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Power Consumption, Temperature, Noise, Overclockability

We are going to check out the power appetite of our MSI N550GTX-Ti Cyclone OC graphics card based on the latest GF116 using our traditional testbed with the following configuration: 

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU (3GHz, 1333 MHz FSB x 9, LGA775)
  • DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G mainboard (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset)
  • PC2-1066 SDRAM (2x2 GB, 1066MHz)
  • Enermax Liberty ELT620AWT PSU (620W)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 7 64-bit
  • CyberLink PowerDVD 9 Ultra/"Serenity" BD (1080p VC-1, 20 Mbit)
  • Crysis Warhead
  • OCCT Perestroika 3.1.0

The new testbed for measuring electric characteristics of graphics cards uses a card designed by one of our engineers, Oleg Artamonov, and described in his article called PC Power Consumption: How Many Watts Do We Need?. As usual, we used the following benchmarks to load the graphics accelerators:

  • CyberLink PowerDVD 9: FullScreen, hardware acceleration enabled
  • Crysis Warhead: 1600x1200, FSAA 4x, DirectX 10/Enthusiast, "frost" map
  • OCCT Perestroika GPU: 1600x1200, FullScreen, Shader Complexity 8

Except for the maximum load simulation with OCCT, we measured power consumption in each mode for 60 seconds. We limited the run time of OCCT: GPU to 10 seconds to avoid overloading the graphics card's power circuitry. Here are the obtained results:

There are no surprises here. The GeForce GTX 550 Ti needs only 11 watts when idle. That's a normal result for a modern graphics card. At low loads like Blu-ray playback the MSI card consumes 41 watts. The electric current in the 12-volt 6-pin power connector increases then, so you shouldn’t forget to plug your power supply's connector into it. Working under heavy load, the N550GTX-Ti Cyclone OC had a peak power draw of 91 watts. Let’s have a look at the comparative table now.

More performance for fewer watts – that’s the motto of the GeForce GTX 550 Ti! The peak power consumption has only increased by 7 watts over that of the previous-generation GeForce GTS 450 card. Considering that the new card has more raster operators, higher clock rates and a wider memory bus, such a small increase in power consumption is a technical achievement. On the other hand, the GF116 is inferior to the Radeon HD 5770 solutions and can only compare with the Radeon HD 6850 in terms of power draw.

Now what about the temperature?

The N550GTX-Ti Cyclone OC has the best result here, which might be expected considering its advanced cooling system. Of course, the GF116 doesn’t dissipate too much heat, yet the effect from the Cyclone OC is clear even under such conditions. Working at low loads, the card had a GPU temperature of 28°C. The temperature increased to only 52°C at high load, which proves the efficiency of the custom cooler.

MSI's card is also good in terms of noisiness. The Cyclone OC is close to the ambient noise in 2D applications but gets louder, up to 42 dB, in 3D mode. This is not a reason to search for a replacement, but we must note that the standard coolers installed on the GeForce GTS 450 and Radeon HD 5770 produce the same amount of noise. The fan speed changes from 1300 to 2300 RPM as the load increases, which is the reason for the noise.

The MSI N550GTX-Ti Cyclone OC is the first GF116-based product we tried to overclock. We were lucky with our sample and added 100 MHz to its factory overclocking, reaching a GPU clock rate of 1050 MHz (2100 MHz for the shader domain). The memory subsystem did well, too. We overclocked it from 1075 (4300) to 1175 (4700) MHz. Thus, the MSI N550GTX-Ti Cyclone OC easily conquered the 1GHz barrier.

Talking about the overclocking potential of this product, we shouldn't omit the exclusive overclocking tool MSI Afterburner. Computer enthusiasts should be familiar with it. It used to be called RivaTuner and developed independently, reaching the status of a leader among GPU overclocking tools. A couple of years ago MSI decided to establish its own tuning agency, like Mercedes-Benz’s AMG, and took RivaTuner under its aegis. So now everyone can download this tool, which has acquired a new interface and a new name, from the company’s official website.

Of course, the MSI card is fully compatible with that software. Moreover, you can use Afterburner to easily adjust the GPU voltage without changing any registry keys or editing configuration files.

According to the official page, MSI Afterburner offers the following features, among many others:

  • Core/shader/memory clock adjustment
  • GPU voltage adjustment
  • 2D/3D profiles for different usage scenarios
  • Fan speed adjustment
  • Temperature, voltage, clock rate monitoring

This is an indispensable tool for any overclocker but you should keep it in mind that your graphics card warranty won’t cover any damages inflicted by your having increased the clock rates and/or voltages above the default values.

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