MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Lightning 6GB



1. Introduction

Micro-Star International Co., Ltd or MSI is a Taiwanese multinational information technology corporation founded in 1986, headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan. It designs, develops and provides computer hardware, related products and services, including laptops, motherboards, graphics cards, All-in-One PCs, servers, industrial computers, PC peripherals, car infotainment products, and so on.



Official product link:

2. Packaging and accessories

The GTX 980 Ti Lightning model comes packaged in a large box, for its size. The packaging has a suitcase style and is compartment-ed, thus offering extra protection for the Graphics Card.  On the left side there are printed the name of the Lightning series and its slogan.

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The sides of the packaging presents the features of the product in different languages.


The back of the box presents in detail the product and enumerates the specifications & features of the motherboard.



The product comes with the following accessories:
–    1x Manual
–    1x Driver CD
–    3x V-check Point
–    1x LN2 VRM cooling plate & 4x screws
–    1x SLI Bridge
–    1x 6-pin to 8-pin Power Adapter


3. Specifications

Name: GeForce GTX 980Ti LIGHTNING
Model: GTX 980 Ti
Graphics Processor: GM200
Transistors: 8000M
Shader Units: 2816
Interface: PCI Express x16 3.0
Boost Clock / Base Clock:
1304 MHz / 1203 MHz
6144 MB GDDR5 / 7096 MHz Memory
Memory Size (MB): 6144
Memory Type: GDDR5
Memory Interface: 384 bits
Memory Clock Speed (MHz): 7096 MHz
DVI Connectors: 1 (Dual-link DVI-I), Max Resolution: 2560 x 1600 @60 Hz.
HDMI Connectors: 1 (version 1.4a/2.0) Max Resolution: 4096×2160 @24 Hz (1.4a), 3840×2160 @60 Hz (2.0)
Display Port: 3 (version 1.2) Max Resolution: 4096×2160 @60 Hz
Maximum Displays: 4
HDCP Support: Yes
RAMDAC speed (MHz): 400
DirectX Version Support: 12
OpenGL Version Support: 4.4
Multi-GPU Technology: SLI, 4-way
Card Dimension (mm): 330 x 140 x 53
Card Weight (g): 1365
Power consumption (W): 250
Recommended PSU (W): 600
Power Connectors: 1x 6-pin, 2x 8-pin


–    TriFrozr Thermal Design: To deliver the best possible thermal performance, the new TriFrozr is equipped with three 90mm fans that cool the fin array below it. Designed to disipate 700W worth of heat, the TriFrozr is guaranteed to keep your GPU cool in your quest for maximum performance.
–    Superpipe & Nickel Plated Copper Base: The massive heatsink with countless fins is connected through a number of 8MM thick Super Pipes with a Nickel Plated Copper Base at the heart of the thermal design.
–    TORX Fan Technology: Traditional Fan Blade Maximizes downwards airflow and air dispersion to the massive heat sink below them. The Dispersion Fan Blade intakes more airflow to maximize air dissipation to heat-sink.
–    Designed For Overclocking: Built from scratch and designed to deliver the highest stability when overclocking, the MSI Lightning PCBs are the envy of the industry. This generation uses 16 of the industries’ highest rated DrMOS power phases as part of new groundbreaking Enhanced Power Design, delivering plenty of punch for stable extreme overclocking. Incredibly well designed, it doesn’t require any external modifications to reach world-record breaking performance.
–    Pure Digital PWM Control: Pure Digital PWM Control enables accurate control and monitoring of power delivery to specific key components. Fine-tune each area to find for maximum performance and stability during overclocking sessions.
–    Military Class components: MSI only uses MIL-STD-810G certified components for its Gaming cards because only these components have proven to be able to withstand the torturous circumstances of extreme gaming and overclocking.
–    Mystic Light: Customize and set up your own color scheme with Mystic Light. You can select any of the colors from the palette to match your systems’ design.

4. Visual inspection

The GTX 980 Ti Lightning 6GB model has a unique design with a black – yellow chromatic characteristic of the Lightning series. The front side of the Graphics Card reflects the objective of this line of products by having written on the front of the cooling system the “O.C” abbreviation.
The Graphics Card measures 33cm in length and 14cm in height.

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The Graphics card uses the Tri Frozr cooling system which features 5 heatpipes of different sizes: the main two heatpipes (SuperSU) have a diameter of 8mm while the other two have a diameter of 6mm, also the heatpipes are made out of nickel-plated copper.

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In order to ensure the cooling of the Graphics Card the cooler features a two solid radiators consisted of aluminum fins, due to its construction the cooler takes up three PCIe slots and has a thickness of approximately 50mm.

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The active cooling is ensured by the three 90mm Torx fans, each fan using 14 blades with different shape and sizes. The fans stop spinning when the graphics card is not heavily used.

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On the side there is the name of the Lightning line, it is illuminated by a multicolor LED controlled through the Mystic Light software. The default color of this LED is yellow.

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 The back side of the graphics card is covered by a matte black backplate backplate. On the left side there is the fighter jet, characteristic of the Lightning line.

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The power delivery on the GTX 980 Ti Lightning 6GB model is done through three PCI-Express power connectors: two 8-Pin and one 6-Pin connector, they are positioned on the right corner of the graphics card.


The SLI connector (Four Way SLI) is positioned in the opposite side of the power connectors.


Next to the SLI connectors we find the Bios switch of the board. This switch allows the user to change from the normal Bios destined for use with the graphics card with air cooling to the LN2 Bios meant for extreme overclocking using Liquid Nitrogen.


On the rear of the graphic card we find the following ports:
–    1x DVI (Dual-link DVI-I)
–    1x HDMI (version 1.4a/2.0)
–    3x Display Port (version 1.2)


On the right side of the graphics card there are place the connectors for monitoring the voltages of the GPU, memory and PLL voltage.


Mystic Light is responsible for controlling & customizing the integrated LED of the graphics card offering up to 5 illumination modes and the option of turning off the LED. The colors available for illumination are limitless.


5. Testing

The following system was used to test the graphics card:
–    Processor: Intel i5 4690K @ 3.9 GHz
–    Motherboard: MSI Z97 Gaming 9 ACK
–    RAM: 8GB Crucial Ballistix Tactical
–    SSD: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB
–    HDD: Samsung SpinPoint F3 500GB
–    PSU: Antec Edge 550W Gold + InWin GreenMe 700W Bronze
–    Display: AOC i2769VM
–    Case: Phanteks Enthoo Luxe White
–    OS: Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1

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To test the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Lightning model, the WHQL 362 driver was used, being the latest Nvidia driver available at the time of writing the review.

All the games used to test the graphics cards are set to their highest quality settings with the resolution 1920 x 1080. Both the games and benchmarks used were run three times.
The software used to measure the temperature and frames per second (FPS) are the following:
–    AIDA64 Extreme V5.60.3700
–    GPU-Z 0.8.7
–    MSI Afterburner 4.2.0

The overclocking has been done using the default fan settings.
Each graphic card overclocks differently, thus the results obtained in the review can differ.

In the case of the GTX 980 Ti Lightning model, it achieved a maximum overclock of  1298MHz Base Clock and 2107MHz  Memory.


The test results are as follows:

Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0



Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0 Score



Grand Theft Auto V



The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt



Tomb Raider 2013



Battlefield 3



GRID Autosport



Temp. Performance



The power consumption of the graphics card is measured at the wall socket, the graphic card is powered by a separated Power Supply. The PSU in question consumes 10W.
The Idle tests consists of the system left at the Desktop for 30 minutes, the power consumption is measured during the test.
Full Load: Represents the power consumption of the graphics card while playing a modern video game, in this case the benchmark of Tomb Raider 2013 with the following settings: 1920 x 1080, Ultra Preset, TressFX OFF, 4xAA.
Peak: Represents the power consumption of the graphics card during a synthetic benchmark, in this case FurMark 1.15.1.



The noise level was measured at three different distances from the fans (10cm, 20cm, 30cm.) the noise was measured with a margin of error of ± 5 db.




Full Load



6. Final thoughts

The MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Lightning it is among the best implementations of the GTx 980 Ti model due to its construction, performance and offered options. The TriFrozr cooling system does its job with success the graphics card reaching a maximum temperature of 74°C while the ambient temperature was 20°C, the cooling system being also silent even when the three fans are being used at 70% of their speed. Also the three fans stop when the graphics card is not heavily used, thus the cooling system being subtle.
The performance of the graphics card is excellent and the overclocking is done with ease thanks to its 12 Phase power delivery, the graphics card reached a frequency of 1298MHz on the core and 2107MHz on the memory.
That being said, the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Lightning is destined for extreme overclocking using Liquid Nitrogen and the LN2 Bios, for this MSI includes a metallic plate to cool the VRM in the case of Liquid Nitrogen usage.
In conclusion, the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Lightning is among the best variants of the GTX 980 Ti due to its performance & build quality. The high price of this graphics card is found on the board’s overall package starting from the box which is more a compartmented suitcase to the cooling system and the design of the PCB. We must not forget that this graphics card is aimed at users who want extreme overclocking.
An inconvenient of this graphics card is the side of the cooling system which occupies three PCIe slots.

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