MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z 11 GB Graphics Card Review – The Card That Goes SHAZAM!



MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z

January, 2019
Type Graphics Card
Price $1599.99 US

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z Closer Look + Teardown

MSI's GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z is one of the biggest graphics Turing based graphics card I am testing. It's mighty in size and weight compared to the Gaming X Trio with a weight of 1852 G and dimensions of 328 x 143 x 63. The card is a triple slot behemoth and requires a lot of space.

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You would have to keep in mind the height when going for a triple card solution as your case or motherboard PCIe slot combination may not allow such setup. The cooling shroud extends all the way to the back of the PCB and it requires a casing with good interior space for proper installation.

The back of the card features a solid backplate which looks stunning and offers a premium look. There's a lot of nifty features about this backplate including the full carbon fiber design which I'll explain in a bit.

In terms of design, we are looking at an updated version of the Frozr heatsink for MSI Lightning cards which is now in its tenth variation. The first variation started off with the GTX 260 Lightning. The Tri Frozr heatsink was introduced back in 2013 with the GTX 780 Lightning and that makes it the fourth Tri Frozr iteration for Lightning graphics cards.

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Compared to all previous designs, the MSI RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z is the greatest one with the main changes being the updated shroud and triple slot heatsink design that features an aggressive design on the front, absorbing the gold and black accents with 90% carbon fiber body while having the RGB Lightning effects across the shroud.

Coming to the fans, the card actually features two different fan designs based on the Torx 3.0 system. All three fans combine traditional and dispersion fan blade technology to offer better cooling performance.

The dispersion fan blade technology has a steeper curved blade that accelerates airflow and as such increases effectiveness in keeping the GPU cool. All fans deploy double ball bearing design and can last a long time while operating silently.

MSI also features their Zero Frozr technology on the Tri Frozr heatsink. This feature won’t spin the fans on the card unless they reach a certain threshold. In the case of the Tri Frozr heatsink, that limit is set to 60C. If the card is operating under 60C, the fans won’t spin which means no extra noise would be generated. One thing I noted is that while this feature is definitely available on the card, it isn't enabled by default and you have to switch to the LN2 BIOS mode to enable ZeroFrozr which is a bit confusing.

Gone is SLI and now we have the latest NVLINK gold finger connectors. The RTX 2080 comes with a single NVLINK connector which allows for 2-Way multi-GPU functionality. The RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080 are the only cards to support NVLINK connectivity so multi-GPU is only for the high-end spectrum of cards and for good reason. Only these cards have enough bandwidth that can drive another GPU of their tier as anything below wouldn't have the power to interlink to the other card.

A single x8 NVLINK channel provides 25 GB/s peak bandwidth. There are two x8 links on the TU102 GPU and a single x8 link on the Turing TU104 GPU. The TU102 GPU features 50 GB/s of bandwidth in parallel and 100 GB/s bandwidth bi-directionally. Using NVLINK on high-end cards would be beneficial in high-resolution gaming but there’s a reason NVIDIA still restricts users from doing 3 and 4 way SLI.

Multi-GPU still isn’t optimized so you won’t see much benefits unless you are running the highest end graphics cards. That’s another reason why the RTX 2070 is deprived of NVLINK connectors. The NVLINK connectors cost $79 US each and are sold separately. Currently, only NVIDIA is selling them as the AIB cards don’t include any such connectors but that may change once the standard is adopted widely.

With the outsides of the card done, I will now start taking a glance at what's beneath the hood of these monster graphics card. The first thing to catch my eye is the huge fin stack that's part of the beefy heatsink which the cards utilize.

The heatsink has been designed to be denser by using a rugged edge fins design. It allows more air to pass through the fins smoothly, without causing any turbulence that would result in unwanted noise. Airflow Control Technology guides the airflow directly onto the heat pipes, while simultaneously creating more surface area for the air to absorb more heat before leaving the heatsink.

Talking about the heatsink, the massive block is comprised of 2x 8mm and 6x 6mm concentrated copper squared shaped heat pipes with a more concentrated design to transfer heat from the copper base to the heatsink more effectively. The base itself is a solid nickel-plated base plate, transferring heat to the heat pipes in a very effective manner. To top it all off, MSI uses their exclusive Thermal Compound X which is said to offer higher thermal interface and heat transfer compared to traditional TIM applications.

The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z is ultimately designed for LN2 overclockers and as such, it features a very power hungry design. Being so, it uses a very power-intensive connector config which comprises three 8 pin connectors. The card is rated at a TDP of 300W officially by MSI.

I/O on the graphics card sticks with the reference scheme which includes three Display Port 1.4a, a single HDMI 2.0b and a single USB Type-C port for VirtualLink connectivity to high-end HMD (Head Mounted Displays).

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z PCB Teardown

MSI makes use of a 19 phase PWM design that includes their Military Class components such as Hi-C Caps, Super Ferrite Chok, s and Japanese Solid Caps. The card also uses the K4Z80325BC-HC14 GDDR6 memory from Samsung that operates at 14 Gbps along a 352-bit wide memory interface.

Following are a few close-up shots of the reference PCB which is being offered under the hood of the Lightning Z series graphics cards.

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z Mystic Light RGB and Dynamic Dashboard

MSI RTX 20 Lightning series cards utilize their Mystic Light RGB technology to offer you a visually pleasing lighting experience on your graphics cards. There are a total of 17 different RGB effects which you can choose from and the cards have five RGB accent points, three on the front one on the back and one light bar surrounding the side of the card which looks really good. There's also the ability to set the speed and brightness at which the RGB LEDs operate.

You can fully customize the RGB lights to your preference using the MSI Mystic Light application from MSI’s web page.

Following is what the graphics card looks like when lit up.

The card also comes with MSI's first OLED panel known as the Dynamic Dashboard. I am looking at this trend on the new GeForce RTX 20 series cards where manufacturers have started using OLED screens on their flagship custom cards to display real-time statistics such as GPU frequency, temp, voltages, memory clocks, GPU/VRAM utilization, etc. This is a really cool feature and something that does have many practical uses if you're not monitoring the statistics already through a 3rd party software such as MSI afterburner.

The Dynamic Dashboard is fully customizable through the MSI Mystic Light software. The Dynamic Dashboard can display Temperature Animation, Lightning animation, Fan Speed, GPU Temp, GPU clocks, Memory usage or you can also select from a pre-defined user-profile. The Dashboard can also be entirely disabled as per your preferences.

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