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MSI GTX 1080 Ti Lightning Z 11GB Review

The GTX 1080 Ti is well-established as one of the fastest graphics cards a consumer can buy, Titans aside. With initial performance leaks suggesting AMD won’t be able to match Nvidia’s current top-end with its Vega-based products, a flagship GTX 1080 Ti seems like a futureproof investment for high-quality 4K gaming.

MSI has executed the GTX 1080 Ti Lightning Z particularly well with an excellent blend of style, performance and cooling – and it’s well endowed with features for a graphics card too.

The decision to jump into triple slot territory has been criticised in the past but in this instance it has paid off for MSI. Anyone with the money to put more than one GTX 1080 Ti in an SLI configuration should be able to stretch to water cooling, as such the space requirement of three slots is relatively inconsequential.

The benefits of the triple slot design are noteworthy with impressive temperatures for the GPU core, memory and VRMs, noise levels are surprisingly low too. Performance doesn’t suffer to keep noise and temperatures down, MSI manages to lead other overclocked GTX 1080 Tis by a narrow margin across the board thanks to a consistently high average boost frequency and a slight memory overclock.

MSI’s decision to ditch the trademark “Lightning Yellow” may come as a surprise to some but a neutral colour scheme with RGB LEDs is a market shift that has been ongoing for at least the last year. MSI “gets away with it” quite easily since the extent and functionality of the RGB LED system is so visually remarkable. The only gripes are that they do not provide “Lighting yellow” decal strips in the accessory bundle for long-time fans of the Lightning series and the peculiar fan behaviour under initial load that MSI would benefit from ironing out through a vBIOS update.

MSI’s GTX 1080 Ti Lightning Z is not yet available to buy but will be available soon and limited to 3000 pieces worldwide so expect pricing to reflect that exclusivity. MSI provides a 3 year warranty with its graphics card products. As KitGuru is not aware of launch pricing at this current moment in time the final judgement of the review may change subject to that pricing. However, UK buyers should expect to see pricing between Β£850 to Β£900, given pricing of MSI’s other GTX 1080 Ti products.

Pros

  • Excellent cooling performance and noise levels
  • Great out of the box performance
  • Solid build quality and component use
  • Multiple temperature monitoring points in Afterburner
  • Impressive RGB LED implementation

Cons:

  • No “Lightning Yellow” decal in accessory pack
  • Limited availability
  • Strange initial fan behaviour under load

KitGuru says: Lightning fast and Lightning sharp, the MSI GTX 1080 Ti Lightning Z is a truly excellent flagship graphics card.

MUST-HAVE2

Rating: 9.0.

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  • Lelisevis

    I don’t know…..everyone raved about the triple fans on the Sapphire R9 290X Vapor-X in reviews but I had to live with the thing for 3 years and believe me in real life that thing was like a caged bee. I’ve just made the move to a MSI GTX1080 Gaming X plus with the Twin Frozr and those much larger dual fans are way more quiet.
    I like to think of it like this, when picking a radiator given the choice we would all rather have a 140mm over a 120mm, it’s cooler and quieter. Some of those triple fan GPU’s look like they have squeezed a third fan in and when they ramp up…..in the real world be it from a warm CPU or hot sunny day you may live to regret it.

  • Allan

    ryan did stress in the review this card isnt too loud mind you. Sometimes i find it can be fan pitch or vibrations, or turbulence between some fans can be the most annoying.

  • Lelisevis

    Yeah it’s just crazy how we all spend a fortune on the biggest slowest fans we can possibly get then we are a happy putting a 90mm, 1400rpm fan on the hottest component in our PC, that’s before the overclock. We’ll be going back to NForce chipset fans next πŸ˜‰

  • Dennis Zweverink

    3000 units worldwide? Seems like a shame for such a solid card. In any case, great review guys! I’ll try to keep an eye out for this card.

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  • Berdugo

    Well I just installed my GTX 1080 Ti Lightning (the X version with “slower” clocks) and the fan “issue” (where the fans start spinning loudly for 3 seconds then slow down) is quite annoying… I can believe there is no workaround…

  • bonomork

    From MSI forum:
    You can prevent the spin ups when you disable Zero Frozr in Gaming APP and thus keep the fans spinning permanently