Radeon HD 5770, Radeon HD 4890, And GeForce GTX 275 Overclocked

MSI N275GTX Lightning Squanders Functionality

Click the image below to launch the image gallery of the MSI GeForce GTX 275 Lightning.

In order to better explain this page's title, it helps to go back and compare MSI’s current Lightning model with its GeForce GTX 260 version (we'll go ahead and do that for you in a moment). For now, let’s examine what the NGTX275 Lightning brings to the table. For starters, the card sports a cooler with two 75mm fans. Thanks to this departure from the reference design, the card is actually quieter than the standard models, despite the fact that it offers better performance. MSI has also equipped the card with read points. with which you can measure the GPU and memory voltage. This model doesn’t come with an Air Panel. Instead, all overclocking is handled through a utility called Lightning Afterburner.

That brings us to the card’s weaknesses. The Lightning Afterburner tool lacks a separate setting for shader frequency, which is a painful omission. Unlike ATI cards, where the shader clock is sync'ed to the GPU frequency, Nvidia cards can benefit greatly from selective tweaking in this area, squeezing out additional performance. Another point of feedback: whenever it is launched, MSI’s overclocking utility shows a pop-up, warning users that employing the software to overclock the graphics card may damage the hardware. An overclocked OC Edition that cautions users about overclocking? This is a strange brand of logic verging on the schizophrenic.

While it may sound like we’re splitting hairs here, this isn’t the case. That pesky pop-up provides no information at all. It doesn’t explain that the warranty may be voided (or, indeed, what that may mean), nor does it tell you what range of frequencies MSI considers safe and acceptable (or even covered by the company's guarantee). What’s more, while memory speed is capped at 1,200 MHz, the tool lets you set the GPU core to a completely unrealistic 1,000 MHz. Thus, what was a cool feature on the GTX 260 Lightning turns into a feature that tempts fate (and a voided warranty).

As an OC edition, the NGTX275 Lightning comes factory-overclocked. While Nvidia’s specifications call for 644/1,404/1,134 MHz (GPU/shader/memory) settings, MSI sets its card to 700/1,404/1,150 MHz in the card’s BIOS. Thus, the Lightning doesn’t rely on a driver for its pre-overclocked speeds. The Lightning Afterburner tool comes with three presets called Default, Power Saving, and Game, with Game corresponding to the factory overclocked frequencies. Default, meanwhile, sets the card to Nvidias reference clock speeds, basically underclocking the OC card. Again, MSI’s little pop-up comes back to haunt us. If you don’t need the card running at full speed and want to set it to Power Saving or Default speeds (or even just launch the card’s fan speed utility), up comes the alert message warning users of possible damage to their hardware (when underclocking, no less). We wonder what less experienced users will make of this.

  • amdgamer666
    Nice article. Ever since the 5770 came out I've been wondering how far someone could push the memory to relieve that bottleneck. Being able to push it to 1430 allows it to be competitive to it's older sibling and makes it enticing (with the 5700 series' extra features of course)
  • Onyx2291
    Damn some of these cards run really well for 1920x1200 which I run at. Could pick up a lower one and run just about anything at a decent speed if I overclock well. Good ol charts :)
  • skora
    If you're trying to get to the next cards performance by OCing, shouldn't the 5850 be benched also? I know the 5770 isn't going to get there because of the memory bandwidth issue, but you missed the mark. One card is compared to its big brother, but the other two aren't.

    I am glad to see the 5770 produce playable frame rates at 1920x1200. Nice game selection also.
  • quantumrand
    I'm really disappointed that they aren't any benchmarks from the 5870 or 5850 series included. Why even bother with tha GTX 295 or 4870x2 and such without the higher 5-series Radeons?

    I mean if I'm considering an ATI card, I'm going to want to compare the 5770 to the 5850 and 5870 just to see if that extra cost may be justified, not to mention the potential of a dual 5770 setup.
  • presidenteody
    I don't care what this article says, when the 5870 or 5970 become available i am going to buy a few.
  • kartu
    Well, at least in Germany 4870 costs quite a bit less (30-40 Euros) compared to 5770. It would take 2+ years of playing to compensate for it with lower power consumption.
  • kartu
    "Power Consumption, Noise, And Temperature" charts are hard to comprehend. Show bars instead of numbers, maybe?
  • arkadi
    Well that put things in prospective. I was really happy with 260gtx numbers, and i can push my evga card even higher easy. To bad we didn't see the 5850 here, it looks like the optimal upgrade 4 gamers on the budget like my self. Grade article overall.
  • B16CXHatch
    I got lucky with my card. Before, I had a SuperClocked 8800GT from EVGA. I ordered a while back, a new EVGA GeForce GTX 275 (896MB). I figured the extra cash wasn't worth getting an overclocked model particularly when I could do it myself. I get it, I try to register it. The S/N on mine was a duplicate. They sent me an unused S/N to register with. I then check the speeds under one utility and it's showing GTX 275 SuperClocked speeds, not regular speeds. I check 2 more utilities and they all report the same. I had paid for a regular model and received a mislabeled SuperClocked. Flippin sweet.

    Now they also sell an SSC model which is overclocked even more. I used the EVGA precision tool to set those speeds and it gave me like 1 or 2 extra FPS is Crysis and F.E.A.R. 2 already played so well without overclocking. So overclocking on these bad boys doesn't really do much. Oh well.

    One comment though, GTX 275's are HOT! Like, ridiculously hot. I open my window in 40 degree F weather and it'll still get warm in my room playing Team Fortress 2.
  • With the 5970 out there seems to be nothing else about graphic cards that interests me anymore :D Its supposed to be the fastest card yet and beats Crysis too!