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MSI N480GTX Lightning Preview – The Best Just Got Better

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Tested and written by Gatot Tri Yuwono and Alva Jonathan.

Since it was first launched last March, the GeForce GTX 480 remains NVIDIA’s most powerful GPU to date. Developed under the codename GF 100, the GTX 480 was based on NVIDIA’s fabled Fermi architecture. Many graphics card vendors have incorporated this particular GPU in their products, but only few dared to use cooling devices or PCB designs other than what NVIDIA had offered in their reference design for the GTX 480.

Therefore, it’s just refreshing to know that MSI has decided to come up with their own, advanced version of a graphics card based on that GPU: the N480GTX Lighting. Specifically intended for overclocking purposes, the Lightning is equipped with numerous features unique to MSI, such as the Twin Frozr III HSF unit, Triple Over Voltage capability, V-Check Points, and even two BIOS chips. Further details are available in our previous article, the “King of the Beast – MSI GTX480 Lightning”, where we disassembled the N480GTX Lighting to see what makes it tick. Now, let’s move on to the technical specs.

Specification

MSI N480GTX Lightning NVIDIA GTX 480
Codename GF100 GF100
Fabrication Process 40 nm 40 nm
Transistors 3.2 Billion 3.2 Billion
Die Size 526 mm² 526 mm²
Core Clock (Clock Speed) 750 MHz 700 MHz
Stream Processors 480 480
Shader Clock 1500 MHz 1400 MHz
Texture Units 60 60
ROPs 48 48
Memory Type GDDR5 GDDR5
Memory Size 1536 MB 1536 MB
Memory Clock (effective) 4000 MHz 3696 MHz
Memory Interface 384-bit 384-bit
DirectX Version 11 11
Shader Model 5 5
Power Connectors 2x 8-pin + 6-pin 8-pin + 6-pin
Min Recommended Power Supply - 600 Watt
Bus Support PCIe 2.1 x16 PCIe 2.1 x16

Under default condition, the N480GTX Lightning is only clocked a bit higher than NVIDIA’s reference standard for the GeForce GTX 480. The core frequency is increased by 50 MHz, which brings the shader clock up by 100 MHz, while the memory speed is raised from the standard 3696 MHz to 4000 MHz. A closer look at the above table also reveals that the N480GTX Lighting draws power from two, 8-pin and one 6-pin PCI-Express connectors.

Graphics Card

This is the MSI N480GTX Lightning with its massive Twin Frozr III heatsink. The card itself is quite large in terms of physical dimension. Two pictures below show the size comparison between the Lightning and a reference-based GTX 480 graphics card.

As you can see, the MSI N480GTX Lightning has a slightly longer PCB board compared to a standard GTX 480, which stretches to about the same length of the Twin Frozr III HSF.

Sitting above the N480GTX Lightning is MSI’s proprietary Twin Frozr III heatsink. If you are familiar with the previous-generation Twin Frozrs, you can immediately notice the slight design change made to the heatsink cover. Two large fans dissipate heat from the aluminum fins below. We found the overall design to be quite effective at suppressing the temperature. Idle temperature hovers at around 42 degree while, during full load conditions, maximum temperature reaches only as high as 77 degree Celsius. That’s significantly lower than the GTX 480’s standard cooler, which often leaves the temperature rising to a worrying 90+ degree Celsius. Too bad Twin Frozr III’s twin fans generate a lot of noise when running at full speed.

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