Like the original MSI GTX 580 Lightning, the card uses the same Twin Frozr II cooler. The main difference is the color scheme and in this case they've opted for a Black / Blue setup instead of the Grey / Black setup seen on the original. I love the black, but initially wasn't really feeling the blue. After a little while it really grew on me and with a blue LED behind each fan the card looks pretty cool when lit up against the black.
Across the top of the card we've got two 8-Pin PCI-E power connectors at the back of the card; different to your typical GTX 580, but the same as the previous Lightning version. Closer to the front we've got our two SLI connectors. Also, just next to the SLI connectors here we've got a little switch we're used to seeing more on AMD cards.
This switch is designed for users who are looking at using extreme cooling like LN2; it will help remove issues that are common when achieving such extreme temperatures like known "Cold Bug" issues. For anyone opting to stick with the reference cooler or even water cool it, you won't have a use for this switch.
Staying across the top of the card, but moving back to the middle of it, we can see three little connectors. For readers of our Lightning reviews in the past you'll know these are used in conjunction with our extra little cables in the package and a multi meter will give you the ability to measure the voltage on the Core, AUX and Memory.
Again, something handy for extreme overclockers, but something people who choose to stick with the reference cooler will probably see themselves avoiding since they will more than likely have no need to know the 100% accuracy of those voltage levels.
Getting into the connectivity side of things, the good looks continue with some sexy gold connectors. As you can see above, we've got two Dual-Link DVI connectors along with a HDMI and DisplayPort. I would've loved to have seen MSI opt for multiple DisplayPorts and offer HDMI via a DVI to HDMI connector, but I'm not going to complain.
Out of the box MSI as always do very little in the way of clocks. Unlike some companies that choose to offer us larger clocks outside of the box, for MSI it's all about letting you have fun overclocking. Considering there can also be a bit of variance when it comes to finding a max overclock, doing it yourself means you're able to get the utmost performance out of your card.
As we said, though, the card is overclocked out of the box. In this case we've got a default core clock of 832MHz which means our Shader clock comes in doubled at 1664MHz. This is compared to the reference clocks of 772MHz which bring in a Shader clock of 1544MHz.
If you're buying a 1.5GB or 3GB GDDR5 card the reference clock on them is the same at 4008MHz QDR. More memory tends to mean overclocking can be slightly limited, but like the core MSI have bumped this up; in this case they've sent it to a more rounded 4200MHz QDR.
This is an "ok" out of the box overclock, but like we said, the Lightning series is all about overclocking yourself to get the most out of it. With MSIs own Afterburner fired up, we ended up with some pretty strong clocks.
We managed to push our core to 980MHz which pushed our Shader clock to 1960MHz. As for the massive 3GB of GDDR5, we managed to get that running nicely at 5140MHz QDR. This is a really strong overclock and it's actually better than what we achieved on our 1.5GB. As we said earlier, our 1.5GB card just didn't want to overclock as much as other GTX 580 Lightning's we've seen and I was really hoping we'd see better clocks out of the 3GB one here today.
Fortunately we did and these are just some massive clocks to go with that massive amount of memory. Before we get into the performance side of things, though, lets first check out the testbed.
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