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Closer Look at MSI R7970 Lightning 3GB

The MSI R7970 Lightning 3GB can boast an even larger box than the ASUS card discussed above. There is a picture of the F-22 fighter on the front side:

 

Besides the model name and interface type, the text on the front of the box informs us about the card’s 17-phase power system, Triple Overvoltage and Twin Frozr IV cooler. You can refer to the back of the box for product specs and system requirements. Opening the front panel up, you read a description of each of the card’s special features, some of which are exciting indeed.

Particularly, they promise us 14°C lower temperature and 6.3 dBA less noise compared to the reference AMD Radeon HD 7970. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Included with this product are a DVI->HDMI adapter, a mini-DisplayPort->DisplayPort adapter, two 6-pin->8-pin power adapters, a CrossFireX bridge, three cables for reading voltages, a disc with drivers, an installation guide and a promo booklet:

No games included, but you find this certificate of quality and stability in the box:

It can be put into a frame and hung on the wall next to your computer.

The graphics card is manufactured in China. Its warranty period is 2 years and its retail price starts at $599, which is higher than the price of the above-discussed ASUS.

The large and heavy MSI R7970 Lightning looks gorgeous with its black metallic cooler casing that has yellow inserts and two 100mm fans. It is a serious and eye-catching product.

 

The card is embellished with silvery logos “MSI”, “Twin Frozr IV” and “Lighting” on the cooler’s casing and the back plate.

 

The R7970 Lightning is 300x125x40 millimeters large. It is 22 millimeters longer than the reference AMD Radeon HD 7970 although its PCB is only 280 millimeters long.

Unlike the reference card, the R7970 Lightning is equipped with two single-link DVI ports (DVI-I and DVI-D; support resolutions up to 1920x1200) and four mini-DisplayPort 1.2 (support resolutions up to 2560x1600).

We don’t know why such an expensive and fast graphics card is not equipped with dual-link DVIs, but this may provoke certain problems for owners of high-resolution monitors that lack any inputs other than DVI. As if making up for such a deficiency, each connector is gold-plated.

The two CrossFireX connectors at the top part of the PCB allow building multi-GPU configurations with up to four such cards.

 

Instead of the reference card’s 8- and 6-pin power connectors, the MSI version has two 8-pin connectors. Its specified peak power draw is increased from 250 to 270 watts, too. The MSI card needs a 650-watt or better PSU.

Taking the Twin Frozr IV cooler off, we can make sure that the stiffening rib and the heat-spreader on the power components and memory chips are a single detail.

We can see the PCB in all its glory after removing that heat-spreader.

 

The gold-plated super ferrite chokes are a real marvel.

The card’s 17-phase (14+2+1) power system incorporates reputable CopperMOS transistors, Dark Solid capacitors and Hi-c capacitors with tantalum core. There’s also Lightning Power Layer technology that separates the power lines of the GPU and memory into different PCB layers and helps reduce interference and improve overclocking potential.

The power system is managed by a CHiL CHL8228G controller.

A GPU Reactor module can be found on the reverse side of the PCB under a plastic highlighted cap. It’s a small card connected to the main PCB via two 7-pin connectors.

 

The GPU Reactor carries more solid-state capacitors that are meant to lower voltage ripple by 88% and improve overclocking potential even more. The graphics card worked perfectly well even without it, though. Moreover, we couldn’t notice any significant benefits from installing the auxiliary card on our sample of R7970 Lightning.

There’s a small BIOS switch near the CrossFireX connectors:

It can be set at Original or LN2. In the Original mode the graphics card is clocked at 1070/5600 MHz. The clock rates of the LN2 mode are 925/5500 MHz but every overcurrent protection is removed, the GPU and memory frequency limits are relaxed and the PowerTune range is extended by 76%.

There are three connectors at the top of the PCB for reading voltages: V-PLL, V-MEM and V-GPU.

So, this graphics card seems to offer everything a hardcore overclocker might need.

 
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