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MSI GTX780 Lightning 3GB Graphics Card Review

The MSI GTX780 Lightning 3GB ships in a huge box, featuring a 3D render of a military style aircraft. The box artwork is dramatic and eye catching which is exactly what MSI want.
Inside is a heavy duty cardboard box featuring the card and a tray underneath which houses the certificate, literature, Sli bridge, DVI video and PCIe power adapters and software disc.

MSI also include a VRM heatsink for watercooling or liquid nitrogen overclocking. Most people are unlikely to touch this, but it is a lovely addition for the hard core overclocking audience. To further facilitate the overclocking audience, MSI include 3 voltage measurement cables.
This is a very heavy graphics card, immediately noticeable when you lift it out of the box. It is built on a black PCB and the center fan in front is yellow – a complete contrast against the two black fans sandwiching it.

This card actually takes slightly more than 2 slots in a system, due to the cooler extension above the slot cover. The GPU reactor slightly increases the thickness of the card.
There is special software included on the disc which allows the end user to tweak fan settings for each of the three fans. In this way you can tune the noise levels against cooling proficiency – especially useful if you want to manually overclock the core further. We look at this in more detail later in the review.

The two outer fans are 90mm models, and the central fan is an 80mm model. They use Propeller Blade Technology to improve airflow.
There are three positions on this side of the card to attach the voltage measure cables. Due to the complex fan configuration options, there are multiple fan headers built into this custom PCB.
The card takes power from two 8 pin PCIe connectors, as shown above.
The GTX780 is Sli capable in 2 and 3 way configurations.
The card has two DVI ports, a single DisplayPort and a single HDMI port. All outputs can be used simultaneously, so triple monitor gaming is possible with only one card. HDMI is supported by audio, it is HDMI 1.4a compatible.

This isn’t the first time we have seen the MSI GPU Reactor and it basically provides additional filtering for the GPU voltage to enhance overclocking potential and stability of the board under load.
The MSI GTX780 Lightning ships with a backplate on the rear of the PCB. This not only protects the card from accident damage but helps to eliminate heat generated by PWM. It is quite straightforward to remove, although you need to make sure the GPU Reactor is already safely out of the way.
This is a very impressive cooler. The base is Nickel plated copper – the best you can get right now. There are 7 x 8mm heatpipes which run level along the full length of the cooler into the rows of aluminum fins on either side.
As we can see, the GTX780 Lightning is a completely proprietary design with a very sophisticated 20 (16+3+1) power delivery system. This card multiplexes the signal from the PWM and receives two sets of feedback. There is also a LN2 mode switch which increases the Core power Limit from 200W to 900W, and the 240A current limit to 800A. It is important not to touch this unless you are actually using liquid nitrogen.

The MSI GTX GTX780 Lightning Edition is heavily overclocked from 863mhz core to 980mhz core, with a turbo speed of 1033mhz+. The GK110 core is built on a 28nm process. The 3GB of GDDR5 memory is running at the reference speeds of 1,502mhz (6Gbps effective) and is connected via a wide 384 bit memory interface. It has 2,304 CUDA cores, 48 ROPs and 192 TMU’s.

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