During the MSI Overclocking Arena 2010 Grand Finals held in National Taiwan University Sports Center, MSI finally unveiled N480GTX Lightning. This card is everything but your standard GTX 480…

Not your everyday GTX 480...
Not your everyday GTX 480…

As every Lightning card so far, the board is built for overclocking. First Lightning board, the N260GTX Lightning reached 1.1GHz, N275GTX Lightning reached 1.3GHz, which is still the fastest air-cooled clock. Their first board based on AMD Cypress GPU, the R5870 Lightning broke no less than nine world records and now, with N480GTX based on 480 core version of GF100, MSI is hyping that the series is ready for another world record breaker.

Changes are numerous – MSI is using a five heat-pipe design cooling down the GPU, memory and power regulation at once, with dual 9cm PWM fans. According to MSI, this is a 40% improvement in airflow over the R5870 Lightning.

The PCB is built from the ground up and it uses dedicated capacitors for the GPU [three Proadlizer4, WRA 2Ro102 chips] and the memory [single Proadlizer4], and as you might have guessed – power delivery is completely separate for the GPU and the memory. 16-phase power design is something we’re usually seeing on motherboards, not GPUs.

16-Phase, "Power4" Architecture is something unseen on graphics cards... until now.
16-Phase, "Power4" Architecture is something unseen on graphics cards… until now.

GPU can eat up to 300W on its own, thanks to two 8-pin power connectors, while the memory gets dedicated 75W via a 6-pin power connector, and there is also 75W coming in from the motherboard. Grand total: 450 Watts for a single graphics card! You can also use 8+6+6 combination. This board is nothing short of an equivalent to Formula One cars in automotive industry. Street-legal cars – Zonda or a Koenigsegg. If it breaks a few records, we can talk about being "Veyronesque".

The look on the bare naked PCB - as you can see, numerous changes when compared to the reference design
The look on the bare naked PCB – as you can see, numerous changes when compared to the reference design

Overclocking wise, N480GTX Lightning features also V-Check points and V-Switches, i.e. open contacts for measuring Voltage and changing the voltage on a PCB level. There is also Dual BIOS, which MSI touts as being designed for LN2 cooling, PWM clock tuner to tuning the digital power regulation from 260MHz all the way to 350MHz [ripple elimination], and of course, you can unlock OCP from 320A to extremely high current. How many? Sky is the limit.

The end result is not as impressive as it seems: 750MHz for the GPU, 1.5GHz for cores, and 1GHz QDR for the memory [4 GT/s], for 192GB/s of bandwidth. Recently, we received an GTX 480 from EVGA that carried the same clocks, but overclocking capabilities should really show true colors of the part.