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MSI GTX 680 Lightning Review

The GTX 680 Lightning is the latest addition to MSI's highly regarded flagship GPU range. The underwhelming reference design has been discarded and rebuilt from the ground up resulting in a GTX 680 for the overclockers. It features unlocked digital triple voltage control and the efficient Twin Frozr IV cooler. Like all Lightning cards we have tested, the bar is set high. 


We love it when a new MSI Lightning card hits our desk. The GTX 680 Lightning is the latest addition to the highly regarded range that MSI reserves for the highest end GPU's from the AMD and Nvidia ranges. Without even opening the box we expect that MSI will have produced a card that will be a strong contender for the best GTX 680 available.



We'll begin with a quick refresher on the cards base architecture. The MSI GTX 680 Lightning is built around the Nvidia GK104 GPU. It's a 28nm GPU built by TSMC and packs 3.54 billion transistors into a 294mm2 die. We have a 256 bit memory bus and 1536 shaders or 'CUDA cores' in Nvidia parlance. The 680 Lightning follows these basic specs, surprisingly keeping the memory clock at 1502Mhz for the 2GB of GDDR5 memory.

The biggest differentiating features of the 680 Lightning are its unlocked triple voltage control and the highly regarded Twin Frozr IV cooler. The reference PCB has been completely overhauled and now features MSI's trademark customized Military Class III components. Add in twin 8pin PCIe power connectors and clearly this is an altogether different beast from the rather bland reference design.

MSI have substantially boosted the core clock over the reference card. It ships with a 1111Mhz base clock, which is able to boost to 1176Mhz when TDP conditions allow it. The memory clock remains at the reference clock of 1502Mhz (6008Mhz effective.) We would like to have seen this boosted a bit as the GTX 680 generally responds well to bandwidth increases. We'd also like to see a 4GB option. Perhaps MSI will release another version in the future like we saw with the GTX 580 Lightning Extreme Edition.

Other noteworthy features include the addition of a separate rear mounted PCB called the GPU Reactor. It is designed to provide cleaner power with reduced ripple for the GPU. We also have voltage measurement points and a dual BIOS switch. One is the default bios that is set from the factory while the second one is optimized for subzero cooling that allows for a higher TDP limit and removes overclocker unfriendlies such as overcurrent protection and overvoltage protection. Obviously this isn't your common GTX 680.



Graphics Engine GeForce GTX 680
Interface PCI Express x16 3.0
Memory Type GDDR5
Memory Size(MB) 2048
Memory Interface 256 bits
Core Clock Speed(MHz) 1111 (Boost Clock 1176)
Memory Clock Speed(MHz) 6008 (3004 x 2)
Memory Bandwidth(GB/sec) 192.3
DVI Output 2
D-SUB Output 1 (via adapter)
HDMI-Output 1
DisplayPort 1
HDCP Support Y
Dual-link DVI Y
Display Output (Max Resolution) 2560×1600
RAMDACs (Mhz) 400
DirectX Version Support 11
OpenGL Version Support 4.2
SLI Support Y
Up to 4-way SLI Y
Card Dimension(mm) 280x129x49.15 (w/ GPU Reactor)


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