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MSI GTX 980 Ti Lightning Review

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MSI GTX 980 Ti Lightning Conclusion:

MSI builds some pretty unique cards with its Lightning series. You know you are going to get world class components and build quality thanks to the deign work that MSI as a company does. In this respect, I am far from disappointed. For one, right out of the box the GTX 980 Ti Lightning was delivering FPS performance levels almost as high as an overclocked GTX Titan X with nothing more than letting the card do its thing while gaming. To deliver this kind of performance bump over the reference card is an amazing feat. There is not a single game or synthetic game test that the GTX 980 Ti Lightning is not the highest performing card in the comparison. When overclocked it falls a bit short of a clean sweep, but is consistently in the top two cards, making it one beast of a card, the Marshawn Lynch of video cards if you will. Even playing at 4K resolutions with a single card and the specific game settings proved possible with the GTX 980 Ti Lightning.

The one disappointment I had, if it really is that, was that I fell short of my 1500MHz Boost clock goal for the core by a few MHz and was not able to push the memory up and over the 8Gbps data rate I was shooting for. That being said, those are pretty lofty goals, but if any card is going to make it happen it was this one. Even flipping to the LN2 BIOS, I was hitting the same clock speed limits as the stock BIOS, meaning it was more likely the hardware being my limitation than the power supply or digital power circuitry being the limit. Still, as an overclocking card it has all the chops you expect. Just in a smaller dose than I was expecting. Even so, hitting a 290MHz+ bump in speed is a sure way to increase gaming performance.

Raw clock speed is just one aspect of the card and provides the biggest bang factor for the user. However, if the card is cooling the core or sounding like a vacuum cleaner, is it really a successful implementation? I think not. MSI has this covered by way of its Tri Frozer cooling solution. Comparing the thermal results showed that you get a healthy 16 °C reduction in operating temperature of the GM 200 core running at stock speeds and allowing the cards BIOS to control the fans than you get when using a reference cooled solution. Impressive in that you do not get a ton of fan noise while the card is operation. This I kind of expected, but what I did not expect was how quiet the fans were when running at 100%. The Torx dispersion blade fans ran almost as quietly as they did when controlled by the BIOS, showing that MSI has delivered a better noise solution with its technology. Even at the 100% fan speed mark where NVIDIA's highly efficient cooling solution closes the gap, MSI's Tri Frozr design is still 11 degrees cooler than the reference card at 52 °C.

As far as looks go, the MSI GTX 980 Ti Lightning takes advantage of the up swing in yellow and black themed products and matches up nicely to the Z97-based MPOWER Max.

Pricing is surely going to be in the $650+ range based on a quick survey of GTX 980 Ti cards that are similarly speced out. I do have to say that MSI built one hell of a video card with this new addition to its Lightning Series. It's got it all, from looks to quiet cooling and playing above its ratings. Go get you some!

 

Pros:

  • Brutal stock FPS performance
  • Great cooling
  • Overclocking
  • Military Class IV components
  • Digital PWM
  • Mystic Lighting
  • Power efficiency overclocked
  • Dual BIOS

 

Cons:

  • Minimal OC margin on air
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