MSI GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition (XE) 3GB Review
Let’s start this off by saying this isn’t a case of déjà vu. Less than a month ago we featured the MSI GTX 580 Lightning; a card which was essentially the pinnacle of their graphics card lineup. Other NVIDIA board partners have also stepped up to the plate with products like Gigabyte's Super Overclock edition, ASUS' upcoming Matrix and Zotac's AMP!. Well, things don’t last long in this industry and MSI is now one upping their original Lightning by introducing an “Extreme Edition” of it.
Called the Lightning XE here in North America (in order regions it will go by the Xtreme Edition name), this new GTX 580 basically takes all of the great features from the original GTX 580 Lightning and expands upon them with a few additional bangs and whistles. Naturally, we still get the pre-overclocked goodness along with an excellent heatsink design and more additional overclocking headroom than most people can actually use. But things like additional monitoring capabilities and dust removal technology for the heatsink have also been tacked on.
From a specifications standpoint there really isn’t all that much to differentiate the Xtreme from the standard Lightning. The clock speeds are identical and as we will see later, the two cards share the same PCB design as well. What allows the newer Lightning is able to stand out is its 3GB memory layout which doubles up what most other GTX 580s come equipped with.
For high resolution situations that demand copious amounts of memory bandwidth, more and more enthusiasts have been looking for high end cards which have larger framebuffers. In the past we have seen larger memory allotments be all but pointless on lower end cards since the underlying architecture reaches its saturation point long before the memory subsystem does. Whether or not this will be applied to the cream of the crop is something that will be looked into a bit later.
Naturally, more features and 3GB of GDDR5 combine to make the Lightning XE one expensive card. MSI has set the suggested retail price at $580 but expects retailers will be charging a cool $600 to $630 for the privilege of owning this limited edition card. Considering a stock GTX 580 will run you around $500 and even a 3GB card like Zotac’s 3G Edition goes for $540, spending a good amount more will likely be pointless for most But for the few users who will actually be able to get the most out of this card and its features, the Lightning XE may actually be a bargain in disguise.
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