Introduction and Specifications
A funny thing happened during the course of this article—life got in the way. And in the few weeks that things were delayed, the PC graphics landscape changed dramatically. A couple of weeks before NVIDIA unleashed the GeForce GTX 580 onto the world, MSI and Gigabyte readied a pair of the most innovative GeForce GTX 480 cards to hit the market. Not only were the cards factory overclocked, but they featured custom coolers, re-worked PCBs, and hardcore, enthusiast-class features not found on any other GTX 480.
MSI and Gigabyte sent us these custom GTX 480s, and just before putting the finishing touches on the piece, my wife went into labor, the GeForce GTX 580 hit, a few other launches needed coverage (including the just released GTX 570), and badabing badaboom, here we are today.
Fortunately for you, this additional lead-time helps paint a more complete picture of the high-end graphics card market. Unfortunately, for MSI and Gigabyte, the release of the GeForce GTX 500 takes some of the luster from these cards. But the MSI N480GTX Lightning and Gigabyte GeForce GTX 480 Super Overclocked (SOC) Edition are still very interesting products, especially if you’re on the fringe and are one of those truly hardcore enthusiasts that love to push their rigs to the limit. Let us explain...
MSI and Gigabyte take a somewhat different approach in their custom GeForce GTX 480 designs. Gigabyte opted to push GPU clocks as high as possible, while MSI was more conservative on their GPU core overclock, but took the memory a bit higher. Interestingly enough, even with a lower-clocked core, the MSI card is able to pull ahead of Gigabyte’s offering in a couple of tests, as you’ll see little later.