MSI GTX 780 Lightning Review
With NVIDIA’s GTX 780 continuing to sell well, MSI thought now was the best time to launch their Lightning, a card that took seemingly forever to develop and is supposed to dominate its competitors. It does have a lot to live up to considering the performances we’ve seen from the EVGA Classified and even ASUS’ DirectCU II OC.
Some may be wondering why it took this long for MSI to launch the GTX 780 Lightning considering we’re now some four months after NVIDIA announced the reference card. Truth be told, we haven’t seen a single Lightning generation that was introduced close to a technology’s original unveiling. This is simply because MSI pays minute attention to their flagships by specifically binning cores and engineering the best possible cooling / PWM solution. Al of this takes a significant amount of time. We also can’t forget that the GTX 780 still has a good amount of shelf life left so it’s not like the Lightning is being rolled out during its twilight days.
One interesting aspect of this card is MSI’s claim to have tested each unit for overclocking headroom. Now, they don’t make any guarantees, nor is an average achievable clock speed talked about in their documentation but supposedly burn-in routines are applied to every card before shipping so that should give some peace of mind for overclockers.
From an out-of-box specifications standpoint, the GTX 780 Lightning has relatively high average Boost and Base clocks, coming in a close second to EVGA’s Classified. However, we did notice it’s real-world Boost frequency only increased by a mere 20MHz over MSI’s stated average.
Considering competing solutions boast more substantial overhead, we initially wondered why this situation happened but it seems like our sample was hitting a voltage bottleneck even at its reference speeds. We aren’t alone in this either since many users have been posting about similar experiences on forums and resellers’ websites. Basically, it seems like MSI isn’t feeding their core with just enough voltage to ensure their baselines are met.
Such a limited frequency cap without additional voltage may be an issue for some since MSI has priced the Lighting at an astronomical $770, making it a whole $70 more than EVGA’s incredible Classified. Considering our experiences with that card, MSI may be hoping their laundry list of features and overclocking headroom accounts for the premium rather than initial performance.
Many aspects of the GTX Lightning remind us of high-end cards from years ago which came in packages of increasing complexity until board partners realized money was better spent elsewhere. Nonetheless, MSI has included a premium multi-tiered black box which not only looks incredible but is completely befitting of a flagship graphics card. Its size and weight will likely add to shipping costs but after its initial use, you can at least re-gift it to your wife as a jewelry box. Just scratch off that Lightning logo of the card will be the only thing keeping you warm at night.
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