Pros: Single slotted, decent VRAM, copper heatsink, VRM cooling.
Cons: Gets warmer than a 2 slot card, a bit noisy at high fan speeds, may not OC as high (temp limited), bit fragile to unmount a lot.
PCB is Nvidia's reference design, version 1.00 measuring 8.25 inches in length and 4.4 inches tall in a brown color. 3+1 power phase, 6-pin connector, 2x DVI + 1x MiniHDMI port, 4-pin fan connector, single SLI port. All capacitors on the card are solid. Comes with stock clocks of 783c/1566s/1804m @ 1.000v. It has a few pins removed from the PCI-E connector, but Nvidia has defended their position of removing them and deemed them unnecessary: "We have removed a few pins assigned to unused functions such as JTAG and RSVD. A few GND connections that are not required for this board design were also removed. These changes do not impact performance or signal reliability and it still fully supports PCI Express 2.0 x16 specifications. - NVIDIA PR". Power connector is pointed to the end of the card.
Accessories that come with it are a molex to 6-pin PCI-E adapter, either DVI-HDMI or DVI-VGA adapter, and a miniHDMI to full HDMI adapter. Also comes with driver CD, manuals and other promotional papers. Comes well protected surrounded by foam, and tightened into it so it won't come off.
Card itself is pretty flashy, showing a jet taking off with the MSI and Afterburner brandings, and the model of the card. Brand is also pasted in the fan. Card has a glossy finish which is very prone to scratches and fingerprints.
It carries 1 GB VRAM, like a standard GTS 450. Chip maker is Hynix, rated at 3608 MHz GDDR5. It has 8 chips, 4 of them are cooled with the heatsink (contact with thermal tape to the aluminum frame), and 4 do not have any cooling at all.
These cards, while i expected them to run hotter, they aren't really bad at that, even when overclocked. Mines are running SLI with 900c/1800s/1900m clocks @ 1.050v and max out at 80c (the hottest one, the secondary maxes @ 70c) on BOINC/F@H loads with tropical temps (28-30c) and 70-80% fan speed. At this temps you can safely get 15-20% OC or more from one card. Hell, just for the lulz, i tested all of them individually, and out of the best, i got out an overclock of 960c/1920s/2050m with 1.162v and still ran within thermal boundaries just fine (90-92c, max according to Nvidia is 96c) but too dangerous to run 24/7 IMHO unless you get colder temps and better air circulation.
Heatsink isn't so bad for a single slot solution. Instead of a big bulky piece of aluminum, MSI decided to make the core contact pure copper embedded in an aluminum frame to cold the first 4 RAM chips and hold the fan. Fins are pretty well spaced (1mm space between them) and there are 54 of them, making contact surface pretty wide. It is bolted with 4 screws with pressure springs into the back of the card right around the cooler, though it does not have a backplate.
Cleaning the heatsink is a bit of a delicate operation. To get access to the copper fins, you must first unmount the heatsink from the card, then unmount four small screws which place the aluminum heatsink and the plastic cover together. These 4 screw mounts, since they're plastic as well ,are a bit fragile, and without enough care you might end breaking the mount and forcing you to use either super glue or get a longer and/or thicker screw. You really don't want to remove this cover a lot. And since the back is closed, you cannot really use a compressor or canned air to force clean the fins.
Fan is a PWM one, running between 40% and 100%, and running from 2800 to 4200 RPM respectively. It is close to silent at 40-50%, tolerable 60-80%, and noisy 80-100%, but profiles can be configured with Afterburner.
It has a bit of an oddity which is very welcome: a VRM heatsink. No other GTS 450 and only one GTX 460 (that i know) had it, even though the reference Nvidia PCB had holes for it. It gets the hot air from the card itself though, but still, it's a nice addition.
Performance wise, it's your average GTS 450 with the same limitations and strengths, except you may not overclock as high with this card due to thermal constraints of the less efficient cooler. And changing stock cooler on a sub-$100, previous-gen video card is not so smart, and much less placing it under water (especially since there are no full water blocks for it).
In SLI mode, they're pretty good. In gaming, they sit right between a single GTX 460 and GTX 560 (336 cores vs 384 cores) but lags a bit behind the GTX 560 Ti (both have 384 cores, but the 560 Ti does not have the slight SLI delays and has a wider memory bus). And with 1 GB VRAM per core, you can crank the resolutions all the way to ultra at 1080p and get playable framerates. They are not made for Surround or 3D gaming though.
These cards do hit a sweet spot price/performance wise in GPU-based distributed computing. In F@H you could get 9-10k PPD of a single one, and in BOINC running PrimeGrid, you could get 60-70k PPD. Not bad for a $100 or less card.
After having owned them for around 9 months, i can say these cards are still strong even for the latest games, and are better in SLI, but with the 500-series out, and with the next-gen cards around the corner, these would be best used as PhysX/Folding/BOINC cards, or as an HTPC card, but fan might be too noisy for someone who may want the most silence of a HTPC-oriented machine. But at 40% fan speed it is still pretty silent.