GTX 1080 Review: Amazing New Nvidia GeForce 4k GPU for Gaming
It seems that it’s finally here, a truly 4K-capable 4K gaming GPU that also doesn’t cost an outright fortune. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 has finally arrived and it really blows away not only the competition but also its own cousins from the same company in terms of raw performance and sheer gaming power at high frame rates in both 4K resolution and Full HD, and we are impressed for sure.
Nvidia is comparing the GTX 1080 to their previous and also monstrously powerful Titan X card, which was up to now what we considered to be the single best 4K gaming GPU on the market but the comparison isn’t entirely on the mark. The 1080 is not only a much more powerful device than even that heavy-duty Maxwell powered monster was, it also costs about $400 less than the X ever did and this is a definite benefit of advancement and price decrease working in tandem for the gaming consumer market. In fact, pricewise and in terms of appearance, the 1080 is more comparable to the GTX 980 Ti and when these two are compared, the improvements from 980ti to 1080 are downright fantastic. While costing only $50 more than the 980, the 1080 delivers a level of performance that’s well beyond the capabilities of its numerical predecessor.
With a new Pascal chipset architecture, massive RAM, extraordinary clock speeds and some massive memory bandwidth, the GeForce GTX 1080 is definitely the ideal 4K PC gamer’s GPU across the board and until AMD releases its own direct competitor to this new processing unit, we have hard time not calling the 1080 the best GPU we’ve seen to-date, especially for 4K graphics processing.
Where to start? Because the Nvidia GTX 1080 is loaded with what we’d definitely call good features.
For starters, this is without a doubt the fastest gaming graphics card currently on sale anywhere. As we already said, it’s not only faster than all current rival cards, it’s also faster by a massive margin than its own predecessors. Measured up against the Nvidia Titan X which was the brand’s previous fastest and most powerful GPU, the 1080 manages as much as 36% more performance in real-world terms an when measured up against the 980Ti which was possibly Nvidia’s second fastest GPU up until recently, the GTX 1080 completely knocks it out of the ballpark with a performance advantage of almost 65%. In basic terms, if you want the single best graphics card on sale right now, the 1080 is your choice without a doubt, at least until we see what AMD pulls out of its magic hat as direct competition.
Aside from raw performance, or perhaps as part of its total quality, the GTX 1080 throws out some truly killer innovations as well. This is the first Nvidia GPU based on the new Pascal chip architecture that Nvidia has invested “billions” in developing. Furthermore, the 1080 is the first GPU to deliver GDDR5X RAM memory technology from Micron as well as being the first ever card to be assembled with a considerably smaller, more efficient TSMC 16nm FinFET manufacturing process.
Furthermore, thanks to these above-mentioned benefits of more efficient manufacturing and the Pascal architecture, the 1080 is also very heat and energy efficient by the standards of its power. The card thus doesn’t need to use nearly as much add-on cooling or electrical power in order to run at full force when compared to previous cards from Nvidia and especially when compared to existing AMD cards, all of which have a tendency to run hotter than their Nvidia counterparts. And to give you an idea of just what kind of power efficiency we’re talking about here, the 1080 comes with only one single eight-pin connecter power connector along its back end with a TDP feed of just 180 watts. Both the Nvidia GTX 980 Ti and the Titan X monster card came with 250W power connections and neither of these cards came close to performing as powerfully as the 1080. This is an impressive Pascal and general design-based improvement indeed.
As we said, the core of this new power and heat efficiency mostly lies in the P104 GPU technology of the 1080, which has been built with a 16nm FinFET process that basically means Nvidia is allowed to cram way more transistors into the GTX 1080 than it could into the 980Ti or the Titan X as well. How many more? Well, 7.2 billion in the 1080 vs. the 5.2 billion into the 980 and this gain is made even more impressive by the fact that the overall space for these transistors has been made smaller as well. This means a better looking, easier to fit overall GPU body and one that uses much less power (as we referred to above) while also producing less heat.
On top of this, the new Pascal architecture may come with the same four Graphics Processing Clusters as the previous Maxwell cards like the 980 but each of these new Pascal GPCs contains a collection of streaming multiprocessors that are bound to a total of 64 Raster Operators, 2MB of L2 cache memory and 10 SMs crammed into each of the four GPCs instead of the 8 in Maxwell chipsets. Each of these Streaming Multiprocessors also contains 128 CUDA cores and eight texture units. In other words, for the GTX 1080, what you get is a total of 2,560 CUDA cores and 160 texture units, which is an enormous gain over the 2,048 CUDA cores and 128 texture units that were the case in the GTX 980.
Then, moving on to the 1080’s memory, as a new Micron GDDR5X design, it delivers 43% more memory bandwidth than what was available in the GTX 980 in raw terms but if you factor in architectural improvements, a new memory compression technology and some other things, then the real memory bandwidth increase for the GDDR5X of the 1080 is more along the lines of 1.7x, and this is indeed impressive.
Then, finally, we really need to cover the clock speeds of the GTX 1080 because they are truly impressive! The base clock of the GTX 1080 sits at a massive 1607MHz and even from this high speed can top out at a whopping 1733MHz with its boost clock. This truly is superb considering that the GTX 980 --which you should remember was until recently considered one of the two or three best GPUs on the consumer market worldwide—could only manage a boost clock of 1216MHz. Thus, we’re talking here about another area in which a solid, hefty performance boost of 43% or more is the case in the new 1080 over its own brand predecessor.
In basic terms, when you combine its amazing Pascal architecture, faster memory, superior memory compression, and those powerful clock speeds, you can see how the GeForce GTX 1080 is definitely a total winner that rushes right past the Titan X, the 980Ti and anything so far released by AMD in sheer performance. In the case of this GPU, Nvidia’s own hype about the GTX 1080 being the “new king” is without a doubt realistic. It’s not mere marketing fluff.
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There really is little that we could call bad about the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics processing unit. I mean, this is without a doubt the best single-core GPU on sale today across virtually all metrics and we strongly suspect that even if AMD comes out with a piece of rival technology soon, it’s at best going to only match the 1080 instead of really outdoing it. Maybe we’re wrong on this but it has been the tendency of AMD competition with Nvidia in our experience to-date.
That said, the 1080 isn’t perfect but if it does have any flaws, they lie more in what could have been made better still instead of anything that’s specifically weak about this card. Thus, while this game delivers 4K gaming at 60fps in pretty much and lower-end and mid-range game, it still doesn’t quite match the requirements of playing the highest-tier game graphics at their highest detail levels at a consistent 58 to 60fps, at least with a single 1080 GPU unit running. Even with a monster like the 1080, this is out of reach and it’s unfortunate. Furthermore, Nvidia has also oddly enough decided to block off three and four-way SLI with the need for an unlock code.
Nvidia’s specific SLI technology for connecting together two or more GPUs is starting to show its age and while Pascal is one very advanced new internal architecture, it still hasn’t done away with the SLI of previous cards from the company. One of the problems with this in the 1080 is that doing an SLI connection of more than two cards is difficult and not particularly functional in a practical gaming sense and secondly, even if you want to bridge together more than two 1080 cards, the default SLI hardware has locked out connections of three cards or more. Thus, things like DirectX 12 games with support for “multi-display adaptor” for controlling multiple different GPUs directly via a game won’t work with the 1080. Getting around this block is possible but it’s also convoluted and tricky, involving the use of older slower bridges than an HB bridge like that recommended by Nvidia itself. In addition to this, users who want to connect three or more 1080’s also need to download an app from Nvidia’s own website for generating a GPU-specific signature for their particular cards. With this signature, you can then request an enthusiast key from Nvidia which will itself then be usable for downloading and unlocking three and four-way functionality for SLI in the 1080.
Does all of this crazy roundabout for three or more-way SLI functionality sound stupidly convoluted? Well yes, because it is and we really have no clue why Nvidia decided to impose it on users of its latest, best and most pro gamer-oriented GPU.
Finally, one further criticism has to be leveled against Nvidia, not regarding the design of the 1080 itself in this case but more so the way in which the company has structured some of its pricing for this card, in effect insultingly taxing early adopters of the 1080 with pointless expenses. In effect Nvidia is punishing early adopters by releasing a so-called “Founders Edition” of the new GPU for $100 more than the retail price of the card in its final form. Despite the fact that the so-called “Founder Edition” is the same essential card as the final release GTX 1080, with only small changes to its external design and a slightly upgraded “five-phase power supply”. Neither of these really justify this extra pricing and we suspect that the only reason Nvidia is pulling the stunt stems from the simple fact that the 1080 has no worthy competition for now. Of course you can always wait to get the cheaper non-founders Edition GTX 1080 soon enough but for those of you who want this GPU as soon as possible, the “Founder’s” version is your only bet for now.
There’s no denying it, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 is without a doubt the single best consumer gaming GPU out there for now and we can’t help but love how close it brings single-GPU gaming to the realm of full 4K gameplay power at 60fps. Even this card doesn’t quite reach [email protected] in the highest possible 4K UHD detail settings in the most graphics-rich games but it comes closer than anything yet has come to doing so and it manages to deliver all this power at a price we consider to be reasonable for what you’re getting in exchange.
• CUDA Cores: 2560
• Texture Units: 160
• ROPs: 64
• Core Clock: 1607MHz
• Boost Clock: 1733MHz
• Memory Clock: 10GHz GDDR5X
• Memory Bus Width: 256-bit
• VRAM: 8GB
• TDP: 180W
• GPU: GP104
• Architecture: Pascal
• Transistor Count: 7.2 billion
• Manufacturing Process: 16nm FinFET
• Launch Date: 05/27/16
• Launch Price $599/$699
As we’d referred to above repeatedly, the Nvidia GTX 1080 is one ridiculously fast GPU thanks to its Pascal architecture. Without a doubt, at least among the current offerings of 4K PC graphics cards, this card completely beats everything else on the market right now. It’s almost 70% faster than its own direct predecessor the 980Ti, at least 30% faster than the Titan X and easily about 50% and 40% faster than AMD’s 390X and Fury X cutting edge GPUs respectively. And this is just the kind of average performance superiority the 1080 offers. If we go into specific examples of performance superiority in particular 4K graphics-capable games at particular detail settings, the capacity of the 1080 can massively outpace that of predecessors or rivals. Thus, for example, when running a game like Rise of the Tomb Raider at a 4K resolution under Very High detail settings, the 1080 delivers frame rate performance that’s a whopping 95.2% superior to that of the GTX 980 and 94.8% better than AMD’s Radeon 390X GPU. These are truly impressive metrics and possible thanks largely to the tremendous overclocking capacity of the card and by the extreme efficiency of its Pascal chip architecture.
In basic terms, even in a single unit configuration, the GTX 1080 is an absolute killer for 1440p gaming at high frame rates (not just normal frame rates but high frame rates) and the best card there is today for serious 4K gaming. For 1080p PC gaming, this card is total overkill under almost any normal circumstances.
Serious Power Efficiency
Despite the immense performance capacity of the GTX 1080 as described above, Nvidia has still packed a huge quantity of power efficiency into the card as well. This translates in practical terms into as much as three times the power efficiency of the next best Nvidia card, the Titan X and just a tiny bit more need for wattage than what is required to run the much weaker GTC 980Ti card (165 watts), with the GTX 1080 running on an 8-pin connector which requires 180 watts of power. That truly is an amazing level of power consumption considering the absolutely top-shelf performance of this card. To give an example of just how good this power spec in the 1080 is, we need only look at the current flagship AMD Fury X, which delivers only a bit over half the performance power of the 1080 but chows down on 276 watts of power while heating up much worse than its Nvidia counterpart.
Awesome New Technology
The fundamental core of why the GTX 1080 can manage all of the above power consumption and performance benchmarks so spectacularly lies in the fantastically advanced new GPU technology that powers the card. After years of 28nm manufacturing for chipsets for both Nvidia and AMD, at least Nvidia has now escaped into 16nm transistor design with the Pascal architecture of the GTX 1080. On top of this, the GTX 1080 Pascal system also packs in performance enhancing 3D FinFET processor features and a new cutting-edge GDDR5X memory technology which is much faster and more efficient than the GDDR5 of the most recent previous AMD and Nvidia GPUs. These technologies mean a massive generational leap in development that translates directly into the far superior speed, performance, graphics processing power and power usage that we’re seeing with the GeForce GTX 1080.
Other new features
While we’re on the highlights of the GTX 1080, we also need to mention a few other software features that have been packed into this GPU. For starters, Nvidia has added in their new “Simultaneous multi-projection” technology to the card, which allows for image improvement in multi-monitor gaming rigs and in-game frame rate performance by rendering the very edges of the display space at lower resolution, thus increasing core FPS performance. Simultaneous multi-projection also improves VR rendering efficiency considerably, at least according to Nvidia.
Additionally, there is a new “in-game 3D camera system” called Ansel which has also been placed in the GTX 1080. This technology allows for pausing a given game, moving the in-game “camera” around the visual environment for a more refined viewing angle and grabbing screen shots which can then also be enhanced with filters, special effects and resolution augmentation. 360 degree bubble screenshots can also be taken inside VR headsets through the new Ansel technology of the GTX 1080.
Finally, the GTX 1080 offer support for HDR and copy-protected 4K streams while also offering Nvidia “Fast Sync” technology for smoothing out tearing in situations where the GPU is putting out hundreds of frames per second on a monitor that only supports a given limited max frame rate. This feature performs tear reduction and frame rate smoothing while at the same time avoiding harmful latency issues.
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Finally, we get down the meaty performance benchmarks of the Nvidia GTX 1080 GPU. Across power consumption, general performance, specific frame rates at different game settings and measurements for noise generation, we can see how the 1080 stacks up against some of its main rivals.
General performance during gameplay
In simple terms, when it comes to gaming at any resolution, the Geforce GTX 1080 is really, really fast, much faster than anything yet put out by Nvidia and far faster than anything we’ve yet seen from AMD as well, with particularly superior energy and heat efficiency over AMD cards especially. This new card’s base clock speed of 1.61 GHz can boost to a whopping 1.73 GHz and is even capable of going beyond that with overclocking kicked into high gear, and aside from these spectacular never before-seen specs, the card offers a fantastic 8 gigs of extraordinarily efficient GDDR5x memory which runs at 10 gigabits per second. Most fundamentally, the card’s Pascal architecture packs a whopping 7.2 billion transistors into a 314 square millimeter space. This is much more impressive than the 8 billion transistors packed into 601 square millimeters into the next best thing from Nvidia, the Titan X.
In other words, the card is insanely powerful when having its performance measures in any major gaming resolution setting, be it 1080p, 1440p or even 4K at high detail levels.
In testing of these following games at all of the three major gaming resolutions, we get an idea of what the GTX 1080 delivers when measured against the competition in terms of a 99th percentile score. That is to say, the following frame rates, unless otherwise stated, show the minimum performance of the GTX 1080 and key competitor GPUs as they operate at least 99% of the time. In even simpler terms, their minimal frame rates for select games during 99% of the time:
• 1080p performance
When it comes to 1080p performance, the GTX 1080 is just ridiculous in the power of its performance, and to a degree that essentially makes this card total overkill for any normal Full HD gaming at any detail settings you can think of. In fact, the only Full HD gamers for which the 1080 would seriously apply might be the high frame rate gaming crowd which wants a GPU that easily reaches the 120Hz or faster mark without breaking a sweat. That’s where the 1080 excels. Across the board, this GPU delivers at least 30 to 35% performance superiority for 1080p gaming over the Titan X or the Nvidia 980 Ti. And when compared to even “weaker” GPUs like the AMD R9 Nano or the 390X from AMD, or even Nvidia’s own 780Ti, the GTX 1080 outdoes these versions by at least 60% and in some cases even as much as 80%.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (1080p)
GTX 1080 overclocked: 98fps (128 fps max)
GTX 1080 normal: 88 fps (123 fps max)
GTX Titan X: 59 fps (98 fps max)
GTX 980 Ti: 67 fps (99 fps max)
AMD Radeon R9 Nano: 35 fps (67 fps max)
Battlefield 4 (1080p)
GTX 1080 overclocked: 135fps (173 fps max)
GTX 1080 normal: 105 fps (155 fps max)
GTX Titan X: 100 fps (128 fps max)
GTX 980 Ti: 73 fps (117 fps max)
AMD Radeon R9 Nano: 64 fps (82 fps max)
• 1440p performance
Moving up to 1440p performance, we’re now dealing with graphics that on any normal-sized PC monitor would be visually indistinguishable from 4K graphics in terms of observable detail. Thus, the 1440p resolution of basic UHD gaming is a great level at which gamers can go beyond Full HD without suffering the slowdown caused by full blown 4K graphics and highest possible detail levels that to date plagues all existing GPU’s (even the GTX 1080 to some degree as we’ll shortly see). That said, while a wide range of graphics cards from both Nvidia and AMD can handle 1440p gaming quite well even if they don’t manage to render high frame rates in full 4K, the GTX 1080 positively excels at this particular resolution, much more than any of its rivals below. Most importantly, at least for a game of Tomb Raider’s caliber, the 1080 consistently manages frame rates of well above 60fps, allowing for some seriously smooth gaming.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (1440p)
GTX 1080 overclocked: 66fps (91 fps max)
GTX 1080 normal: 64 fps (86 fps max)
GTX Titan X: 64 fps (65 fps max)
GTX 980 Ti: 52 fps (65 fps max)
AMD Radeon R9 Nano: 35 fps (51 fps max)
Battlefield 4 (1440p)
GTX 1080 overclocked: 91fps (114 fps max)
GTX 1080 normal: 88 fps (105 fps max)
GTX Titan X: 52 fps (72 fps max)
GTX 980 Ti: 43 fps (75 fps max)
AMD Radeon R9 Nano: 43 fps (57 fps max)
• 4K UHD (2160p) performance
4K UHD gaming is the definite maximum metric of a GPU’s gaming chops and to-date virtually no major GPU we’ve yet looked at manages this resolution at reasonably high frame rates in maximum detail settings. This applies particularly to really graphics intensive gaming. In the case of the GTX 1080, it does the best job we’ve ever seen so far of delivering decent to excellent frame rates in 4K graphics on a 4K PC monitor or PC-connected TV and the GPU manages to reach even as high as 60fps in slightly lower detail levels with some games. None of the existing rival graphics cards can manage the higher frame rates of the GTX 1080 with nearly the same aplomb or consistency.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (2160p)
GTX 1080 overclocked: 36fps (50 fps max)
GTX 1080 normal: 47 fps (34 fps max)
GTX Titan X: 27 fps (38 fps max)
GTX 980 Ti: 25 fps (39 fps max)
AMD Radeon R9 Nano: 16 fps (28 fps max)
Battlefield 4 (2160p)
GTX 1080 overclocked: 47fps (63 fps max)
GTX 1080 normal: 47 fps (56 fps max)
GTX Titan X: 28 fps (40 fps max)
GTX 980 Ti: 29 fps (42 fps max)
AMD Radeon R9 Nano: 20 fps (34 fps max)
As we’d already mentioned above, the GTX 1080 is one absolute winner at power consumption efficiency in general terms. Instead of the 250 watt TDP of the Titan X, the 1080 offers up a total daily consumption of only about 180 watts under normal usage conditions and even with this reduced power consumption, you need to keep in mind that the card is outperforming the Titan X by an average of 35% during daily use. This indeed impressive and is the case largely due to the design specs of the Pascal chip architecture and the new 8GB GDDR5X memory in the GTX 1080.
Even when it comes to intensive daily use, the GTX 1080 is lean on power consumption for all the massive performance it delivers. Thus, the card offers an At-wall daily power draw of just 308 watts under full load conditions (heavy duty gaming usage) and an At-Wall power draw of just 103 watts if kept idle during the day. In comparison, the Titan X draws a hefty 391 watts under load conditions and 113 when idle while AMD’s much weaker Radeon Fury X GPU draws a whopping 410 watts under load settings and about 120 if idle. And with that AMD comparison, bear in mind that the Fury X is one of the competitor brand’s newer, more power-efficient GPUs. Older AMD cards like the much older but still powerful Radeon R9 295X2 Dual Core GPU from late 2014 draw as much as a massive 500 watts per day under load conditions despite offering much weaker performance.
As for recommended power unit specs for the GTX 1080, we’d suggest running this card off a single 600 watt power supply unit if you’re running a single-GPU configuration. If you’re going to take the Dual GTX 1080 SLI route, then go for an 850 to 900 watt power unit.
Heat and Noise generation
Not only is the Nvidia GTX 1080 a lean consumer of electrical power, it’s also remarkably quiet and resistant to heavy temperature rises during prolonged peak performance.
In terms of temperature performance, the GTX 1080 manages to stick to a temperature of just 33 degrees when under idle conditions and even when put under foal gaming load strains, it rarely exceeds a maximum temperature of 77 degrees and it’s average load use temperature reads at right around 68 to 70 degrees C. These temperatures are definitely hotter than some of those we’ve previously seen in Nvidia GPUs like the 980 Ti and the GTX 980 and AMD’s Radeon R9 Fury X GPU competes particularly well against the GTX 1080 in temperature ratings, with an idle temperature of just 26 degrees that rises to only about 50 degrees under full load conditions. However, bear in mind that the GTX 1080 outperforms the R9 Fury X by a solid 45 to 50% in most gaming FPS metrics.
Noise-wise, the Nvidia GTX 1080 is a relatively quiet graphics card with an idle noise level of just 33 decibels and full load average noise level of just 40 decibels. These are impressive figures since they put the card well below the noise levels generated by most other top-shelf, high performance Nvidia or AMD graphics cards. Also, for some idea about what these decibel levels mean, refer to the following:
• Jet takeoff (200 feet): 120 dBA (intolerable noise)
• Shout (5 feet): 100 dBA
• Heavy truck: (50 feet) 90 dBA (Very loud)
• Urban street: 80 dBA
• Normal conversation at 5 feet: 60 dBA
• Office, classroom: 50 dBA (Moderate)
• Living room: 40 dBA
• Bedroom at night: 30 dBA
• Rustling leaves: 10 dBA Barely audible
We can summarize the 4K performance of the Nvidia GTX 1080 as follows: In virtually all cases for any existing game that supports 4K textures and graphics, the new GPU will be able to manage delivery of 4K graphics at above 30fps even when detail is maxed completely out. In many cases, as the metrics for graphics performance show, the card manages to deliver 4K gaming even at up to 60fps or higher in some cases. Essentially, this truly is a 4K gaming GPU and the most capable of all the models from all brands currently available for the consumer gaming market. For Full HD and 1440p gaming, the GTX 1080 simply blows everyone else out of the water and a single unit 1080 can even outperform cards like the GTX 980 Ti when they’re being run in a dual SLI configuration. The same or better applies when the 1080 is placed against lower-powered cards like AMD’s Fury X, R9 Nano or Nvidia’s GTX 980.
The Nvidia GTX 1080 GPU is going on sale for a final price tag of $599, which we consider to be superbly reasonable considering the performance metrics of this cutting edge graphics card. On the other hand, for now, as of the May 27th release date, Nvidia is only releasing a “Founder’s Edition” version that’s only superficially different from the final retail version of the GTX 1080 but ridiculously costs $100 more at $699. We recommend that you wait for the final price tag of $599 instead of purchasing the founders edition. We will update the links as the card becomes available for sale.
4.3 - 527 Reviews
• The best GPU for 4K gaming we’ve yet seen
• Stunning FPS performance in all major resolutions
• Excellent power efficiency
• Decent temperature control
• Quite card, low noise even under load
• Pascal architecture is stunning
• GDDR5X memory is superb
• Pointlessly overpriced “Founder’s Edition” release first
• SLI for three or more cards needs special unlocking
• Still no consistent full detail 4K gaming at 60FPS