MSI GEFORCE GTX 650 1GB Power Edition Video Card Review

We see how the lower end options from NVIDIA look with the new MSI GTX 650 1GB Power Edition.

Published Mon, Oct 22 2012 8:38 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

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These low-end $100 video cards aren't the most exciting to look at, but no one can deny the importance of them as we know not everyone games at 2560 x 1600, runs AA and AF and doesn't want to spend over $400. So with that said it's time to check out the new lower end NVIDIA GEFORCE model, the GTX 650.

The particular model we're looking at today comes in the form of the GTX 650 Power Edition and anyone who knows the Power Edition series of course knows it belongs to one of our favorite video card manufacturers, MSI.

As always we've got a few things to do before we look at the performance of the new model and we'll be starting off with the box and package. Then we'll look at the video card itself before checking out the specifications of the new NVIDIA model and see what exactly MSI are offering with the Power Edition version we've got today.

Then we'll quickly look at our testbed and the cards we'll be also including in our graphs today before getting into the performance side of things and finding out just what kind of performance this new model gives us. As we just mentioned, though, let's see what's going on with the package of the new model.


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Looking at the front of the box we don't really see anything that we haven't seen before with the typical Power Edition design going on. Opening up the box we can see that we start to see some of the main features that are offered with the Power Edition model. The first is the Triple Over-Voltage feature under Afterburner, higher quality components in the form of Hi-c CAP, SFC and Solid CAP along with an Enhanced PWM Design.

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Moving to the bottom of the inside we get a little look at the card and we get a good description on what exactly is going on with the TransThermal Design which is one of the main features that is offered with this card. We also see what's going on with the cooler setup which we'll look at on the next page. Turning to the back we get a bit more technical on the model itself along with some other basic information.

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Moving inside the box we've got the normal paperwork, driver CD, dual Molex to 6-pin PCIe power connector, DVI to VGA connector and a mini HDMI to HDMI convertor. Along with that you can see we've also got an extra fan which we kind of saw above as we looked inside the box. We'll take the time to have a closer look at it on the next page, though, to see exactly how it works.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Moving onto the card we can see looking straight on there's nothing too interesting going on as we've seen this cooler design before when we had a chance to look at the MSI HD 7770 Power Edition earlier in the year. We'll take the chance to look at it again now to see just exactly what the extra fan offers us in terms of configurations.

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Starting at the top you can see the out of the box single fan configuration which isn't a huge surprise. Outside of the out of the box setup you can add the second fan straight on top which MSI call Double Airflow mode and it increases the air pressure to enhance heat dissipation. The final option is the Dual Fan mode which is made by sliding the cooler out and adding it to the left side. This setup provides a bigger area of dissipation and cools the PWM module and memory more efficiently.

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Taking a quick spin around you can see that power comes in the form of a single 6-pin PCIe power connector. Just around the corner you can see we've got another connector which is used to power the second fan if you choose to use it. What we don't have is a SLI connector at the front of the card, as it's not an option on this model from NVIDIA.

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Finally we finish with the I/O side of things which consists of a Dual-Link DVI-D, Dual-Link DVI-I and a Mini HDMI connector. If your monitor doesn't offer Mini HDMI we have got a convertor in the bundle as we showed on the last page.


Today we're of course looking at an OC version of the GTX 650 which isn't a huge surprise since we're dealing with a Power Edition version of the model. Before we look at what MSI is offering us, though, let's quickly cover the reference clocks.

A reference clocked GTX 650 comes with a 1058MHz core while the 1GB of GDDR5 comes in at 5000MHz QDR. Alongside the clocks other key information includes the 384 Shaders that are present and the 128-bit memory bus that is utilized on the 1GB of GDDR5.

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Today, though, we're dealing with an overclocked model from MSI and looking above you can see they've boosted the core to 1124MHz. As for the 1GB of GDDR5 you can see that hasn't been changed and comes in with that same 5000MHz QDR clock. It's not a huge overclock by any means and we don't have results from a reference clocked card so we won't know exactly what kind of boost the clocks give us over a reference based card.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS and Corsair.

On the testbed side of things nothing has changed so let's just quickly get into the cards that will be included in our graphs today. On the NVIDIA side of things alongside our GTX 650 Power Edition from MSI we've got the GTX 660, GTX 680 and GTX 660 Ti.

Moving over to the AMD side of things we've got the HD 7750 and HD 7770 which are the main cards for the new GTX 650 to go against. Along with those two cards we've also got the pre-overclocked HD 7850 from Sapphire and a HD 7870 for comparisons sake.

Let's get started!

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Starting off with 3DMark 11 we're able to get an idea of where the card sits with it coming in between the HD 7750 and HD 7770. At the higher resolution you can see we don't have too much of a difference when compared against the HD 7770.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Moving into Heaven we can again see that the card falls between the two HD 7700 based cards. Compared to the GTX 660 you can see we're sitting at about half the performance.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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Looking at H.A.W.X. 2 numbers you can see we've got performance that is almost identical to the HD 7750. More importantly, though, we've got playable FPS at both resolutions which is what we like to see.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Buy It Here

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Looking at Mafia 2 we can again see performance that is similar to the HD 7750. Unfortunately you can see that we're below that 60 FPS number that we always aim for which is what we consider a playable number.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Considering we saw the model struggle under Mafia 2 it's no surprise that performance is way down under Lost Planet 2 with numbers that aren't playable. The tessellation heavy benchmark, though, shows we're ahead of the HD 7770 in this case. Unfortunately it's not so important since the numbers are still unplayable.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Aliens vs. Predator is a game we know the new GTX 600 series has struggled with and here is no different with low numbers again at both resolutions that are again unplayable.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used:

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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Just Cause 2 sees our GTX 650 again fall between the HD 7700 series cards, but again like we've seen so often, our numbers continue to be below that 60 FPS number that we need to see for a playable gaming experience.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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The intensity of Metro 2033 means that we're again below that 60 FPS number that we'd want to see. As for the numbers against the competition we continue to see the model fall between the HD 7700 series cards again which is fairly consistent in our results here today.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

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We continue to see the same thing with our GTX 650 falling between the HD 7700 series cards, but ultimately like them, we're not seeing that 60 FPS number that we need for a smooth gaming experience.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montréal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Looking at something older like Far Cry 2 we can see that we're able to get playable numbers at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200. At the higher 2560 x 1600 resolution you can see we're not able to get playable which doesn't come as too much of a surprise.

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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The lower end nature of the card and the typical cooler quality that we get from MSI means we've got some great temperature numbers with this being the coolest running card we've tested in a long while.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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The good news is that those low numbers aren't coming at the cost of high noise levels as we're sitting again very low on the graph here which is always a good thing when it comes to sound levels.

Power Consumption Test

Using our PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Power draw numbers sit at around the HD 7770 level with mid 300 watt numbers. There is nothing too surprising here and most power supplies are going to have no issue with this model.

Final Thoughts

This is a very typical MSI video card that sits in the low $100 price bracket. The model on a whole isn't great when it comes to performance as you see it struggle at 1680 x 1050 under most games. Of course the big thing to note is that our game settings are maxed out and there's always plenty of room to move when it comes to the detail of the game you're playing.

1680 x 1050 is going to be an option for this card as you see we're often sitting around 50 FPS and getting an extra 10 FPS with a detail drop isn't going to be too hard. The amount of detail drop is going to depend on the game, but if you're happy with those medium in game settings and you're gaming at 1680 x 1050, then this isn't a bad option at all. Of course if you're gaming at a lower resolution you're going to have even more head room when it comes to detail options. Also if you're playing something older or based on the Source engine, you're also going to get the chance to play with higher detail.

What I don't really like is the cooling option here in the sense that the extra fan option feels almost pointless. You can see that the numbers are extremely low when it comes to temperature and noise with the default setup that we wouldn't bother with the extra fan for the most part; especially if you're running the card at stock. Of course that might change when it comes to the overclocking side of things and because this is the only GTX 650 we've got so far and the simple fact that it's a Power Edition model we'll also be looking at the overclocking numbers in another article soon. When we do that we'll throw the second fan into the mix because if you're going to overclock you may as well make use of the extra airflow that can be offered.

It's easy to become a real FPS snob when you're in our position and test cards that go well into the hundreds of dollars. We turn around and look at this $99.99 video card after rebate and see it struggle under most our games and just feel let down by the model. But ultimately the price point is low and depending on what you're playing, this is a video card that is going to perform perfectly fine for those on a budget.

1680 x 1050 should ultimately be a playable resolution with this model out of the box under a lot of games. The detail is going to be what matters, though, for the most part max in game settings isn't going to be an option. Considering the price point, that's not a huge surprise.

As always MSI have put together a really nice video card here and we really look forward to looking at the overclocking side of things which is something we're doing this very second as I write this final thoughts. The numbers we managed to achieve are really exciting and we look forward to showing you those numbers soon.

If you're looking at spending $100 this is a good option and while this is the only GTX 650 we've tested so far, we wouldn't hesitate in saying it's probably more than likely one of the better options on the market just based off the reputation of not only MSI, but the Power Edition series which is a series that has always impressed us.

Being a Power Edition card, though, overclocking is such an important part of the model and like we just mentioned, our early results are looking really strong and we're looking forward to bringing the numbers we achieved to you soon. For now, though, we'll leave it at that.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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