MSI N550GTX-Ti Cyclone II OC Video Card Review

MSI N550GTX-Ti Cyclone II OC Graphics Card

Earlier this week we took a look at the ASUS Ultimate ENGTX550 Ti video card and today we are taking a look at a competing card by MSI. MSI is no stranger to the video card market and have been pushing hard into the North American channel by pushing their 'Military Class' components, custom GPU coolers, Afterburner overclocking utility and some very nice factory overclocks to persuade consumers to pick their video cards over another brand . With the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti series the engineers at MSI went developed two different cards. One card features the Cyclone II GPU cooler and the other features a GPU cooler that is based primarily off the NVIDIA reference design. MSI is only releasing the two overclocked versions in North America, so we could only find out pricing on those cards. As you'll see from the list below the Cyclone II cooler carries a $5 price premium over the NVIDIA reference designed cooler and custom red/black fan shroud.

The card that we are looking at today is the N550GTX-Ti Cyclone II 1GD5/OC video card! This card is factory overclocked up to 950MHz and features a custom GPU cooler, called the Cyclone II, that helps keep temperatures in-touch with reality.

Looking at the front of the MSI N550GTX-Ti Cyclone II OC you find a video card that looks nothing like the NVIDIA reference design.

The MSI N550GTX-Ti Cyclone II OC graphics card sports a black and silver color scheme and has a very aggressive look to the card. It almost looks like the GPU cooler could be used as a weapon, but this is the look that MSI was going for with this cooler design. This fan design won't exhaust much of the hot air from the inside of your case since the shroud doesn't extend all the way to the exhaust bracket. The PCB of the card measures 8.25" in length and stands at 4" tall. It should be noted that the heat pipes extend the height of the card up to ~5.5" in height.

One of the main new features of the MSI N550GTX-Ti Cyclone II OC graphics card is the redesigned Cyclone II Heatsink. At first glance it looks the same as the original, but MSI has changed the 'propeller blade' technology on the cooling 9cm PWM fan. The fan now has air channels located along the the edge of the fan blades that help increase the surface area. MSI says that this adjustment increased airflow by 20% compared to conventional fans! The Cyclone II GPU cooler with its 9cm PWM fan, large nickel-plated copper heatsink base and high-density circular radiator fins all help to dissipate heat rapidly away from the GPU, enabling the new N550GTX-Ti Cyclone OC to run 23 degrees cooler than the reference board under full load according to MSI.

Turning the N550GTX-Ti Cyclone II 1GD5/OC video card over we don't find too many interesting things as the card doesn't have a back plate or any of the 1 GDDR5 memory on the back of the PCB. Notice that the back of the card does have space for more memory chips and NVIDIA confirmed with us that the PCB design does support up to 2GB of memory should a vendor every want to put that much on a special edition card.

The MSI Ultimate GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB GDDR5 graphics card has a pair of dual-link DVI-I outputs and a mini-HDMI output. MSI does include an adapter to go from mini-HDMI-to-HDMI and another to go from DVI-to-VGA in the bundle included with the card. Both the Dual-link DVI and HDMI outputs can be used to send high-definition video to an HDTV via single cable (including audio if running HDMI). A regular sized HDMI header was not used since it couldn't fit next to the pair of DVI outputs.

The MSI GeForce GTX 550 Ti graphics card does support SLI and has a single SLI bridge located along the top edge of the graphics card. The NVIDIA GTX 550 Ti series supports two-way SLI configurations and can run NVIDIA Surround (2D) multi-panel gaming technologies. That means you can buy two of these and run games at a resolution of 5760 x 1200 across three monitors for example. Notice that MSI does include a decorative plate that sits along the top of the card that says MSI on it. This might seam pointless for some, but if you have a case window it will give your system a refined appearance.

The MSI GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB video card requires a 400 Watt or greater power supply with a minimum of 24 Amps on the +12 volt rail. It also requires that the power supply has one 6-pin PCI Express power connector for proper connection. It should be noted that the NVIDIA minimum system power requirement is based on a PC configured with an Intel Core i7 3.2GHz CPU. If you want to run SLI we have been told that a 500 Watt or greater power supply is suggested by NVIDIA. NVIDIA refuses to give +12V requirements for SLI, which is strange since they suggest them for single card solutions. MSI has the the power header for their GeForce GTX 550 Ti off the end video card.


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