One graphics card is not equal to another. That may be obvious when looking at them, but when it comes to all the technical stuff that’s going on between the fans and the backplate, there’s actually a surprising amount of differences.
The GTX 1080 Ti LIGHTNING is a prime example of this, as it is purpose built for extreme overclocking with a few extra’s thrown in for good measure.
Extreme overclocking you say?
My local hardware-savvy friend said that performance differences between different models with the same GPU are very small and overclocking doesn’t really give much extra performance anymore.
Let’s define extreme overclocking. Extreme overclocking is a game in itself, where the goal is to reach high-scores in benchmarks or the highest stable clockspeeds on a specific GPU for example. And by high-scores we mean the highest scores in the world, higher than anyone ever before you. To reach that level of overclocking, the GPU and all components are pushed to the very limits of how fast they can run. Think of it like a racing car and pushing the engine as fast as it can go. This process involves extremely high amounts of electricity being pushed through the card and converted into heat in the process. The graphics card has to be cooled in order not to melt. Because of the sheer amount of heat that is generated by the card during extreme overclocking, air or even water cooling isn’t sufficient. Instead, overclockers use liquid nitrogen or LN2 to cool the cards to sub-zero temperatures. Because of the dangers of working with high-powered setups and liquid nitrogen, it’s only advised to attempt extreme overclocking if you know your stuff.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, I’m sure you can see that there’s quite a difference between Extreme overclocking and installing MSI Afterburner on your own gaming rig to up the frequencies by a few hundred MHz. While the GTX 1080 Ti LIGHTNING still does a better job than almost all other cards thanks to the excellent TRI-FROZR thermal design, the overclocking potential using air coolers isn’t what it used to be.
So what makes LIGHTNING cards the best at extreme overclocking?
Is it the extremely efficient thermal design? Or maybe the pretty Mystic Light RGB or the different colored inlays that we provide inside the box? Nope, all those things are some of the extra’s we’ve thrown in for good measure.
What makes the GeForce® GTX 1080 Ti LIGHTNING cards the best at extreme overclocking are the features embedded into the custom designed PCB.
PCB AND POWER DELIVERY
For starters, the PCB itself is 10 layers thick. This is much thicker than other PCBs and enables us to include more traces for the enhanced power delivery all the components on the graphics card.
Speaking of components, the power delivery part in particular is extremely beefy on the GTX 1080 Ti LIGHTNING with 18 power phases on the board. This is important when it comes to extreme overclocking when the amount of voltage running through the card is far exceeding levels that are considered safe. Spreading this massive voltage across more phases evens out any spikes or fluctuations in the power draw and provides a clean and stable supply of power to the GPU.
Part of this enhanced power delivery design are the highest rated DrMOS modules capable of 60 amps. This might seem like overkill, and it sure is for anything but extreme overclocking. But when you’re pushing the LIGHTNING beyond all known limits, only the best components will do.
At the top of the PCB there’s a tiny switch that enables extreme overclockers to quickly swap from one BIOS to another. Since extreme overclockers tend to use heavily modified or even completely custom written BIOS files during their attempts, this allows for some easy flexibility on the fly.
What’s the main difference between the standard BIOS and one meant for extreme overclocking? Mostly it’s about removing any limitations on voltages that might get in the way.
At the tail end of the PCB you will see some white connectors that you won’t find on any other card. They’re called V-Check Points, where V stands for Voltage. If you’re familiar with software like MSI Afterburner, you’ll know that there are many ways to monitor and even change the voltages being pushed to some of the key components in your PC. During extreme overclocking however, the values being displayed by any software can be very unreliable due to system instability. Applying a little device called a multimeter directly to the board allows overclockers to instantly and reliably measure the power down to a tenth of a millivolt. (depending on how detailed their multimeter is)
And since power is nothing without control, fine-tuning the power delivery is to overclocking what tuning up the engine is to racing cars.