MSI N260GTX Lightning Review

Written by Mark Mackay

July 6, 2009 | 10:15

Tags: #55nm #geforce #gtx-260 #lightning #maxcore #n260gtx #overclockable #review

Companies: #msi #nvidia

What’s the difference?

One of the most interesting differences between the Lightning and a regular GTX 260 is a technology that we first encountered face to face when we popped over to Taipei, Taiwan for this year's Computex. The squealing noise that omits from the GTX 200 cards had long plagued the labs and was something that Nvidia denied even existed when we first contacted the company about it. Thankfully though, MSI has resolved the problem with some good old fashioned research and development.

The whole power delivery area has been overhauled - it now features larger capacitors (Nippon Chemicon if you're wondering) and a row of sixteen Power-PAK MOSFETs (no Dr.MOS here) with eight driver ICs on the back of the card, and a further eight special square iron chokes in a row, followed by a row of eight low profile high-C capacitors.

We were told by MSI that the whole iron chokes are the key here to stopping the squealing - instead of having an environmentally sealed coil over ferrite rod inside, which is prone to very high frequency vibration when a lot of current load is applied, instead that ferrite core is now the entire cube, sealing the coils within it. Like the high-C caps, it costs much more to manufacture, increasing the overall cost of the product, but on the plus side provides much more power overhead to play with.

Is there still a market for a premium GeForce GTX 260-216 though?

MSI N260GTX Lightning Review What's the difference? MSI N260GTX Lightning Review What's the difference?
Click to enlarge - The stock GTX 260 is on the left hand side and the MSI Lighting N260GTX is on the right hand side

As mentioned, the Lightning also features a ten phase power design, a significant jump up from the usual six phase power design of other GTX 260 cards. There are eight phases for GPU and two for the memory, closer to the back of the card, which MSI claims helps better "power supply and stability for overclocking capabilities".

Other than the differences in the power design, the PCBs are more or less the same. MSI has opted for a good selection of ports on the back, with the Lightning featuring a VGA, DVI and HDMI connectors, although who really uses VGA in this day and age we don't know. Just in case you were in any doubt as to who made this card, MSI has also fashioned a custom backplate with the MSI logo cut out as a ventilation hole.

MSI N260GTX Lightning Review What's the difference? MSI N260GTX Lightning Review What's the difference?
Click to enlarge - The stock GTX 260 is on the left hand side and the MSI Lighting N260GTX is on the right hand side

Specification

Being a new GTX 260, the Lightning uses a 216 stream processor, 55nm GeForce GTX 200 GPU. The core specification of the card belies its name somewhat as only a small overclock has been applied to the core while the memory has been left at stock speed so it’s not the fastest out-of-the-box spec going. The core has been bumped from 576MHz to 665MHz while the memory runs at 999MHz (1.998GHz effective). The stream processors run at 1.4GHz, an 162MHz increase over the stock speed of 1.242GHz. These numbers rack up to a memory bandwidth of 112GB/second.

While MSI has chosen not crank the frequency of the memory, they have doubled the amount on the PCB meaning that the Lightning features 1,792MB of GDDR3. This is something of a questionable addition as more memory rarely sees much benefit in terms of real world performance, but it certainly helps make the card stand out from the crowd.
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