MSI N760 HAWK (GTX 760) Video Card Review

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Today we have a chance to review yet another GTX 760. This time, it is the MSI N760 HAWK. If you remember from GPU generations past, the HAWK versions of cards, to me, are the little brother of the Lightning from MSI. This usually offers more overclocking centered features such as voltage monitoring, and a beefed up PCB to help get the most out of the core. Let’s take a look at what this version has to offer.

MSI N760 HAWK (Image Courtesy of MSI website)

MSI N760 HAWK (Image Courtesy of MSI website)

 

Specifications and Features

When we look at the specifications for the MSI N760 HAWK, we find not too much has changed outside of the clockspeeds. You will notice below that the base clockspeed comes in at 1111 MHz with a boost rating of 1167 MHz. The real story here is exactly how high this card boosts to, and stays… it boosts to the highest clockspeed I have seen out of the factory, 1267 MHz. That’s right folks, a full 234 MHz higher than the rated boost from the reference models (still around 175 MHz from actual boost). Ram speed however, was left alone at 1502 MHz (6008 MHz DDR5). I never understood why in these cards almost nobody will touch the memory speed, especially since all that our staff have reviewed can easily achieve 200+ MHz out of the ram.

The real story here however is what they did to the PCB to make this card different than its peers. Along with an eight layer PCB, versus six for the reference model, MSI has fortified this 760 with a total of six power phases for the GPU and another two for the memory. This is up from the 4+1 configuration the reference models bring to the table and has more phases than the formidable ASUS GTX 760 Direct Cu II.  This, in theory, should allow for more, and cleaner power getting to the core/memory to assist in higher and more stable overclocking.

Of course MSI has the Military Class components (Hi-C cap, SFC, and Solid cap),  for whatever that is worth, to help make this card a more robust solution over the reference models. Again, they picked a couple of tests from that military standard then made it so. The reality is we do not know if this helps, but, I will suggest it cannot hurt, right?

 

 Specification Reference GTX 760 MSI GTX 760 HAWK
Graphics Processing Clusters 3 or 4 3
Streaming Multiprocessors 6 6
CUDA Cores 1152 1152
Texture Units 96 96
ROP Units 32 32
Base Clock 980 MHz 1111 MHz
Boost Clock 1033 MHz (rated) 1176 MHz (1267MHz actual)
Memory Clock (Data Rate) 1502 MHz (6008 MHz DDR5) 1502 MHz (6008 MHz DDR5)
L2 Cache Size 512KB 512KB
Total Video Memory 2048 MB GDDR5 2048 MB GDDR5
Memory Interface 256-bit 256-bit
Total Memory Bandwidth 192.26 GT/s 192.26 GT/s
Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear) 94.1 GT/s 94.1 GT/s
Fabrication Process 28 nm 28 nm
Transistor Count 3.54 Billion 3.54 Billion
Connectors 2x DL DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort 2x DL DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort
Form Factor Dual Slot Dual Slot
Power Connectors 8-pin and 6-pin 2x 8-pin
Recommended Power Supply 500 Watts 500 Watts
Thermal Design Power (TDP) 170 W 170 W
Thermal Threshold 95 °C 95 °C

Listed below are a few of the Features on the N760 HAWK.

icomilc4
  • Military Class Components
    – Certified to MIL-STD-810G standard to ensure the best stability and quality (High and Low temperatures, humidity, shock, vibration and drops are tested within this spec).
    – Optimized efficiency and power delivery through MSI’s Hi-c CAP, SFC and Solid CAP.
icotwinbios
  • Twin BIOS & Enhanced Power
    – Twin BIOS-Two separate BIOS chips, one for Gaming and one specially for extreme overclockers.
    – Enhanced Power Design-6 GPU phases and 2 Memory phases on a custom designed 8 layers PCB for amazing overclocking potential.
icotwinfrozr
  • Advanced Thermal Design
    – Dual 10 cm PWM fans with Propeller Blade technology remain quiet while offering better cooling.
    – Airflow Control technology tunnels airflow to maximize the cooling potential of the heat sink.
    – 10℃ cooler and 16.48 dB quieter than reference.

 

Photo Op – Meet the MSI GTX 760 HAWK

Retail Packaging

First up is the retail packaging. On the front of the box we see the F-117 Nighthawk gracing the cover. Get it, NightHAWK? The box art appears to me like the Nighthawk is coming out of some sort of explosion or wormhole or something… pretty neat, but it is just the box! As is typical, we see the model on the front, GTX 760, and it comes with MSI’s “Overclock Essentials” advertised as well.

On the back of the box shows a typical list of high level features and specs among other things.

The sides do not need a mention, do they?

This box is a bit different than most others. It has a flip top with a lot of marketing/features of the card on the lid and the base. Features such as the OC Essentials, Military Class 4 components, and finally some information on the Twin Frozr IV featuring its 100mm fans, and dust removal technology (fans spin at full speed in reverse when powered on) and its propeller blade design.

Opening up the box we see another box. Yep. on top is the accessory stack and below it rests the card in form fitting foam.

Retail Packaging - Front

Retail Packaging – Front

Rear

Rear

Side 1

Side 1

Side 2

Side 2

Lift up the front of the box lid to expose...

Lift up the front of the box lid to expose…

...and the bottom.

…and the bottom.

Box in a box!

Box in a box!

 Accessories

Here is a solo picture of the included accessories. You have a Quick User’s Guide and driver disk, a VGA to DVI adapter, three voltage read point pieces, and 6 pin to 8 pin PCIe power adapters. Enough to get one started for sure.

Accessories

Accessories

 

The Card

Now it is time to see how the GTX 760 HAWK looks. As you will first see, the HAWK uses MSI’s TwinFrozr IV cooler like we saw on the other MSI GTX 760 we reviewed. One difference you will notice is the yellow color scheme which MSI seems to reserve for their higher end offerings on both motherboards and GPUs. We can see some stickers reflecting the namesake on the center of the 100mm propeller blade fans as well. As mentioned above, the TwinFrozr IV cooler spins backwards upon power up to help get dust out of the blades and heatsink array, then stops and spin in the normal direction blowing down on the card.

Flipping over the card, you should first take note that it has a backplate on it which protects the components on the back of the card and cleans up the looks too. This card will also do 3 way SLI. Next to those SLI headers, to the left, is a BIOS switch. That switch is for a normal ‘gaming’ type (default) BIOS, and an LN2 BIOS which disables internal protections for taking this card under sub ambient conditions. For example, when using the LN2 BIOS, the power limit raises to 185%.

MSI GTX 760 HAWK - Front

MSI GTX 760 HAWK – Front

Back

Back

Side...

Side…

...to side.

…to side.

Next up we can see the outputs of this card. From left to right we see a full size Displayport, HDMI, and two DVI ports (one being DVI-d for higher resolutions. In the next picture, we can see this card required two 8 pin PCIe power connectors to get ample power to the GPU. In this picture we can see there is very little room to get your fingers a tthe tab to remove the PCIe connections. We literally have to put a fair amount of pressure on the heatpipe to slide my fingers in there. I have to imagine there is a better way to implement that. Perhaps in TwinFrozrV, who knows, but it is a bear to remove these for sure.

Outputs - 1x Displayport, 1x HDMI, 2x DVI.

Outputs – 1x Displayport, 1x HDMI, 2x DVI.

The HAWK requires two 8 pin PCIe power connectors.

The HAWK requires two 8 pin PCIe power connectors.

When we take of the TwinFrozr IV Advanced cooler you are presented with a shrouded card below. MSI calls the VRM/memory heatsink and backplate a ‘dual form all in one’ cooler which the front cools the VRM/Memory modules, while the backplate protects the components on the rear. In the bottom right picture you can see good contact. You also see the beefed up power bits in the first picture. The other thing worth mentioning is the liberal application of TIM. There was a ton of it on there, that is for sure.

The next picture removes that backplate exposing the rear of the card.

The heatsink is a nickel plated copper with a wide base to help get the heat away from the core. There is a total of five heatpipes with one of them being the ‘Superpipe’ (larger than the others).

Heatsink removed for the core.

Heatsink removed for the core.

Rear sans Backplate

Rear sans Backplate

Bottom of the Heatsink, four heatpipes and one Superpipe.

Bottom of the Heatsink, four heatpipes and one Superpipe.

Contact!

Contact!

Next up is a closeup shot of the cleaned up GK104-225 core as well as the Hynix memory IC.

GK1-4-225 Core

GK104-225 Core

vRAM IC - Hynix H5GQ2H24AFR ROC

vRAM IC – Hynix H5GQ2H24AFR ROC

These last few pictures show in a bit more detail what separates this card from the rest of them and especially the reference cards. In the first picture we can see the six GPU power phases (not pictured are the two for the memory on the other side of the card). To the right is a closeup of the BIOS switch. Something to note on this switch is that when you use it, the system ‘thinks’ its a different card in that, you boot and have to reinstall drivers. This can be a pain for those that want to push the limits and set things up without it. I am not sure how that works on the BIOS side of things, but it would be nice if you could just switch and still use the same ‘ID’ for the card in my opinion.

The last two pictures show the three voltage read points that are on the card. They are in a nice location towards the back with headers for the included read point wires.  Your read points cover the core, memory, and PLL voltage. On the back side of the card, they are labeled.

VRM area

VRM area (6 phases GPU – 2 for Memory)

LN2 switch (disables OCP and...

BIOS Switch

Voltage read point plugs

Voltage Read Point Plugs

Labels for the read points

Labels for the Read Points

 

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:

Test System

  • Intel i7 4770K @ 4 GHz, 1.1 V
  • MSI Z87 XPower
  • Kingston Hyper X Predator 2 x 4 GB 2666 MHz CL11 @ 1866 MHz 9-9-9-24
  • 240 GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD
  • Seasonic 1000 W PSU
  • MSI GTX 760 HAWK  – @ 1111 (1267 MHz actual boost)/1502, Overclocked @ 1160(1320 actual boost)/1707
  • Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
  • NVIDIA 320.49 drivers

Other cards used for comparison are as follows (links are to the reviews):

Benchmarking Method/Settings

  • 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.com GPU Testing Procedures

GPU-Z

Below we see GPUz 7.2 screenshot showing what the card is all about. For the pushing the limits section below, I have installed the latest beta drivers, 326.41. As mentioned above however, all testing was done with the 320.49 drivers.

GPUz 7.2 (

GPUz 7.2

 

Overclocking Software – MSI Afterburner

We all know the MSI Afterburner software and how it works so we will not get into those details. However,  MSI has recently come out with the latest beta version of the software, beta 12, supporting the N760 HAWK. What is most notable in this beta release is the ability to utilize the ‘triple voltage’ functionality found in the HAWK. We can of course adjust the GPU’s core voltage, the memory voltage, and PLL. With the way these memory IC’s seem to overclock, giving them a bit a voltage will hopefully allow them to stretch their legs even more… we will see in the Pushing the Limits section after the benchmarks.

MSI Afterburner 3.0.0 Beta 12 (LN2 bios)

MSI Afterburner 3.0.0 Beta 12 (LN2 BIOS)

MSI Afterburner 3.0.0 Beta 12 - Triple voltage option for MSI GTX 760 HAWK

MSI AB 3.0.0 B12 – Triple voltage SI GTX 760 HAWK

 

 Synthetic Benchmarks

One of the first things that you will notice, and will be a reoccurring theme throughout this testing, is that the MSI N760 HAWK beats out all other 760 GPU’s we have had the chance to review. And the reason? Because the boost on this card skyrockets to a constant 1267 MHz at stock voltage. That is, by far, the highest boost levels I have seen; over 150 MHz from its stock speeds of 1111 MHz. So the bottom line here is, at this time, this is the fastest GTX 760 out of the box, period.

So let’s get a bit more granular shall we? The next thing you may have noticed is a slight change in my graphs… 3DMark 03 is gone. Finally, that well responding oldie but goodie has been retired at OCF and we have since moved on to 3DMark Vantage as the oldest benchmark we have. Here the N760 HAWK scored 33,631 at its stock speeds, a mere 4.3% slower than a slightly overclocked 770. When we overclock the HAWK to 1320(boost)/1702 MHz it comes within the margin of error of the 770 (just as fast essentially). Of course you can overclock the 770 and it will easily regain its lead, but this is solid out of the box performance, no doubt.

In 3DMark 11, the N760 HAWK scored 9,398 points besting all other 760’s in this testing by at least 4.5% against the Galaxy offering and up to 9.9% on the ASUS 760. At stock speeds it is almost 9% slower than the 770.

3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11

3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11

Getting in to something a bit more modern, we will look at the relatively recently released, 3DMark (2013), the Firestrike test specifically. Here we see the HAWK posting a score of 6,137 points out of the box and 6,500 overclocked. Again seeing a difference of 4-10% between the other 760’s and falling 5.5% behind the 770 at stock speeds while actually beating it overclocked. Impressive!

In Unigine Heaven (Hwbot version), the MSI 760 scored 1,962.5 with the same gaps between the other 760’s. The 770 though takes its expected lead of almost 12% in this GPU heavy test.

3DMark (Firestrike) and Unigine Heaven (Hwbot)

3DMark (Firestrike) and Unigine Heaven (Hwbot)

Gaming Benchmarks

So let’s move on to the games. I will give you a spoiler alert here and tell you that, for the most part, the ‘song remains the same’ (love me some Led Zepplin!) as far as the MSI N760 HAWK with its hellacious factory overclock on the core in that it beats out, or in one cases matches, the other GTX 760 cards we used to compare against.

In Aliens versus Predator, we see FPS of 59 at stock speeds while in Batman: Arkham City it comes in at 87 FPS, while in the last game, Battlefield 3, the N760 HAWK pulls out 79.4 FPS. Outside of the EVGA offering barely beating the MSI card, we again have a clean sweep here. What is interesting to note is that in Batman, the overclock N760 HAWK actually beats out the GTX 770.

3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11

Aliens vs. Predator, Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3

We start out in this graph with Civ V. In this title the story changes just a bit with the HAWK getting 82.2 FPS matching the other 760’s outside of the EVGA.

Moving on to the bane of my existence in this review, Dirt3 and Metro 2033. I had one HELL of a time trying to get these to run on my test bench, and my daily driver for whatever reason (not card related I do not believe). It took a couple of fresh installs on a different SSD to get these titles to work.. so weird… so frustrating. BUT, we have the results! In Dirt 3 the HAWK hit 97 FPS besting its peers. And in Metro 2033, it hit 30.7 leading by a FPS or less over most other 760’s.

Civilization V, Dirt 3, Metro 2033

Civilization V, Dirt 3, Metro 2033

Pushing the Limits

I have to admit going in to the section I was a bit nervous about the amount of headroom I had on the core, and for good reason. In the past, the fastest core of all the 760’s I ran hit 1320 MHz so I was not expecting much headroom, and didn’t get it either. So I flipped the switch to the LN2 BIOS to remove and potential restrictions I would run into and went to clocking. I was only able to run these benchmarks at a core of 1346/1359 MHz depending on the benchmark (Vantage was a bit lower actually), a mere 26 MHz faster than the overclocked results above. MEH. But when you are boosting to what some cards top out at, I think that is a fairly reasonable amount.

The memory however, was a different story. This sample managed to hit 1953 MHz through all the testing below. So close to the magical (in my head) 2000 MHz!! Damn! I used +20mv to get there and regardless of increasing that voltage or adjusting the PLL, it wouldn’t budge past that for all the tests. At stock voltage I was in the 1875 MHz neighborhood. Not to shabby there either.

Overall, this sample’s core was the highest we hit in our Pushing the Limits section, so that was a good showing for a card made for overclocking.

3DMark Vantage - 37,686

3DMark Vantage – 37,686

3DMark 11 - 10,355

3DMark 11 – 10,355

Uningine Heaven (Hwbot) - 2,272.822

Uningine Heaven (Hwbot) – 2,272.822

3DMark (Firestrike) - 6,802

3DMark (Firestrike) – 6,802

 

Cooling and Power Consumption

Next up we get to see how the TFIV Advanced works on the 760 and as we can see, pretty well. The fan speeds didn’t ramp up all that much, and was whisper quiet throughout this testing. Cranking the dual 100mm propeller blade fans to 100% speed resulted in a lot better cooling (the warmest it got during the PTL session above was 58 °C), and of course more noise, but you do not remotely need to run this cooler close to 100%. The auto profile works just fine.

Temperatures

Temperatures

Not much difference in this card as far as power consumption goes. The Haswell based system peaked at a boring 264W in 3DMark 11 at the wall. This is about a typical gaming load. And people look at you funny when you say a quality 550W Power Supply is enough…BAH!

Power Consumption

Power Consumption

Conclusion

So let’s get this review in the books, shall we? MSI has brought to the table the highest clocked (with boost) GTX 760 on the market with their N760 HAWK. That should mean, overall, we have the fastest GTX 760 available right here at this time. MSI has strapped on their TwinFrozr IV Advanced cooler to help keep temperatures in line while being quieter than reference (not difficult mind you, those blower fans can get obnoxious early in their RPM range) and have accomplished it. There is plenty of cooling headroom left on the cooler to push ANY overclock with the allowed voltage for both the memory and the core.

MSI has also added more power phases to the GPU than the competition in hopes of getting higher overclocks. While that may not have been the thing that got us the clocks I achieved, as the quality of the core itself is what matters most, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

So before I continue to ‘wax poetic’ about the product, there is still the same problem with the TFIV coolers and the PCIe power connections. It is difficult to get my fingers between the heatpipes and the tab on the PCIe connector. There has to be a better way. This isn’t a huge issue honestly as it will generally sit there for months on end in the first place, or the cooler comes off to strap a GPU pot on it. The last minor quip I have is regarding switching BIOS. This does not apply only to MSI cards note, but hopefully in the future there will be a way to switch the BIOS and not have to reinstall the drivers from having the PC recognize it as a different device.

Pricing on this card will come in at $299.99 or less. This puts the card $30 more than the Galaxy GTX 760 GC, and $40 more than the Zotac offering (at the same clocks), and the ASUS Direct CU II. Now, I do not believe these cards have an LN2 switch or anything, but I know the ASUS has voltage read points but doesn’t have a BIOS that will disable protection items. Still, that price needs to come down just a bit. Perhaps $279.99 would be a sweet spot. $20 over those cards I could swallow a bit easier. That said, if you are just looking for a good 760, this should be in the running as it is a great GPU, but there are cheaper options out that will accomplish the same thing. If you are looking for a GTX 760 to take cold, this is the card of choice in my opinion. If you are looking for the fastest GTX 760 out of the box, this is the card you are looking for.

 

– Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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Discussion
  1. The irony kills me in that the airplane pictured on their box for this card is discontinued by the US millitary, lol.
    Still, does nVidia let you SLI GeForce x60 cards? I seem to remember something about only the higher end cards being allowed to SLI, maybe 3-way +, not sure.
    Culbrelai
    The irony kills me in that the airplane pictured on their box for this card is discontinued by the US millitary, lol.
    Still, does nVidia let you SLI GeForce x60 cards? I seem to remember something about only the higher end cards being allowed to SLI, maybe 3-way +, not sure.

    You can SLI this card. MSI Website.
    NVIDIA SLI Technology
    Delivers up to 2x the performance of a single GPU configuration for unequaled gaming experiences by allowing two cards to run in parallel. The must-have feature for performance PCI Express graphics, SLI technology dramatically scales performance on today's hottest games.

    Looks like it is only two card.
    Nice review...... looks like this gen of cards destroys the price points of the 6XX series.
    Just got around to reading this review. Only question that comes to mind is: Why 2x 8-pin PCI-E connectors?
    As you said a 550w PSU is more than enough for a system with this card, yet most won't have 2x 8-pin connectors. Let's face the fact, this card will never require 375 watts under any circumstances.
    Does MSI think it looks cool? :shrug: