As my old rig met an untimely end, I didn't feel like paying for a graphics card outright. I made do well enough with the Intel HD 4000 for months, until Nvidia released the 650 Ti - it's the most frames/watt you can get for now, and really thrifty with power overall (sub 100 watts). It also packs decent punch thanks to basically being a cut-down 660 (same silicon, different figures).
The card on MSI's site: http://msi.com/product/vga/N650Ti-1GD5-OC.html
The card IRL: http://imgur.com/P4YjF
The card's "Big Brother" Power Edition reviewed on Techpowerup: http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/MSI/GTX_650_Ti_Power_Edition/
Here's what I have to say about this MSI version after a day's use.The Good
+ Decent performer. Dota 2 at 1920x1200 with full detail (sans
AA and ambient occlusion) runs at 100+ FPS, 70-90 FPS in biggest fights.
+ Miniscule heat output. Even gaming, the card doesn't get very hot (GPU 50-55 °C) and ambient temperature is barely affected.
+ User controllable cooler (via MSI Afterburner). Surprised this feature made it into such a cheap card.
+ Cheap. This unit cost me 130 euros, while similar models from Gigabyte et al cost 160 and up.
+ 3 year warranty. Very happy to see warranties longer than a year, will guarantee utility in the long run. I guess it's the price/features competition.The Bad
- Subpar cooler control. The card idles at 29 °C (ambient 20 °C in winter) and runs its fan unnecessarily at 1200 RPM - its hardcoded lowest limit (= 30%).
- Noisy. The fan is mediocre at best, and the poor control exacerbates things. At least there's no chatter or shifting quality to the sound, other than a light clicking.
- Larger than I feel it should be. I swear my GTX 460 was shorter.Other observations
* Cooler actually does a good job cooling the chip without any heatpipes or such. Might have trouble in more demanding games though.
* Cooler fan will break your heart above 50% drive, but those speeds should not be necessary. PWM fan means easy control of replacement cooler's fan.
* Power socket is lengthwise, meaning the power cable will jut out at the end instead of out of the side, adding to card's length.Verdict
I'm happy with it. I would like something a little smaller in size and a little smoother sound wise, but the value cannot be beat. I appreciate the card's efficiency more than anything. It may not matter all that much in the utility bill, but I already appreciate it not heating up my workspace - which will only become more convenient come summer!
I would recommend this card if you are not shy of adding a little dB to your baseline noise level and are short on cash. Similar 650 Ti models from other makers have noisy coolers as well. Anyone looking for silence should skip the vanilla coolers and go for something quieter, like the Power Edition (according to Techpowerup) - or buy a replacement cooler off the bat.
I'm going to try and live with the card as-is to get as much value out of the purchase as I can. Eventually I'm sure I'll look into BIOS flashing to force the fan drive lower than 30%.
PS. MSI download servers have really crappy bandwidth, and only 1/3 will actually connect. Might be a little nerve-racking if you're in a hurry to install your new hardware's software. I hope their customer service is better, as I feel there's no excuse these days to have this kind of choked internet service.
--Addendum, January 4 2013
The card has been easy to live with for a month. As I got bored over the long holidays (I had 2 weeks off for Xmas), I put it through a gamut of games; Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Natural Selection 2, Planetside 2, the aforementioned Dota 2, Company of Heroes, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown all ran well or acceptably on the card with High or Medium-High detail. The only snags were the terrible engine in Natural Selection 2 that gives even powerful cards trouble (going Low did not help at all) and the massive outdoors in Planetside 2: these both dropped the FPS to around 30-40, but surprisingly not lower. In NS2, however, there was noticeable frame stutter/lag (framerate okay, but some frames take so long to process that the picture "lags" behind realtime), which made aiming difficult, but that's down to the horrible, horrible engine and the wildly varying server performance levels. In Planetside 2 the low framerate did not matter as much and the game was much more responsive (= no trouble aiming).
Do not buy Natural Selection 2 by the way.
Also, this card's price has now been bumped up to 170 euros (compared to the old !130!), so it has lost its value advantage. I would not recommend this card as-is for that price, the cooler is too poor.After 4 months
Someone brought up the issue of coil whine. This card has none. I listened carefully for the first month, and have been following up on the card regularly. Nothing but the fan noise comes out the rear of my case.
On the plus side, the fan clicking is gone! I don't know if the bearings settled or what, but the fan no longer has the "light clicking" I described initially.
On the negative side, the GPU heats up a bit more now. 60 °C is typical in longer sessions, and the fan RPM has to reflect that. I've cleaned the cooler and case twice in this time, so it must be the card and cooler settling. Seriously considering that replacement cooler now. The MSI stock cooler's "reverse spin startup" seems to have helped with the dust situation, as there has been very little between the cooler fins.