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Buyer’s Guide: MSI N580GTX Lightning Xtreme Edition 3GB – The Fastest Single GPU for BF3?

There are plenty of reasons why anyone would only want a single graphics card in their system – limited space in SFF motherboards/enclosures, power consumption considerations, and input lag or framerate stuttering with some multi-GPU setups. Before Battlefield 3 launches officially next Tuesday (25th October 2011), we take a quick look on whether the MSI N580GTX Lightning Xtreme Edition is best single GPU weapon for your online battlefield domination.


Earlier this month, the highly anticipated Battlefield 3 multiplayer open beta introduced revolutionary new levels of DirectX 11 graphics quality and detail in the game environments, obsoleting many older hardware in the process and triggering a mad rush to upgrade to higher grades of graphics cards and CPUs in order to get comfortable and consistent framerates.

As covered by our BF3 system builder guide, we mentioned that the game demands at least a 3GHz Quad Core processor such as Intel's Core i5/i7 and AMD's Phenom II/FX Bulldozer class of CPUs to not be bottlenecked by it. Scaling the number of CPU cores/threads/modules, or overclocking the working frequency did not show much noticable improvement beyond that.

Things were more exciting on the GPU end though as we saw almost linear FPS scaling when we varied the number of cards, shaders, clock speeds and memory bandwidth. GPU usage was walling at 99% – something we haven't seen in games except the original Crysis and stress test burners. For example, we tested that a dual SLi setup (ultra image quality) get almost 90% more FPS (~95fps) than a single card (~50fps), a tri-SLi setup get 170% more (~135fps), and a quad SLi 250% more (~175fps). We'll be testing this again when the final retail game is released, with the latest drivers.

There are plenty of reasons why some end users and competitive gamers would want only a single GPU graphics card:

  • Lack of space and cooling capacity in cramped small form factor cases/motherboards
  • Power Consumption of Multiple Cards
  • "Good Enough" for lower resolutions / image quality presets
  • Mouse Input Lag, framerate jitter and micro stuttering caused by certain bridge chips implementations and the concept of AFR (alternate frame rendering) itself which is used in both SLi and Crossfire.

Today, we'll be doing a quick look on the MSI N580GTX Lightning Xtreme Edition 3GB that we will be using in some of our upcoming BF3 articles. Simply put, the card in hand belongs to the pinnacle of off the shelf air-cooled gaming graphics cards, bar multi-GPU behemoths like the Nvidia GTX590 and the AMD Radeon 6990. As the final Battlefield 3 game is not released yet, we will be doing some max air overclocking and running a few demanding benchmarks in preparation for the main event next week..

The Packaging

Front of Box

Inset of Box (with a transparent window to see the card)

Back of Box

Accessories (PCIe 6 to 8 pin convertors, Analog to DVI dongle, SLi Bridges, Installation CD and a User Guide)

Lennard Seah
Why can't I have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads

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