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MSI NX6800 TD128

MSI has followed its usual formula with the NX6800 TD128, so the box is larger than one of its motherboard packages (just like the Asus V9999) and inside you get all the usual bits and pieces that you expect with a £200 purchase. There’s a DVI adapter, a TV-Out cable, a power cable splitter and a thick manual which covers the entire range of MSI 6800, FX5950 and FX5900 cards. Curiously the manual only covers driver installation for Windows 2000 and XP, when nVidia also supports Windows 9x.

Annoyingly, the example pages in the manual which walk you through the driver settings use screenshots from the MX460 and FX5200, running Detonator version 27.20 and 43.03 respectively. Although the more complex subjects of anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering do get a brief mention, the most recent features of the Forceware drivers - such as temperature settings – are entirely absent.

When Lars ran his swathe of tests the MSI got very similar results to the Leadtek and XFX cards. Although the MSI was generally consistent we got some low scores in Unreal Tournament 2004 when we used a high screen resolution.

The MSI overclocking utility adds two tabs to the nVidia driver with one tab for information, while the other is called MSI Clock. This has six options, and MSI has given each the name of a military rank, so of course we went straight for General as we didn’t fancy messing about with Privates (phnar phnar). Where Coolbits ran the clocks at 400MHz/830MHz, MSI Clock went for much slower speeds of 357MHz and 770MHz. Curiously, these very different settings gave similar results in our tests although Coolbits still gave the higher scores.

It should have been a simple matter to uninstall the drivers and to then install a basic version of Forceware 65.73, however MSI Clock doesn’t have an uninstall routine. More than that, the software is part of the drivers, rather than a separate utility, so the PC refused to start up when we installed one of the other 6800 graphics cards. Once we’d ripped the MSI drivers out in the Control Panel all was well, but this was a complete pain, and represented unnecessarily poor programming.

Version 65.73 of the drivers performed in a very similar way to the Galaxy and Leadtek, but when we unleashed the mighty power of Coolbits the MSI crept ahead of the Leadtek. So, it’s a quirky devil but it does perform well and there’s no denying that MSI makes a quality graphics card. Once again the heatsink uses a slab of copper, which explains the weight of 546g, and although a large 65mm fan is employed, this is a noisy card when it’s running.

As ever MSI supplies a stack of software on CD. In all there are 13 discs, but you are unlikely to ever install much of the software. For instance, the utility CD includes Media Ring Dialer, and we fail to see why a graphics card is packaged with Adobe Photoshop Album 1.0 or VirtualDrive Professional. Naturally there are also games demos, but there’s some good stuff from Ubisoft’s catalogue in the shape of Ages Beyond Myst, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and XIII, as well as WinDVD Creator. For the price this is a decent graphics card but we wish that MSI would sort its drivers out so that they are less intrusive.

Verdict

The MSI card isn’t perfect, and the overbearing MSI Clock utility is a pain. But it does perform well, come with a decent software bundle and generally feel like a £200 graphics card purchase.

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