Flashes of MSI's GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z appeared before the graphics card's announcement. Deleted submissions to the HWBOT overclocking community, where enthusiasts around the world compete to squeeze the most performance out of their hardware, offered glimpses at a version of the card with the cooler removed. Luckily the folks at VideoCardz managed to catch some details about the Lightning Z in a bottle.
MSI released the GTX 1080 Ti Lightning Z in late 2017 as a limited edition graphics card meant to let its engineers strut their stuff. It would make sense for the company to develop a similar product based on the RTX 2080 Ti, so even though the company hasn't officially revealed a new Lightning Z, rumors are swirling about a potential announcement at CES 2019. (The trade show runs from January 8-11 in Las Vegas, Nevada.)
The submissions to HWBOT will surely be used to lend more credence to those rumors. But it's worth keeping a few things in mind: the information gleaned from the submissions wasn't independently confirmed, the submissions have since been deleted, and there's no guarantee that MSI plans to reveal the Lightning Z at CES 2019 even if the submissions were legitimate. Don't be shocked if a new Lightning Z isn't announced soon.
Still, it's fun to get a peek at how the product might perform, especially in the hands of overclockers. If the HWBOT submissions from "Gunslinger" and "Littleboy" are to be believed, MSI's top-of-the-line RTX 2080 Ti can hit clock speeds beyond 2,450 MHz. That's nearly double the base clock speed (1,350 MHz) of the Founder's Edition RTX 2080 Ti from Nvidia. (Other cards fare better, but Nvidia's offers a strong baseline comparison.)
VideoCardz said that performance is enabled via liquid nitrogen cooling (per usual) so most enthusiasts won't be able to achieve similar results. Photos of the Lightning Z included in the report show three 8-pin power connectors, and the right side of the board is equipped with its own heat plate and pipe as well as several fan and voltage connectors. The cooler's removal means we don't know exactly how those connectors are used.
We could hear more about the RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z soon. MSI could in fact be gearing up to reveal the card at CES 2019, as the rumors indicate, or it could plan to show off the card at Computex 2019. The card's likely to capture attention either way--the Lightning Z line represents what MSI is capable of when it decides to put its best tech into a graphics card. Let's just hope it doesn't strike our wallets as hard as it does the benchmarks.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.