Having a quick look at the front of the card, you don't notice anything too different with the same Twin FrozrII cooler being used as we've seen on other popular MSI models. If you look a bit more carefully, though, you might notice the extra bit of PCB hanging out the top of the card.
MSI have crammed so many new features onto this card that they had to extend the PCB. In using their brains instead of making the card longer (which in turn would make it difficult to install for some people), they chose to make it a little bit taller or wider, depending on which way you want to look at it. It also only takes up the standard two slots instead of three like other companies who have opted for new designs and big coolers.
What they've done to the card to make it slightly bigger is use include 15 Phase PWM power, Hi-C Caps that give higher thermal stability, lower wasted heat and higher power efficiency. They've also used a Solid State Choke, all Solid Caps and golden plated connectors along with multiple V-Check (Voltage-Check) points for extreme overclockers who need to know exactly what's going on with the card.
All these new features requite some extra power if you want to achieve maximum power from the model and for this reason MSI have opted to use dual 8-Pin power connectors. While the second is optional, we would recommend using it anyway, even if you're not doing extreme overclocking.
While we made note that the PCB has been expanded across the top, the CrossFire connectors are still on the same level. You can clearly see in the picture above the extra height that the card has over what would be a standard HD 5870.
The I/O department while looking ultra sexy with the inclusion of gold plated connectors doesn't offer anything that we haven't seen before. We've got our two Dual-Link DVI connectors along with a single DisplayPort and HDMI port. Of course, all these connectors give us the ability to run Eyefinity.
Out of the box MSI offer us a small overclock by moving the core from 850MHz to 900MHz. As for the 1GB of GDDR5, that carries with it the same 4800MHz QDR clock that you'll expect to see on most HD 5870s.
What makes this card really stand out and what all those extra high quality components on the card let us do is adjust the voltage easily and safely through the included Afterburner software.
Firing up Afterburner and talking to MSI about what is a safe voltage mark for the stock cooling, we moved to 1.165v from the stock 1.125v. While this isn't a huge amount, it's enough to give us a higher core clock then we're used to seeing.
If you're an extreme user, though, and interested in using something like Liquid Nitrogen, the software gives you the ability to increase the core to as high as 1.35v which is just insane and something air cooling people will need to stay away from. In saying that, MSI have implemented a shut down feature if the card does get too hot, so you shouldn't be able to do much damage. Talking to MSI about this, they recommend around 1.165v for the stock cooling.
With our voltage adjusted we moved the core up to a solid 1GHz and while the memory doesn't have a voltage adjustment option, that moved successfully to 5000MHz QDR. Compared to the stock HD 5870, this is 150MHz higher which should yield some impressive gains.
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