There is a handful of GTX 660 cards that i really seem to like, the MSI HAWk is definitely one of them. Now truth be told, all cards (brands) perform quite close to each other thanks to NVIDIA's enforced power limiter. These cards all have the same threshold TDP they may reach and as such the performance difference need to be found in a couple of frames per second.
Why then am I impressed ? Well if you look at the 175 EUR this product costs then you can see it's simply not that expensive. For that money you can purchase a greatly enhanced graphics cards with ALL varibles done right. All your baseline concerns are covered and improved. You have your custom PCB, the factory overclock that lifts this card toward the GTX 660 Ti performance wise and then the TwinFrozr IV cooler. As a result you'll play games while the card remains chilled at roughly 65 Degrees C, whilst refusing to make any noise. We like that very much.
BTW MSI is allowing that 65 Degrees C to keep the noise level at an all time low. Increase the fan RPM yourself with AfterBurner and you'll still have a card that is very silent, yet hovereing in the 55 Degrees C range under stress. That is the flexibility this cooler offers.
A great looking and very decent build is what you get. It comes factory overclocked and is customized and custom cooled. So again it is one of these cards where all the variables are done right and play out well.
But as always let's first discuss the GeForce GTX 660 as reference product all by itself. With the new GK106 silicon NVIDIA certainly has a product at hands with the means to be extremely competitive in the mainstream market. It is however a little weird to see the product released so close after the Ti, and the 660 Ti definitely is my favorite product out of the two. Realistically though, the 660 Ti does come with a higher price tag and that's where the regular GeForce GTX 660 cards are going to rule.
For that money you'll receive a card that is very capable of playing the very latest games. A rough equivalent would be saying that the 660 is performing somewhere in-between a GeForce GTX 570 and 580 .. and that's not a bad position. At the competitor side the competition is the Radeon HD 7870.
Now the 192-bit memory bus definitely has en affect, but being GDDR5 and running at roughly 6 Gbps really isn't as big of an Achilles heel as I expected. The fact that this mid-range product is equipped with 2GB of memory, does help as well as it is a great balance in-between frame buffer needs and 1920x1080/1200 monitor resolutions.
The GeForce GTX 660 is a card that is perfect for those gaming at 1920x1080/1200. Your performance will be quite good and in balance with the games of 2012. In Battlefield 3 you are at roughly 44 frames per second on average with 4x AntiAliasing, 16xAF at Ultra quality settings. That's in 1920x1200 by the way. If we take Anno 2070 at the same resolution with the same settings in the very best quality we average out at 63 FPS. Crysis 2 with the High Quality texture pack in DX11 at Ultra settings .. roughly 50FPS. These are the scores that matter as they are in very acceptable ranges.
Power consumption then, it's low if you place it into context with the game performance. Roughly 114 Watt is what we measure during gaming, a little higher then most other 660 cards but that's likely due to the higher clock frequency and the corresponding voltage level (which adjusts itself dynamically as well corresponding to the boost frequency and power states).
As stated, the noise levels for this product are non-existent really. The TwiNFrozr IV cooler simply is a proved concept, it certainly does its job right. In a closed chassis you won't be able to hear it, well perhaps if you put your ear physically onto the PC chassis but it's just really silent.
Directly related to the cooler are obviously GPU temperatures. The card will idle at give or take 26 Degrees C and we measured a maximum of roughly 65 Degrees C under full workload.
Overclocking -- there is a power design limitation on the GK106 set by NVIDIA . On top of that NVIDIA put brakes on tweaking for each any any board partner out there by limiting voltage tweaks. Your maximum added (software based) voltage will be 100 Mv (if the AIB/AIC partner supports voltage tweaking of course). The Power Limiter will get you a little extra out of the board, the MSI HAWK card allowed 14% extra on the power design is possible. Once the GPU reaches that maximum power state or a certain heat level, it will start throttling down.
Regardless of that fact, we where able to add another 75 MHz on the core frequency which made the card boost towards roughly 1241 MHz, we take it as granted these days .... but 1241 Mhz on a GPU ... that's nothing to be ashamed about.
The memory can be overclocked really well though, we ended up at 6800 MHz. These tweaks will boost your game rendering performance a little more in a 5 to 10% range overall.
But let sum things up. We thing that the MSI GeForce GTX 660 HAWk is a fantastic graphics card. The sheer design with everything being customized and monitored is a little inspiring. The overall design is sturdy and oozes that 'bloke feeling. Next to that the factory overclock is pretty intense as well. Combine all these factors with the TwiNFrozr IV cooler and you simply have a great product at hand.
The MSI GeForce GTX 660 HAWK is a card we can certainly recommend for any gamer that needs good gaming performance versus an okay price at that oh-so important Full HD resolution.
One warning though, for this release the MSI HAWK has limited worldwide volume available with a primary focus on the China and Europe Market. So get them while they're hot as there will be limited availability.
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