MSI GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition 3GB OC'ed Video Card Review

As if the Lightning series wasn't Xtreme enough already, MSI Xtreme the GTX 580 even more with the Lightning Xtreme Edition.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Mon, May 30 2011 7:58 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:02 PM CST
Rating: 96%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package


Introduction

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If you didn't think the MSI could make a GTX 580 more exciting than the Lightning version, you're wrong! As Computex begins to get up and running, MSI is kicking the show off with the brand new MSI GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition; because the Lightning wasn't already Xtreme enough?!?!

So, what's so Xtreme about the Xtreme Edition? Well, it's everything you love about the MSI GTX 580 Lightning, but with double the memory. The thing is, to be completely honest, I'm not the biggest fan when it comes to these huge memory cards because they do tend to carry a decent bump in price, but extra performance tends to be limited.

If you're going to get a 3GB GTX 580, though, you may as well do it right with the GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition. Before I even throw this card into my testbed here, I find myself already so excited about it. I'm a massive fan of the Lightning series. By adding one word to the end of a model, we know that it's going to be epic in the best kind of way.

The Lightning series hasn't disappointed us before and while unfortunately our original Lightning max overclock was less flattering than what we've seen on other peoples, we've got high hopes for the Xtreme Edition today, even though we know that double the amount of memory on the card could and should limit our memory overclock.

Before we get into to the overclocking side of things and then the performance we're able to get, we first need to check out the package that MSI is offering. Once that's done we'll take a closer look at the card itself before covering the default clocks, the overclock and then the performance.


Package

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The package in typical fashion is pretty big with some extra bits and pieces that we tend to only see with the Lightning and HAWK series from MSI. We've got the standard stuff like Quick User Guide, Manual and driver CD. Across the bottom we've got two extra-long SLI connectors, above that two 6-Pin to 8-Pin PCI connectors, a DVI to VGA connector and another three cables which let us measure the voltage of the card via a multi meter.

Card and Specifications


The Card

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Specifications

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.

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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.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11


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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

Today we'll be checking our MSI GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition 3GB at 980 / 5140MHz QDR against our reference GTX 580, GTX 560 Ti SLI setup and reference clocked GTX 590 when it comes to NVIDIA.

We've also got a bunch of AMD setups including, HD 6970, MSIs HD 6970 Lightning also overclocked, a pair of HD 6950s in CrossFire and a reference clocked HD 6990 just for good measure.

We had hoped we'd be able to compare the MSI GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition against a 1.5GB GTX 580 at the same speeds, but truth be told, we just don't have a GTX 580 that was able to offer this kind of performance. Plus, why in the world would we want to do something boring like have it running at stock when we can have it running at these awesome speeds?!

Let's get started!


3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/
Buy It Here




3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Straight away we've just got some huge performance and you can see the setup is sitting on the edge of that GTX 560 Ti SLI setup that is running only a little bit faster. When it comes down to it, the dual GPU GTX 590 isn't really running that much faster when you consider it's indeed a dual GPU card.

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.

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Getting into 3DMark Vantage, we just continue to see those massive performance numbers. Thanks to the GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition also being able to make use of PhysX here, you can see it's able to outperform the AMD offerings which of course don't get to take advantage of PhysX support.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark




Version and / or Patch Used: 2
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//



New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Getting into something nice and intensive like Heaven which makes use of the Tessellation performance, we can see some very strong performance from the Xtreme Edition GTX 580 here. Compared to the HD 6970 Lightning, there's some serious performance on offer here.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5


Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/




Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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Resident Evil 5 performance is great and you've got just huge numbers at all resolutions. Getting into the real world games, though, you can see that the card is able to really give the Dual GPU GTX 590 a good run for its money, though.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/




Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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Checking out H.A.W.X. 2, it comes as no surprise that we've just got some massive performance across the board. Considering the game also favors NVIDIA cards, you can see the only card that's able to outperform it is the dual GPU HD 6990 from the AMD front.

Benchmarks - Mafia II


Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/
Buy It Here




Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Mafia II offers us some fantastic performance and you can see across the board the card doesn't bat an eye lid at any resolution with just some extremely playable numbers at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2


Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/




Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Lost Planet 2 is a really intensive game and benchmark, but the GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition eats it up at every resolution including the high 2560 x 1600 one. I swear as it was benchmarking, I could hear the card go *nom nom nom* as it was just chewing through those FPS.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator


Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/




Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Aliens vs. Predator sees some great performance, but you can see at the highest resolution no single GPU setup is able to break the 60 FPS barrier. Still, we see some awesome performance at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV


Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.streetfighter.com/




While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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You've got to love a benchmark that puts out over 400 FPS; it reminds me a bit of the ol' days when you'd benchmark Q3 on higher end cards.

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.

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Under Far Cry 2 you can just see some great performance from this heavily overclocked GTX 580 and just as you'd expect, you're not going to run into any problems playing Far Cry 2 at any resolution with a single monitor.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum


Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/





Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

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Batman AA sees some great FPS and you're just not going to have any problems playing a game like this at any resolution.

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.

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Cranking up the detail and turning AA and AF up, you can see some great performance from the GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition here. Only under Aliens vs. Predator does it fall ever so slightly below that average we need, but moving to 2x AA would give us more than enough FPS. As for the other games, you can see we've got some really strong performance and playable numbers.

Benchmarks - PhysX Tests


PhysX Tests

Here we're able to find out when PhysX is turned on in games that support it what kind of frame rates we're able to get. We always set PhysX to the highest possible in game settings while also keeping detail at its highest.

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Turning on PhysX does really place a lot of strain on the card and while we can see Batman AA handle it, Mafia II does indeed struggle to break that 60 FPS barrier above 1680 x 1050.

If you're outlaying this kind of money you'd be best to grab just a cheap little NVIDIA card to go with it and handle PhysX by itself if that's something you're really interested in. Paired with something like a GTX 560, you'd see some great performance.

Temperature Test


Temperature Tests



The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Overclocked, the MSI GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition does pump out a bit of heat with the core coming in at 79c. It's nothing major, though, considering the overclock we've got on the card. We also see it's cooler than the reference cooled card at stock which is always a good thing.

Sound Test


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).

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Noise levels are a little all over the place. At idle the card is whisper quiet which is great. Under 3DMark Vantage which is where we pull our noise levels from, the card does indeed get quite loud hitting almost 73dB. Its numbers line up with the 1.5GB version; this is pretty good considering we've got a much stronger OC.

When I say it's all over the place, though, when I was benchmarking Far Cry 2 we would only get to around the 65dB mark. Depending on the amount of load that was being placed on the card, there was a clear audible difference between the fan in something like 3DMark Vantage / 11 and something else like Far Cry 2 or Resident Evil 5. At almost 73dB you've got an absolute worst case scenario; quite often you should find levels at a lower volume which is great.

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 SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal 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.

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More volts and higher clock speeds just mean we're going to be drawing a bucket load more power. 555 Watt sees it sit towards the top of the pack and it's actually the highest draw for any single GPU setup. We're not worried, though, as anyone who is buying a card like this should have themselves a great quality 850+ Watt power supply.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)


Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and AMD are on an even playing field.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark 11, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2, Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV, Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off) and our four High Quality tests which include Mafia 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV and Far Cry 2.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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You can see from the above graph the amount of power that's on offer from the GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition from MSI. It's not only the fastest GTX 580 we've tested, but it's the fastest single GPU card we've tested period. Compared to the GTX 590, it's not all that much behind either; there's just some serious power on offer from this GTX 580 and it reminds us why we love the Lightning series so much.

Choosing to go down the path of 3GB might not bring with it much more performance over a 1.5GB model, but it does make for the ultimate GTX 580 and honestly, if you're spending this kind of money, that's exactly what you want.

Final Thoughts




I find myself unconvinced that we still have a need for cards with 3GB of GDDR5, but if you're going to go down that path you may as well do it in style with something awesome like the MSI GTX 580 Lightning Xtreme Edition.

As usual, MSI bring us a quality product and it's no doubt going to be one that people have wanted. Need it or not, there continues to be a demand for ultra-high MB / GB cards and it's nice to see that MSI have chosen to address this by not just offering a reference 3GB card or even one with just the Twin Frozr II cooler, but instead they've opted to go all out and bring a 3GB model into the Lightning foal that performance users know and love.

I wouldn't say that this card can overclock better than the 1.5GB Lightning card, even though compared to our sample, it did. Generally speaking, you should find yourself getting a stronger clock than most reference cards, though, thanks to the ability to increase the voltage in more than one area.

While we don't have a price on the card at the moment, we know that it's going to be expensive, but hopefully it won't be too crazy. The move from a standard Twin Frozr II GTX 580 from MSI to the Lightning will set you back an extra $25 US, bringing it in at $525.99 US. If you jump on Newegg you'll see only one 3GB card; that card uses reference clocks and reference cooler. Compared to a reference 1.5GB card from the same company, the extra memory sets you back $80 US.

At around the $599 - $629 US price the Lightning Xtreme Edition is going to fall into a pricing level you'd expect. At $629 US it still wouldn't be the most expensive GTX 580 either with a 1.5GB water cooled card from EVGA costing you $699.99 US.

In the end, though, MSI have done to the GTX 580 what they do best to Video Cards in general; make ones that look and perform better than the competition. With the lack of 3GB cards also on the market, MSI have done a fantastic job of standing out from the competition.

If you've got the money to spend and you just want the extra memory, the Xtreme Edition of the GTX 580 Lightning is the card to own, and if you don't need the extra memory you can always just get the normal 1.5GB GTX 580 Lightning model which also kicks some serious ass.

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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.

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