Custom Cooled Video Card Shootout: ASUS & MSI

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One of the sub-categories cropping up amongst OEMs are videos cards which feature highly customized cooling along with special controller chips or other functionality that help facilitate tweaking the card's performance. These cards all have a few things in common. First, they all mount beefy and often very radical cooling designs which are a distinct departure from the ATI / NVIDIA approved reference cooler designs. They also offer some form of advanced tweaking features either in software, firmware or hardware (or perhaps all 3), that a stock reference design wouldn't possess, such as fan and voltage control.

The tweaker-friendly video card segment seems to be getting more popular as more OEMs are producing custom cards that fit the mold. We're going to give you a peak into what makes these cards special by giving you the run-down on three available options which are excellent representatives of what the segment currently has to offer.

Our three contestants (click to enlarge)


  ASUS ROG ENGTX260 Matrix
  55nm GT200b
  896MB DDR3
  576MHz core clock
1.242GHz shader clock
  2GHz mem clock
  Dual-slot active cooler
  2 x DVI output
  1 x S-Video/Composite

  ASUS ROG Matrix GTX285
  55nm GT200b
  1024MB DDR3
  662MHz core clock
1.476GHz shader clock
  2.484GHz mem clock
  Dual-slot active cooler
  2 x DVI output
  1 x S-Video/Composite
  MSI R4890 Cyclone SOC
  55nm RV790 XT
  1024MB GDDR5
  1000MHz core clock
  4.0GHz mem clock
  Dual-slot active cooler
  1 x DVI output
1 x VGA output
  1 x HDMI output

All three of the cards are equipped with non-reference cooling designs. In addition, they all pack some special goodies under the hood which will please most tweakers, modders and overclockers. Lastly, each of these video cards takes a slightly different approach and offers a different angle on the tweaker-friendly video card package. The ASUS ENGTX260 Matrix takes a hands-off approach. All of the tools are included to support your tweaking and overclocking endeavors, but no factory overclock is included. The MSI R4890 Cyclone SOC takes the exact opposite approach, offering one of the highest factory overclocks available for a Radeon 4890. The ASUS Matrix GTX285 falls somewhere in between. And all three cards offer special features not available in stock reference design cards. As you might imagine, this means all three cards also command a slight price premium over reference design copies.

Are the fancy coolers and extra features worth the higher cost? That's what we're here to find out...

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gibbersome 5 years ago

Since the 5770 doesn't match the 4890's performance, this card might be one of the best values available on the market!


And I think there an OC one available for $156 at ZipZoomFly! Upon closer inspection the deal is for the OC, not the SOC version. If you're still interested:


$196 - $20 ZZF coupon "ZZF101220" - $20 Mail In Rebate = $156

The MIR expires on 10/31 so hurry if you want one!


P.S. Thanks Selma over at SD for posting the deal.

3vi1 5 years ago

I'd prefer Asus+NV cards at the moment, but I have to admit that the heat sink on the MSI looks super cool.

ClemSnide 5 years ago

Woo, thanks Gibbersome! (You too, Marco, for writing the story in the first place.) I had considered an overclocked Sapphire rendition of the 4890, the Toxic, but it was similarly unavailable.

I wonder how Afterburner interacts with ATi's own Catalyst control? That might make up for some overclockery, though I imagine that the non-OC units are the ones that couldn't make it into the OC circle at the factory, and therefore won't do much in your home. However, it's a compelling alternative to the 5850 I was considering, especially since the price Gib mentioned is $100 under the stock 5850.

realneil 5 years ago

The MSI card seems like the best deal for the money here.

I wonder if that gigantic Heat pipe would interfere with a crossfire connector?

Are they making an overclocked 5870 yet?

mikel_hh 5 years ago

It's a little tight, but both crossfire connectors can be used.

Crisis Causer 5 years ago

I love to see a 4890 hanging with a GTX 285.  Normal 4890s overclock pretty well too - most can hit 950 core 1000 mem no problem.  Another reason to buy one over the GTX 275, which costs more and has less memory.  If only it were DX11.  People looking for a long term solution will probably have to dig deeper into their wallets for a 5850, which as we all know is equal or sometimes slightly faster than the GTX 285 (which costs way too much).

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