GIVEAWAY: Gaming peripherals upgrade thanks to Corsair worth $280

MSI GeForce GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card

Today we'll see what MSI has done to the GTX 260 and find out why it carries the new Lightning tag.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Aug 28 2009 12:22 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card




It's been a while since we've seen anything from MSI, but they're back with a vengeance today working on the well known and much loved GTX 260. Carrying with it a new Lightning tag that we haven't seen from the company before, we'll see what exactly MSI have going on here.

To be completely honest, considering the age of the GTX 260 MSI really have to bring us something special to wow us. Since the launch of the card we've seen many companies attack the model and we've seen some big clocks, fancy coolers and good bundles offered.

Today we intend to find out if the MSI GTX 260 Lightning we have here is something worth looking at or just another GTX 260 with a fancy name. But before we have a look at the card and its performance let's see what's going on with the bundle.

The Package




Having a look at the box, we can see that the majority of it is taken up by a picture of an aircraft that has lightning shooting down in the back ground. Across the top we have the MSI and NVIDIA logo along with "Military Class" highest standard logo which is something new we're seeing from MSI.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Across the bottom we can see that the card is the GTX 260 and carries with it the new Lightning tag that we mentioned in the intro. Below that we can also see some of the main features which includes 1792MB of memory and again we have mention of Military Class.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Turning the box over, we're got a load of information. Apart from a picture of the card and the model we have some information on all the features that are on offer and how they benefit you. How all these features work when it comes to performance, however, will be interesting. Hopefully they're additions that will benefit the overall performance of the card.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Before we move inside the package, I thought that the box should be shown. From the word go the MSI GTX 260 Lightning is a classy looking product; we've got a nice little design going on where the card and AirForce Panel sit on top while the bottom slides out and carries the paperwork, cables and CD.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


In the paperwork department we have the standard quick user guides that we see from most companies. Also included is the AirForce Panel manual. While not something we've spoken about yet, we'll have a closer look at the addition in just a moment. We also have a CD which includes a driver, but more importantly the software that is needed to get the AirForce Panel up and running.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


In the cable department we've got a DVI to VGA and HDMI to DVI connector. On the far right we have an S/PDIF loopback cable that lets you get sound through the HDMI port. In the middle we have another two cables; one's a USB and the others an internal proprietory one for the AirForce Panel.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


With the AirForce Panel already mentioned a few times, we can see exactly what's going on here now. The device is a touch panel that lets you adjust the speed of your card, be it the core, memory or shader individually, or using the presets. If you want to get full use of the card you'll have to use it.

Thankfully setup is a breeze, but if you don't have room for the device or simply don't like it, you'll be glad to know that you still get a bump in clocks without it. We'll have a closer look at those clocks in just a moment.

The Card




Having a look at the card itself, it's clear that MSI have really mixed it up. We've got a cooler that carries with it two fans and a really nice aluminum face that not only looks great, but feels of great quality as well.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


If we look carefully we can see the heat pipes that come out the bottom of the cooler and work through a number of heatsinks that are also seen behind the fans. As fancy as the cooler looks, though, it will be interesting to see what kind of performance it offers. Before we find out the numbers, though, let's have a closer look at the card.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Looking around the card, there isn't anything too out of the ordinary. At the back of the card we have two 6-pin PCI-E connectors along with a little white one that's used in conjunction with the S/PDIF loopback cable to get sound through the HDMI port. Closer to the front of the card we have two SLI connectors which gives us the ability to run up to three of these cards together.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


In the I/O department we can see that the company has mixed it up a bit. Across the top we have the MSI logo which looks pretty cool, while below that we have a standard Dual-Link DVI connector. We also see there is a VGA port to the right and a native HDMI port to the left.


Specifications

As we've already mentioned, MSI has taken the time to overclock the card out of the box. And if you're not interested in hooking up the touch panel, you'll be glad to know that you'll still get some decent MHz out of the card.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


We can see that the core has been bumped to 655MHz from the stock 576MHz. This has in turn bumped the shader up to 1404MHz from the stock 1242MHz. The 1792MB of GDDR3 memory which is double the standard amount has been left at 1998MHz. If you hit the game mode on the AirForce panel, clocks start heading north with the core jumping to 680MHz and the memory to 2100MHz DDR.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1 64-Bit
Drivers: ForceWare 190.38


Today we'll be seeing how the MSI GTX 260 goes against the higher end GTX 275 from Palit and GTX 285 from ASUS. We'll see what kind of performance the GTX 260 we have here today from MSI offers with its increased clocks in all our benchmarks.


3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here




3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Under Vantage we can see that the GTX 260 does fall to the back by a noticeable margin when compared to the higher end NVIDIA offerings.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/





PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


At up to 1920 x 1200 we can see that all the cards perform quite similar to each other. It's only at 2560 x 1600 we can see the cards separate a bit.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


CINEBENCH shows all three cards performing quite similar to each other.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com





World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10).

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


We again see at up to 1920 x 1200 the GTX 260 from MSI performs similar to the more expensive and higher end models. At 2560 x 1600, though, we do see it fall back slightly.

Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead


Crysis Warhead

Version and / or Patch Used: unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://crysiswarhead.ea.com/
Buy It Here




Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.

It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Under Warhead we can see that the GTX 260 and GTX 275 perform quite similar to each other, especially when it comes to resolutions of 1920 x 1200 or lower.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2


Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here




The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Far Cry 2 paints a similar picture to what we've seen all along. At up to 1920 x 1200 the three cards perform quite similar, especially in the event of the GTX 275 and GTX 260. Climbing to 2560 x 1600 does separate the cards a bit more, though.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky


S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/
Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/
Buy It Here




S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Under Clear Sky we see that all three cards really struggle to give us any decent numbers.

Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead


Left 4 Dead

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.l4d.com/
Buy It Here




Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths.

Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Across the board we see all three cards perform quite close to each other.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF


High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


Far Cry 2

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


We can see the MSI GTX 260 sits only just behind the more expensive GTX 275.


World In Conflict

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


We again see that the GTX 260 and GTX 275 perform very close to each other.


Left 4 Dead

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Here we can see that there's very little difference between all three cards.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com




World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Across the board we can see the GTX 260 from MSI sits only just behind the GTX 275.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2 - XP


Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here




The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


Under XP we can see that all three cards sit quite close to each other here with the GTX 260 and GTX 275 being almost on top of each other.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky - XP


S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/
Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/
Buy It Here




S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.

MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


We again see that the GTX 260 offers performance very close to the more expensive GTX 275.

Temperature and Sound Tests


Temperature Tests



With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


The aftermarket cooling does an alright job of keeping temperatures down; not quite as good as the Palit GTX 275, but better than the ASUS GTX 285 one.


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


What we see here is that the MSI cooler is a fair bit quieter then the other ones here.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.


MSI GTX 260 Lightning Graphics Card


It was interesting to find that the MSI GTX 260 Lightning really sucked the power out of our AC socket. But while higher, it isn't really anything we'd be too worried about.

Final Thoughts




The first thing we have to talk about is the AirForce Panel. Honestly, as cool as the idea is, the bottom line is that it's a pain in the ass. The ability to adjust things are a bit sensitive. Sometimes you really need to give it a good push to register. The other thing about the device is the LEDs. It's so bright that anyone with the computer in their room is going to find it really annoying.

With that said, though, it really is only one opinion. Devices like this aren't for everyone. I'm standing in the disapproval area, but other people are going to love the device with its ability to adjust clocks on the fly. Then there's the group of people who have an odd obsession for LEDs. While not for me, there's no doubt there are people out there who are going to love not only how the AirForce Panel looks, but what it does.

On to the card itself, clocks are good out of the box. If you want even more power, though, you're going to have to install the AirForce Panel. It was a bit sad to see that the temperatures on the card weren't that much better to the stock GTX 285, but we found ourselves pleasantly surprised when it came to noise levels which were significantly better than both the other cards we have here.

It's nice to see MSI step outside the box. It takes courage to mix it up and we're glad the company has decided to do so. The good news is if you take away the AirForce Panel, you still have a great card on your hands.

What it ultimately comes down to, however, is performance. And compared to the GTX 275 it's able to offer some serious power. At 284.99 U.S. Dollars, however, you're in GTX 275 territory. You're going to have to decide if you want something a bit older that packs a pretty good package and cooler, or simply want to jump to a GTX 275 that misses out on the bells and whistles.

What do TweakTown awards and ratings mean? Click!

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

Related Tags

Newsletter Subscription

Latest News

View More News

Latest Reviews

View More Reviews

Latest Articles

View More Articles