MSI GTX 680 Lightning Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: August 4, 2012
Product Name: GTX 680 Lightning
Part Number: N680GTX Lightning
Warranty: 3 Years
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Under the Heatsink

Once the Twin Frozr IV cooler is removed, the Form in One heatsinkís full size can be seen. This piece of anodized black aluminum stretches over the cardís full length and covers the memory modules and MOSFETs within the primary and secondary power phases. The solid state chokes and solid capacitors donít get additional treatment as both are rated for extremely high operating temperatures.

Completely taking off the Form in One heatsink reveals this cardís custom layout in all its glory. Unlike the reference version which has a 4+2+1 GPU/Memory/PLL layout, the Lightning uses a full 12-phase PWM arranged in an 8+3+1 design, ensuring every section of the card receives stable power distribution. You can clearly see the 8+3 separation while the single PLL phase is pushed off to the lower left side of the GPU core.

With the Lightning fully unveiled, a small CHiL-branded chip is in evidence next to the fan header. This Digital PWM controller supports active phase switching which allows for tighter voltage control and faster VRM response times. It has also given MSI the chance to incorporate full ASIC power and voltage tweaking abilities directly into their AfterBurner software.

There really isnít all that much to see on the PCBís underside but as we saw on the previous page, MSI has installed another Form in One heat spreader to cover it. Upon first glance it may have looked like it didnít serve any functional but it does line up perfectly with the additional MOSFETs installed here.

Much like some other manufacturerís MSI has instituted a PCB design which effectively eliminates electrical noise. Called the Lightning Power Layer, it isolates the circuits for various card components in order to increase stability and enhance cooling through the use of copper.

All of the components listed above have similar goals: increase card longevity, optimize overclocking results and lower heat production. Unfortunately, we canít conclusively test any of these claims here and now but the Lightning has proven itself again and again in the extreme overclocking arena, which does say something about its capabilities and also its component selection.

MSI has been talking about Military Class III components for some time now and most of their high end graphics cards ship with a certificate proclaiming this status. Military Class III is simply a marketing term that means MSI chooses the highest quality components, all of which are MIL-STD-810G certified. While this may not mean all that much for your run of the mill layman, it should (hopefully) lead to increase ASIC longevity.

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