Graphics Cards Guide

MSI NX8800GTS-T2D320E-HD-OC (GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB) review

MSI NX8800GTS-T2D320E-HD-OC (GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB)

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The MSI NX8800GTS-T2D320E-HD-OC

The MSI NX8800GTS-T2D320E-HD-OC

Outwardly, there is no way of telling that the MSI card has only 320MB or that it is even overclocked. For unlike the packaging and its 'OC' sticker to denote its overclocking pedigree, there is no indication on the card's decal. Only when you flip to the other side and examine the model name would you have a vague idea, and that's provided you understand the long naming convention used by MSI. In this case, the HD on the model name implies that this card is HDCP compliant, like any GeForce 8 card now while the OC means that it is overclocked. However, to find out the amount of overclocking, one still has to plug in the card and install the drivers. MSI has provided its usual Dynamic Overclocking Technology (D.O.T) tool to assist in going beyond the factory overclock though one can also choose to use NVIDIA's own nTune utility for this purpose.

Instead of the default 500MHz core clock, the MSI has been elevated to 575MHz like the Foxconn but whereas the Foxconn runs at 1800MHz DDR memory speed, the MSI is slightly slower at 1700MHz DDR. This is of course a fair bit higher than the 500/1600MHz on the standard GeForce 8800 GTS so one should be able to discern the differences between the standard and the MSI card. Meanwhile, with the same physical dimensions and two-slot cooler as the original GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB, this MSI card should run as quiet and about as warm as the reference design.

During the course of our benchmarking, we noticed some peculiar results. Namely, despite having a lower memory clock than the Foxconn, the MSI actually came out on top on many occasions. This prompted us to wonder if MSI had tweaked this GeForce 8800 GTS card in some way. To find out, we used an NVIDIA BIOS editing tool known as NiBiTor, which could show us the core, memory and shader clock speeds of the card.

As you should know by now, the new unified architecture on the GeForce 8 means that the old conventional vertex and pixel shaders have been replaced by general purpose shader processors, which NVIDIA has dubbed 'stream processors'. For the GeForce 8800 GTS, there are 96 of these processors, running at a default clock of 1200MHz. The MSI NX8800GTS-T2D320E-HD-OC however had its stream processors overclocked to 1350MHz, the equivalent speed of shaders found on a GeForce 8800 GTX. A check with the Foxconn confirmed that unlike the MSI, the shaders on the Foxconn were at the standard 1200MHz and that only its core and memory clocks have been overclocked. No wonder the MSI managed to emerge the faster card of the two. This internal shader clock setting is presently opaque to users and NVIDIA's nTune utility will not show this clock speed so you won't know if your GeForce 8 card has been tweaked to run faster than usual until you check its BIOS like we did.

Some consumers may prefer a plain vanilla package with a minimal of accessories but with the exception of some lesser brands and OEM versions, most graphics cards , particularly high-end ones come loaded with many extras. Obviously these extras help to justify (at least in the minds of the consumer) the higher price tag on these cards. While this is not a new marketing strategy, some vendors are clearly better than others when it comes to the stuff they pack in their bundles and MSI definitely belongs to the former. For the NX8800GTS-T2D320E-HD-OC, MSI has included one of the best games of 2006, the popular real time strategy game, Company of Heroes. No doubt, this will distinguish the MSI from other vendors and the ageing games in their bundles. The other accessories are rather standard but there are no glaring omissions for us to pick on. The full list of items are shown below:

  • 2 x DVI-to-VGA adaptors
  • 9-pin mini-DIN to Component/S-Video dongle
  • S-Video extension cable
  • 6-pin PCIe to 4-pin Molex power plug converter
  • Quick Installation guide
  • Quick User's guide
  • MSI Multimedia (Drivers & Utilities)
  • Company of Heroes (full game)