Just wanted to update this thread. I ended up going with the MSI 7770 linked in my OP, came with Far Cry 3 and retro-bundled with Far Cry - Blood Dragon. (can't complain about more free games!!)
I installed the card on my computer to make sure it worked before sending in for the MIR. Happy to report there were no issues at the moment. I didn't play any games on it (saved that for my new GTX660
which I installed immediately after testing the 7770) but I did run it through Furmark. Fan is inaudible below 40%, fan is quiet between 40-50%, max temp = 64 C @ 53% fan. Keep in mind that Furmark is a benchmarking tool constantly loading the GPU at 99% so gaming would presumably not raise temps as high. The 7770 is quieter than my 6850 overall, which is a plus.
I also did a couple coarse overclock attempts (stock voltage) and got the core up to 1100MHz (stable) while keeping the memory at 1125MHz (didn't want to push the MemClock because of the newegg user reviews). Temps and fan speed were the same as stock clocks. With the core at 1200MHz, the driver crashed when I stopped Furmark.
As I said before, the free game/s and the 1" shorter length were the deciding factors. Now I just have to sell off my 6850.
Main: i5-3570K, ASRock Z77 Pro4-M, Asus GTX660 TOP, 500GB Crucial BX100, 2 TB Samsung EcoGreen F4, 16GB 1600MHz G.Skill @1.25V, Silverstone PS07B
HTPC: A8-5600K, MSI FM2-A75IA-E53, 4TB Seagate SSHD, 8GB 1866MHz G.Skill, Hand-Built Wood Case