I have to admit, I am a big fan of what MSI has done.  The cooler that they designed for the GTX 285 is really outstanding, and it does its job very, very well.  The card that I have has been running non-stop for about 5 months.  While this has not made the folks at MSI very happy about how late the review is, know very well that the card has not been tested for a week and then thrown in a box to lie around.  In the time that I have used this card on my main testbed, it has never glitched once.  It runs cool, it stays quiet, and there were no signs of the fans becoming unbalanced or dying, or the caps puffing up to explode at some later date.  I can safely say that MSI has made a very impressive card.

    At nearly $350, it should be an impressive card.  AMD has lowered the overall cost of ownership for high end cards, and NVIDIA has had to follow suite to stay ahead.  What just a year or two ago would be a $599 card is now $349, and users everywhere should rejoice.  The GTX 285 is a very fast, and well balanced card.  It certainly can tear through Folding@Home much faster than the Radeon variants, and in gaming the output looks outstanding with CSAA enabled (and with a very small performance hit).

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The N285GTX Superpipe OC (top) as compared to (in downward order) the XFX 8800 GTX, AMD/ATI Radeon HD 4870, and the (relatively diminutive) GeForce 8800 GT.

    Video playback with PureVideo HD works as advertised.  It has no problem with all sorts of video formats.  The only real downside to this is that the NVIDIA chips do not utilize a separate HDMI audio portion, so it has to use a digital passthrough from the motherboard or soundcard to get audio functionality out of the single HDMI cable.  Because it has to use a two wire digital output from the original source, it cannot do 8 channel LPCM or bitstream HD audio.  While the competing AMD boards can’t bitstream HD audio either, they can at least do 8 channel LPCM (the HD audio is decoded in the card and then sent to the receiver in 8 channel LPCM format).  This of course would be rendered moot with the use of the latest Auzentech and Asus standalone soundcards with HDMI in/out and can in fact bitstream HD audio.

    Gaming with this card provides an excellent experience.  While it is the fastest single chip board out there, it still falls down a bit when faced with either a SLI or CrossFire setup.  Where it trumps those setups is of course with power, heat, and quite likely sound.  It had few problems with the majority of applications at 2560×1600 with varying amounts of AA thrown in.  Only a couple of apps really caused it to struggle, but if a user has a monitor with a max resolution of 1920×1200, they likely will never see any issues with running at all settings maxed out (except of course Crysis).

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The lower card is a reference GTX 280.  Without all the plastic cladding, the N285GTX is slightly smaller in size.

    The big question that we all will be asking in a few weeks is how this card will compete with the upcoming DX 11 products from AMD?  I cannot give an answer to that, simply because I do not know.  What I do know is that NVIDIA and their partners will adjust pricing on current products to make them more competitive with what AMD will have to offer.  Priced as the card is now, I think it is a fair deal considering what else is out there.  That likely will change once the new generation of products hit the streets.  For once it appears as though AMD will not attempt to undercut NVIDIA so drastically with these new parts.  With that in mind, I would still wait a few weeks before purchasing this or any other GTX 285 card.  If a user is anti-AMD (as quite a few folks are) and still complain about their driver quality, then the risks of getting this card are few.  It will be the fastest NVIDIA based single GPU card for some time to come.

    What we can walk away with at the end of the review is that MSI has produced a pretty tremendous card.  The build quality is excellent, the cooler design works just as it is supposed to, and the NVIDIA GTX 285 is a very good chip that provides a very good gaming and entertainment experience.  The slight overclock did not affect stability, and the tad of extra performance was appreciated.  Though we have become spoiled by high end cards in the $199 to $249 range, there still exist products above that which can actually deliver more performance.  At $349 the N285GTX Superpipe OC is a very modestly priced product for the features and performance delivered.

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