MSI GTX 760 GAMING ITX OC Review
As the PC market evolves, more and more users have been looking to do away with their oversized cases from generations past and look towards smaller, more compact form factors. This means mini-ITX components have seen a surge in popularity. While cases, motherboards and even CPU heatsinks have caught onto the trend, graphics cards have traditionally lagged behind due to their relative complexity and the fact that up until now, most ITX users have been content to use integrated GPUs. MSI is aiming to change what gamers look for in a small form factor system with their new GTX 760 GAMING ITX OC Edition.
The GTX 760 GAMING ITX is exactly what its name implies: an overclocked, custom cooled mini-ITX video card thatís focused on packing as much performance into the smallest form factor possible. While the recently released GTX 750 Ti does come in a satisfyingly diminutive package, itís quite underpowered for anyone that wants a competent gaming card. Thatís where the GTX 760 GAMING ITX comes into play.
One of the more interesting aspects of this card is MSIís insistence to give it an out-of-box overclock. Typically we see SFF-focused GPUs with reference or even cut-down frequencies in an effort to balance our power needs and heat output. In this case MSI is shooting straight for the stars with some significant core speed increases which are made possible with an upgraded cooling assembly and better onboard components.
While MSI certainly isnít the first NVIDIA board partner to launch an ITX-focused GPU (ASUS was the last with their excellent GTX 670 DirectCU II Mini), theyíve implemented some interesting features which deliver a user-customizable experience. As you can see above, there are three modes included with this card: Silent, Gaming and OC. These need a bit of an explanation.
In Silent Mode, the GAMING ITX remains at reference speeds, sacrificing increased performance for a much lower acoustical profile; something that will surely appeal to SFF users. Meanwhile, OC mode boosts clock speeds but does so by pushing the fan to higher Ėand louder- RPM settings. So thereís a trade-off there for users who value silence.
Gaming mode is likely more beneficial for products that have a higher thermal overhead and didnít accomplish much in this instance so weíll be combining its performance scores with Silent. Their average observed frequencies are within a few MHz of one another and neither really offers more onscreen performance than a reference design. The reason for this will become evident as we look at the temperatures in a later section since Game mode starts off strong but is quickly dragged down by heat buildup.
These settings are controlled by the handy Gaming APP utility which can be downloaded on MSIís product page. With it, you can manually control the current performance profile (they canít be modified) and also temporarily augment fan speeds to bring temperatures down to a lower level. We couldnít have asked for a simpler piece of software for anyone that is looking for quick situational-specific graphics card modifications.
All of this haute technology condensed down into a Peter Dinklage-sized packaged doesnít even come with an astronomical price premium. The GAMING ITX goes for $270 which is no more than similarly-clocked GTX 760 cards and bucks the preconceived notion that such specialized cards usually cost much more.
In mid-2013, MSI went through a complete redesign of their graphics cardsí exteriors so they would align better with their motherboard lineup. As with most other GAMING products the 6 7/8Ē long, dual slot GTX 760 ITX uses a black and red color scheme with a dragon motif. To us, this looks absolutely stunning.
Some folks may have hoped this card would come in a low profile, low-rise form but thatís impossible. The GTX 760ís core still puts out a significant amount of heat and requires some pretty hefty VRM components so slimming things down even further would have taken a miracle rather than simple creative engineering.
The heatsink on this card is a deceptively simple affair which consists of a full-contact copper base plate which covers the core and memory modules and is linked directly to a flattened heatpipe. There are aluminum fins which help with heat dispersion and a large 80mm fan, making for a surprisingly robust design attached to such a compact graphics card.
MSI has also equipped this card with a full-size backplate since additional VRM component and memory modules had to be carried over onto the PCBís rear due to size constraints on the top side. It looks great but the design would best be used alongside good case ventilation since this area isnít directly cooled by the GTX 760 ITXís main fan.
To supply enough power to the overclocked core, an 8-pin PCI-E power connector has been added. There is also an SLI interface so the reference GTX 760ís dual setup capabilities have been carried over en masse.
For any HTPC-focused card, the I/O connectors are a critical factor and MSI seems to have hit all the high points. Their GTX 760 ITX comes equipped with a single DVI outputs as well as a full sized HDMI port for native compatibility with HDTVs and a pair of DisplayPorts. We really couldnít have asked for a better layout.
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