MSI RTX 2080Ti Lightning Review
We spoke at the start about how famous the MSI Lightning is and how strong the branding is. An endless parade of high quality hardware that pushes the boundaries of the GPU will always be attractive, and although the Lightning has always come with a price premium the build quality and performance has always been premium enough to justify it.
So did the RTX 2080Ti Lightning carry on this trend? Unquestionably.
One thing will have been staring you in the face as you read the many pages that form this review, and that's the image at the top of this page. Just look at it. Carbon fibre finishes can be in danger of becoming tacky if they aren't done well, largely because it became very popular and even the cheapest things from your local pound shop can have a carbon finish. However, with the Lightning being a distinctly premium product the carbon looks much more like the type of weave you'd find on your McLaren which just reminds us of why the carbon look proved so desirable. Additionally MSI should take a lot of credit for managing to have gold accents that actually look like gold, rather than a sort of yellow or, worst still, the buff manila envelopes that remind us of our tax obligations. Much like carbon, adding gold to things is something which usually ends up doing the exact opposite of its intended effect, namely to make something look more exclusive. But put in the time and effort at the design stage, as MSI have clearly done, and the idea of a carbon frame with gold highlights doesn't seem as chintzy in reality as it might on paper. When you further push the boat out by utilising extremely trick fans with RGB lighting you end up with a card which scores extremely highly in 'want factor' and that's without taking into account the very useful and customisable OLED display that forms the spine of the RTX 2080Ti Lightning, or the all black endplate which will perfectly harmonise with your case. Everywhere you look you see a quality idea carried out to an extremely exacting standard which leaves you with a sense of satisfaction before you have even plugged it into your system.
Once you do plug it in then the aesthetic considerations which are all well and good become secondary to the performance. That is why we're all here after all. Like any other product graphics cards live and die by their capability to fill our vision with jaw-dropping visuals. Having a tower that looks great is one thing, but if it takes 5 minutes to boot to Windows and gives you 20 FPS at 1080P then all those looks are for nothing. At stock it utilises its hefty factory overclock and fantastic cooler to regularly boost to the top of the stock cards in our graph, and often can be found mixing it with the overclocked ones. However, overclocking really makes the RTX 2080Ti Lightning shine with, ahem, thunderous performance levels. Even the very best hardware can slip from the top of our graphs at times, and with the tremendous consistency of the Nvidia Turing GPUs a variety of placings is to be expected as mere tenths of a frame can shuffle the pack. The MSI Lightning was so far ahead of the rest though that it was at the top of all but a couple of our graphs. It's an absolutely jaw-dropping card. As if the RTX 2080Ti wasn't impressive enough MSI have somehow squeezed even more performance out of it, enough to place it ahead of premium models from other partner manufacturers.
There are a couple of negatives in our eyes though, the first and the largest is the software to control the lights is far too bugger and if you switch your PC off at the wall after your fragging session all your choices get reset (no idea why). If you want to set a static colour for the lighting on the side and back you have to apply it (it wont change) then restart your system and when you reopen tge 'Mystic Light' app it will then (and only then) apply your static colour choice. Second is that while gold is a premium colour and adored in many countries for a card costing this much having some colour choice stickers or clip on panels would have made a world of difference. Third is the yellow on the fans thus ruining the lighting on them for anyone that doesnt want them on white looking like you have some kind of gold fan running. The accents should have been something subtle like grey to work with any lighting choice but still looking subtle when off. We know full well yellow was the old Lightning colour of choice but it limits the possible system matching opportunities that could have been achieved so very easily.
With a seriously high standard of build quality only let down by poor software but sufficient performance to flatten the opposition, the MSI RTX 2080Ti Lightning carries on the proud name of its predecessors and wins our OC3D Performance Award.