MSI N480GTX Lightning Review EXCLUSIVE
Following on from the normal Lightning packaging we have a military jet on the front of the box. It suits for both the Lightning moniker and also the "Military Class" hardware on the card.
Inside the box the card is well protected with a lot of well cut, dense, foam. The accessories package is fairly standard although the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted three odd little cables. These are voltage probes and we'll show you where they go in a moment.
Here is the Lightning in all its Twin Frozr III glory. Very similar to the excellent Twin Frozr II, containing a huge amount of heatsink and two 90mm PWM fans.
In keeping with the modern trend for extreme products to be in black and red, the MSI is no exception. There is no denying its attractiveness, although perhaps if we were really picky we'd have liked to see it in the deep blue and gun-metal colour scheme that the latest MSI motherboards come in. Considering that the MSI mobos should be high on anyones purchase list it might be nice to see a holistic colour scheme. However we can understand why black and red was chosen because it's much more common.
To assist with consistent heat dispersion across the full width of the card the Lightning comes replete with a very nice back-plate/brace. The slots for venting and MSI logo really show the thought that has gone into the whole design.
To aid with extreme overclocking the Lightning has a 16 phase power design which well get into more on the next page, but this does mean that the MSI has 2 8pin PCIe power inputs for the GPU and a 6pin one dedicated for the Memory as well. It's a hungry beast, but then the GTX480 isn't exactly enviromentally friendly anyway.
One of the big selling points of the MSI over the reference card is the inclusion of a DisplayPort output alongside the standard dual DVI and HDMI outputs. Gold plated too so you know that corrosion wont become an issue with providing your monitor with the clearest signal possible.
Here is where the N480GTX Lightning really separates itself from the pack. Just to the right of the screw on the backplate you can see two small dip switches. Flip them to switch the card from the default BIOS into an extreme one. This enables increased GPU and memory voltage whilst also upping the over-current protection threshhold from the already hefty 320 Amps to 600 Amps.
If you're one of those people who dabble in the sub-zero arts, the extreme BIOS also helps fix any issues with LN2 based cooling freezes.
Returning to the voltage probes we saw above, just above the MSI logo are the inputs to connect your voltage probing equipment.