One of the immediate indications that these cares are no mere reference offerings is their outward appearance. Each card features a custom cooling solution and it is that cooling solution that gives each card its unique look.
The full name of the AMD powered card is the MSI R6850 Cyclone IGD5 Power Edition, quite a mouth full indeed. One of the most predominant features of the card and therefore part of its namesake is the Cyclone cooling system. The heart of the Cyclone system is essentially a heatsink/fan combination which in itself is nothing incredibly new to the world of graphics card cooling. What is interesting however is how MSI has chosen to go about implementing their heatsink/fan setup. The Cyclone features one of the largest single fans I have ever seen on a video card. The benefit of such a large fan is that it can move larger volumes of air at a slower rotational speed, in turn creating much less noise. This large PWM fan is mated to what MSI calls a Hybrid Heatsink. The heatsink combines aluminum extrusion, heatpipes and fins to complete it cooling tasks. The two thick heatpipes draw the heat out of the GPU plate into a fin array that encircles the cooling fan, effectively moving the heat into a prime location where it can be quickly dealt with by the fan. As if that weren’t enough the top of the GPU plate is adorned with a circular heatsink fin array that sits directly below the cooling fan, allowing it to actively combat any heat the heatpipes may have missed. Its clear that MSI has done it’s homework on the Cyclone cooling system.
When it comes to cooling, the N460GTX Hawk boasts MSI’s familiar Twin Frozr II solution. Unlike the single cooling fan of the Cyclone cooling system on the R6850, the Twin Frozr II sports twin 80mm cooling fans mounted side by side, a feature that MSI claims will provides 50% better efficiency and direct airflow to not just the GPU but also the memory and power module. The N460GTX’s Twin Frozr II cooling also boasts four heatpipes, with two heatpipes diverting to fin arrays under each fan. The cooling system features somewhat of a shroud surrounding the fans and heatsink combination giving the card more of a buttoned-up appearance than the open air look of its competitor. Display Connections
Both cards sport the standard Dual-DVI setup, albeit in different configurations as the DVI ports on the the R6850 are grouped vertically while the ports on the N460 GTX are arranged horizontally. HDMI is also standard on both cards, however the N460GTX chooses to use a mini-HDMI connector while the R6850 features a standard size HDMI output. The R6850 does take things a step further by including DisplayPort
and given AMD’s proven track record with DisplayPort and it’s necessity for Eyefinity
this does not come as much of a surprise. Power Connectors
Modern video cards are power-hungry and these two are no diferent with each recommending a 450W power supply or greater. You have to get the power to the card somehow and 6 pin PCIe connectors are the norm. The N460GTX requires two 6-pin connectors while the R6850 only needs one. The R6850 connector is conveniently placed on outside edge of the card which lends itself well to easy plugging and unplugging. On the other hand the N460GTX’s connectors are nestled underneath cooling shroud on the rear of the card in an orientation which generally has them facing the front of the case. This may not seem like much but the placement of these connectors does make them more difficult to plug in and the close proximity of the cooling shroud makes them downright annoying to unplug. While this may be a one-time issue for most users, enthusiasts that find themselves spending more time under the hood of their PC can become quickly aggravated by the setup… take it from a reviewer who is constantly swapping cards.Specifications
The reference design versions of these cards were designed from the ground up to compete with each other so it comes as no surprise that the two competitors share some fairly close numbers when it comes to specifications. When compared to reference designs from AMD and nVidia, MSI's parts are factory overclocked; The GPU chip on N460GTX operates at 780MHz (nVidia reference: 675MHz), while R6850 operates at 860MHz (AMD reference: 775MHz). As you can see here, MSI clocked both parts around 10% higher than stock clock: N460 got 13.5%, R6850 got 10% boost. Both parts feature 1GB of GDDR5 high-speed memory but the difference is quite big: while the N460GTX operates at only 900MHz QDR, R6850 shows who created the GDDR5 standard in the first place (AMD team lead by Joe Macri) - 1.1GHz QDR. In terms on numbers, N460GTX gives you 112.5GB/s to play with, while R6850 pulls in 137.5GB/s.
N460GTX Hawk features 336 cores ticking at 1.56GHz, while R6850 Cyclone has 960 cores ticking at 860MHz. Do note that the way how both architectures work in regards to cores operation is entirely different, thus it is hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison.
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