MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti LIGHTNING Z review

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MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti LIGHTNING Z edition
Thunder or Lightning? ... 

Oh yeah, we review the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti LIGHTNING Z, the beast has been unleashed with highly clocked factory tweaks and a completely new look. That look entails a gorgeous RGB lighting system as well as a carbon backplate. Next, to that, the card has been over-engineered in any and all impressive ways. It was a glorious day when we received the card a week or so ago. I mean RTX money discussion aside, once we opened up that box, I had a smile on my face from ear to ear. It's hard for me to get truly excited about hardware, I've seen and tested it all you know. But yeah, the Lightning Z immediately will give you that x-factor feel.

In the past couple of months we talked and debated a lot about new technology as the Turing architecture of the new GPUs offers a fundamental change in the graphics card arena as next to your normal shading engine, NVIDIA has added RT (Raytracing) cores, as well as Tensor (AI), cores onto the new GPUs, and these are active. Is Turing the start of the next 20 years of gaming graphics? Well, that all depends on the actual adoption rate in the software houses as well as the success of the hardware offered. In this article, we'll quickly recap a bit of architecture and then we'll dive into real-world testing of course. You better grab a drink as these reference articles are prone to be lengthy with all the information we are covering. 

The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti - this is the new consumer flagship graphics card from NVIDIA - has been fitted with the TU102 GPU. This GPU will have 4352 active shader processors, which is substantial when compared with the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. The product will get 11GB GDDR6 graphics memory, and with that 11 GB, you will get a 352-bit wide memory bus. The GPU has six Graphics Processing Clusters (GPCs), 36 Texture Processing Clusters (TPCs), and 72 Streaming Multiprocessors (SMs). Each SM contains 64 CUDA Cores, eight Tensor Cores, four texture units, and 96 KB of L1/shared memory which can be configured for various capacities depending on the compute or graphics workloads. Ray tracing acceleration is performed by a new RT Core processing, the TU102 has 72 of them with 576 tensor cores and 96 ROP units. For clock frequencies, we're looking at a 1350 MHz base frequency, with Turbo allowance towards 1635 MHz. Keep some margin in mind for the board partner clock frequencies. 




MSI now offers their LIGHTNING Z which has been fitted with the best binned Turing TU102 GPUs and is a product series that is released to replace the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. The graphics card is all customized and was fitted with the latest iteration of the TRI-Frozer cooler, with that TRI for triple fans.  Everything and anything has been designed with "extreme" in mind. On that PCB you'll spot 19 power phases for example. There's also an LN2 switch on this board, holding an LN2 BIOS. If you enabled it the card falls back to defaults with a no OCP mode. We do recommend that regular 'gaming' BIOS mode by the way. But should you go with sub-zero cooling, then the three 8-pin power connector headers will please you. 

Two LIGHTNING models

You will notice a LIGHTNING and a LIGHTNING Z edition of the card in stores, both are 100% the same. The Z model, however, comes clocked at a boost of 1770 Mhz whereas the non-Z model will have a default boost clock of 1575 MHz. On aesthetics, MSI made sure that the card is fantastic, a new RGB lighting system (multi-zone addressable) called Phantom of Lighting is bound to impress you, really. The backside even has a carbon fiber backplate for the F1 speedy feel. This is not a sticker, by the way, that's a real carbon fiber plate. At the top side of the card, you will stumble into an OLED panel, showing animations and information. You get to decide what you want to show there, it can include temps, clocks and even graphics memory usage. 

Before we take a deep dive in the product overview and performance, Above a quick video of the RGB and OLED functionality (you will need to have seen the graphics card juiced up at least once to understand the aesthetics)

Of course, the new RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z has a significantly increased power limiter by default as well as clock frequency that can boost towards 1770 MHz. The graphics memory as well has been tweaked, (11GB GDDR6 / 14.4 GHz effective data-rate). We'll start with a product overview in the photo-shoot, but have a quick peek first. Have a peek and then lets dive deep into this review.

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