MSI R6970 Lightning Review

By on March 28, 2011
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In the shadows of others.

Good: Extremely cool & quiet, Performs same as (and higher than) GTX 580
Bad: Doesn't overclock by a very huge margin
Price: AED 1,600
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Now obviously is the time to take the R6970 Lightning to its limits. The stock overclock of 940MHz, up from 880MHz reference speeds was good, but anything less than a 100MHz overclock wouldn’t mean much, especially on a card engineered for this very purpose.

So in trying to push the card as much as I could, I started pushing the voltage all the way to the top using the MSI Afterburner v2.2.0 beta. Now at stock, the R6970 Lightning is set to 1174mV, which I could push all the way to a maximum of 1350mV (where the slider ends) and the card still wouldn’t crash! Yes, there were a few artifacts on screen at this ridiculously high a voltage, but at least it didn’t blow up.

The highest core clock speed I achieved was 987MHz at 1274mV. Any lower than that voltage and the card would crash out. Any higher than 987Mhz, even with the voltage set to a maximum of 1350mV, and the R6970 Lightning would also crash after a while.

3DMark 11’s performance has increased significantly, while Metro 2033 saw a minor bump in overall speeds. Honestly, I was expecting a slightly higher overclock than 107MHz, but even at these speeds I’m starting to realize the full potential of the HD 6970. So I guess no matter how much MSI tries to cool the card and deliver stable power to it, the Cayman chips have their limits.

The R6970 Lightning was actually quieter than the N580GTX Lightning, especially when under full load. Temperatures were also ridiculously low, with idle temperatures at 32°C while under full load it would go up as high as 56°C, even when overclocked. On contrast the standard HD 6970 that I tested reached temperatures of 79°C while under load!

My biggest gripe with the R6970 Lightning is its ridiculously high price, which happens to be $150 more than regular HD 6970s. This bring it in line with the MSI N580GTX Lightning, or any other GTX 580 for that matter. Yes, the price hike may have been justified considering the performance of the R6970 Lightning gets up there with a GTX 580, especially once it’s overclocked. However, the N580GTX Lightning is about the same price, and outperforms the R6970 Lightning by a significant margin. As such, I don’t feel like recommending this card to anyone since MSI has a much better alternative already. That said, if your mind is set on an HD 6970, then the R6970 Lightning is as good as it gets.

[UPDATE: MSI have updated the price on the R6970 Lightning at $390, which, while still expensive nearing $400, is nonetheless cheaper than regular GTX 580s. My revised rating is now at 4-stars compared to 3 stars previously.]

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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.

  • sehkn

    But how come its 50dhs more than the GTX580 lightning?! o_0

    • Taimoor Hafeez

      Coz it’s $10 more than the N580GTX Lightning :(

  • Colaxs

    Hi Taimoor

    I don’t know how you guys seem to get these cards when we dont lol. I asked Prox about the 580 lightning card and they told me that they only have the direct cu2 version, at a much higher price than what you guys recommend :)

    would you mind giving us the benefit of your influence lol

    • Taimoor Hafeez

      We usually get engineering samples which, for all intents and purposes, is what the final retail product will be. This basically means we have the products, and sometimes even the review, out a week or two before it hits the market.

      The N580GTX Lightning card is not available anywhere in the world right now (another week’s waiting perhaps). It’s not that UAE is late in getting them. Heck, we usually have these types of products even before they are available in EU and US; benefits of being close to Taiwan & China :)

  • Luay


    Why would you give away this cooler for free on the GTX 580 and charge so much for it on the HD 6970? How much do you intend to price the HD 6950?

  • Luay


    Why would you give away this cooler for free on the GTX 580 and charge so much for it on the HD 6970? How much do you intend to price the HD 6950?

  • Luay


    Why would you give away this cooler for free on the GTX 580 and charge so much for it on the HD 6970? How much do you intend to price the HD 6950?

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