Manufacturer:MSI UK Price (as reviewed): £210 inc VAT US Price (as reviewed): TBC
MSI's N260GTX Lightning featured plenty of innovation. Amongst the long list of tweaks and refinements you'd find over and above that on a stock GTX 260 were solid state iron chokes and all solid capacitors that stopped that dreaded squealing noise in games, complete custom cooling and an updated row of eight power phases. The aim of all this expensive circuitry is to provide a more capable PCB for overclocking, which itself demands stable power. And lots of it.
However, while there were benchmarks broken with the GTX 260 Lightning in programs like 3DMark and FutureMark, it's questionable that soldering all these extra pieces of silicon onto what is essentially a mid range graphics card offered genuine appeal, considering the price. Indeed our analogy was that it's a bit like spending a couple of grand on chrome rims and a tuning kit for an Austin Allegro and then reselling it as a product for car enthusiasts. It will be the fastest Allegro, but for the money, why not go buy something better anyway?
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Well if the GTX 260 is an Austin Allegro, the GTX 275 is more of a Golf GTI, which can at least managed playable framerates in Crysis in DX10 at 1,680 x 1,050 4xAA 16xAF where the GTX 260 practically grinds to a halt. More importantly, all this extra gadgetry might at last come into its own. With double the RAM of a standard GTX 275 – 1,792MB in all and with MSI's claim that at stock speed, the NGTX275 Lightning is faster than a GTX 285, a bit of extra tweaking could result in one of the fastest single core graphics cards sitting in your PC.
There's also GPU and memory V-Check points - small jumper-like pins on the PCB which allow easy voltage reading with a multimeter and MSI includes their Lightning Afterburner overclocking utility too - more on that later. What is absent though is the AirForce Panel which was included with the N260GTX Lightning, but that's no real loss as we found it to be mostly style over substance compared to something like RivaTuner.
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The box again features the F-35 Lightning II but as we alluded to last time, we suspect this is to take advantage of the cool sounding name and striking silhouette of a modern warplane rather than Lockheed Martin (who make the F-35) adding its expertise to the equation. In addition, the F-35 is famous for its ability to take off vertically rather than being particularly fast or manoeuvrable. Inside it is a PCI-E to molex power adapter, HDMI cable, DVI to HDMI adapter and a DVI to D-Sub adapter along with an SPDIF audio cable for HDCP compatibility.