MSI’s graphics division is certainly getting bolder in its designs, and the latest N480GTX Lightning is definitely pushing the boundaries of engineering. The Lightning is clearly in the same market as ASUS RoG series cards, such as the Mars and Ares, for example. While there are distinct differences in the design approaches, there are also hints of familiarity. MSI is choosing to spend its time re-engineering and improving a reference model rather than committing to an entire redesign, but both companies are going for the ‘use straight out the
box’ approach with greatly improved air-cooling rather than a waterblock.. However, for some users, the performance of a GTX480 is still not enough to make them satisfied. For that MSI released the non-reference GTX480 VGA those who named MSI GTX480 Lightning to satisfy users who really are thirsty performance.
For those readers not yet familiar with MSI products, it may not yet know what the meaning behind the name ‘Lightning’ this. Lightning series is the name given MSI graphic cards products for their top line, which has the highest performance and also a myriad of other interesting features. Several models of Lightning graphic card
previously released, such as the GTX275 Lightning and Lightning HD 5870, already successfully solved many overclocking world records and also have the highest performance in its class. First and foremost, the MSI N480GTX Lightning is designed for overclockers. The card features MSI’s new, dual-fan Twin Frozr III cooler which also has a nickel-plated copper heatsink base, linked to a high-density array of aluminum cooling fins by five heat-pipes. The card also features over-voltage controls for the GPU, memory, and PLL, voltage
check-points, voltage switches for instant voltage changes, and “CopperMOS” MOSFETS, which reportedly offer better cooling performance. In addition to the aforementioned items, the N480GTX Lightning also sports some “Proadlizer” (Prompt, Broadband, Stabilizer) capacitors which offer ultra-high capacitance ratings and
have flat surfaces that can be more easily cooled. The MSI N480GTX Lightning: 750MHz GPU, 1.5GHz Shaders, 1GHz (4GHz GDDR5) Memory.
If you need further proof that MSI is targeting this card are the extreme overclocking crowd, get a load of this. The MSI N480GTX Lightning is also outfitted with dual-BIOS chips, one with a standard BIOS and another that solves the GTX 480’s “cold bug” when LN2 cooling is used. There is also an XtremeCool switch that supposedly solves that same “cold bug”. There is an OCP Unlock switch that allows for >320A of current as well, along with a PWM Clock Tuner switch that sets the PWM to 350MHz, from 260MHz to help eliminate ripple.
Other interesting features of the MSI N480GTX Lightning include 16 total power phases (GPU=12, Memory=3, PLL/PWM=1, triple power connectors—two 8-pin and one 6-pin—and an output configuration that consists of dual, dual-link DVI outputs, an HDMI output, and a DisplayPort output. Reference GTX 480 cards have only 8 power phases, 6 for the GPU and two for memory; the PLL/PWM gets its power from the PCIe slot.
Extreme Cooling Test Preparation
Usually, before doing extreme overclocking practices on the graphic card, there are some modifications to do to get the maximum overclocking result. For example, update the BIOS and / or modify voltage to get optimum voltage. Surprisingly the MSI GTX480 Lightning has been designed specifically to deal with extreme overclocking practices, so that the hardware modification is not needed anymore.
Readers need to know, that the GTX480 graphic card has a problem with very low temperatures, which would make running in VGA mode 2D (Core 50MHz) when the temperature reaches-80C, and because of this, the
overclockers should replace this with a BIOS VGA BIOS modifications not has a 2D mode. However, MSI has prepared a solution to the problem at this Lightning GTX480. MSI provides a second BIOS (which has no 2D
mode), and also XtremeCool switches to ensure that the VGA is still operating with very low temperatures though.
Given that this VGA can be cooled by LN2, it is usually on this VGA will be given additional insulation to prevent condensation because the temperature is very cold. Usually Alva use kneaded eraser to cover
most of the surface of the VGA card to keep the components found him not wet, but this time different from the usual method of insulation.
Using dielectric grease applied to all parts of the graphic cards, both front and rear. The principle works with the kneaded eraser, which cover the components so they do not get wet because of condensation that occurs. Dielectric grease is used because there are some components become too hot during operation and can not be covered kneaded eraser, like the voltage regulator (VRM) graphic card.
Given the GTX480 GPU chip will give a fairly high heat load, especially when working with a frequency of 1200Mhz + at 1.45V, LN2 Container used is also different. Alva use K | ngp | n Tek9 FAT edition, which has a mass much heavier and also the capacity of LN2 for more than the usual slim 5.0 Tek9 uses.
Finally, the software used for voltage regulation on the GTX480 Lightning is also (again) is different from usual. MSI Afterburner used this time to give a very wide range of settings, up to +500 mV for vGPU, vMEM, and also vPLL. Afterburner version is named ‘Afterburner Extreme’.
It should be noted, that the Afterburner software from MSI is not released publicly, due to a fairly extreme voltage settings and have the potential to ‘kill’ VGA card if used carelessly by the user.
Testing System Specifications
The following PC specifications that are used for MSI testing of extreme cooling GTX480 Lightning:
Processor: Intel Core i7 980X ‘Gulftown’
Motherboard: MSI Big Bang THRIFT Hygiene Filter air
Memory: A-DATA DDR3-1866C8 XPG + 3x2GB
HDD: WD Velociraptor 300GB
PSU: ANTEC TPQ-1200W OC Edition
CPU Cooler: Thermalright Venomous X
GPU Cooler: K | ngp | n Tek9 FAT Edition
Result: GTX480 at 1250Mhz + +
First graphic card with lowered temperatures as low as with LN2 to find the optimal point for benchmarking. Here, the unexpected happens, when the temperature reaches – 187C, the lowest temperature as it
could but the graphic card still turn on. Unfortunately at this temperature failed to run 3DMarkVantage graphic card which may occur due to the graphic card memory, and some components at the back of the
graphic card, it’s too frozen. After warm up with hot water 1800W gun, found the optimal temperature for this graphic card, which is -155 s / d-160C, benchmarking was resumed. By setting +300 mV at vGPU and Vmem, this graphic card can run easily on the 1200Mhz frequency. Maximum frequency obtained in this graphic card is 1286Mhz / 1150Mhz (GPU / Mem), the following results 3DMarkVantagenya.
MSI GTX480 GPU Lightning with over 1250Mhz GPU Score reaches more than 30 000! (Note that this GPU Score Score already exceed the value of a HD5970 GPU that is overclocked to 1000/1200Mhz)
It seems that the predicate ‘Monster VGA’ deserve to be given on MSI GTX480 Lightning, the most extreme of all tests can be passed easily though. All features provided by MSI proved useful for the extreme
overclockers who like to use LN2. Speaking of LN2, VGA GTX480 Lightning include ‘greedy’ LN2, 7 Liter LN2 available just exhausted in less than 1.5 hours!
Because of the limitations of LN2, unfortunately, this test should end up with a short. Clearly, the testing time is still not showing the real capabilities of the GTX480 Lightning (who was allegedly able to run in clockspeed over 1400Mhz).
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