What's new
  • Please do not post any links until you have 3 posts as they will automatically be rejected to prevent SPAM. Many words are also blocked due to being used in SPAM Messages. Thanks!

MSI GTX 760 GAMING ITX OC Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
As the PC market evolves, more and more users have been looking to do away with their oversized cases from generations past and look towards smaller, more compact form factors. This means mini-ITX components have seen a surge in popularity. While cases, motherboards and even CPU heatsinks have caught onto the trend, graphics cards have traditionally lagged behind due to their relative complexity and the fact that up until now, most ITX users have been content to use integrated GPUs. MSI is aiming to change what gamers look for in a small form factor system with their new GTX 760 GAMING ITX OC Edition.

The GTX 760 GAMING ITX is exactly what its name implies: an overclocked, custom cooled mini-ITX video card that’s focused on packing as much performance into the smallest form factor possible. While the recently released GTX 750 Ti does come in a satisfyingly diminutive package, it’s quite underpowered for anyone that wants a competent gaming card. That’s where the GTX 760 GAMING ITX comes into play.


One of the more interesting aspects of this card is MSI’s insistence to give it an out-of-box overclock. Typically we see SFF-focused GPUs with reference or even cut-down frequencies in an effort to balance our power needs and heat output. In this case MSI is shooting straight for the stars with some significant core speed increases which are made possible with an upgraded cooling assembly and better onboard components.

While MSI certainly isn’t the first NVIDIA board partner to launch an ITX-focused GPU (ASUS was the last with their excellent GTX 670 DirectCU II Mini), they’ve implemented some interesting features which deliver a user-customizable experience. As you can see above, there are three modes included with this card: Silent, Gaming and OC. These need a bit of an explanation.

In Silent Mode, the GAMING ITX remains at reference speeds, sacrificing increased performance for a much lower acoustical profile; something that will surely appeal to SFF users. Meanwhile, OC mode boosts clock speeds but does so by pushing the fan to higher –and louder- RPM settings. So there’s a trade-off there for users who value silence.

Gaming mode is likely more beneficial for products that have a higher thermal overhead and didn’t accomplish much in this instance so we’ll be combining its performance scores with Silent. Their average observed frequencies are within a few MHz of one another and neither really offers more onscreen performance than a reference design. The reason for this will become evident as we look at the temperatures in a later section since Game mode starts off strong but is quickly dragged down by heat buildup.


These settings are controlled by the handy Gaming APP utility which can be downloaded on MSI’s product page. With it, you can manually control the current performance profile (they can’t be modified) and also temporarily augment fan speeds to bring temperatures down to a lower level. We couldn’t have asked for a simpler piece of software for anyone that is looking for quick situational-specific graphics card modifications.

All of this haute technology condensed down into a Peter Dinklage-sized packaged doesn’t even come with an astronomical price premium. The GAMING ITX goes for $270 which is no more than similarly-clocked GTX 760 cards and bucks the preconceived notion that such specialized cards usually cost much more.


In mid-2013, MSI went through a complete redesign of their graphics cards’ exteriors so they would align better with their motherboard lineup. As with most other GAMING products the 6 7/8” long, dual slot GTX 760 ITX uses a black and red color scheme with a dragon motif. To us, this looks absolutely stunning.

Some folks may have hoped this card would come in a low profile, low-rise form but that’s impossible. The GTX 760’s core still puts out a significant amount of heat and requires some pretty hefty VRM components so slimming things down even further would have taken a miracle rather than simple creative engineering.


The heatsink on this card is a deceptively simple affair which consists of a full-contact copper base plate which covers the core and memory modules and is linked directly to a flattened heatpipe. There are aluminum fins which help with heat dispersion and a large 80mm fan, making for a surprisingly robust design attached to such a compact graphics card.


MSI has also equipped this card with a full-size backplate since additional VRM component and memory modules had to be carried over onto the PCB’s rear due to size constraints on the top side. It looks great but the design would best be used alongside good case ventilation since this area isn’t directly cooled by the GTX 760 ITX’s main fan.


To supply enough power to the overclocked core, an 8-pin PCI-E power connector has been added. There is also an SLI interface so the reference GTX 760’s dual setup capabilities have been carried over en masse.


For any HTPC-focused card, the I/O connectors are a critical factor and MSI seems to have hit all the high points. Their GTX 760 ITX comes equipped with a single DVI outputs as well as a full sized HDMI port for native compatibility with HDTVs and a pair of DisplayPorts. We really couldn’t have asked for a better layout.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Assassin’s Creed III / Crysis 3

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 3930K @ 4.5GHz
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 32GB @ 1866MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79 WS
Cooling: Corsair H80
SSD: 2x Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Samsung 305T / 3x Acer 235Hz
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Acoustical Test System

Processor: Intel 2600K @ stock
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600MHz
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Passive
SSD: Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Seasonic X-Series Gold 800W


Drivers:
NVIDIA 334.69 Beta


Assassin’s Creed III (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/RvFXKwDCpBI?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The third iteration of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is the first to make extensive use of DX11 graphics technology. In this benchmark sequence, we proceed through a run-through of the Boston area which features plenty of NPCs, distant views and high levels of detail.


1920 x 1080




Crysis 3 (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/zENXVbmroNo?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Simply put, Crysis 3 is one of the best looking PC games of all time and it demands a heavy system investment before even trying to enable higher detail settings. Our benchmark sequence for this one replicates a typical gameplay condition within the New York dome and consists of a run-through interspersed with a few explosions for good measure Due to the hefty system resource needs of this game, post-process FXAA was used in the place of MSAA.


1920 x 1080


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Dirt: Showdown / Far Cry 3

Dirt: Showdown (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/IFeuOhk14h0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Among racing games, Dirt: Showdown is somewhat unique since it deals with demolition-derby type racing where the player is actually rewarded for wrecking other cars. It is also one of the many titles which falls under the Gaming Evolved umbrella so the development team has worked hard with AMD to implement DX11 features. In this case, we set up a custom 1-lap circuit using the in-game benchmark tool within the Nevada level.


1920 x 1080





Far Cry 3 (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/mGvwWHzn6qY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

One of the best looking games in recent memory, Far Cry 3 has the capability to bring even the fastest systems to their knees. Its use of nearly the entire repertoire of DX11’s tricks may come at a high cost but with the proper GPU, the visuals will be absolutely stunning.

To benchmark Far Cry 3, we used a typical run-through which includes several in-game environments such as a jungle, in-vehicle and in-town areas.



1920 x 1080


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Hitman Absolution / Max Payne 3

Hitman Absolution (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/8UXx0gbkUl0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Hitman is arguably one of the most popular FPS (first person “sneaking”) franchises around and this time around Agent 47 goes rogue so mayhem soon follows. Our benchmark sequence is taken from the beginning of the Terminus level which is one of the most graphically-intensive areas of the entire game. It features an environment virtually bathed in rain and puddles making for numerous reflections and complicated lighting effects.


1920 x 1080





Max Payne 3 (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ZdiYTGHhG-k?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

When Rockstar released Max Payne 3, it quickly became known as a resource hog and that isn’t surprising considering its top-shelf graphics quality. This benchmark sequence is taken from Chapter 2, Scene 14 and includes a run-through of a rooftop level featuring expansive views. Due to its random nature, combat is kept to a minimum so as to not overly impact the final result.


1920 x 1080


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Metro: Last Light / Tomb Raider

Metro: Last Light (DX11)


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/40Rip9szroU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The latest iteration of the Metro franchise once again sets high water marks for graphics fidelity and making use of advanced DX11 features. In this benchmark, we use the Torchling level which represents a scene you’ll be intimately familiar with after playing this game: a murky sewer underground.


1920 x 1080




Tomb Raider (DX11)


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/okFRgtsbPWE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Tomb Raider is one of the most iconic brands in PC gaming and this iteration brings Lara Croft back in DX11 glory. This happens to not only be one of the most popular games around but it is also one of the best looking by using the entire bag of DX11 tricks to properly deliver an atmospheric gaming experience.

In this run-through we use a section of the Shanty Town level. While it may not represent the caves, tunnels and tombs of many other levels, it is one of the most demanding sequences in Tomb Raider.


1920 x 1080


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Temperatures & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Temperature Analysis


For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped..

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Windows 7 desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.



Small form factor cards typically aren’t all that well cooled due to their limited size constraining heatsink potential. For better or worse, MSI have been able to get a handle on this perceived limitation by leveraging NVIDIA’s Boost feature. As a result, the Silent and Game modes top out at the usual 82°C while clock speeds and voltage throttle things back while fan speeds are closely modulated.

OC Mode on the other hand increases fan speeds and allows frequencies a bit more room to breathe by lowering temperatures to below a threshold where they would have to be throttled. This means there is more heat being dissipated but that has a secondary impact upon in-case temperatures.


You’ll be seeing FAR more of these images in future reviews when we launch our new testing procedures in the next month or so but during our initial thermal camera shooting, we noticed a slight issue with the GAMING ITX. While its open rear VRM design remained below worrying temperatures, the card was exhausting quite a bit of heat into its immediate vicinity. This normally wouldn’t cause an issue for an ATX or even most mATX enclosures but within limited-airflow ITX environments, the heat buildup could have a negative effect upon system temperatures.


Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, a loop of Unigine Valley is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.


MSI’s fan profiles keep things remarkably quiet in Gaming and Silent modes (which are for all intents and purposes the same) while the OC mode gets a bit of a boost but still remains nearly imperceptible to the human ear from a few feet away.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Unigine Valley running on a loop while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.


No surprises here as MSI’s GTX 760 really doesn’t consume all that much more power than a reference card.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


We’ll make this section straightforward: this card doesn’t offer all that much overclocking headroom due to NVIDIA’s Boost limitations. In its out-of-box form the ITX GAMING is power limited so the additional overhead granted by MSI’s AfterBurner in this respect does help overcome this. Even then, with only 10mV of additional core voltage, voltage constraints will still hold clock speeds back.

With that being said, there is a bit more in the tank and we got the engine to hit an average Boost clock of 1233MHz and memory speeds of 6496MHz. Out of an ITX card, that’s not bad at all.


 
Last edited:

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


With small form factor PCs making some serious inroads into the mindset of gamers, we’re bound to see more graphics cards targeting this market. The GTX 760 GAMING ITX OC certainly won’t be the last ITX-focused card but we have a feeling it will remain one of the most enticing. The reason for this is simple: MSI has allowed for a good amount of theoretical control over its features so performance, thermals and power consumption can be user-balanced. The operative word here is “theoretical” because there’s actually not much that can be accomplished outside of NVIDIA-imposed limits but that doesn’t diminish its appeal.

Out of the box, the GTX 760 GAMING will default to its “Game” speeds, which doesn’t make it any quicker than a reference card. There’s a mild overclock applied to the Base frequency but that’s nothing more than window dressing since the Boost clocks end up reaching a plateau within just 2% of Silent Mode. The reason for this is quite simple: the maximum fan speed settings in both modes are literally identical (46% and 40% respectively), resulting in almost the same amount of thermal headroom. NVIDIA’s Boost does take some advantage of that 6% uplift for Game mode as evidenced by the average clock speeds but there were no chartable differences.

Make no mistake about it though, regardless of the fan speed differences both Silent and Gaming modes deliver acoustical footprints that would make other manufacturers jealous. The cooler on the GAMING ITX may not be large or particularly well endowed like larger solutions but it has no problems dissipating heat from the GTX 760 core while keeping things blissfully quiet.

OC Mode should take things to the next level but in this case it simply provides a basic overclock which ends up boosting framerates by about 8%. That’s certainly not enough to notice but for an ITX card, particularly one of the GTX 760’s class, it’s an impressive feat. Even this setting doesn’t produce excessive heat or noise though it may increase ambient temperatures within an mini ITX case.

Common thread running throughout each setting is voltage which tends to severely limiting achievable frequencies, even during manual overclocking. It’s more than obvious that MSI’s modes will have a noticeable impact on higher end cards equipped with better heatsinks and more voltage leeway. On the GTX 760 GAMING ITX they represent an interesting feature but their actual usefulness is doubtful.

While it may be hard to ascertain the value of MSI’s different performance modes, there’s no denying this card’s aggressive positioning. Typically ITX cards are considered specialized commodities and board partners charge a hefty premium for them. Not this time though. MSI has priced their GAMING ITX in-line with other GTX 760 cards, bucking a bewildering trend of products past.

There’s something about MSI’s diminutive GTX 760 which is incredibly enticing. It may be the amount of performance they’ve managed to cram into such a compact package or maybe the fact that things like pricing, temperatures and acoustics haven’t been sacrificed in any way to create an ITX compatible GPU. Regardless of what draws you to the GXT 760 GAMING ITX, you can be confident it will deliver everything that’s hoped for and then some.

 
Top