Custom Cooled Video Card Shootout: ASUS & MSI - HotHardware

Custom Cooled Video Card Shootout: ASUS & MSI

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The ASUS Matrix series of video cards will be familiar to regular HotHardware readers. We have reviewed several members if the Matrix line-up in the past year such as the EAH4850, EAH4870 and EN9800GT. Like most previously reviewed ASUS Matrix cards, the ENGTX260 doesn't offer a factory overclock, however it does have quite a few goodies to help you overclock on your own.


   
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At first glance, the ENGTX260 appears to be using the same cooling setup as the previously reviewed ASUS ROG EAH4870 Matrix. Closer inspection reveals the two cooling systems aren't exactly identical. Most noticeably, the ENGTX260 has a longer PCB and as a result the cooler is also longer than that found on the EAH4870. The cooler is separated into four pieces, covered by a black plastic shroud. Each piece is a substantial heatsink and each heatsink is connected to the base plate which makes direct contact with the GPU via a dedicated copper heatpipe. This is the same arrangement found on the EAH4870. However, the heatsink section closest to the I/O outputs is nearly three times as large as the one found on the EAH4870 thanks to the card's extended length. This means the ENGTX260's cooling system had quite a bit more surface area which usually translates into better cooling performance.



In terms of features, the ENGTX260 is identical to the EAH4870. The PCB is endowed with a dedicated controller chip ASUS calls the "Super Hybrid Engine" which handles a number of duties like monitoring and regulating how the card behaves, as well as controlling adjustments to the card and cooling system's function. The Super Hybrid Engine is controlled using the iTracker utility program from which the user can set up performance profiles, adjust any number of performance parameters including overclocking options for the core clock, shader and memory.

   
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The performance profiles also include settings for the cooling system, which are quite advanced. Not only can you set up the usual controls like fan speed and temperature triggers, but the cooling systems also has several automated features which can be enabled. Most notably, the iTracker utility can distinguish whether the card is currently operating in 2D or 3D mode and different profiles can be setup for each circumstance.

This makes it possible to set up a low-noise, low-power cooling and performance profile that turns down the fans and even downclocks the GPU while in 2D mode, such as during casual web surfing. Then for 3D applications, a more performance oriented profile can be used. The two fans can also be controlled individually and 1-fan operation is possible. The cooling system can also operate passively in 2D mode, although this feature resulted in very high GPU temperatures. Overall, the controls available are fairly robust and certainly far beyond anything that can be done using NVIDIA's stock tweaking utilities.

     
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In many ways it is a GeForce GTX 260 version of the EAH4870 we reviewed previously. Unfortunately this means it also has the same flaws, the most annoying of which is probably the poor default performance profile. Out-of-the-box and without and tweaking, the ROG ENGTX260 Matrix has a fairly aggressive performance profile that ramps the fans up more than we believe is necessary, making it noticeably louder than a stock reference cooler. However, this can be easily remedied with a few quick tweaks in iTracker. We were able to set up a profile very quickly that allowed for very quiet operation without overheating the card.

The ROG ENGTX260 Matrix comes with a fairly typical bundle. Included in the box is a DVI to D-sub adapter, DVI to HDMI adapter, HDTV-out cable, molex to PCI-E power cable and S/PDIF cable. This pretty much covers all the bases and should be enough to get you started.
 

Update: The ENGTX260 Matrix can now use the second generation iTracker utility; iTracker2.

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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:

http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductDetail.jsp?ProductCode=10010987

 

$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.

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

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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.

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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?

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

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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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