MSI GTX 780 Gaming Review

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With many different options available on the market in terms of graphics cards; what do you select one based on?  Is it purely performance?  Based on looks or design?  Or do you pick based purely on the price?  Well as mentioned earlier, there is no shortage to choose from and one brand in particular has been making waves with their design aspect.

MSI or Micro-Star International Co LTD, were formed in 1986 by a group of 5 people in Jhonghe, Taipei.  They are currently one of the biggest names in motherboards, VGA solutions and more recently, well known for their gaming laptop range.  They recently added a new addition to their series of motherboards with their range of Z77 and Z87 gamer based models and more recently than that, they moved the design from that, into their latest line of GPUs with the same moniker, the Gaming series.

So with that being said, today I will be taking a look at the MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC, which comes from the Gaming family of graphics cards, which has been quite popular recently with its red design.  So is this a card truly for gamers or does it get shell shocked by the other brands in terms of actual performance?  Let’s find out, starting with the specifications…

  • Graphics Engine
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
  • Interface
    PCI Express x16 3.0
  • Memory Type
    GDDR5
  • Memory Size(MB)
    3072
  • Memory Interface
    384 bits
  • Core Clock Speed(MHz)
    954 (Boost Clock: 1006) (OC mode)
  • Memory Clock Speed(MHz)
    6008
  • DVI Output
    2 (Dual-link DVI-I x 1, Dual-link DVI-D x 1)
  • HDMI-Output
    1 (version 1.4a)
  • DisplayPort
    1 (version 1.2)
  • HDCP Support
    Y
  • HDMI Support
    Y
  • Dual-link DVI
    Y
  • Display Output (Max Resolution)
    2560×1600
  • RAMDACs
    400
  • DirectX Version Support
    11.1 API (feature level 11_0)
  • OpenGL Version Support
    4.3
  • SLI Support
    Y
  • 3-way SLI
    Y
  • Card Dimension(mm)
    266x129x38 mm

Looking at the front of the box, you’re greeted with a dragon which is the logo of the MSI Gaming series of which this card belongs to.  It has clear information regarding the brand and the model number.  This particular model is the OC edition which means it has a factory overclock out of the box.  The main colour scheme is black and red, just like the gaming series itself and the GEFORCE GTX 780 logo is of course NVIDIAs usual green and black.

Over on the rear we have more information regarding some of MSIs key features including MSIs gaming app, their advanced cooling design which is basically MSIs Twin Frozr IV cooler and the minimum system requirements of the GPU itself.  The colour theme remains black and red throughout the entirety of the packaging and I feel it would gain quite a lot of attention in a retail environment.

Bundled with the MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC graphics card, we have a user’s guide, an installation CD, 1 x 6 to 8 pin GPU power connector, 2 x 4 pin Molex to 6 pin and a VGA to DVI adapter.  Plenty of accessories in a well presented box which I feel is a nice touch from MSI; especially due to the fact the packaging is vibrant and colourful.

Taking a first look at the MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC edition, the first thing I noticed was the red Twin Frozr IV cooler, which stands out really nicely.  This is effectively the exact same cooler as found on the Lightning editions of these cards, just with a red coloured stripe and a MSI Gaming Series badge in the middle.  The Twin Frozr IV works very well, especially with its anti-dust feature which reduces the amount of dust on the fans/heat sink and helps to keep the card at optimal performance thermally.

On the back of the card, we have the PCB which is a reference GTX 780 PCB, which is basically a cut down version of NVIDIAs Titan GPU.  We have the MSI warranty sticker on one of the cooler mounting screws, which if you remove to install a water block, you will void the warranty so be warned.

The GTX 780 Gaming OC needs 1 x 6 pin and 1 x 8 pin connections on your power supply to power this card.  Personally I wouldn’t recommend using a power supply under 550w. The official specs state that it requires 600w but if you’re using one from a reliable vendor such as Enermax, you should be fine.

Here we have the SLI connectors for multiple graphics card configurations, which the GTX 780 supports up to 3 way SLI which is massively overkill for gamers in my opinion.

Taking a closer look at the cooler, you can see the 4 heat pipe design of the Twin Frozr IV which is more than capable of keeping any high end graphics card cool.

Talking about the connectivity of the MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC, we have 1 x DVI-I, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x HDMI and 1 x Display port.  With this card having 3GB of VRAM, it is perfect for multi monitor configurations.

 

With NVIDIAs revision of GPU Boost, the aptly named GPU Boost 2.0, overclocking on the latest NVIDIA card has been relatively easy, but it can be a little tricky, especially when the card boosts too far and becomes unstable.  The stock clocks of the already overclocked 780 Gaming GPU is 902/1502MHz with a stock boost on the core of 954MHz.

Using EVGAs Precision X overclocking tool, which also shows you the cards boost, I managed a very respectable overclock of 1042/1728MHz respectively and a very impressive boost of 1162MHz on the core at full load.  It might not sound a lot but with the card being based off of the Titan, the clocks might not be as high, but the shader count and 384 bit memory bus make this card a monster.

For those unsure what GPU Boost 2.0 is, here is a small excerpt from NVIDIA themselves : NVIDIA GPU Boost 2.0 intelligently monitors clock speed, ensuring that the GPU runs at its peak and the game is at its highest frame rate possible. Enjoy new levels of customization with advanced controls like GPU temperature target, overclocking, and overvoltage.

Overall the MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC overclocks very well considering and the experience was very easy indeed due to GPU Boost 2.0.  I would have liked to see 1200MHz on the core but it just wasn’t to be.  Well let’s take a look at the test setup and then we can see how the card performs…

CPU – Intel i7 4770k

Motherboard – ASRock Z87 Extreme3

Memory – G.Skill RipjawZ 8GB (2400MHz CAS10) 2x4GB

Graphics – EVGA 4GB GTX 760

Cooler – Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E

Storage – Intel 520 240GB Solid State Drive

PSU – Enermax 1200w Platimax

Graphics Card Test Setup

MSI 3GB GTX 780 Gaming Stock – 954/1502MHz Boost (Driver 320.49)

MSI 3GB GTX 780 Gaming OC – 1162/1728MHz Boost (Driver 320.49)

EVGA 4GB GTX 760 Stock – 1033/1502MHz Boost (Driver 320.49)

EVGA 4GB GTX 760 OC – 1306/1722MHz Boost (Driver 320.49)

MSI 3GB 7970 Power Edition Stock – 1100/1500MHz  (Driver 13.4) (Currently has performance issues which are being rectified)

To give an accurate power consumption result, the cards were measured the following way

Idle – This was measured while Windows Desktop was open with minimal programmes and no load placed onto the CPU or GPU.  The power was then measured and recorded via a power monitor.

Load – This was measured while the GPU was under full load via Furmarks burn in test.  The power was then measured and recorded via a power monitor.

The MSI GTX 780 Gaming is based off of the Titan card so i did expect the power consumption to be a little higher than the rest, especially more so with the GTX 760.  In terms of load performance, the 7970 stays top of power consumption, something which AMD could and should really improve on, but the GTX 780 isn’t too far behind all things considered.

To test the thermal performance of graphics cards, the temperatures are taken at idle states and when loaded.

For load, we simply run Furmark for 10 minutes to get the card going and give the card plenty of time for its stock fan profile to kick in.  The temperature after 10 minutes of Furmarks burn in test is recorded.

For some reason the GTX 780 had pretty poor delta temps, even being beat by a reference GTX 760 but when it came to the load test, it stood toe to toe with the 7970 Power Edition cooler which is effectively the same as the cooler on this GTX 780 sample.  The temperatures could have been better but the fan profile didn’t seem too aggressive and that paid off in the next test.

Noise levels are tested with a decibel meter and the readings of the noise levels are taken when the coolers are in idle and loaded states.  The background noise during testing is very minimal and not enough to disrupt the readings given.

The quietest card so far under load, which was quite surprising given that 7970 Power edition was hotter by a good 5c+ but in saying that, the GTX 780 has done a great job so far in terms of temp and acoustic performance but it’s time to see how it gets on in the benchmarks, starting with the synthetics…

(PLEASE NOTE: The 7970 sample had issues with stability and the results are to be amended, sorry for any inconvenience caused)

Designed to measure your PC’s gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.  Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

No surprises here, the MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC shows its huge dominance over the GTX 760 and AMDs currently flagship card, the 7970.  The GTX 780 OC results are nothing short of fantastic and anyone who likes high numbers, you will be sincerely pleased with this card.

(PLEASE NOTE: The 7970 sample had issues with stability and the results are to be amended, sorry for any inconvenience caused)

 

Once again, in the latest installment of Futuremarks benchmarking series, the MSI GTX 780 Gaming is streets ahead of the competition and although these are only synthetics, they do give a good indication on overall graphics performance.

(PLEASE NOTE: The 7970 sample had issues with stability and the results are to be amended, sorry for any inconvenience caused)

Heaven Benchmark with its current version 4.0 is a GPU-intensive benchmark that hammers graphics cards to the limits. This powerful tool can be effectively used to determine the stability of a GPU under extremely stressful conditions, as well as check the cooling system’s potential under maximum heat output. It provides completely unbiased results and generates true in-game rendering workloads across all platforms, such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

Unigine Heaven 4.0 favours NVIDIA GPUs and it’s no surprise that the GTX 780 is well ahead of the already tested cards.  It has an incredible amount of graphical power under the hood and it clearly shows its a force to be reckoned with, but how will it be with actual games?  Let’s take a look…

Company of Heroes 2 is a real-time strategy game developed by Relic Entertainment and published by Sega for the Microsoft Windows platform.  It is the sequel to the critically acclaimed 2006 game Company of Heroes.

If one game tests graphical performance currently, its Company of Heroes 2 and it really does set standard with this game.  On the high preset with low AA, the game is 100% playable at 60fps + but on the maximum, you will need an SLI or CF setup to make the most of all the graphical bling and textures etc.

(PLEASE NOTE: The 7970 sample had issues with stability and the results are to be amended, sorry for any inconvenience caused)

In F1 2012 players will feel the unparalleled thrill of becoming a FORMULA ONE driver with a host of new features, wide-ranging technical and gameplay advancements and extensive competitive and co-operative multiplayer components. F1 2012 will feature all of the official teams, drivers and circuits from the 2012 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, including the debut of the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX at Austin, Texas and the return of Germany’s famous Hockenheim circuit to the calendar.

F1 2012 was an interesting set of results, overall the GTX 780 came out on top but the GTX 760 really kept up the pace.  This is a pretty well optimised console port and all the graphics cards so far I have tested have been well above the 60+ fps mark.

(PLEASE NOTE: The 7970 sample had issues with stability and the results are to be amended, sorry for any inconvenience caused)

Number 47 is back in Hitman Absolution, Packed with classic Hitman gameplay, Hitman Absolution is the perfect game for returning fans or newcomers alike.  Take a more professional approach and do everything possible not to be noticed, and eliminate your targets without a sound. Use the environment to hide the departed and an assortment of deadly weapons to defeat them, disguise yourself as them before you dispose of the body and use your extensive experience to predict the actions of your enemies and slip through undetected. Or burst in in a shower of bullets and using Agent 47′s point shooting, allowing you to pick your targets with perfect clarity.

The one game I expected the AMD offering to come out on top, it didn’t, well not in the Ultra preset which requires the best performance, but it was only 3fps behind which is no short order, considering the beast it’s up against in the way of the MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC.

(PLEASE NOTE: The 7970 sample had issues with stability and the results are to be amended, sorry for any inconvenience caused)

Tomb Raider explores the intense and gritty origin story of Lara Croft and her ascent from a frightened young woman to a hardened survivor. Armed only with raw instincts and the ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, Lara must fight to unravel the dark history of a forgotten island to escape its relentless hold.

The MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC really does blaze past the GTX 760.  It really handles the textures well and even looks fantastic without dropping too many frames.

(PLEASE NOTE: The 7970 sample had issues with stability and the results are to be amended, sorry for any inconvenience caused)

To obtain how much performance you are getting for your money, I have devised a simple integral calculation which helps work out value for money you are getting in relative to FPS.  To calculate this, the 3 results taken (the FPS that is) are added up which gives a total FPS.  This is then divided against the value of the graphics card which gives us our price to performance ratio.

Overall the card doesn’t seem to give much value for money, but top end graphics cards rarely do and in saying that, this card is a performance gaming orientated card meaning that only those wanting the best, will look to one of these or even its bigger brother, the Titan.  The GTX 760 is still the king of the value so far but who knows in the near future?  In saying that, especially with Company of Heroes 2, I would rather pay the extra for the performance as I really do enjoy the game and those who want performance, will love this card.

(PLEASE NOTE: The 7970 sample had issues with stability and the results are to be amended, sorry for any inconvenience caused)

So the MSI GTX 780 has been on the test bench, put under pressure and overclocked to the maximum I could get it, but did it cope?  Is it a real GAMING card like MSI claim it is, or is it just too pricey for what it is?  Let’s find out, starting with the main aspect, the performance…

The performance increase over the GTX 760, especially in synthetic benchmarks is nothing short of superb and it really shows what a graphical powerhouse the GTX 780 is.  With a beast of a cooler strapped to it (Twin Frozr IV) , MSI have done a great job of not only making a card that can keep cool, but can literally hold back all the cards I have currently tested so far.  In 3DMark 11 and Fire Strike, the MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC performed amazingly and although in a couple of the games, it was subject to who had the better day, Company of Heroes 2 and Tomb Raider showed the true power of NVIDIAs cut down version of the Titan.  Unigine Heaven 4.0 was a predictable result also, easily overpowering the GTX 760 by quite a large margin so all in all, the MSI GTX 780 is a great performer.

In terms of aesthetics, the red Gaming livery works very very well and looks aesthetically stunning.  The only thing I really don’t like the look of, is the actual shape of the fan itself, it just doesn’t flow and looks a little rough around the edges to me.  That being said, the card still looks great and this is only my personal opinion.  With me having owned numerous Twin Frozr cards in the past, the cooler works brilliantly and there is only so much of the card you will see inside the case anyway.  This card would go perfect with one of MSIs Gaming motherboard range or even with an ASUS ROG motherboard.

The overall value of the MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC wasn’t exactly great, but cards of this calibre usually come with an expensive price tag; if you want high performance, you will pay high prices.  In the value for money calculations, the card isn’t very good value for money, although in Company of Heroes 2, I feel the extra performance is worth it for the grinders and lovers of the COH franchise.  Priced at £549.31, the card is very expensive but it still isn’t as expensive as NVIDAs Titan is and the performance when overclocked should have no problems in matching a Titan at stock, that’s good value for money if you look at it like that.   Of course if you look at it compared to the other offerings, then its poor value for money however the 7970 offers something in the middle ground but the GTX 760 beats that in some benchmarks so however you look at the card is quite subjective depending on your purpose.  This card is obviously directed at those who want the best they can afford and if you can’t quite stretch to a GTX 780 then a GTX 760 or even the middle ground as the GTX 770 would do you just fine.

Overall the MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC graphics card delivers not just in performance, but also in the looks department, MSI have a really great card.  The only downside is the price, it’s hardly affordable for the average PC gamer and could be considered overkill if your only gaming at 1080p, but it does have 3GB of VRAM and plenty of connections if you decide to go multi monitor or even to 1440p at a later date.  Taking all that into consideration, the card performance fantastically overall and more than deserves the Play3r award for performance.

Thanks to MSI and NVIDIA for the sample and I can’t wait to see more offerings from themselves.

 

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value

Summary

The MSI GTX 780 Gaming OC is a card that very much lives up to its name, it games like an animal, performs great in benchmarks and overclocks pretty well to boot. Despite the high price tag, for those looking for a single card in the £400-600 price range, you really can’t go wrong with the MSI GTX 780 Gaming, top quality cooler, top quality card, need I say more?

4.3

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