MSI GTX 780 Lightning 3 GB 48

MSI GTX 780 Lightning 3 GB Review

Temperatures & Clock Profiles »


The overclocking results listed in this section were achieved with the default fan and voltage settings as defined in the VGA BIOS. Please note that every single sample overclocks differently which is why our results here can only serve as a guideline for what you can expect from your card.

On NVIDIA cards with boost, the values discussed here are base clock. Boost will further increase clocks.

Maximum overclock on our card is 1120 MHz GPU base clock (14% overclocking) and 1710 MHz memory (14% overclock).

The Lightning easily ends up with the highest GPU overclock of all GTX 780s we tested so far. I suspect MSI is picking the best GPUs they receive from NVIDIA for their Lightning series. Memory on the other hand overclocked quite poorly because of the Elpida memory chips used, which will cost you roughly 100 MHz compared to cards with Hynix or Samsung memory.

Maximum Overclock Comparison
Max. GPU ClockMax. Mem Clock
MSI GTX 780 GAMING1020 MHz1765 MHz
ASUS GTX 780 DC II1090 MHz1855 MHz
EVGA GTX 780 SC1065 MHz1855 MHz
GIGABYTE GTX 7801035 MHz1850 MHz
NVIDIA GTX 7801050 MHz1865 MHz

Important: Each GPU (including each GPU of the same make and model) will overclock slightly
differently based on random production variances. This table just serves to provide a list of typical
overclocks for similar cards, determined during TPU review.

Overclocked Performance

Using these clock frequencies, we ran a quick test of Battlefield 3 to evaluate the gains from overclocking.

Actual 3D performance gained from overclocking is 14.0%.

Voltage Tuning

It has been a long-known fact that overclocking headroom increases with more operating voltage. Software voltage control has until recently been rare on graphics cards, and most users were not willing to risk their warranty by performing a soldering voltmod, but almost all current cards use voltage control to lower power consumption by throttling voltage in idle and low load.

In this section, we will increase the GPU operating voltage step by step before recording our maximum possible clock speed. Voltage listed is not actual measured voltage but the voltage regulator's reported value through software. The card has also been installed into a case with fan settings at default, memory will not be overclocked, and a card with thermal throttling will have its operating frequency reduced to keep performance as high as possible at any given voltage. Please note that the fan profile will have an effect on observed temperatures: If the card gets hot, the fan will ramp up to reduce temperatures or keep them from rising too fast.

The following graph shows our sample's overclocking potential. GPU clock is represented by the blue line using the vertical clock scale on the left. The scale starts at the default clock to give a feel for the card's overclocking potential over its base clock. Temperature is plotted in red using the °C scale on the right side of the graph. An additional graph shows full system power draw in orange, measured at the wall socket while running the given voltage, clock, and temperature.

First of all, voltage increases yield some very nice clock improvements that are almost linear, but NVIDIA's many stop gaps made things much more complicated than on AMD cards. Once we exceeded 1.20 V, we had to increase the card's power limit (maximum is 109%, but a BIOS update promises 112%), which had the card crack 1.25 V repeatedly, going beyond the 109% limit. We were then forced to switch to the LN2 BIOS which ups the power limit yet again. However, 1.30 V triggered NVIDIA's Boost 2.0 technology because the card reached 80°C, which reduced clock speeds to 980 MHz (the base clock). We tried increasing the temperature target, but doing so didn't appear to allow for higher clocks.

At this point you would have to use watercooling or LN2 to keep temperatures down for further clock and voltage increases, or do some BIOS modding. Our data even suggests that the MSI GTX 780 Lightning could reach well over 1200 MHz base clock when cooled properly, which should translate into a maximum clock of over 1350 MHz.
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