Final thoughts and ratingMSI set out to create the finest Radeon HD 5870 graphics card that money can buy. Based on the fastest single-GPU gaming card at the time of writing, MSI has thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, at the R5870 Lightning.
Starting off with a fully-custom PCB, 15-phase PWM, voltage-monitoring points and twin 80mm fans on top of a large heatsink, the basic ingredients are good. The R5870 Lightning ships with a 900MHz core - 50MHz up from stock - and default-clocked memory, but chances are that the enthusiast will overclock it farther.
Drilling down, the extra components push the power-draw of the card up by 40W when compared with a generic HD 5870. In doing so, the Twin FrozrII cooler has to work harder at keeping the GPU at <80°C, which means it becomes noisy under load as the fans spin up to almost 4,000rpm.
Increase the voltage to 1.25V via the supplied Afterburner utility and the card overclocks to 960MHz core and 5,000MHz memory- the memory speed being shy of what we're used to. The Lightning, which has better-than-average cooling, shows that there really isn't much headroom in the Radeon HD 5870 GPU.
Radeon HD 5870 is a good GPU and MSI benefits from producing a card on a class-leading architecture. But has the company achieved the aim of best HD 5870? Not quite, we feel, as the noisy fans and modest memory overclock are bettered by cheaper custom-designed cards.
£360 is a lot of money to spend in a single graphics card, and whilst MSI's R5870 Lightning really does look the business, there's better value elsewhere.
Lots of thought has gone into the custom design
Core clock of 900MHz is one of the highest we've seen for a Radeon HD 5870
The not so good
Twin fans spin up at a noisy 4,000rpm under load
Stock memory frequency and poor overclocked potential
Doesn't offer a significant increase in performance over a reference card that's £50 cheaper
MSI R5870 Lightning at £360
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