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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