The N580GTX Lightning Xtreme Edition carries MSI’s exclusive Twin Frozr III cooler that has a nickel-plated copper base, five copper heat pipes and an aluminum heatsink with fans. The whole arrangement is covered with an aluminum casing.
The outermost pipes are 8 millimeters in diameter whereas the three middle ones, 6 millimeters. Every detail of the heatsink is nickel-plated; they are all soldered to each other.
The copper base sports good finish quality, especially for a GPU cooler:
There is thick gray thermal grease between the cooler and the GPU. We know nothing about its properties.
A metallic plate with thermal pads is used to cool the power circuit components.
The fans have a form-factor of 92x92x15 millimeters but the impellers are 86 millimeters large. The speed of the fans is regulated automatically and can reach as high as 3500 RPM. The innovative design of the 11 impeller blades helps improve the air flow by 20%. The cooler features a dust removal system: the fans are rotating in the opposite direction for 30 seconds after turning on in order to blow dust speckles out of the dense heatsink. This is a questionable, yet unique, solution. Each fan is highlighted:
Using a temperature sensor, the cooler changes the color of the highlighting from blue to white upon reaching 45°C.
We checked out the card’s temperature while running Aliens vs. Predator (2010) in five cycles at the highest settings (2560x1600, 16x anisotropic filtering, 4x full-screen antialiasing).
MSI’s original cooler proved to be very effective in automatic mode as well as at the full speed of its fans.
Despite the increased frequencies, the GPU was only 67°C hot with the fans regulated automatically and 60°C at the full speed of the fans. That’s very low for a top-end GPU, especially as the fans were only rotating at 1980 RPM in the automatic regulation mode. How quiet is it?
We measured the level of noise using an electronic noise-level meter CENTER-321 in a closed room about 20 sq. meters large. The noise-level meter was set on a tripod at a distance of 15 centimeters from the graphics card which was installed on an open testbed. The mainboard with the graphics card was placed at an edge of a desk on a foam-rubber tray.
The bottom limit of our noise-level meter is 29.8 dBA whereas the subjectively comfortable (not low, but comfortable) level of noise when measured from that distance is about 36 dBA. The speed of the graphics card’s fan was being adjusted by means of a controller that changed the supply voltage in steps of 0.5 V.
We’ve included the results of the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 SuperOverclock into the diagram for the sake of comparison:
The vertical dotted lines mark the max speed of the fans in the automatic regulation mode. As you can see, the MSI cooler is somewhat noisier overall, but quieter than the Gigabyte cooler at low speeds. On the other hand, neither of these coolers can keep below the subjectively comfortable level of noise, so you may want to look for other solutions if you need a silent computer.