I'll admit I was a little harsh on the HAWK in my initial review. I felt that while the GTX 460 HAWK from MSI was a very nice card, it wasn't anything that really wowed us. And yes, while the cooler is fantastic, the most important thing for so many people is the performance of the card.
The decision for MSI not to overclock the memory and also not push the core to at least 800MHz like we've seen from other companies, I feel was a bit of a mistake. Because what it meant was out of the box cards from Palit, Gainward and Galaxy were going to beat the MSI model out of the box.
You know what, though? - The HAWK is all about the overclock, and it's all about Afterburner. What it does that others don't is let us adjust a few extra settings while giving us even more head room. What exactly do we mean? Well, let's just get into it and break it all down.
For me Afterburner has felt like a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to MSI and it letting everyone use it. On one hand you have the MSI logo literally everywhere when it comes to screen shots of peoples overclocked video cards, while on the other hand you kind of have to wonder, why buy an MSI card when you can buy a cheaper one and overclock it yourself?
So what do MSI do to combat this? They release stuff like the Lightning and HAWK series which lets even more abilities open up with in MSI. These series are essentially the ACE up MSIs sleeves.
The plan with the GTX 460 HAWK was to do a normal article like you've already seen; cover the package, the card and all that jazz. Then it was time to do this one, assuming a decent overclock could be seen. With 925MHz achieved with the Palit card already, as far as I was concerned the MSI HAWK had its job cut out for itself.
Using the 1.6.1 official Afterburner already installed, there wasn't anything too special when it came to the overclock. While I managed to get around the 925MHz mark with no real dramas, I couldn't get to 950MHz. Without going at least 25MHz higher than the Palit, it wasn't worth doing an article.
Anyway, I spoke to MSI and they gave me V2.0 Beta6 which unlocked all the goodies. This let us increase the voltage on the Core, Memory and AUX; the three things we can monitor with the included cables.
It also let us go above the standard 1.087v max limit that is imposed by the normal Afterburner on other cards. Instead it let us go to +.2v. MSI actually told us that each GTX 460 has a bit of fluctuation when it comes to the default core clock. The particular one we had came at 1.062v which was on the higher side of things, so +200mv gave us 1.262v; much higher than the standard 1.087v limit that we're used to seeing.
Anyway, all this mucking around resulted in :-
Or as I'm calling it, a friggen' HUGE ASS OC!! - What we ended up with was a core clock of 988MHz. This bumped the Shader clock to 1976MHz. Since we had the ability to ramp more volts through the memory as well, that managed a whopping 4480MHz QDR memory clock.
Above you can see the extra settings in MSI Afterburner. The left image is as you open it; the right is when you click the little down tab next to the core voltage which gives you access to the other voltage areas.