Moving onto the card itself, its stand out feature is the large fanless cooler that encircles a large proportion of the card. As with the Fatal1ty card this cooler relies on heatpipes to quickly draw heat away from the graphics chip and round to the large array of aluminium radiator fins suspended over the back of the card. By using a large enough surface area of fins the cooler is able to disperse the heat fast enough to do without a fan.
Unlike the Fatal1ty card, the RX2600XT uses three heatpipes to draw the heat away from the core of the graphics card and it would seem this extra pipe coupled with the larger radiator makes quite a difference. When tested under load, the core/radiator temperatures of the RX2600XT were 50/47 which is much better than the toasty 75/68 temperatures we saw on the Fatal1ty 8600 GT. However, because the card doesn’t expel any hot air (like the large dual-slot coolers on more expensive graphics cards) your PC case will need ample ventilation to allow the hot air to escape. Also, the size of the cooler means you won’t be able to fit this card in the super slim cases often used for set top HTPCs, though most normal sized desktop and tower cases shouldn’t have a problem.
Without the oversized cooler, the card would be quite petite as the PCB is only 168mm long and 111mm tall. However, the fins extend a further 40mm beyond the end of the PCB and add an extra 30mm to the cards depth. Also, the height of the fins above the bottom of the card (32mm) may be a concern as when mounted in a motherboard the fins may interfere with the other components on it.
For some reason the fins on our particular example are slightly lopsided which rather ruins the look of the card. Indeed, in terms of looks, the whole card is not a patch on the Fatal1ty card. The mismatch of a red PCB, copper heatpipes, an aluminium radiator, and yellow plastic DVI ports is not unpleasant but neither is it particularly attractive. If you’re going to use one of these cards in an HTPC, this probably isn’t too much of a concern as it’ll be well hidden but if you like to show off your hardware you may be slightly disappointed with the MSI board.
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