MSI GeForce GTX 780 3GB Lightning Graphics Card Review
Overclocking and Closing Thoughts
With a card like MSI's GTX 780 Lightning, you are crazy if you are trying to overclock it a bit before getting your gaming on! As we showed you on the first couple of pages, this design is well over engineered and leaves a lot of room for further clock speed improvements over even the pre-overclocked settings (which are already impressive)!
This shows the stock state of the MSI GTX 780 Lightning: 980 MHz base clock (13.5% over reference), 1033 MHz boost clock and 6.0 GHz memory clock. In order to overclock the card we used the MSI Afterburner software that is often considered one of the best utilities for GeForce card users regardless of make or model of card.
MSI did unlock the ability to increase the voltages of the GPU, memory and auxiliary as we discussed previously and it is easily accessed and utilized in the latest Afterburner software beta 14.
It took a bit of work, but these are the overclocked settings that best balances the GPU core speed and memory speed jumps and run some games in a stable environment. I was able to apply a GPU offset of 140 MHz and a memory offset of 300 MHz to bring our base GPU clock up to 1120 MHz, the boost clock up to 1173 MHz and the memory speed up to 6.6 GHz. That is an additional 15% overclock over the stock MSI card speeds and a 30% increase over the reference speeds of the GTX 780. Add in a 10% jump in memory speed and you can clearly see that this card is going to blow past even the GTX TITAN in its stock configuration.
UPDATE: I got a note from a reader that pointed out that GPUZ is known to misreport the Boost clock of the MSI Lightning cards. After checking the logs for the overclocked test runs I see (and the reader correctly guessed) that I was actually running at 1241 MHz, not 1173 MHz as reported above. Here is a capture from the log showing the 1241 memory GPU clock and the 1652 MHz memory clock:
Thank you to "driftingforlife" for the heads up!
Our 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme score of 5,181 (graphics score of 5,352) are 10%+ higher than the stock speeds of the GTX 780 Lightning and more than 20% faster than the stock GTX 780.
There is even more headroom available on this card than I took advantage of. For example you can see that our power limit peaked at 109% yet MSI said that BIOS update for the card would increase that up to the expected 112%. (When I get this BIOS I'll come back and update here if our overclock results changed at all.)
Pricing and Availability
As of this writing, the MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning isn't for sale but it should be on retail and etail shelves in the next 48 hours. The card's MSRP is $749 though, making it one of the most expensive GTX 780 cards on the market, beating out the EVGA Classified and the Galaxy Hall of Fame cards on Newegg.com. Both of those cards also have higher base clocks as well.
- MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning 3GB - $749
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB - $999
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 3GB - $649
- AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 3GB - $379
At a $100 premium over the standard GTX 780 cards, the MSI GTX 780 Lightning will definitely require a dedicate buyer; one that is willing and able to take advantage of the features and technology that MSI has built into this beast of a graphics card.
But, from the other angle, getting a card that can perform nearly as well as the TITAN out of the box, for $250 less, is a compelling option if those are in your budget. Keep in mind though that the 3GB frame buffer difference (TITANs have 6GB) will likely come into play when going to multi-panel Surround gaming.
The MSI GTX 780 Lightning isn't a graphics card that just any gamer should buy. With a hefty price tag of $750 and a feature set that requires some overclocking experience to really take advantage of, MSI is hoping to once again attract the hardcore enthusiast that wants the best of the best. With a completely redesigned TriFrozr cooler with 7 SuperPipes and Military Class 4 components on top of an enhanced power delivery design, MSI's GTX 780 Lightning clearly is among the top graphics cards on the market.
Overclocking was a breeze and the clock rates we hit were impressive while maintaining noise levels in line with less effective single-fan coolers of reference designs. The card wasn't perfect as I wish the dual/triple slot cooler was compressed a bit more and the GPU Reactor could be a bit smaller for tight spacing but if you are looking for a single GPU card capable of battling with the best in the market, this is it.