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Pros: Very impressive cooling design. It is able to keep all the critical components (core, memory, VRM, PCB) within 10 degrees Celsius on full load. Overclocked, my temperatures are all below 65C (20C ambient). Most people are able to overclock this card to 1200MHz to 1350MHz boost on the stock bios. YMMV.
Don't worry about Elpida memory. All the new 780 Lightnings now ship with Hynix memory. You can check for the brand with Nvidia Inspector and just hover your mouse over the GDDR5 section.
The lightning is surprisingly quiet. It's one of the quietest 780's you can buy. However, the middle fan is definitely holding the card back on noise (see cons).
I have to say that the aluminum unisinks, both backplate and frontplate, do their jobs very nicely. I've never had VRM, memory, and PCB temperatures this low on just air cooling.
This card is overkill, and only for those who appreciate overbuilt quality.
Cons: The biggest con is the middle fan. It is by far the loudest fan in my system. The application MSI gives you to control the middle fan is not integrated with MSI Afterburner. Both programs override each other and you have to be very careful on which setting you actually chose. Even worse, there is no possible way to have the middle fan follow a unique fan curve. At idle, every fan in my computer is either spinning at minimum fan duty, or is off. After a gaming session, this fan has a mind of its own and likes to idle at 45% (30% is the minimum fan duty) even if you tell it to stay at 30%. I hope MSI integrates the middle fan control to Afterburner so that it can follow the same custom fan profile you set for the two bigger fans.
Additional facts about the middle fan:
It's an 80mm fan compared to the 90mm side fans (same 90mm fans as the other twin frozr designs). However, it is also a much thinner fan, only about 60% the depth/thickness of the bigger fans. It also has more blades compared to the 90mm ones.
All this means is that the middle fan most likely pushes very little air compared to the side fans. Combined with the fact that there is very little heatsink volume beneath the middle fan, and that the area is fairly restricted in airflow because of the glowing lightning logo is blocking half the exhaust, I am fully convinced that the middle fan is just for looks. It doesn't actually do much for cooling and pretty much all it does is make extra noise. I am very tempted to just unplug the middle fan header.
Other Thoughts: MSI, please, for the love of quietness and performance, just make your TriFrozr designs in the future have triple 90mm fans and have them run off the same fan controller. It saves a lot of programming headache while being quieter.
And for the rest of us who bought the 780 Lightning, please integrate the middle fan controller to MSI Afterburner so we can use the same custom fan profiles.
Pros: Great custom pcb. The voltage is unlocked, but you have to use Sapphire's overclocking utility to have access to it. Despite what's shown in the pictures, I received a model with dual 8 pin power connectors. MORE POWER! I was able to get 1150MHz core and 1600MHz memory on stock voltages.
Cons: The vapor-x cooler has some very loud fans. Even after modifying the max duty to 50%, it is still noticeably louder than other cooling solutions from MSI, GIGABYTE, or ASUS. At stock fan configurations, the card stayed under 65C, but after adjusting the fans to an acceptable noise level, I would get peak temperatures around 72C.
Other Thoughts: Vapor chamber is gimicky especially considering that you are still using heatpipes to transfer the heat. It's probably why the newer Sapphire designs no longer have a vapor chamber.READ FULL REVIEW
Pros: Best bang for your buck. It comes very close to the best thermal compounds out there for a dramatically lower cost. Spreads very easily. At this level of performance, it matters more on how you apply the thermal paste.
Cons: Package says this stuff is toxic and can kill fish. Just don't dump it down your sink.READ FULL REVIEW