MSI HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: April 11, 2012
Product Name: HD 7970 3GB Lightning
Part Number: R7970 Lightning
Warranty: 3 Years
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When it was first released, the HD 7970 3GB was able to soundly beat the incumbent GTX 580 and quickly sat atop the GPU market in a place of preeminence. But just as it was starting to become widely available and board partners began rolling out their custom versions, NVIDIA shocked everyone by introducing a card that not only beat the HD 7970 but undercut its price as well.

The current situation doesn’t look all that good for AMD’s loyal partners since even in light of NVIDIA’s price / performance dominance there has been a general refusal to lower prices. As you can imagine, any company that had released higher end version of the Tahiti architecture is paying dearly due to lost sales and a lack of inventory movement. However, there are several cards out there which have been sheltered from the volatility since they cater to certain market niches. The MSI HD 7970 3GB Lightning is one such card since it is firmly targeted towards well heeled enthusiast buyers.

MSI’s Lightning series is well known for its genre leading clock speeds and wide ranging feature set so we were expecting it to have some envious specifications. It didn’t disappoint on that front but there are a few oddities sprinkled throughout this card and one of them is the memory speed. Unfortunately, MSI has decided to implement an almost insultingly low memory overclock which isn’t too much of a surprise since other board partners have chosen this route as well. Maybe it’s because they figured the HD 7970 has enough bandwidth for their needs but a larger increase on this front is sorely missed considering the Lightning’s astronomical price of $600.

Unlike the memory situation, the core clocks of this card have received a thorough massaging, being increased from the stock frequency of 925MHz to a lofty 1070MHz. From our standpoint, this could be enough for some noticeable in-game framerate changes and will likely pay dividends when compared against NVIDIA’s GTX 680.

While the HD 7970 Lightning’s three year warranty may be simply par for the course among AMD’s faithful, their RAM services have received a thorough overhaul with locations in Canada and the USA. This means quicker shipping and turnaround times for those of us north of the border.

HD 7970 cards haven’t had an easy time of it lately but MSI is hoping you’ll pay a bit of attention to their new Lightning. It is supposed to be a huge step forward for graphics card design in terms of component longevity, overclocking headroom, cooling and numerous other aspects. But the question remains: it is really worth $100 more than a GTX 680 or are you better off waiting for AMD’s inevitable price cuts?


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