So the R5870 Lightning boasts a 900MHz factory overclock on the GPU and 1GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 4800MHz. Let's place the primary clock specs into a little chart so you can compare.
Radeon HD 4870
Radeon HD 5850
Radeon HD 5870
MSI R5870 Lightning
Memory Data Rate
Maximum Board Power (TDP)
Idle Board Power
As you guys know ATI stuck 256-bit DDR5 memory onto the 5870. Now as you can see the MSI 5870 Lightning already comes overclocked at the core with a 50 MHz increase. Now of course you'll be able to manage to tweak out a significant level extra as the card is designed for overclocking.
The board comes with at 15-phase VRM (13-phase GPU + 2-phase memory), to power them all the card is equipped with two 8-pin PCIe power connectors delivering 150W each, and then add 75W though the PCIe bus.
As you will see on the photo's, the card comes with quite unique PCB (10 layers) which is a bit higher (size) than the normal one. MSI calls this PCB a LPL, or Lightning Power Layer, and the card features Hi-c CAPs, 100% Solid State Chokes, Proadlizer capacitor, gold plated connectors and V-Check points.
An all new Twin Frozr II cooler tops of the card with two 80mm fans and four 8mm SuperPipes heatpipes. Connectivity wise the card has all the standard outputs: dual DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.
So from ground up, this graphics card has little to do with ATI other than the fact that a 5870 chip is slapped on it.
Several key features translate themselves into the following design changes. Next to the custom PCB, MSI only used the best components on this graphics cards. MSI follows US Department of Defense MIL-PRF-39003L guidelines in terms of build quality and heat levels, that's the reason behind the 'Military class' branding. Such Military class components are quality capacitors, Hi-C (Tantalum core) caps and Solid Core chokes. We all know it by now but using such components will reduce heat levels, increases life-span but also help in two other ways, better overclocking and stability.
Power design then, the card comes with a custom 10 layer PCB and an impressive 15 phase PWM design, you get 12 voltage phases on the GPU alone and then another three phases for the memory.
V-check points -- Always funny to see are little additional extra's for real enthusiasts, you'll notice two jumper like positions on the graphics card (we'll show you in our photo-shoot) on which you can plug a cable (delivered with the card), pop your multimeter in there and now you can monitor voltages fired off at the GPU and there's a checkpoint for the memory as well.
Cooling -- the MSI 5870 Lightning comes with the Twin Frozr II cooling solution. A heatpipe based system that has dual PWM fans blowing over four heat pipes. The cooling solution also extends further, underneath the heatpipe cooler you'll notice a Memory/MOSFET heatsink as well.
What about clock frequencies ? ATI typically does not allow higher clocks, but the Lightning card comes a little pre-overclocked as well. The core clock frequency is set from 850 MHz to 900 MHz and the 1024MB memory had to remain default at 4800 MHz (gDDR5), but it can go much higher as we'll show you.
Overclocking? The card comes with the far-fetched Afterburner software allowing you a little voltage tweaking to help you overclock even further.
Prices then, we expect the card to cost roughly 400 (439 USD) whereas you can pick up a regular 5870 for 350 (389 USD).
MSI R5870 Lightning review We test the MSI R5870 Lightning. The MSI R5870 Lightning is from ground up a custom board design. I mean literally; the only thing original on that graphics card is the GPU from ATI and even on the GPU MSI tries to tweak a little. Custom PCB, specific component usage, a bucket load of VRM phases (15 phases) and Twin Frozr II cooler. This Mc Daddy of graphics cards should be ready for some good overclocks. What will also be of interest are V-Check points that allow you to check GPU and memory voltage, and a series of twelve LEDs on the rear of the card showing active vGPU power phases.