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MSI GTX780 Lightning 3GB Graphics Card Review

The MSI GTX780 Lightning is the finest graphics card that money can buy right now, outperforming the GTX Titan in most situations thanks to the hefty core overclock.

The 20 phase power system is also certainly a talking point especially as it seems to improve the overclocking capabilities. We managed to push the (already overclocked) 980mhz core to a staggering 1,122mhz before any artifacting would occur. At this level it is much quicker than a reference clocked GTX Titan although we are surprised that MSI didn’t overclock the memory above the reference speeds.

We love the ‘all in one’ solution from MSI – they not only supply the card with a proprietary 3 fan cooler and dedicated software, but they include an additional VRM heatsink for watercooling or liquid nitrogen overclocking and there are 3 additional headers for voltage checking.

The supplied software is very useful, not only is MSI Afterburner burnt onto the software disc, but MSI VGA fan control software is offered to allow for fine tuning of each of the three fans built into the cooling system. The middle fan is specifically designed to help with PWM temperature control and is a welcome addition for those people who love to fine tune.

The cooler itself is very impressive, the seven thick heatpipes ensure stellar transfer of heat from the nickel plated copper base. The card is slightly thicker than two slots however due to the MSI GPU Reactor implementation on the rear of the PCB. If you want to run two of these cards in SLi then ensure you have three slots available. MSI thankfully include an extra long SLi bridge in the box to help with the setup.

Under the hood MSI have tweaked the power demands and it takes quite a lot of power at the wall. A side effect of this is that the extra heat places an additional overhead on the cooler. We wouldn’t say this cooler is silent by any stretch of the imagination – the GTX Titan single fan cooler is quieter under any given situation. 70c under gaming load isn’t a record achievement for MSI, but considering the highly overclocked state and additional power tweaks on the card to aid with overclocking it is a commendable result.

Hardcore overclockers will love the card thanks to the aforementioned VRM heatsink in the box and there is a dual bios on the card, easily accessible via a switch. This dramatically increases the default power limits, but this should be avoided when using the standard air cooler as it is already close to the limits.

As we would expect this card is expensive – Overclockers UK have it listed right now on pre-order for £599.99 inc vat. This is certainly a lot of cash, but the cheapest GTX Titan still costs £799.99 inc vat. If all you want to do is play games at ultra high settings, then the MSI GTX780 Lightning makes more sense.

Pros:

  • fantastic cooling design.
  • individual control over the 3 fans.
  • excellent out of the box core overclock.
  • we manually overclocked the core to 1,122mhz.
  • decent bundle.
  • faster than the GTX Titan.

Cons:

  • Not the quietest cooling system.
  • memory is not overclocked at all.

Kitguru says: A showcase of engineering prowess from the MSI team.
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Rating: 9.5.

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