MSI N580GTX Lightning Xtreme Edition - Memory Overload

Launch SRP: S$859

Memory Overload

Memory Overload

When it comes to graphics cards, MSI has established quite a reputation with its Hawk and Lightning series. The Twin Frozr cooler on these cards particularly has caught our eye for being quiet and efficient at its task. It's exactly why we have high hopes for MSI's latest twist on its highest end GeForce GTX 580 card, the Lightning Xtreme. 

Physically, the card isn't too different from MSI's N580GTX Lightning. It has the same Twin Frozr III cooler with dual 90mm fans that takes up two expansion slots. Except that the fins on the Xtreme's cooler start off as blue but gradually changes to white as the graphics card heats up. It's intended to be a instant visual indicator of the graphics card's operating temperature.

These two fans also have a dust removal technique - the fans will spin up opposite of its usual rotational direction during startup for around 30 seconds before resuming its normal direction. Apparently this will help the fins shake off any accumulated dust. 

The other major change is the presence of 3GB of DDR5 memory, twice that found on the typical GeForce GTX 580. We aren't sure if that's the right move given that the amount of memory seems excessive at this moment. However, we'll be testing that later in the performance benchmarks.

Befitting its high-end 'Extreme' status, this graphics card also includes features that will find favor with enthusiasts, like voltage check points and special switches that will allow overclockers armed with liquid nitrogen to go beyond the safe voltage limits. Of course, the 16-phase power delivery system will help with the overclocking, aided by NEC's Proadlizers that stabilize the power signal, which is something that we have seen on other high-end graphics cards.

As for the clock speeds on the Lightning Xtreme, the core comes in clocked at 832MHz, with the 3GB of memory running at 4200MHz DDR. These are the same clocks as the Lightning GTX 580 from MSI. In short, the Xtreme has doubled the memory on MSI's original Lightning, while introducing a tweaked version of its excellent Twin Frozr III cooler. But will that be enough for MSI to fend off the competition, like ASUS' recent ROG version of the GTX 580

The dual-fan Twin Frozr III cooler on the Lightning Xtreme is mostly identical to the one on the Lightning, but the fins now turn from the default blue to white as it gets warmer. It's meant to be a quick, visual indicator of the GPU's workload.

MSI has all the display outputs covered with two dual-link DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. Unfortunately, the limitation of the GTX 580 and most other NVIDIA cards means that one can only drive dual displays with a single GTX 580 despite the number of ports.

Here are the voltage check points that are similar to what's seen on the ASUS Matrix GTX580 Platinum and also on high-end enthusiast oriented motherboards.

Two 8-pin power connectors are required for this 16-phase PWM graphics card. The reference GTX 580 comes with one 6-pin and one 8-pin in comparison.

These are the switches that overclockers are looking for, allowing them to release the safeguards on overcurrent and push up the voltages. There's also a small BIOS switch at the side that restores the original BIOS in case users accidentally mess up the BIOS with a custom, OC firmware.

To provide more stability in the power supply, these NEC Proadlizers clean up the signal and indirectly allow for higher overclocks.

The Good
Excellent cooler
Dual-slot solution
Relatively high clock speeds out of the box
The Bad
Too pricey
3GB memory has little impact on performance

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