Features And Pictures
Front and Rear Views
The front of the card is dominated by three fans. The black 90 mm fans on the left and right are controlled as a pair, but the yellow 74 mm cooler in the middle can be controlled independently. As mentioned, MSI's bundled disc comes with software that lets you manually configure fan profiles.
Unfortunately, the latest beta build of AMD's Catalyst driver introduces a bug that prevents MSI's Advanced Fan Control (AFC) feature from working. Older versions of Catalyst don't have this problem, and AMD tells us that the bug will be fixed soon.
A massive back plate and the frame on top sandwich the PCB and prevent it from flexing.
Cooler and PCB
The CPU is covered by a massive heat sink; two 8 mm and three 6 mm heat pipes draw heat from the GPU and dissipate it through the vertically-oriented cooling fins, which are split into left and right sections.
Most DC-DC converters and some of the DRAM packages are cooled by the massive mounting frame. Those that aren't transfer heat directly to the sink through thermal pads.
When you remove the frame (to install a water-cooling block, for instance), you can use the aforementioned plate to offer some cooling relief to the DC-DC converters. It's not clear whether that's enough to maintain stability, or if you also need some active cooling across the card.
On top of the card, there are the vertical cooling fins, the back-lit Lightning logo, and three auxiliary power connectors. Technically, two eight-pin plugs would have been enough for AMD's Hawaii GPU. We're getting ahead of ourselves, though...
The bottom view gives us a peek at how the heat pipes route from the heat sink's base to its cooling fins.
Because the fins are oriented vertically, looking in from the end of the card presents you with a limited view. Though, there are the three headers for the cooling fans.
The I/O bracket is only two slots wide, even though the card occupies three expansion slots worth of space on your motherboard. Perhaps MSI should have gone all the way and used a three-slot bracket for additional bracing.
There's nothing new in the connector department. You get two dual-link DVI-D outputs, HDMI, and full-sized DisplayPort. We're happy to see vendors like MSI ditching VGA altogether.
MSI 290x Lightning $699.99 + $4.99 shipping
Sapphire 290x Tri-X OC $649.99Sapphire 290x Tri-X $639.99Gigabyte 290x Windforce $579.99 ($549.99 after rebate)
This makes the Lightning $125 ($155 after rebate) more expensive than the Windforce. MSI is really stretching the price here.
Got to agree that the Tri-X seems a better value proposition
The main aspect of a GPU and its most important job is to make games run smooth.
In this review there is only a Performance ratio chart. This does not give the important data at all.
I dont care if that GPU has 80 or 85 FPS in farcry3, but I Do care if it has 25 or 30 on more demanding games/settings.
Finally, this card seems like itsmissing its purpouse a bit.
It has a huge heatsink, but dosent actually run cool or quiet.
It has an OC that is decent but dosent increase performance that much.
You could water cool that GPU for a similar price and get better performance in every aspect as long as you are willing to have a loop in your PC.
"I hereby declare this video card to be of the utmost quality and thereby further and henceforth declare this same electronic device to be 101% stable to the fullest of my capabilities to determine it as such. Sincerely, Your Mom".
Definitely something to frame and hang on your wall above the monitor.
If you're just going for overkill, I want to see one of these with phase change cooling. It can't cost that much more, can it?