MSI HD5870 Lightning Review
If you are one of those people who only reads reviews of certain products, or dismisses these tweaked models as expensive versions of the reference design, you could be forgiven for wondering why we even bother to test them. After all, we know the Radeon HD5870 is the weapon of choice so why pay the extra for one that's only 50MHz quicker in stock trim?
Of course those of us with experience know exactly why we test them. Sometimes you find an absolute gem and sometimes something you go in expecting to be brilliant proves to be quite underpowered.
Neither of these apply to the MSI R5870 Lightning, but it's not as cut and dried as it might seem.
Performance wise the Lightning is unquestionably better than a stock reference card. Largely thanks to the 50MHz extra core speed, but also the 15-Phase PWM and 2x8-pin PCI-E Power aiding smooth, consistent, power delivery plays a part.
The Twin Frozr cooler also has to be praised for not only looking the part, but being the combination we all love of cool and quiet. Even when we added an extra 0.1v and 130MHz overclock it handled the heat with ease. Despite it being a more open design than we'd have hoped for the little lip at the top rear of the card does assist in exhausting some of the heat out of the rear rather than dumping it all into the case.
So why the hesitation to laud it to the heavens? Firstly the performance, although excellent, isn't as good as our recently reviewed XFX 5870 XXX. Now these were reviewed on different systems and so we are unwilling to be as disappointed as perhaps we ought about the performance of the Lightning.
However, even if they would perform identically on any given day we then have to consider the thorn in the side of all special-edition graphics cards, price. The R5870 Lightning is currently listed at £387.75 on Scan.co.uk. A full £40 higher than the XFX which is overclocked but reference cooled, £70 more expensive than a standard MSI HD5870 and, should a non-reference cooler be your desire, £40 more than the Sapphire Vapor-X.
Of course your extra money does buy high-end capacitors and non-squeal chokes as well as the Twin Frozr cooler, but it doesn't lead to a much higher overclock and nor is the cooler that much more impressive than the excellent reference design.
If it retails about £50 less, we'll happily recommend it. As it stands it's just far too expensive for what you get.
- High-Grade parts throughout
- 900MHz "out the box"
- Looks fabulous
- Even overclocked it doesn't give class-leading performance.
- That price. Eye-watering.