GeForce 780, Titan’s little brother, is available in many flavours from various brands. MSI themselves offer four different models, from a bone stock 780 to the triple-fan cooled version with a special BIOS for sub zero cooling. Today we’re going to look at the MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC GeForce 780 that carries their GAMING moniker.
MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC GeForce 780
What sets the MSI GAMING model apart from stock are two main things – the Advanced Twin FROZR IV cooler, and its pre-overclocked settings.
The Twin FROZR IV cooler continues from previous designs, and replaces the standard blower style cooler with two downward facing fans and intelligently placed heatpipes (something other manufacturers get wrong quite often). The result is a lot more heatsink surface area, and better overall cooling for all the components on the card, including the memory modules and VRM. This is important for overclocking.
Speaking of overclocking, the MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC comes with three built-in speed settings, which can be changed using the “GAMING APP” utility. The stock speed for this card, called “Gaming Mode” by the app, is 902 MHz core, with a Boost speed of 954 MHz. In our testing, this leads to a true core speed of 1019 MHz under load.
This is already a nice jump from the stock GeForce 780 speed of 863 MHz core/902 MHz which MSI calls “Silent Mode”, but there is one more step that takes it even further. Simply by clicking the “OC Mode” button, users can enjoy a clock speed of 954 MHz, with the Boost speed set to 1006 MHz.
Under load, this led to a core speed of 1071 MHz in our testing. The memory clock remains at 6008 MHz for all three modes.
MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC Overclocking
Of course you know we’re not going to leave it at that. Using the EVGA Precision X app, we got started with overclocking. Power Limit can be set to 103 MHz on the MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC, and voltage can be set to 1.2v. After hours of testing, we came to several results depending on what you consider to be a stable overclock under load. In my opinion, an overclock is only useful if it works in every game you play. By that measure, the highest clock attained that worked in all the games tested in this review was a Boost clock speed of 1088 MHz at 1.187v. This leads to a true in-game clock speed of 1189 MHz most of the time, sometimes dipping to 1170 or even 1150, depending on load and temperature. In any case, while it’s not a spectacular overclock over the available prebuilt settings,, it’s a nice risk-free performance boost.
Memory overclocking on the MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC was more impressive however. We were able to clock it at a full 7000 MHz with no artifacting or instability whatsoever. Here’s a quick overview of the settings we just talked about, including our top overclock:
|MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC Stock Speed (Gaming Mode)||MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC Auto OC (OC Mode)||MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC Overclocked by HCW||GeForce GTX 780 Stock|
|Voltage Under Load||1.162v||1.162v||1.187v||1.162v|
|GPU Boost Setting||954 MHz||1006 MHz||1088 MHz||902 MHz|
|In-Game GPU Speed||1019 MHz||1071 MHz||1189 MHz||966 MHz|
|Memory Clock||6002 MHz||6002 MHz||7000 MHz||6002 MHz|
We’ll be testing the stock “Gaming Mode” speed, along with our best overclock and stock Nvidia GeForce 780 settings. As of the time of this review, AMD do not offer a single GPU video card to compare this to, so we’ll only be looking at this GeForce 780 for now. Eventually we’ll be comparing it to AMD Hawaii when it is released though, so watch out for that!
MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC Closer Look
Before moving on to performance, we’ll take a look at the card itself. While it’s not stock, there actually isn’t a whole lot to the MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC. MSI opted for the “everything you need, and nothing you don’t” approach with this card. That means what you get is a solid piece of hardware, but no flashy features to speak of.
Like I said, not a lot to get too excited about. Along with the manual and software, you get a Molex > 6-pin PCI-E adapter, a 6-pin > 8-pin PCI-E adapter, and a DVI > Analog VGA adapter.
As for the card itself, it has a nice red/black design that matches perfectly with the rest of MSI’s GAMING lineup of Intel motherboards.
For outputs, the MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC offers two dual link DVI ports; the bottom port also outputs an analog signal to be used with the included adapter. These are supplemented by an HDMI 1.4a port, and a DisplayPort 1.2 port. All outputs are capable of 2560×1600.
MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC Performance Review
Now we can talk about the important stuff – gaming performance! First, here’s a bit about how we test video card performance, since it’s different from what most sites are doing, for a reason.
We moved away from FPS as the end-all indicator of gaming performance. As soon as Scott Wasson at Tech Report let the cat out of the bag that consistent frame time is more important, we made the switch.
If you weren’t aware then, you probably are now; in spring 2013, Nvidia provided the 4 biggest hardware sites with “FCAT” hardware that helps record frame times at the monitor level. The reason for this is because the tool we use to record frame times – FRAPS – records its numbers at the beginning of each frame, rather than the end. Because game engines perform quite a few functions after this point, further issues or improvements may occur throughout the pipeline.
Since Scott was the only one who was using FRAPS all along, he was the one who took the time to directly compare his FRAPS results to the new Nvidia FCAT results. In the end, FCAT indeed shows ‘tighter’ lines in single GPU results, so it looks like game engines and drivers do improve on frame times after FRAPS takes its recording. In single GPU testing though, the results are comparable and sometimes identical, such as in the case of Unreal engine games. In dual GPU results, FCAT shows that some games do NOT handle Crossfire very well, and end up with a very sloppy experience despite the high framerate. FRAPS doesn’t show this well though, so is not nearly as useful for dual GPU testing.
Therefore, we will continue to use FRAPS for single GPU testing. I think that even with the lack of Nvidia’s FCAT tools, FRAPS is still far superior to frame rate results.
I should also mention here that I have noticed some confusion with regards to the “Framerate over time” results that some sites use. This is not to be confused with “Frametime” or “Frame Time” despite the similar phrasing. Framerate over time still takes an average frame rate each second, dropping a lot of data that is useful. For instance with Skyrim running at 80 fps, a 1 minute benchmark will result in about 5000 frames. Using frame time, the chart will therefore show 5000 points of data, while a “framerate over time” chart will show 60 points of data. The latter will show where slowdowns occur through the run, but the former will show that and exactly how efficiently frames are being delivered.
MSI N780 TF 3GD5/OC Gaming Tests
For this review, we’ll be looking at six games using various modern engines. Importantly, Skyrim is tested with a high quality shader mod that will push the GeForce 780 much harder than the game ever would without mods.
|Assassin's Creed 3||3rd Person Action||1.03||AnvilNext|
|Crysis 3||First Person Shooter||22.214.171.1240||CryEngine 3|
|Far Cry 3||First Person Shooter||1.04||Dunia Engine 2|
|Metro Last Light||First Person Shooter||126.96.36.199||4A Engine|
|Skyrim||First Person RPG||188.8.131.52||Creation Engine|
|Tomb Raider||3rd Person Action||1.01.748.0||Modified Crystal Engine|
All tests were performed at 1920×1080, by far the most common gaming resolution. Don’t worry though, all of these games can be set to levels that have no problem pushing a GeForce 780 to its limits.
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