MSI Afterburner Software :
If all this wasn't enough, MSI decided to go down the software path like Asus and eVGA already did before. Teaming up with Unwinder, the creator of the highly acclaimed Rivatuner, they baptised their latest soft creation : Afterburner. Main features of this tool are of course the GPU/RAM clock settings. Though when being used with an appropriate Volterra powered IC card, it can also allow adjustment of the GPU voltage. Thus enhancing OC'ability without having the need to apply any hardmods.
The layout is very user friendly. Major settings available: Gpu voltage, GPU core, shaders (linked or not) and RAM clocks. Plus the fan speed setting. On the right hand side you can monitor temps of the GPU, PCB (if extra selected), the chosen clocks and the fan speed. 5 empty profile slots can be filled with ya own preferences, which can be quickly loaded by pressing the appropriate hotkey combination.
Also nice feature, you can adjust the fan profile setting. I usually like to run my cards with a slightly different profile. Adding a little bit more fan speed at idle , plus I prefer a more rapid speed pickup once the GPU gets stressed. Yet keep noise at a tolerable level.
MSI seems to update this software very frequently, adding new features and support. The little quirk I had with version 1.2, with the voltage setting being reset to max value sometimes after a reboot, hasn't reared its ugly head anymore since v1.3. v1.4 is targeted debugging towards the ATI crowd. Only bug that pops up sometimes is that when you unlink the GPU and shader clock. Run a benchmark and then come back that it has linked the clocks again and that the shaders have moved accordingly. But it doesn't always happen, which is weird.
A full list of all the changes in this new version can be read here : MSI Afterburner download and changelog
Major issues with AMD cards have been quickly addressed in the 1.4 version. Nvidia's new gamma is corrected in 1.4.1.
Nice tip : When enabling the EnableUnofficialOverclocking setting to 1, you can bypass the Catalyst Control Center's imposed safe limits. Yet again this all happens at your own responsibility. Overclocking your gear will yield higher performance, but sometimes also at a cost. Please regularly monitor temps of your precious GPU.
The OSD function allows the users to monitor the GPU temp and frames per second. A very nice feature to monitor exactly what's exactly going on. All sorts of options can be selected, varying from position, largeness till even the colour of the OSD. In the 3DM06 screenshot, the die-hard rivatuner users will notice the cut down version of the D3D overrider tool.
For the cosmetic change you can choose now between 3 different colours in version 1.4 : the original green scheme, blue and red. Yes indeed it's not all about performance, but bling counts too :p
Regarding our review sample I tested it in the same manner as we did with the Asus GTX 285 Matrix Card. First test : how far can she go with the stock voltage but with some extra fan speed. Yet keeping the noise at a bearable level. Then we go flat-out and whack fan rpm to the max and test how she goes with the extra GPU voltage. Compared to the Itracker2 Afterburner does not allow ( at the moment ) voltage adjustments for the rams, nor does it allow any tweaking of the rams. To be honest I never saw the latter feature worthwhile at all. Performance gain in daily apps was very negligible, only in some benchmarks I could see some slight improvement (if not just luck of the draw).
Let's see what she can do with out of the box voltages, yet a slight increase of the fans to keep her stable.
720GPU core speed isn't that much of an improvement, yet notice that this card is already preoverclocked and coming from 633Mhz. Also note that with the double of ram installed the final result of the overclock can be lower. The rams are happy to run at 1200mhz. Since they are rated at 0.8ns.
When going for the Max, we put the fans in 6th gear and up the GPU voltage to +200mV :
When bumping up the volts, the GPU goes straight up to 775Mhz, keeping the shaders sort of in link. I could complete some tests at 800mhz with Shaders at 1760. Yet it didn't pass the complete test suit. So I had to back down to a setting that would complete all the 3Dmarks and game tests.
Note that each card can overclock differently. A lot is dependent on the card itself, but also case cooling, PSU etc... So take these clocks just as sort of a reference.