Initial Impressions

MSI usually makes a really nice package for its video cards. With that said, the boxes are a bit big–probably larger than they really need to be. This makes shipping a little tougher and more expensive, but the cards are very well protected. Also, there is plenty of room for all those extras that we often crave. The contents in this case are pretty minimal as compared to what we have seen in the past from MSI. If there was one thing I did miss, it was the bevy of games that MSI used to include in its bundles. These might not have been the very latest and greatest, but chances were that users did not have all of them already. I think I still have two copies of Sacrifice which were bundled with the GeForce 4 4600 Ti cards, for example.

The board itself is well built. We have seen the very short GTX 670 PCBs on some reference boards, but this is obviously not one of them. I am guessing that it is essentially the higher TDP enabled GTX 680 PCB that MSI uses on its higher-end products. It still only has the two six-pin PCI-E connections, but that should be plenty of power for the GK104 chip resting on the board. Quality components are used throughout the design, and the actual manufacturing looks to be pretty solid. In the last few years I have only had one MSI board really fry on me, and that looked like it was due to a very small manufacturing defect (some random solder blob shorted it out). It will happen from time to time, but my overall experience with MSI boards has been good.

The cooler is just plain big. It is packed nicely with aluminum fins, 5 heatpipes (two of which are the 8mm “Superpipes”), and the nickel-plated copper heatspreader. The two 80 mm fans can push a lot of air through the unit. The board also features the “Form-in-one” heatspread which also acts as a stiffening unit for the PCB. The back of the board does not currently feature the “GPU-Reactor” that is present on the Lightning and HAWK, however.

2GB of memory should be good enough for most users. It might be a bit troublesome compared to a higher-clocked HD 7950 in multiple screen resolutions, but anything up to 1920×1200 should not be adversely affected by having “only” 2GB of memory onboard. My first hard drive was a 20 MB unit and the entire system came with 720KB of memory. Heck, my first ATA-33 drive was a whopping 4GB.  The 1.6 GB drive that it replaced was PIO Mode 5 (PIO represent!).

Internal documentation is limited, but the box pretty much says it all anyway. Lift up the flap and the user is greeted by the salient features of the card. Everything is explained nicely there with some pleasant looking graphs that outline why this card is better than the rest. The box comes with a four pin molex to PCI-E power connector, some basic documentation, a driver CD, and the nearly ubiquitous DVI to VGA adapter. This is again a fairly weak bundle, but I do not expect to see any active DP to DVI adapters anytime soon from any manufacturer.

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