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MSI GeForce N680GTX Lightning Review

By on June 28, 2012
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The most beastly of all GTX 680s.

Good: Well designed card with high-end components, massive heatsink keeps it cool and impressively quiet, and a lot of potential for overclocking.
Bad: Custom design is very big compared to reference Nvidia design.
Price: AED 2,300
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Features

MSI’s Lightning Edition series have some of the best custom jobs in the whole graphics card manufacturing industry. Even within their own product range, with their Power Edition and Hawk series, the Lightning series reigns supreme in terms of feature set. And today I’ll be looking at their most impressive result to date, the N680GTX Lightning graphics card.

The N680GTX Lightning first of all comes with MSI’s new Twin Frozr IV heatsink, a GPU Reactor for extra voltage control in addition to the Triple Voltage controls and V-Check points. Additionally all the connectors are gold plated and multiple layers of metal casings were used to hold the custom PCB and cooling solution together.

Design

Starting with the massive Twin Frozr IV heatsink, the N680GTX Lightning measures just over 11-inches (or 28.5cm), so make sure your computer chassis can actually hold this behemoth in the first place. The regular GTX 680 looks puny in comparison.

Looking closely at the size, you’ll notice that the N680GTX Lightning is actually comprised of 5 layers. The custom PCB is covered with black metal plates on the front and back, followed by the main heatsink and then the metal cover on top. The backplate has cutouts for the VRM, designed for extreme cooling as heat from literally every part of the board not only travels to the metal plates surrounding the PCB but also the huge heatsink itself.

The heatsink has two cooling areas, with the long fins spread out evenly over the length of the PCB. The 5 heatpipes actually are spreading out from the GPU contact area into the metal fins. The entire base is then cooled by two 100mm fans which are enshrouded by the metal cover on top.

One of the reasons the N680GTX Lightning is so long is due to MSI using two 8-pin power connectors instead of the two 6-pin connectors Nvidia used on reference card. The extra juice is necessary for the unrestricted access to the voltage control on the 12-phase PWM design.

On the back of the card you’ll notice the GPU Reactor, which is basically an additional PCB plugged in just behind the GPU to give it extra voltage. As this extra PCB is attached onto the card itself, there’s a small plastic covering that further protrudes up from the card’s rear surface. If you’re not planning on some serious overclocking, this PCB can be detached for a regular looking behind, and the N680GTX Lightning will function perfectly fine without it.

The BIOS switch is basically a failsafe for overclocking. You can switch it over to the right for an LN2 focused BIOS that has the N680GTX Lightning’s gears settings tuned for extreme overclocking.

The factory settings on the N680GTX Lightning comes with a factory overclock of 1110MHz (with 1167MHz Boost) on the core clock, while the memory remains the same at 6008MHz (effective). The core clock speeds for reference Nvidia design for the GTX 680 is 1006MHz (with 1058MHz Boost). That’s a factory overclock of 10% on the core clock by MSI over Nvidia.

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About

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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