Graphics Cards Guide

MSI R6970 Lightning review

MSI R6970 Lightning - Lightning Strikes, Again

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Overall rating 8/10
Loads of high-end components and features
Effective and quiet cooler
Underwhelming performance out of the box


Strictly for Overclockers

Out of the box, the performance of the new R6970 Lightning was pretty disappointing. It started brightly on the two synthetic benchmarks, 3DMark11 and 3DMark Vantage, posting gains of around 5%, but real world applications such as Crysis and Battlefield Bad Company 2, the difference in performance is negligible.

On the upside, the Twin Frozr III cooler proved to be really effective, keeping the card operating at a cool 60 degrees Celsius even at load, an improvement of a whopping 17 degrees Celsius when compared to a reference card. It was also really quiet too, despite the two huge 90mm fans.

Overclocking performance is certainly admirable for a Radeon HD 6970 card. Using MSI Afterburner, we boosted the voltages and managed to run the card stably at 1000MHz at the core and 5600MHz DDR at the memory. These clock speeds gave the R6970 Lightning a more appreciable edge over reference cards, boosting performance in real world applications by around 5%.

What’s important to note is that the aforementioned clock speeds were achieved with the standard Twin Frozr III and with with the fan speed set to “auto” to prevent it from making a ruckus. Therefore, it is highly possible that we could achieve even higher clock speeds if we had a beefier cooling setup. Simply by turning up the fans’ speed a couple of notches alone should suffice even.

At US$400, the MSI R6970 Lightning commands a considerable premium (about US$20) over reference Radeon HD 6970 cards. Hence like the MSI R6950 Twin Frozr III Power Edition we reviewed earlier, the R6970 Lightning is ultimately one for enthusiasts who have the knowledge and tools to unlock the card’s maximum potential.