MSI N480GTX Lightning review

By on October 11, 2010
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Has the HD 5970 finally met its match?

Editor's Score

The Verdict:
The new king of the hill.

A lot of manufacturers like to tinker around with stock 3D cards provided by ATI & Nvidia, trying to come up with something special and powerful. Often these reworked cards end up being overpriced components that don’t really justify the extra price over the small performance gain. Sometimes though, the component is engineered in such a way that it hardly looks like the factory reference card, providing the best in performance while also being as efficient as possible. The MSI N480GTX Lightning is one such card where so much effort has been put into Nvidia’s flagship card that it truly threatens the dual-GPU HD 5970’s reign of fps supremacy.

Firstly, the card is put on a special PCB with multiple layers stacked for better power supply to all components along with the 16 Phase PWM and 4 Proadlizers. This means that apart from the two 8-pin PCI connectors, another 6-pin PCIE plug is also required just for the memory, requiring a minimum PSU of 700W. Then they have used their (now standard in high-end models) “military grade components”, mainly the capacitors and the Ferrite Choke onboard. While quality components easily justify the higher price point, the real winner here is the new Twin Frozr III cooling system implemented on top of (and below) the GPU and memory chips. Five 8mm pipes help conduct the heat along the aluminum fins which are cooled by two 90mm fans on the top.

Since the main star of the show is the nearly 30cm card itself, the rest of the packaging was just about enough. Three PCIE power plugs, three V-check plugs, DVI to HDMI and DVI to VGA adapters along with another HDMI cable, manuals and Software CD.

Apart from the components used in constructing the card, the innards remain the same as Nvidia’s reference GTX480 card. The MSI N480GTX Lightning comes with 1.5GB of RAM on a 384-bit bandwidth, one DisplayPort, an HDMI and two DVI out ports. Outside of that the MSI N480GTX Lightning comes with a factory clock speed of 750MHz, up 50MHz from standard Nvidia speeds.

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From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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