MSI N460GTX – Forays into Overclocking … Easy install, Cool utilities, Good docs. I’ve just purchased MSI’s N460GTX Cyclone IGD5 graphics card and I must say, this package had all the right stuff for tinkering with overclocking for the first time. I’m your slightly above-average Joe, trying to beef up my system as I slowly venture into sophisticated 3D Video Graphic gaming. Out of the box, you have all you need (well, I had all I needed at least): VGA card, 4-pin to 6-pin power converter cable, DVI to HDMI adapter, VGA to DVI adapter, Quick Guide, CD-ROM. The fan itself is quite attractive; has central and peripheral heat spreaders, heat pipes, and a center fan strategically placed to disperse the heat efficiently. Oh my, it looks like a cyclone! Although, my system is modest by NASA standards (P35 Mobo, 2MB memory) , I am, however, endowed with a big … well, how can I put it … I have a big processor. I have a 2.93 gigahertz Intel Core 2 Extreme that was worth many hundreds of dollars in its hey day (not the biggest, but probably bigger than most - hah). You’ll need 2 available 6-pin power connectors from your Power Supply (which I had, whew!). I changed out my aging GeForce 9600 which had served me well, racing around the tracks , slam dunking on LBJ and star hopping across the Universe (EVE Online rocks!). But I have bigger plans for my new card; basically, I want to purchase the new games with the latest candy and not be caught with my finger up my nose (i.e. inadequate hardware). Installation was a snap: Insert card, plug in 2 power connectors, connect my monitors, power up and that happy Windows logo was beaming in no time. I followed the Quick Guide like a good boy; I inserted the CD and went to the driver download tab. It directed me to an NVIDIA driver download webpage (don’t forget to have your internet connection ready). On the webpage, I simply had to change the product selection from 480 to 460 and my drivers were downloading merrily. After the obligatory “Next”, “Next”, “Next”, “I agree”, “Finish”, all systems were go! I appreciate that MSI directed me to the Driver download webpage to get the latest updates – as an ex-software engineer, I know how those “version fixes” can accumulate at the support desk while a product sits on the shelf. This way, I have the latest and greatest software, satisfied in knowing that someone else went through all those growing pains for me. My 3D Mark 06 scores (OK, so what if I’m still on Windows XP) showed a marked increase from my previous 9600 card; from 9985 (9600) to 13525 (N460GTX), both at stock settings. Now the ultra cool stuff. MSI has a Performance Booster utility called Afterburner (I guess it’s named after the 2nd row of burners on your stove top … hah). You simply download it from the CD, bring it up and cool beans! – you are staring at an sleek panel screen with easy slider knobs to increase … well … increase all those fancy settings. On the right side are all the real-time graphs you need to monitor your progress. I’m no rocket scientist, but I know that being allowed to turn up the “Core Voltage” brings the heat (baby). And when you turn up the heat, you can go faster than a speeding bullet (and that’s super, man). But when you play with fire, you can get burned – so crank slowly – better to fry your rice than your GPU (so my Taiwanese Engineer friend tells me). But fear not, MSI also has a utility called Kombustor (I guess its German for “Combustor”) and it has a Stability Test to make sure your card can still walk a straight line, as you gear up (i.e Your video may get weird if you ramp up too high). Additionally, Kombuster is a convenient benchmarker which tells you which way you are going with your tweaking (not always up). And it sure beats waiting around for 3D Mark every time you test a new configuration, especially if you have the freebie 3D Mark version that makes you go to a web page to see your results. The test image on Kombuster is a hairy MSI logo that undulates (best word I can find) in 3D. It’s hypnotizing to look at and I can see how all that fuzz moving around can wreak havoc on the GPU. Feels like déjà vu 60’s all over again, eh Yogi?. Since my OS is ony Windows XP, I could only try out my new found Overclocking skills on older freebie benchmarking software, which I’ve tried before but only to take a look at the cool graphics; all those scores never really meant anything to me until now. I must say that Overclocking can be quite addicting as you try to best your last scores. Here is what I’ve been able to accomplish in my first OC try. Stock setup for the card was: Core Voltage=1000, Core Clk=725, Shader Clk=1451, Mem Clk=1800 Well, no one is going to be calling me “Mr. Tweaker” anytime soon. But, I did manage to increase my benchmarking scores. My guess is that tweaking is an art; you have to fiddle with the parameters, turn things on and off, reboot a few times, second guess the hardware and software, and try not to toast your card. I must say, MSI has done a stand-up job with this product (except for the tiny print on the Quick Guide). The card seems solid and the Cyclone fan is as quiet as it is cool looking. Installation was easy and best of all, they provided this neophyte with safe, easy-to-use tools to get started with tuning and tweaking. Well, I guess its time to finally acquiesce and upgrade to Windows 7 to be able to run the latest benchmarking software and see what all the fuss with DirectX11 is about. I would like to hear comments, OC suggestions … flame not, lest ye be flamed.