The Silent Assassin
The MSI Lightning series has always been an elite model meant for well-heeled consumers who expect the best and can afford to feed their overclocking habit. Interestingly enough, last year when the 980 was first released MSI did not quickly release a Lightning version, instead they focused more on their Gaming and waited for the 980Ti to be released before giving a new NVIDIA card the royal “Lightning” treatment. Considering the Lightning has always been a rather niche model, there is an argument to be had for first satisfying the average enthusiast needs before satisfying the needs of the typical Lightning enthusiast. The downside of course is that, on average PC gaming enthusiasts are not a patient group of consumers! As such these well-to-do consumers looked elsewhere to satisfy their needs (such as the PNY GTX 980 PRO https://realhardwarereviews.com/pny-xlr8-gtx-980-pro) . Luckily the wait is now over and MSI also has a halo / ‘flagship’ model to satisfy the consumer who has everything…but wants even more!
In order to fully satisfy the cravings of this highly vocal, if somewhat small, group of consumers MSI has pulled out all the stops. First and foremost is this card does not come with a Twin Frozr V based custom cooling solution. Instead it comes with an entirely new Tri-Frozr design that has to be seen to be believed. This custom heatsink is so large that it not only requires three PCIe slots instead of two…it also requires three fans to cool it instead of just two. This upgrade allows this new 980Ti Lightning to boast a heatsink capable of dissipating 700watts worth of heat. To put that jaw dropping large number into perspective, the GTX 980Ti Gaming 6G Twin Frozr V version is capable of dissipating about 500 watts and was certainly not the weak link in that cards armor…and yet this monster is 40 percent more capable. This alone will make hitting massive core clock numbers down right easy…and allow the core to stay at the boost level longer.MSI has not stopped here however, and goes one step further in helping overclocking enthusiasts reach their dream of record breaking overclocking. We will go over the details later, but for now suffice to say that this card comes with a power delivery subsystem that would fit right in on high end MSI X99S XPower AC motherboard. Then to make sure that consumers can feed as much power as they want to that power delivery system MSI has opted for two 8-pin PCIe connectors and a 6-pin PCIE connector. That combination is capable of providing (in conjunction with the PCIe slot itself) 450 watts of power….for a card that on has a TDP of 250watts!
Of course while this card sits up and begs to be manually overclocked, MSI understands that not everyone willing to fork out $799 for one video card will want to bother with manual overclocking. This is why this card comes with a factory overclock that sets the boost clock setting all the way to 1,304MHz and the RAM to 7,096(effective). That alone is a rather impressive overclock all on its own. Of course in order to guarantee that these cards can not only live happily at this factory setting but have plenty of gas left in the tank for overclocking enthusiasts. MSI has not only highly binned the GPU but the RAM as well with only the best of the best parts being allowed to make it on to a Lightning.
Taken as a whole this card is obviously meant to make a statement to both consumers and the competition alike; and what MSI is saying is ‘you had better bring your A game if you even want to come close to matching what we can offer consumers’. So without further ado let’s put this monster under the microscope and see what it really can do.
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