Graphics Cards Guide

MSI N780 Lightning review

MSI N780 Lightning GeForce GTX 780 - A Titan in Disguise?

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Overall rating 9/10
Performance:
9
Features:
9
Value:
8
THE GOOD
Overall strong performance
Good overclocking performance
Quality build components, including Military Class IV ones
Excellent custom cooling system
THE BAD
Slightly pricey
GPU Reactor may be in the way for SLI configurations


MSI N780 Lightning GeForce GTX 780: A Titan in Disguise?

MSI N780 Lightning GeForce GTX 780: A Titan in Disguise?

The MSI N780 Lightning GeForce GTX 780 currently occupies the top spot for the company's range of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 graphics cards. On first impressions, the card is imposing in terms of its physical dimensions. According to the official specifications from its product page, the card weighs 1488g; and measures 295mm x 128.6mm x 51.35mm (length x width x height).

The main bulk of the card is contributed by its TriFrozr cooling system that mainly consists of three cooling fans, and a heatsink that features seven, 8mm Superpipes that transfer heat to the heatsink's fins for dissipation.

Besides providing cooling to the GK110 GPU and its video memory chips, the TriFrozr also cools the Military Class 4 components of the card. These components have MIL-STD-810G certification for stability and reliability; they are made up of the following:-

  • DrMOS 4 - This next generation MOSFET was first seen on the company's Z87 XPower motherboard. This improved MOSFET is an updated version of the MOSFET found in the previous generation Military Class III VRM components.
  • CopperMOS
  • Hi-c capacitors (Hi-c Cap)
  • Super ferrite chokes (SFC)
  • Dark solid capacitors (Dark Solid Cap)

With the porting of such components to the N780 Lightning card, it is clear that the card is built for extreme overclocking. In addition, the card also features the GPU Reactor. It is an add-on PCB that holds a battery of tantalum capacitors, to provide extra voltage filtering to the GPU. This ensures the GPU operates stability when it is overclocked. The card has a metal back plate that prevents the 10-layer PCB from flexing from the weight of the attached components.

The GPU Reactor added girth to the card that is already very thick. When the card was installed, the neighboring PEG slot was made unavailable. Hence, we gather it would be a really tight squeeze if we had to set up a pair of N780 Lightning cards in a SLI configuration.

Even the usual run-of-the-mill parts of a typical graphics card has been given the royal treatment, the connectors of the card's rear video ports have been plated with gold. According to MSI, the gold plating enhances signal transmission, and also prevents rust. The video ports consist of the usual pair of  DVI ports, one HDMI port and one DisplayPort output.

From the bottom of the card, we can see a metal plate that is supposedly for providing additional cooling for the PWM power components of the card. This plate can be swopped out with the bundled MOS sink for extreme overclocking with LN2 cooling systems.

The photograph below shows how the MOS sink is attached to the power delivery components of the N780 when LN2 cooling, or other custom cooling system, is used for extreme overclocking.

There is a BIOS switch that is located near the top of the card, and it allows the card to be toggled between two different modes. In its default position, the BIOS loaded will automatically overclock the card. The other BIOS is used when there is a need to operate the card at the default specifications of the reference GeForce GTX 780 card.

This is the operating specifications of the N780 when it is normal operating mode. This switch is useful for overclockers who want to overclock the card to their preferences.

After examining the unique features of the card, let us determine its actual performance!