MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning Video Card Review

NVIDIA debuts the "new" GeForce GTX 770 today. The GeForce GTX 770 is poised to provide refreshed performance, for a surprising price. We evaluate a retail MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning flagship video card from MSI with specifications that will make any enthusiast smile. The $399 price point just got a kick in the pants.

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MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning

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MSI GTX 770 Lightning Overview

Today, we are debuting the launch of the GeForce GTX 770 video card by using a retail video card from MSI. MSI sent us its top-of-the-line Lightning series, which is fully and completely ready on launch day of the GeForce GTX 770 GPU.

The MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning represents MSI's flagship model video card of the GTX 770 GPU. The MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning uses MSI's Military Class III hardware in combination with increased GPU frequencies compared to a stock GeForce GTX 770.

MSI's GeForce GTX 770 Lightning video card will retail for a premium price of $459.99. Therefore, this video card, sporting uber-specs, will demand a higher price than a standard GeForce GTX 770. We are basing our comparison of cards around this price of the MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning.

GTX 770 Lightning Clock Speed

The GPU frequency has been raised by quite a bit on the MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning. The base clock is set at 1150MHz and the boost clock is set at 1202MHz. This is a major upgrade in frequency from a standard GTX 770. That is a 104MHz base clock improvement and a 117MHz boost clock increase. We are talking a real-world frequency of at least 1.2GHz by default on this video card! That in itself will give us a lot more performance than a standard GeForce GTX 770. The memory runs at the standard 7GHz of GTX 770.

Military Class III Components

The Military Class III components meet MIL-STD-810G standard to ensure the best stability and quality. The benefits of each technology are as follows.

CopperMOS (Copper MOSFET) - Double side cooling, Better heat dissipation, Higher current capacity.

Hi-c CAP (Highly-conductive polymerized capacitor) - High thermal stability, No mechanical issue, Ultra-low ESR.

Golden SSC (Golden Solid State Choke) - Gold-plated surface, Form-in-one chock, Higher current capacity.

Dark Solid CAP (Dark Solid Capacitor) - Dark silver case, Low ESR, Low temperature.

All components have undergone the following tests: Low Pressure Test, Low Temperature Test, Humidity Test, Shock Test, High Temperature Test, Temperature Shock Test and Vibration Test.

GPU Reactor

There is an add-on device on the back of this video card which comes installed. This little cap, which does light up, is called GPU Reactor. It provides 200% higher power capacity and eliminates power noise (ripple) by adding more circuitry onto the video card. It is removable, and the video card works just fine without it. It does stick out, so if you don't have room it can be removed. However, if you are going to do any extreme overclocking, and especially LN2, you need to use it for the best results. Since it is installed by default, we are going to leave it on and perform our testing in its default configuration.

Other Features

The MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning has an enhanced power design using 12 phase PWM design with independent memory power. For comparison, MSI claims the GTX 770 Lightning has 80% higher power output compared to reference GTX 770. The TDP of this video card does run higher at 260W, versus 230W of the reference GTX 770 design.

The MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning has an unlocked BIOS. MSI claims one click to unlock all protection and disable active phase switching and higher OCP (over current protection) on board. Considering the GPU already runs at 1.2GHz we can't imagine it going that much higher, but we will see in an upcoming article that will solely focus on overclocking. Please excuse the omission in this review, but we simply did not have time to include it and do a thorough and complete job.

MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning Pictures

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The MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning measures in at 11 inches in length. The fan and heatsink combination is MSI's own Twin Frozr IV thermal design. It brings with it dust removal technology and dual form-in-one heatsinks. We count a total of five heatpipes. The MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning requires two 8-pin power connectors, versus one 6-pin and one 8-pin on the reference design GTX 770.

On the back of the video card are connections for the wire probes to take hardware readings of the video card. There is a switch atop the video card that is there to switch the card into LN2 mode for those going that route.

We find the video card to be quite heavy, but also feels solid and that of a good build. It is sturdy with a full back plate. The MSI logo on GPU Reactor lights up, as do indicators on the back that tell you how much of the power phase chips are in use. While gaming, all 12 should light up. There are also two lights under the fans just to provide blue glow to the whole setup while in your case. A very nice black SLI link cable is included, and this video card does support up to 3-way SLI.

In this evaluation keep in mind these video card prices as we have based our comparisons on:

MSI GeForce GTX 770 Lightning - $459.99 (MSRP supplied by MSI)

Reference GTX 770 - $399 (MSRP supplied by NVIDIA)

GeForce GTX 680 2GB آ– $419 after rebate to $539 for custom overclocked cards

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition - $399 after rebate to $549 for custom overclocked cards