MSI GTX 780 Lightning Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: September 15, 2013
Product Name: GTX 780 Lightning
Part Number: N780 Lightning
Warranty: 3 Years
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A Closer Look at the MSI GTX 780 Lightning

The GTX 780 Lightning’s design is significantly different from previous iterations which typically stuck to MSI’s Twin Frozr heatsink. This time around, MSI is using their brand new and distinctive dual TriFrozr cooler that utilizes three fans for enhanced heat dissipation. It also looks simply stunning with a yellow / black color scheme with those touches of color in just the right areas.

While the TriFrozr may allow for cooler temperatures it and the Lightning’s custom PCB contribute to make this card one of the longest around. At 11.5” it may have issues fitting in some ATX chassis so measure before buying.

The TriFrozr heatsink is equipped with two 90mm fans and a single 80mm unit which work in tandem, pushing cool air down onto the internal fin array. Each of these is equipped with MSI’s proprietary Propeller Blade technology that allows for 20% more airflow than typical Cooltech fans found on ASUS and EVGA cards. They also counter-spin for about a second when the system starts in order to remove any built-up dust.

The three fans are hooked up to a pair of individual controllers (one for the outer fans and one for the inner) and can have their rotational speeds modified via MSI’s straightforward VGA Fan Controller software. Here, you simply choose a fan speed and apply it. We preferred to use AfterBurner which doesn’t allow for individual modifications but the global approach works just as well.

MSI’s approach to the TriFrozr’s design actually takes a multi-stage approach with front and back form-fitting anodized aluminum plates, the main heatsink itself the fans and a shroud that’s used to direct airflow. Supposedly this layout allows for better temperatures across all components rather than just the core and GDDR5 memory modules. It does however require three expansion slots.

The nickel plated innards are rated to dissipate up to 500W of heat and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. It uses a massive nickel-plated copper contact plate along with a total of seven 8mm Superpipe heatpipes to quickly whisk heat aware from the core. The base may not be polished to a mirror-like shine but that shouldn’t prevent it from performing up to expectations. For the record, we did notice that the number of fins has been slightly reduced when compared to previous Twin Frozr designs.

Speaking of the fins, MSI has added a unique curved secondary profile which directs airflow and eliminates excess turbulence between the fins. We haven’t seen this before so it should be interesting to see if features like this actually benefit the Lightning in the long term.

Moving around to the GTX 780 Lightning’s side, there’s an illuminated logo which glows green, blue or red depending on how much power the core is consuming. It is well integrated, showing how MSI flexed their engineering and fabrication muscle but this feature will be pretty much lost on anyone without a side window on their case.

Right above (or below depending on your perspective) that glowing logo is a two-position switch. Contrary to other reports, the Lightning comes with a pair of BIOS’s and not three; one of which houses the default profile with NVIDIA’s default Power Limit while the secondary LN2 BIOS allows for a vastly improved power overhead of 300%. Unfortunately, maximum voltage will still be capped at the NVIDIA-determined level of +39mV. The center position simply engages the default BIOS.

From the connector end of things, the Lightning has the usual offerings with a reference I/O panel and a pair of 8-pin power connectors. It also offers a trio of voltage read points and MSI has included small multimeter leads to facilitate secure point-to-point contact.

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