Articles: Graphics

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PCB Design

This graphics card looks like a RADEON X800 XT or XL at first sight, having the same crimson color of the PCB and the same-shape cooler as ATI’s cards. Yet it is really a NX6800GT. MSI just replaced the traditional green of graphics cards with NVIDIA’s GPUs with crimson, and it looks cool enough:

This graphics card is an astonishingly compact device. Instead of a bulky dual-slot cooling system it is equipped with a flat and seemingly humble cooler. This appearance is deceptive, though. As you take the card in your hands you realize immediately how heavy the CopperUltra cooler from MSI is. It is in fact a copper bar, about 2 millimeters thick, with thin copper ribs soldered up to it. Another narrow bar is soldered to the bottom where the heat-spreader contacts the GPU.

The cooler is covered with a plastic casing that splits up the air stream from the 60mm fan with thirteen blades. The fan has no highlighting, but features a manual speed controller – there’s a small card with the control circuit on the cooler side.

So, you can use the slider varistor to vary the speed of the fan from 2800 to 4000rpm. The noise from the fan changes from 28 to 39dB at that. This control system isn’t as convenient as the one developed by ASUS, for example, because you have to open your system case each time you want to adjust the speed. The manufacturer probably suggests that the user sets the speed to a comfortable level once and for all and doesn’t touch the controller too often afterwards.

The cooler is fastened to the PCB with five spring-loaded screws and an additional back-plate on four screws more. Unfortunately, these screws are rather fragile and easily break at a slightest pressure. Even doing everything carefully we lost three screws out of nine when dismantling and reinstalling the cooler – their heads just broke off.

Dark-gray thermal compound is used as a thermal interface between the cooler’s sole and the GPU surface. This compound is only on the NV45 die, while the HSI chip lacks any thermal interface at all. The memory contacts the heat-spreader through black elastic pads – we have some apprehensions about the thermal conductivity properties of this mysterious material, but at least they ensure good contact. The 2.0ns memory chips come from Samsung. They work at 500 (1000DDR) MHz, and the graphics core is clocked at 350MHz (the default frequency of the reference 6800 GT).

The cooler deserves its name of CopperUltra as even the heatsink on the power elements is made of copper rather than aluminum. Like in NVIDIA’s reference cooling system this heatsink receives some air from the main heatsink fan. Overall, even with some minor defects, the CopperUltra cooler seems to be quite capable of cooling such a hot chip as NV45. Our tests confirmed this point: the graphics card was stable and went through our tests without problems even at the minimum speed of the fan.

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