AMD vs Nvidia – Two MSI Cards for Under $200
Since these video cards are actually quite old, we won’t spend a lot of time talking about the features. If you’d like to learn more about the GeForce GTX 560, I will once again direct you to The Tech Report for their coverage of that GPU. And here is their review of the Radeon 6870. Note that these reviews took place before Scott adopted this new method of testing, so our performance comparison today isn’t necessarily redundant ;)
The cards we’re looking at from MSI today are both overclocked models. Their GeForce GTX 560 OC comes with their “Twin Frozr II” cooler, and runs at 870 MHz core, with 4080 MHz DDR memory. This is up from 810 MHz and 4004 MHz respectively.
The MSI Radeon 6870 Hawk comes with an upgraded “Twin Frozr III” cooler, and is also overclocked. The core runs at 930 MHz, up from 900 MHz, and the memory runs at the stock speed of 4200 MHz.
Importantly, both have 1 GB of memory, running on a full 256 bit bus. This is an important specification to look at when comparing different models within the same lineup. These cards may not have been designed to compete with each other, but that’s where they sit now.
The Radeon 6870 Hawx is actually quite a bit longer and heavier than the GeForce 560 OC. It measures in at about 27.5 cm, not including the DVI port. The heatsink on the GeForce 560 OC is 24 cm long, although the actual PCB is quite a bit shorter. The 560’s PCB is just a touch over 22cm, while the Radeon 6870 is 25.5 cm long.
Both cards look quite nice with their gunmetal grey finish, which I think looks fantastic when installed in the NZXT Phantom 410 Gunmetal case, along with a matte black Gigabyte Z68XP-UD4 motherboard. In the 6870 Hawk on the bottom, you can see that it has voltage readouts for GPU, Memory, and PLL, to I guess assist in overclocking. It also has a tiny switch that goes between “Silent” and “Performance” although in our tests, this did nothing to affect the speed of the fans under stress or idle.
The port layouts are quite different here, with the GeForce 560 OC only getting a pair of dual link DVI ports and a MINI HDMI port. The 6870 Hawk has one dual link DVI, one single link DVI (which limits the resolution of one monitor to under 2.75 megapixels), an HDMI, and a pair of mini DisplayPorts. So although the Hawk has more outputs, one of them is limited to monitors under 2000 pixels wide generally. I also find it odd that they used a MINI HDMI on the 560 OC, when the vast majority of displays will be using full sized ports. Quite frankly, the port setup of both these cards are unimpressive.
Both cards feature MSI’s “Military Class” VRM hardware, which means solid state capacitors, Hi conductive caps, and super ferrite chokes. Importantly, these cards will not ‘buzz’ when playing games. If you have used a cheap video card in the past, you know what I am referring to. The 6870 Hawk comes with a beefed up 8+2 phase voltage regulation circuit, up from the OEM 4+2 spec. This should distribute the load across more components, keeping temperatures down, and increasing durability.
Both cards support MSI’s excellent “Afterburner” and “Kombustor” software combo. Afterburner is an extremely deep tuning program that has far too many features to go through here. Perhaps we will talk about it more in depth whenever we do a full review of some MSI cards. Kombustor is their burn-in or overclocking test which we found loads the GPUs better than any game I’ve tried. Since the software is compatible with both cards, we will be using it for our overclocking and heat tests later in the review.
Now that we know more about the cards we’re looking at today, let’s see how they perform! On to the benchmarks!