Whenever I have a lightning card in my hands I already enjoy the product before I even seat it in the PC. It's sturdy, massively cool looking, you just know its gonna overclock and then here and there you see some gold plated stuff blinking from the PCB. That alone is worth the extra effort and money really.
Fact remains that the GeForce GTX 770 is a GeForce GTX 680 in disguise, and that, overall, makes this a far less interesting release for many of you. In fact the GTX 770 Lightning is awfully close in to the GTX 780 Lightning of course. The harsh reality of course for those that have purchased a GeForce GTX 680 or even 580, there's no reason to upgrade whatsoever. Overall you are looking at a performance differential of 10% in favor of the GTX 770. The GTX 770 is faster thanks to a higher standard clock and memory frequency. But it's the same performance as a slightly tweaked GTX 680. What will be interesting to see is how this GTX 770 is going to cannibalize the GTX 680 sales. All fact combined though do make me say this, it's a great card to get your gaming freak on.
Pricing, I was a bit surprized when i looked up prices from MSI's competition. All vendors have prices well over 400 EUR, in fact the EVGA SC card we spotted for 440 EUR. So I was happy to see that the GTX 770 Lightning can be found just under the 400 EUR barrier. And for that money, this is a massively interesting card alright.
MSI applied their TwinFrozr IV cooler solution which dramatically improves cooling performance. Thick heat-pipes versus a rock-solid design combined with anti-dust technology and silent fans, that gets me going. Even better are the temperatures, we where hovering at 60 Degrees C as highest logged entry after finishing up our entire benchmark suite. That's cool !
Again not bad, the card is rated at as having a 230 Watt TDP. That 250 Watt TDP will also make running multi-GPU solutions a bit easier. With two cards we think an 800 Watt PSU would be sufficient. So yeah, it's not great to have a GPU sucking up 230 Watt, but you'll agree with us that it could have been a lot worse, really. If you look at the dual-GPU based ARES II for example, that card alone draws 500 Watt / 250 Watt per GPU. So, perspective is the word I like you to keep in mind. Mind you that our measurements show that the card is just under 200 Watts of power consumption mostly (under stress).
Oh, and you just know what would be the perfect motherboard for this card eh ? Yeah, the Z87 Mpower MAX (review here).
Pretty much all GeForce GTX 770 cards in most scenarios will be 15% to 25% slower than the GTX 780, comparing towards GTX 680 it seems give or take 10% faster. Drivers wise we can't complain at all, we did not stumble into any issues. And with a single GPU there's no micro-stuttering (if that ever bothered you) and no multi-GPU driver issues to fight off. Performance wise really there's not one game that won't run seriously good at the very best image quality settings. The one title that is a little icky is Metro Last Light, just disable SSAA as the game already applies and enforces in-game AAA. Gaming you must do with a nice 30" monitor of course, at 2560x1440/1600. I mean Sleeping Dogs at high quality is still oozing out 88 FPS there. Or what about Hitman Absolution with 45 FPS at 1920x1200 High quality and 2xMSAA? At these resolutions the GeForce GTX 770 offers just a phenomenal gaming experience with image quality that you can only get on a PC.
Overclocking then, the overclock itself is impressive, however and again I do keep repeating this NVIDIAs power, temperature and voltage restrictions cause the issue that all board partners are fighting, they all clock roughly the same when tweaked. The threshold seems to be 1250 to 1300 MHz on the boost clock. The new boost modes can now be configured with temperature targets relative to maximum power draw and your GPU Core frequency offsets. Saying that I realize it's sounds complicated, but you'll have your things balanced out quite fast. This GPU can take 1250 MHz fairly easily really, and at that stage you added another 10% performance already (over reference GTX 770). We had great results allowing this card to run stable at just over 1300 MHz. I'm not complaining here as that's a fantastic clock frequency, but its pretty much the same for all cards from all brands with any cooler.
It is sincerely hard to not like the Lightning, the design, the cooling, it's low temperatures, the low noise levels, the golden bling from the PCB, the lights, the reactor, the voltage monitor points, the extra BIOS, the anti dust technology and yeah ... I haven't even mentioned gaming in the paragraph eh ? :) Well, with the factory tweak already applied for you you will have nothing to complain about. Overall the card is a real treat, a small feast to have in your PC. It's silent and is closing in on the all new GTX 780. The higher factory clocks are nice and next to that there still remains to be room left for tweaking allowing this product to reach the 1250 to 1300 MHz fairly easily. We have no hesitation to recommend the product to you if you are in the market for a nice performance upgrade. We feel the 400 EUR price-tag is very fair for a product of this caliber, nice job MSI. Definitely a top pick.
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