Screen/Video Capture tab.
So to wrap up the MSI marketing section, they wrap this up all nice for you having the G.A.M.E spirit as the core value of their Gaming Series – Gaming App, Advanced Thermal Design, Military Class components, Experience – Predator. Catchy. Let’s hope it’s effective!
Photo Op – Meet the MSI GTX 770 OC
Taking a look at the retail packaging, there a distinct difference versus previous MSI GPUs we have reviewed here. We have a sweet looking dragon on the front along with a red theme from MSI’s new Gaming series of GPUs (and motherboards) which we talked about above. Also shown is the Gaming series badge, model of card, and in this case the “OC” on it to let you know it’s factory overclocked. I have to admit, I like the Gaming theme.
On the backside are some of the Gaming Series features listed we also talked about already. On the top is the “Just Game!” and Gaming Series badge with a red background. The bottom has a couple more high level bits in around 30 languages.
Last up is the opening of the box to expose the inner sleeve that holds the accessories with the card sitting securely below it in a form fitting foam surround.
Pictured below is the accessory stack. Not too much to see here but the CD containing the driver, Gaming App software, and MSI Afterburner. Be sure to check for updates, especially on newly released cards for best compatibility and performance. Public service announcement aside, you also see a quick user’s guide, DVI to VGA adapter, as well as two six to eight pin adapters. Not a plentiful bounty by any means, but enough to get most everyone on their feet on day one.
Ok, here she is in all her glory, the MSI GTX 770 OC sporting the Twin Frozr IV cooler. Notice the large 100mm fans and red racing stripe up top with the Gaming Series badge prominently in the middle right below it. Flipping the card over we can see a couple of SLI connections, a large heatpipe (Superpipe) sticking out of the top, and the soldering signs of a dual 8-pin PCIe power connection requirement. All this rests on a darker brown PCB.
I have to say, I like the design verall. There is something about having big fans I love on a GPU. Just note that there is little air being exhausted outside the case, so good airflow, like always, is helpful to get that warmer air out of the case. If I were to improve this, or actually this is really a personal preference, but I would want a jet black PCB. I just think overall that would look better than the brown.
Outputs include DL DVI (one DVI-i, one DVI-d) ports, one HDMI, and a full size DisplayPort to round things out. As we saw earlier on the backside, there are two 8-pin PCIe power connection requirements. This is a 230W+ card, so many would have guessed this need anyway.
and a couple more…
Taking off the Twin Frozr IV cooler exposes the bottom side of the Nickel-Plated copper base with five heatpipes, one being a Superpipe (larger than the others), snaking their way through the heatsink dissipating the load throughout the fins. There is also a heatsink covering the ram and power bits (looks like 6 phase there for the GPU, so reference there I believe). That metal plate did make good contact across its intended targets, so all is well there. Overall, it looks like a fairly robust solution to me.
Stripping the core of its thermal paste, we find the GK104-425 under the hood. That’s right, that is really a GTX 680 core right there. Same amount of CUDA cores, memory bus, it is all the same. Moving on to the memory, that is really where things diverge a bit and come in at a 1750 MHz speed base using Samsung IC’s rated at 1750 MHz at 1.5v. Hopefully these have some solid headroom left in them for overclocking.
Performance and Overclocking
As we all know by now, Overclockers.com utilizes multiple resources to review their hardware. In order to ensure the results are the same no matter who reviews the item, we have a specific test system set up and methods/settings as follows:
- Intel i7 3770K CPU @ 4 GHz, 1.2v
- Asrock Z77 OC Formula
- Kingston Hyper X Predator 2 x 4 GB 2666 MHz CL11 @ 1.65 V
- 60 GB OCZ Vertex 2 SSD
- Seasonic 1000 W PSU
- MSI GTX 770 OC (stock 1150/1753 and Overclocked 1215/1904)
- Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
- NVIDIA 320.18 drivers
Other cards used for comparison are as follows (links are to the reviews):
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run with the “extreme” setting
- Alien vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation HIGH, Detail Level: Extreme
- 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, Vysnc OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
- More detail is in our article: Overclockers’ Updated Video Card Testing Procedure
Here we see a simple shot of GPU-z version 7.1. All is confirmed in the specifications I listed above no? Awesome, let’s move on! Fine, I suppose I will make one mention here about the boost clocks in that we know the card will inevitably boost past that, and in this case the MSI 770 hit 1150 consistently across all testing.
Overclocking Software – MSI Afterburner
Again, I’m more than certain we all know about MSI Afterburner software to monitor and overclock your GPU. One thing you will notice here is that we do not have any voltage control, yet. This is with the Beta 10 as well. The way it sounded, there will be voltage control for this card within this application. I know it’s possible as I could use Precision X to boost up a very meager amount of 12mv from 1.18 to 1.21v…so far, no memory voltage control, however.
As usual with start off with our oldy but goody, 3DMark 03. Here we see the MSI GTX 770 score 113,135 at stock speeds (again with hit 1150 boost with 1753 memory, stock). This, per usual, falls woefully behind AMD’s offering in this benchmark, but still manages to beat out the GTX 680 Lighting (note it was on older drivers though), and is a hair behind the GTX 780 here believe it or not.
Next up is 3DMark Vantage. Here the 770 scores 35,084, beating out the 680 again by a couple percentage points, and falling behind the 7970 by a bit, and as expected the 780 and Titan by fair amounts of 7.5 and 13.4 percent respectively.
Next up is 3DMark 11. Here the MSI offering hits a solid 10,226 out of the box, matching the 680 essentially, and falling behind the others with increasing distance as the class goes up as we would expect. Last up in our synthetic testing is Unigine Heaven, the Hwbot version. Here the MSI GTX 770 starts to flex its muscle a bit scoring 2,189.7 easily besting the GTX680 by nearly 10%, and eclipsing the 7970 by a couple percent. As expected it gets wiped out here by the more power and much more expensive 780 and Titan.
Our first game we will look at is Alien versus Predator. With the settings cranked here, the GTX 770 manages 65.4 FPS stock easily besting the 680 yet falling behind the 7970 again. Interesting theme there really. Next up is Batman: Arkham City. Here the card pulls together an average of 93 FPS with the story being exactly the same here as above. Last up is my favorite game, Battlefield 3. Here we see a FPS score of 91.1 but it is straight getting spanked by the 7970 in this case, even when overclocked it doesn’t catch up to it.
Taking a look at our other games, we will start this one with Civilization V. Here the MSI GTX 770 manages a 99.3 FPS besting the 680 AND 7970! Moving on to Dirt 3, this card manages 108.6 FPS and falling in to the same rut of beating the 680 and losing to the 7970. Last up our resident GPU killer, Metro 2033. Here we see 33.5 FPS achieved with our demanding settings… can you guess what happened here with the other cards?
So, to summarize, the MSI GTX 770 OC trounced its paternal twin, the GTX 680. Though note the results used are from some older drivers so I would have to imagine that margin would shrink in some titles. The peculiar part to me is losing out to the 7970 in most scenarios we have above. I hope this is simply the new card blues and the GTX 770, shifts gears a bit. Another thing to mention is with these drivers and this card, I had trouble with 3DMark in that the Futremark System Scanner flaked out. This didn’t have an effect on the benchmark running or the scores, note. I tried updating and reinstalling the applications even and no change. I switched to a different Windows 7 64-bit OS that was used for LN2 runs (basic installation), all the benchmarks ran fine. Weird.
Pushing the Limits
Ok, overclockers and benchers alike, here is what I managed to squeeze out of this thing with more behind the core (reaching 1293 MHz boost in most of these benchmarks) with a voltage bump to 1.21v, and hitting a staggering 2000 MHz (DDR5 8000 MHz) on the ram. This is the first card I have used that hit that fast on the vRAM. It’s just an amazing value to me. Before you check out the scores, I would like let you know that the Twin Frozr IV cooler kept the card down to 57 °C when running the fans at 100%. Anyway, pretty solid overclocking on this sample, ehh? The scores are not too shabby for a card forced to run tessellation too!
Cooling and Power Consumption
As we mentioned above, MSI used the Twin Frozr IV cooler on this card. It looks like a pretty good solution, and was in previous versions, so I have no reason to thing otherwise here. Then I see the temps. Up to 74 °C when overclocked. Interesting. But don’t fear. The fan at that temperature ramped up to a mere 43% on auto. Inaudible really, which is a good thing. So that means there is plenty of headroom as well. The last thing I want to mention is the GPU-z log showed full boost staying on at these temperatures.
So the TFIV does its job and quite silently as well. Crank the fan to 100% and with my 25 °C normalized environment, it never broke 57 °C which is quite a showing to me.
Power consumption wise, we expect with the added core clocks and memory clocks that would fetch a bit of a premium over previous cards. The former GTX 670 came in at 170W and the 770 comes in at 230W which is more than a GTX 680 surprisingly. That said, we used the ‘trusty’ old Kill-a-Watt meter and gave 3DMark 11 and Unigine Heaven a run and see what shook out. Below you can see the highest readings I saw was 287W peak (4GHz 3770K). Not too bad at all I have to say.
So the new card on the block showed us all what it had. And what it has is a GTX 680 killer… perhaps not as much as the graphs show due to older drivers on the GTX 680, but I promise, it’s there as the MSI GTX 770 OC handled that card quite easily. The 7970 on the other hand, I can’t say it did so well against. I’m not sure if it is a function of the drivers or the games/settings/res we use, but the results are there.
MSI’s twist on NVIDIA’s creation brought us a more than capable and quiet cooler in the Twin Frozr IV with its dual 100mm fans. The overclocking headroom was solid, even for the extremely voltage limited card (1.18 to 1.21v). But this isn’t MSI’s fault either, blame NVIDIA on holding things back. MSI has also come out with some new, simple to use software called the MSI Gaming App to get a quick, pain free boost for gaming, or to save on some power in Eco mode.
Putting that all together, the last thing we need to talk about is price. MSI states the pricing on this card will come in at an MSRP of $399.99 to $409.99. This is at least $30 less than a reference GTX 680 model and also puts it right at the bottom of 7970 pricing as well. So overall you have a GTX 680 killer but one that, in our testing, loses out to the 7970 in some titles. I feel the MSI GTX 770 OC should be a good choice as it overclocks very well especially on the memory side (2000 MHz!). The Twin Frozr IV is a quiet solution and has plenty of headroom for cooling for those that want to overclock. This card is Overclockers.com approved!