Nvidia has successfully perked the graphics market from its mid-cycle stupor with the launch of the GTX 760 2GB. Sat at the mid-point between the mid-range £150 GTX 660 2GB and high-end GTX 670 2GB, the stock 760 2GB already performance close to the GTX 670, leaving plenty of opportunity for board-partners to bridge the gap.
Click to enlarge - a 260mm PCB and heat-pipe heavy custom cooler up the overclocking ante
MSI’s take on the GTX 760 2GB is the GTX 760 Twin Frozr Gaming OC 2GB, a significantly up-rated version of the card in almost every way, not least PCB size. While the stock 760 runs a dainty 175mm PCB and requires a pair of 6-pin PCI-E power connector, the Twin Frozr Gaming’s PCB is a lengthy 260mm and requires an 8pin and a six-pin power connector; the same connectors as a stock GTX 770 2GB.
While the PCB might have been extended, the basic feature set and layout of the card, and the GPU, remain the same. To the rear are a pair of DVI outputs as well as full-size DisplayPort and HDMI ports (with support for up to four simultaneous displays), while a pair of SLI gold-finger connectors on the top of the card support up to four of the cards in SLI.
Click to enlarge - a pair fo 100mm fans blow air down through the heatsink and over the PCB, but this means heat is exhausted into your case
Those looking for a recap of the GTX 760 GPU would be best served by reading our stock card review, but the Twin Frozr Gaming’s GPU is no different physically. The GPU is still a 28nm GK104 chip, sporting six SMs of 192 stream processors for a total of 1,152 stream processors. While this is actually fewer steam processors than the GTX 660 Ti 2GB (the card the GTX 760 2GB replaced) the GTX 760’s full-size 256-bit memory interface and array of 32 ROPs allow it to out-pace its predecessor.
Of course, one area of the GPU that MSI has been able to improve is its clock speeds, with the Twin Frozr OC boasting a fairly healthy factory overclock. As with all Nvidia’s GeForce 7-series cards, it uses GPU Boost 2.0 to automatically adjust the clock speed between a base clock, a guaranteed boost clock and a best-case boost clock. While the stock card’s 130MHz boost curve starts at 980MHz, the Twin Frozr OC’s begins 40MHz higher at 1,020MHz, boosting to a guaranteed 1,073 and a maximum of 1,150MHz. This is actually a rather timid 4 per cent overclock, especially when you add the fact that the card’s 2GB of GDDR5 is clocked at the stock frequency of 1.5GHz (6GHZ effective).
Click to enlarge - The 1GB of GDDR5 on the rear of the PCB is bare and not actively cooled.
However, the Twin Frozr OC’s got an extra trick up its sleeve courtesy of MSI’s generically named ‘Gaming App.’ This simple bit of software allows you to instantly switch the card between three different clock speed profiles; OC, Gaming and Silent. It’s the OC profile that’s most intriguing, as this further boosts the card’s base clock by an additional 45MHz. Of course, you could just as easily add those extra few MHz using MSI’s Afternburner overclocking utility, but MSI’s push to grant that extra performance to those who perhaps aren’t so tech savvy is a welcome one.
Aside from its clock-speed shenanigans, the Twin Frozr OC also improves Nvidia’s GTX 760 recipe in the most obvious way; the cooler. The stock card, at stock frequencies and settings will easily bounce off its 81°C thermal ceiling and begin to clock itself down a bit, so MSI’s solution is fit the latest version of its well-regarded Twin Frozr cooler. This updated version uses a pair of 100mm down-draft cooling fans fitted atop a huge array of aluminium cooling fins. Pulling heat from the GPU core and dispersing it through the fin stack are four nickel plated copper heatpipes, with the GPU sandwiched beneath a nickel plated contact plate to ensure all four heatpipes make good thermal contact with the small 294mm² die.
Click to enlarge - an aluminium plate cools the power delivery circuitry and memory on one side of the PCB
MSI’s modifications go further than just bolting a big cooler to the GPU though. There’s also a sturdy aluminium plate affixed to some of the power circuitry and the GDDR5 modules on one side of the GPU. As well as cooling the component, this also has the added benefit of adding rigidity to the card to reduce board-bend over time, although the further 1GB of GDDR5 on the PCB’s back side is bare and receives no cooling.
Click to enlarge -Four heatpipes run behind a contact plate to draw heat away from the GPU
The power circuitry itself uses five phases for the GPU and a separate pair of phases for the memory, with 7+1 phase power for the card overall. Despite this, Nvidia's stangle hold on its GPU voltages remains and regardless of OC software you're only able to add a measly 12mV of additional power to the VCore.
With a monster cooler and a decent factory overclock, lets find out how the Twin Frozr OC fared in our benchmarks, and more importantly, when overclocked.