MSI a week or two ago finally launched their new GeForce GTX 480, this is the Lightning edition that has been pimped up and equipped for extreme overclocking, especially with sub-zero cooling like LN2, for the professional overclocking community actually. But for the regular enthusiasts who need to deal with petty air-cooling ... this apparatus surely doesn't disappoint either.
The MSI Lightning series graphics cards have, from ground up, a custom board design. I mean literally; the only thing original on that graphics card is the GPU from AMD or in today's review, NVIDIA. And even at GPU level MSI tries to tweak a little by applying a factory overclock on it. We spot a custom PCB, specific component usage, a bucket load of VRM phases and Twin Frozr cooling. This Mc Daddy of graphics cards should be ready for some good overclocks. But let me not sidetrack just yet as there are other features worthy of mention. See the card has a total of 16 phases PWM opposed to the regular 8th (the GPU has 12, Memory has 3, PLL/PWM has 1). The card even comes with triple PEG power connectors, two 8-pin for the GPU and one 6-pin for memory.
The GTX 480 Lighting also comes with the latest Twinfrzr III cooler; it's all aluminum and comes with 2x 90mm fans. The card is factory overclocked at 750 MHz GPU, 1500MHz on the shader cores and 1000MHz on the memory (4GHz effective data rate GDDR5). That's another 10 maybe 15% extra performance right there. Why all that extra lovin and attention you might wonder?
Well, when NVIDIA's high-end GeForce GTX 480 graphics card was released earlier this year, everybody agreed on the fact that it really is a very fast card. But unfortunately in it's reference design the product has three negatives, first and foremost the high TDP (peak power consumption), the high temperatures the GPU reaches and thirdly the sheer noise levels. Now, I've always stated that if NVIDIA would have addressed the noise and heat levels from the very beginning, everybody would have certainly been more forgiving towards this product series.
Many months passed and nothing really changed from camp NVIDIA on that GeForce GTX 480 design and as a result, it is simply put, not a popular card due to the aforementioned reasons. We honestly expected a respin with better cooling.
So when we first started reviewing liquid cooled versions of this card, it literally blew me personally, the difference is tremendous in terms of noise and heat levels. And as expected quite a lot of you that went for the GTX 480 also went for a LCS solution. The very same consumers can live with that 250W TDP of this card as the better cooling takes away a lot of sorrow.
There's a problem though, a lot of people are afraid of liquid cooling solutions, as they hate to have some sort of H2O based coolant inside their electrified PC. Others just feel that investing that much money on so much cooling is just not an option, which is a fair assumption as well.
More than half a year after the introduction, the first custom air cooled GeForce GTX 480 cards arrive on the market. Some of NVIDIA's board partners cocked their gun with new cooling solutions. MSI today also does the same thing, the TwinFrozr III cooler is very good, silent and can draw away a lot of heat.
It doesn't end there though, since the card is targeted for the overclockers, there are also a number of switches for allowing extreme temperatures increase voltage limitations and an OCP unlocker switch and a PWM Clock Tuner. The Lightning comes with a dual BIOS should you mess up one during a tweaking project. With MSI Afterburner you can adjust the voltages for GPU, memory and the AUX/PLL.
Aah yes, we have a lot to show you alright, next page please ...
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