This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.
Packaging and Presentation
The videocard comes nicely packaged. The card itself is snuggly fit in cardboard and each CD comes in its own plastic case (not those flimsy paper sleeves). The manual is thorough in terms of outlining the card’s features, hardware installation, and installing drivers. However, the manual does not give any information on other software such as MSI 3D Desktop, WinProducer, or anything else. That documentation (if available) will have to be found on other discs.
The Card Itself
The biggest problem I found with the card itself that the cooler is not flush with the GPU and RAM. Because of this, it is questionable that the GPU and 2 of 4 RAM chips on the front are getting proper cooling which raises some long-term reliability issues. Unless you are comfortable voiding warranty and doing some modding to the existing cooler, I suggest you do not overclock using the factory cooling solution. MSI should really look into this issue and correct it as it will cause customers problems and cost MSI money to service these cards.
The cooler itself, if seated properly on the card, is excellent as it covers both the RAM and the GPU.
The Video-in/Video-out functionality is very useful for those of you looking to digitize footage or create your own videos… assuming you have software that works with it (see Bundled Software). Once you have it working (which is a matter of installing the WDM drivers and editing software), the quality is excellent and rivals that taken using Firewire.
Image quality in 2D is great except for the problem of fuzzy text and images when using the VGA connector on the card. So be sure to use the DVI-VGA connector for your CRT monitor, or have a good high-quality monitor for the VGA connection.
I was not able to test Hardware Monitoring because the feature does not work with any current combinations of MSI drivers or monitoring software (MSI 3D Experience). This is a pity because monitoring your card’s health (temperature, overclock, and voltages) is important to many of you. Keep this in mind when you buy your card as there may be a chance it may not work.
The bundled software is a mixed bag – there are some really useful programs and then there are some that are truly useless or poorly designed. WinProducer (the video editing software) and MSI’s 3D Turbo Experience (the overclocking and hardware monitoring utility) stood out in my mind as being poorly tested. Neither of these applications worked with drivers supplied by MSI or with any MSI-supported patches. Since the software that supports these features do not work, these major features are effectively broken. The only way to get video editing to work is to use a different program like Adobe Premiere. Hardware monitoring can only be supported by MSI, and therefore we will need to wait for them to fix it. This is important to keep in mind when making a purchasing decision.
Applications such as VirtualDrive/RestoreIt, PC-cillin, and WinDVD are pretty useful. They are a great addition to a user’s library if they do not already have similar software. The games bundled are top-notch. With games like Morrowind and Ghost Recon, it’s good to know that not only will you be able to use your new video card for gaming right away, but you’ll also be playing games which have both critical acclaim and a proven fan base (these are games you’d actually want to play!).
The rest of the software included I consider useless, though some of you may find some of it useful.
After completing a barrage of tests on games across different genres with all available anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering settings, we can conclude that the MSI Ti4800SE-VTD8X is best suited for resolutions below 1600×1200. At 1600×1200, we experience unplayable frame rates with any sort of AA or AF. Having sat through a few of these benchmarks, it’s very painful to watch, nevermind playing. That is not to say it’s impossible to play at 1600×1200, you just won’t get nice smooth frames without having to compromise or tweak. I suggest not running any anti-aliasing and just try using anisotropic filtering at this resolution. Overclocking your system or the videocard may help achieve some more playable options, but is not recommended for all consumers.
With 1024×768 to 1280×1024, we see that depending on your game, you can get very reasonable framerates and a good performance-detail compromise at settings 2×2 to 2×4 AAxAF. I would anticipate those of you who buy this card to have the performance set to this level.
An interesting result from the Unreal Tournament 2003 benchmarks. With the trend of FPS games going towards expansive exterior environments with vehicles and larger player teams, you may find this card lacking. If the results of the CTF-Face3 benchmark is any indication, we may have to begin turning down details or drop some settings in order to play games slated to be released in the next 6-8 months (Breed and Half-Life 2 are games that come to mind). With E3 coming this week, we expect to see many more demos to be released and more performance details for upcoming games. I wouldn’t be surprised if these demos push top-performing hardware to its limits and I suspect the Ti4800SE will be sufficient but with compromises.
This card overclocked very well despite the problem with the heatsink. I was able to get a stable overclock 315MHz/634.5Mhz (GPU/RAM) which puts it in the same performance range as the GeForce4 Ti4600 (300MHz GPU, 650MHz RAM). However, I would not recommend overclocking this card unless either MSI or you have managed to get the heatsink flush to both the GPU and RAM.
Overclocking the card itself translated into disappointing performance gains in a real-world game even though the inreases in 3DMark 2001 scores looked impressive. We see that a higher system RAM frequency benefits overall graphics performance more than videocard overclocking. In the case of the RAM set at 176MHz and CPU at 1633MHz, we see a healthy boost in both Unreal Tournament 2003 performance and overall 3DMark 2001 scores when compared to RAM clocked at 166MHz and the CPU at 1660MHz. So if you’re looking to overclock, you should consider overclocking your system’s RAM in addition to your videocard to yield the best results.