MSI N770 Lightning Overclocking Review

We take the new MSI N770 Lightning and overclock it to its maximum potential. We will compare it with a highly overclocked MSI GeForce GTX 680 Lightning and GIGABYTE Radeon HD 7970. Each GPU is getting its best chance to show us how well it can perform, as all of these GPUs are highly overclocked.

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MSI N770 Lightning Overclocking

Firstly, to overclock the MSI N770 Lightning we had to grab a new version of MSI Afterburner. This new Beta is currently available on MSI's website. You can download MSI Afterburner 3.0.0 Beta 10 from here. This new Beta version supports all the voltage controls on the MSI N770 Lightning.

Default Settings

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These are the default screenshots from MSI Afterburner with the video card right out-of-the-box. Note that we did have to unlock voltage control, and voltage monitoring to get the voltage controls to show up in the settings for this software. Once we did that, in the first screenshot you can see that we have core voltage slider available, power limit, core clock, memory clock and fan speed. When you click the first down arrow to the right of core voltage you get a slide down that provides you with memory voltage and aux voltage control. The second down arrow slides in the temp limit control.

Notice that the power limit and temp limit sliders are linked by default. Raising one, will raise the other. If you un-link these you can operate these separately. You can even go as far as to prioritize either one. We found in overclocking to just raise these both up to maximum provides the best potential.

Default Frequency

The obvious first thing to do is to figure out what the real-world frequency actually is in games without overclocking. Remember, the boost clock can set itself up to 1202MHz, which is already at 1.2GHz. However, GPU Boost 2.0 can push it further, in frequency and voltage, if the GPU is cool enough and the card hasn't hit the TDP yet. This means the real-world frequency is actually in excess of 1202MHz while gaming.

We found that our MSI N770 Lightning operated at a real-world frequency of 1228MHz while gaming. The voltage was sitting at 1.2v, which seems to be the maximum for this video card. This was in Crysis 3, Far Cry 3, Metro: Last Light and Tomb Raider. That means we are already getting a high overclock of 1228MHz without even touching the thing. Keep in mind the GTX 680 only overclocked to 1251MHz on our GTX 680 Lightning. That means we are already near the maximum GTX 680 overclock, and this is just with the video card out-of-the-box. It seems MSI has done a lot to already maximize the performance, without you having to even overclock.

Overclocking Maximums

Knowing that we were already starting out at a high frequency of 1228MHz, we didn't think we would get it much higher, and we were correct. The two screenshots below show the maximum overclock settings.

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In this first screenshot, note that the power target only went up to 109%. This is less than we had available compared to the MSI GeForce GTX 680 Lightning. On the MSI GeForce GTX 680 Lightning we were able to take this slider up to 133%. That is a very big difference starting off. That means the TDP of the video cards is very different, and the potential for the maximum TDP is also different. 109% doesn't sound like a lot of headroom to overclock with. This was a big of a negative for the MSI N770 Lightning.

We were also only able to set the core voltage to +12 versus 0. This differs from the MSI GeForce GTX 680 Lightning which now lets us set this slider to +100 versus 0. However, keep in mind that the GTX 680 Lightning uses GPU Boost 1.0 and the MSI GTX 770 Lightning uses GPU Boost 2.0. Therefore, voltages do act quite differently. In fact, before we even overclocked this video card, the voltage was already sitting at 1.2v to give us 1228MHz. That seems to be the maximum voltage supported. Even setting the slider to +12 we never saw the voltage exceed 1.2v. This means the video card was already operating at the highest possible voltage thanks to GPU Boost 2.0. We also set the aux voltage to +50 and the memory voltage to +100.

All of that lead to a core clock increase of +20 on the slider and +400 on the memory. At +20 core clock the real-world frequency was operating at 1241MHz. The memory was now operating at a whopping 7.8GHz! This was our highest stable overclock in every game. That means we were only getting almost 20MHz higher frequencies, but a whopping huge memory frequency boost. Those 7GHz memory modules sure have some headroom with the voltage boosted. This shows that GPU Boost 2.0 was already taking this GPU to its almost maximum potential, just by default.


Test Setup

We have updated our drivers to the latest versions on all video cards tested here today. MSI GeForce GTX 680 Lightning and MSI N770 Lightning are using GeForce 320.18 WHQL. GIGABYTE Radeon HD 7970 is using Catalyst 13.6 Beta and 13.5 CAP1.

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