MSI GTX780 Lightning Review


MSI GTX780 Lightning Review


The GTX780 is a stunning card. This is nothing new. You can purchase almost any of them and know that you're getting a card guaranteed to put a smile on your face. In fact the performance of them is so good that those small differences end up being magnified. So what does the MSI Lightning offer to tempt your wallet?

Looks are one. The TwinFrozr on the MSI Gaming is gorgeous and the TriFrozr on the Lightning has shown that MSI have lost none of their eye for detail or ability to create an aesthetically pleasing card that combines form and function. There is a wealth of little touches from the individually controllable fans, through the 'sandwich' heat-spreaders, and to the yellow fan and stripe that marks this out as one of the premium MSI products. If anything we don't think it's yellow enough. Most people have tower cases, and in them we tend to only see the bottom of our graphics cards. It could do with a smattering of yellow there, and more across the side, because when it's installed that yellow fan is out of your eye line. It obviously is aimed at those people who purchased the MPOWER MAX, and goes together beautifully with that particular motherboard. Whoever decided to include the colour changing light on the side needs a talking to though. It's always either off or red, and if the colour is able to be changed we want the ability to set it ourselves. At the very least it should be yellow. Equally the back-lighting is the same blue that we've seen on previous Lightning cards, when at this price we'd expect that to be yellow too.

It's not only the design that is nice, as the cooler performance is excellent too. We've often commented about how nVidia's GPU Boost 2.0 really shines when there is a lot of thermal headroom, and the TriFrozr provides bags of it. So much so that we saw the highest clocks we've seen on a Kepler GPU so far. It's not all about cold at the expense of silence either, with the card no louder than any tri-fan design and barely more than the TwinFrozr on the Gaming.

With a shed load of power available from the 16+3+1 design it's not surprising that we were able to manually overclock the Lightning to new heights either. Of course with more tweaking options available to the user you have to do more than just slide a couple of bars and hit apply, and so to some degree you get out what you put in as with many things in life. We did try using the LN2 switch to see if it would allow us to push a little further than the standard mode, but not only does that lose the factory overclock but even with this cooler you're running up to the thermal limit of the GPU. Better to leave it alone unless you're actually going sub-zero, or perhaps a dedicated water loop. 

Performance generally rewarded our efforts too with new OC3D high-scores in many of the benchmarks that are the measure of any overclock worth its salt. There were a couple of odd results where the overclock didn't seem to perform much better than the stock card, but more often than not the Lightning was able to give us eye-poppingly large scores. However it's worth noting that our final test overclock was completely 3D Mark Vantage stable so if you're testing a different benchmarking utility you should be able to easily go further than we did.

It's positioned in the MSI range as for the extreme overclockers and enthusiasts, whereas the Gaming model is, oddly enough, for the gamers. So there is some price premium to be had, and the Gaming is excellent enough that if you're not looking to overclock then maybe you should just buy that one. Except because of the excellent cooler and even bigger factory overclock it is the best performing GTX780 in 'out of the box' trim. So that presents a slight catch 22. You can't justify the extra expense of the Lightning when compared to other GTX780s for features you wont use, but even if you don't it'll still be the best performer.

Manufacturers sometimes advertise their cards as for enthusiasts without ever really providing the features that niché audience require. The MSI GTX780 Lightning is everything to all people, having outstanding stock performance, equally brilliant overclocked performance, and tons of potential left in the tank for more exotic cooling solutions. Despite the price premium you're paying, we think that it has enough to justify the cost and as the GTX780 is the best graphics card and this is the best of those GTX780s we have to award it our OC3D Gold Award.


Thanks to MSI for supplying the GTX780 Lightning for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.

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Most Recent Comments

28-08-2013, 05:08:36

The MSI Lightning series has always provided some of the best versions of cards around. Today we see if the GTX780 Lightning keeps this streak alive.

Continue ReadingQuote

28-08-2013, 05:23:35

wow this thing is amazing!

cant wait till someone has it under sub-zero i wanna see what this thing can do!

Cheers TomQuote

28-08-2013, 06:01:36

Very cool , I've been waiting for your review on this card.

Edit : Thanks for the review Tom.Quote

28-08-2013, 06:09:58

If someone makes a nice water block for this very tempted (something like the xspc on).Quote

28-08-2013, 06:12:31

Originally Posted by MrKambo View Post
wow this thing is amazing!

cant wait till someone has it under sub-zero i wanna see what this thing can do!

Cheers Tom
I'm pretty sure 8-Pack has already done so over the last couple of days, breaking the Firestrike record

Originally Posted by murphy7801 View Post
If someone makes a nice water block for this very tempted (something like the xspc on).
I think EK are making one at the moment so i'm sure wee'll see that soonish. Dunno about XSPCQuote

28-08-2013, 06:45:28

But can it run Crysis?

Will be interesting to see how many records this card will break over the next few days/weeks. Most likely all of them
It's not badly priced either, I was expecting it to be around £100 more than a standard 780 but it's only £40 more. If you have enough to spend £550 on a GPU then £40 more isn't going to be a big deal to you.Quote

28-08-2013, 07:54:15

Very nice read and to think I had a chance at one of these makes me wonder if I should have taken it up.....SighQuote

28-08-2013, 07:57:05

That is one damn nice looking card!Quote

28-08-2013, 08:20:33

Let the classified or lightning argument begin..

I am going to assume that on LN2 the lightning will be better but for the average user on air or water I think it could be very closeQuote

28-08-2013, 08:24:01

Absolute monster, thanks for the review Tom Quote

28-08-2013, 10:08:35

Originally Posted by WillSK View Post
I'm pretty sure 8-Pack has already done so over the last couple of days, breaking the Firestrike record
yeah he set a new record on the 23rd with two lightning cards
but kingpin already beat it again with about 1.6k points more..Quote

28-08-2013, 15:30:06

This card looks rediculously awesome, Nerd Porn alert!!Quote

28-08-2013, 16:20:51

I would prefer a version with no LEDs at all.Quote

28-08-2013, 17:32:49

Originally Posted by NRG! View Post
I would prefer a version with no LEDs at all.
I agree although I wouldn't be so bothered if the lightning logo was white or yellow. As Tom said in his video review why they've gone for green, blue and red seems v strange. Rainbow rigs look tackyQuote

28-08-2013, 17:57:40


"i really do have to make a in video about the silicon lottery..." hahahaaha... u killed me with that one...

Nice review... as im going water cooling, i think ill just aim for the reference 780... still have to think a bit, as im buying two at the same time...


28-08-2013, 18:06:50

Dark NighT
I dont get that card, yeah the performance is there but that extra piece of plastic on the back blocks of any slots above the video card, so running sli could be tricky and having a pci-e 1x slot above that for audio cards or other things is useless as well, considering most msi boards have a 1x slot above the 16x slot it seems a weird decision.Quote

28-08-2013, 20:35:24

Looks like this is gonna need a custom block if on water - Probably why MSI didnt want you taking it apart... Nice review

31-08-2013, 18:44:15

Hi Tom and Forums,

I love the video reviews and love the in depth reviews on the site.

Are these graphs sorted in any specific way? Also, is it possible to sort by Low to High Avg. Fps, Score, etc. to make them a little easier to read?Quote

31-08-2013, 21:10:06

If I was doing a black/yellow build, I'd be getting this and the yellow MSI Mobo, along with the yellow SSD and RAM Tom pointed out in his video; all that together would look awesome

Great review as always Tom!Quote

02-09-2013, 20:01:21

Great card but not sure about the near titan price though...
I wonder if they'll do a water cooled version like evga? It would definitely make more sense since this is mostly aimed at extreme overclockers, and maybe make a slightly cheaper and more flamboyant version for the gamers with less over clocking stuff (cause the red version is honestly too plain and frankly is Asus colour)?Here's hoping Quote

02-09-2013, 21:30:46

No sure if this is what I was looking for !! Damit Tom you really hide good lol !!!Quote

02-09-2013, 23:53:30

Originally Posted by PhatboyHD View Post
No sure if this is what I was looking for !! Damit Tom you really hide good lol !!!
I can't find what you meant ......
Can you give any hint ?Quote

06-09-2013, 23:44:30

Very cool but it only just seems to edge out the MSI 780 Gaming?

The 780 Gaming being a reference design would obviously be a lot easier to find a waterblock for. With the results compared I'll go a 780 Gaming I think

Awesome review as always TTL, the most thorough, comprehensive and enjoyable reviews by far!Quote

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