Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti: Australian Review

These days, 1080p is so passe. I don’t even get out of bed for anything less than 1440p. But 4K, now, that’s where it’s at. My new TV is 4K, my next monitor will probably be 4K. 4K is the future, for everything from Netflix to gaming. But gaming at 4K requires a gutsy PC, and that means investing in some top of the line hardware. Want to play the latest games at 4K? Nvidia has got you covered with the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, a graphics card with a significant jump in power from even last year’s already-barnstorming GTX 1080.

What Is It?

The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
is a $1099 graphics card, the newest in Nvidia’s stable of high-performance GPUs using the latest Pascal graphics architecture. Pascal is more powerful than last generation’s Maxwell design while also being more energy efficient: that’s what makes the GTX 1080 Ti significantly more powerful for its 250 Watt rated power consumption compared to the GTX 980 Ti, a card that consumes the same amount of energy and runs just about as hot. How much more powerful, though? Oh, anywhere between twice and three times as fast. For the same power. That’s awesome.

Under the hood, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti’s GP102 graphics processor runs at a base clock of 1481MHz and a boost clock of 1582MHz — lower than the GTX 1080’s cut-down GP104’s processor clocks, but faster than the identically-chipped GTX Titan X. It has an identical number of CUDA cores — 3584 — and texture units — 224 — to the Titan X, but cedes only slight ground with 88 ROPs versus the Pascal X’s 96 and a slightly narrower 352-bit memory bus. One note on those clockspeeds, too — starting with the GTX 1080, Nvidia’s graphics cards have very complex parameters by which they dynamically boost their own clocks up to and in excess of that boost clock number, so you might see even higher digits under certain loads.

There are a host of microarchitecture upgrades that maker the 1080 Ti more efficient than the 980 Ti and more powerful than the 1080 too, but one important upgrade is the move to second-generation GDDR5X memory: 11GB of it, running at 11Gbps — that’s a big boost from the 8GB of 10Gbps GDDR5X on the GeForce GTX 1080. The memory itself is 10 per cent faster, but the GP102 chipset’s wider memory bus means that the GTX 1080 Ti can push textures through a full 50 per cent faster overall than the GTX 1080. Nvidia talks a lot about resolutions beyond 4K for the GTX 1080 Ti, claiming it’s a card with processing and memory architecture designed for 5K playback of titles like Watch Dogs 2 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

For now, unless you want to open your wallet up for the theoretically-it’s-a-little-bit-better-on-paper Titan X Pascal or the new Titan XP (also Pascal, but, y’know, give it the same name or whatever guys I really don’t care any more), the GTX 1080 Ti is the fastest graphics card you can buy. It’ll have competition in the not-too-distant future from AMD’s Vega performance chipset, but we’ve been promised that for a while and it always seems to be just a few more weeks off. It’s also worth noting that the 1080 Ti launches at roughly the same price that the 1080 launched at around this point last year, suggesting that it won’t budge in price for at least a little while.

What’s It Good At?

The GTX 1080 Ti is a graphical performance powerhouse. It’s a high-res polygon-munching machine. It’s a stupidly powerful graphics card, pure and simple. When it comes to the games that you’ll be playing this year — the ones that look the best and have the latest suite of driver-level features that use Nvidia’s latest Pascal chips to their utmost — you can expect around one third extra performance from the GTX 1080 Ti versus the GTX 1080 from this time last year. From the GTX 980 Ti that this card is a direct slot-in replacement for in Nvidia’s ever-evolving card line-up, you can expect anywhere between a 50 per cent performance jump to a doubling in the frame rates you’ll see. From anything older — like the 780 Ti, for example — that delta rises to nearly 3x in the two titles that I compared.

I felt this way with the GTX 1080, and the 1080 Ti has just solidified it: you just don’t need to bother with SLI any more. I had SLI GTX 1080s for a while in my work machine and it was great, in the increasingly small number of games that supported SLI and made full use of both cards’ graphical potential. For anything but 4K, SLI is basically unnecessary these days but for the smallest possible niche of gamers. If you’re intending on pushing stupidly high frame rates or maxing out detail at 4K, sure, but apart from that the GTX 1080 Ti can handle just about anything you throw at it on a single slice of silicon. If you’re an SLI die-hard from generations past, your PC upgrade life is about to get a whole lot simpler.

When you compare the GTX 1080 Ti to last year’s GTX 1080 and the year before that’s GTX 980 Ti, the performance increase is noticeable. It’s more than noticeable. It’s significant. The 1080 Ti is basically 25 to 35 per cent faster than the GTX 1080, and that’s with both cards running Nvidia’s most up-to-date drivers. All of that extra performance comes from the fact that the 1080 Ti is using a near-complete version of the GP102 Pascal chip used in the top-end Titan X, rather than the lesser GP104 of the 1080. It’s like having a de-tuned version of a larger engine in the same car, rather than a hi-po smaller engine running at the bleeding edge of performance. The 1080 Ti has extra room to grow — whether that’s overclocking or just future-proofing headroom.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti: Average Frame Rates

Far Cry 4 (Ultra):
1080P: 96FPS
1440P: 76FPS
2160P: 41FPS

Battlefield 4 (Ultra):
1080P: 106FPS
1440P: 55FPS
2160P: 54FPS

Crysis 3 (Very High):
1080P: 108FPS
1440P: 58FPS
2160P: 48FPS

Metro: Last Light (Very High):
1080P: 71FPS
1440P: 51FPS
2160P: 45FPS

Tomb Raider (Ultimate):
1080P: 198FPS
1440P: 110FPS
2160P: 38FPS

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080: Average Frame Rates

Far Cry 4 (Ultra):
1080P: 132FPS
1440P: 96FPS
2160P: 49FPS

Battlefield 4 (Ultra):
1080P: 142FPS
1440P: 69FPS
2160P: 61FPS

Crysis 3 (Very High):
1080P: 141FPS
1440P: 69FPS
2160P: 55FPS

Metro: Last Light (Very High):
1080P: 85FPS
1440P: 60FPS
2160P: 46FPS

Tomb Raider (Ultimate):
1080P: 201FPS
1440P: 140FPS
2160P: 58FPS

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti: Average Frame Rates

Far Cry 4 (Ultra):
1080P: 154FPS
1440P: 122FPS
2160P: 67FPS

Battlefield 4 (Ultra):
1080P: 152FPS
1440P: 101FPS
2160P: 69FPS

Crysis 3 (Very High):
1080P: 166FPS
1440P: 92FPS
2160P: 62FPS

Metro: Last Light (Very High):
1080P: 101FPS
1440P: 69FPS
2160P: 48FPS

Tomb Raider (Ultimate):
1080P: 201FPS
1440P: 151FPS
2160P: 69FPS

And if you buy the Nvidia-produced variant of the GTX 1080 Ti’s reference board — the one with that lovely silver-and-grey vapour chamber cooler — you’ll be getting a card that is exceedingly well built. That PCB has a sturdy metal backplate, the vapour chamber cooler has been very slightly — almost imperceptibly — redesigned, and the blower cooler is just about as good as any blower cooler I’ve ever seen and heard. And while you used to be able to justify a third-party card with all its pretty lights, that light-up green LED-lit GEFORCE GTX logo on the side of the GTX 1080 Ti is very, very pretty. It’s like bling for your PC.

What’s It Not Good At?

At the moment, the cheapest GTX 1080 Ti that you can buy is $1099. The sum total of my testing is that across 1080p and 1440p gaming, the GTX 1080 Ti is around 30 per cent faster than the GTX 1080. The cheapest GTX 1080 that you can buy is $699 — that’s a 36 per cent price differential for a slightly smaller increase in performance. If you’re crunching numbers to find the best price versus performance card brand new, the 1080 edges out the Ti, and that’s before start looking further afield (like into the AMD camp, for example…) Of course, if you’re coming from a 980 Ti, the 1080 Ti blows it out of the water: in some instances it’s literally twice as fast. That’s an upgrade worth investing in.

The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti consumes just about the same amount of power as last generation’s equivalent, the GTX 980 Ti, and the GTX 1080 that most new buyers will be comparing it with. But under load, its newer full-fat GP102 is able to consume a little bit more power — coming in at around 450 Watts of load power consumption versus the circa 420 Watts of the 980 Ti and 400 watts of the GTX 1080. That means that if you’re running at the bleeding edge of your power supply’s load limit already, you might need to upgrade. The performance delta is enough in my mind to justify the extra cost and power, especially from the 900 series card, but it’s a consideration worth noting.

The bigger consideration, though, is that those extra 50 Watts of power consumption means the blower-style vapour chamber cooler on the GTX 1080 Ti needs to work even harder than it did on the GTX 1080 — where it was definitely bearable, but was starting to be pushed near the limit of reasonable noise. Nvidia rates the Ti at 70 Watts more than the 1080, for what it’s worth. On the 1080 Ti, in my completely unscientific scale of comparison, under full 4K pixel-pushing gaming load the 1080 Ti Founder’s Edition is louder enough than the vanilla 1080 that you notice the difference. It’s still OK, especially if you’re upgrading from a card a few generations old where heat output was far more serious an issue, but there’s an argument to be made for a third-party cooler.

And, the usual caveat of any high-end graphics card review I seem to write here at Giz also applies: the GTX 1080 Ti is an expensive graphics card. It’s $1099; you could build most of the rest of a high-end gaming PC for that much cash. In the six months since the GTX 1080’s launch its price has fallen by almost 50 per cent — that’s quite a premium to pay for the privilege of having the card first. Whether that’s good value is a decision left up to your specific needs and requirement and budget, but that’s a lot of money that’s disappeared quite quickly. There’s also a small but not nonexistant Australia Tax of around $200 on top of the card’s $US699 RRP when it comes to Australian retail stock, too.

Should You Buy It?

If you’re considering buying a $1099 GTX 1080 Ti in the first place, you obviously have a keen interest in PC gaming. You obviously want a powerful graphics card, and you obviously know that powerful graphics cards cost money. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is an expensive card, but again, like the GTX 980 Ti before it, it has all the power of the top-of-the-line Titan of its time for a significantly lower price tag. It’s pricy, but at the same time, it’s good value in comparison to what you could buy before it.

The 1080 Ti monsters along at 1080p and 1440p, to the point that you’re really almost wasting graphical horsepower at 1080p — there aren’t too many games that can challenge it unless you’re aiming for ridiculously high frame rates. it’s the card you want if you have a 144Hz or 240Hz 1080p or 1440p monitor and you’re planning on playing allll the latest high-fidelity AAA titles. It’ll handle 4K, too, although don’t expect constant 60fps on absolutely everything. How crazy is it that a single card can even come close to that claim, though?

You’ve also got the choice, too, of whether you want to go for the oh-so-beautiful Founder’s Edition card or to wait for a third-party solution with a superior — if subjectively less sexy — cooling setup. Nvidia’s Pascal chips are energy-efficient enough that a hybrid water-cooling setup isn’t at all necessary on the 1080 Ti; if you want one it’ll either be because you’re planning to seriously overclock it or you’re aiming for a gaming system that is nonetheless quiet even when pumping out all those pixels. I really like Nvidia’s blower cooler, but it’s not silent.

With the launch of the GTX 1080, then the Pascal-powered Titan X, and now the GTX 1080 Ti, Nvidia’s march of new best ever graphics cards is ceaseless. And that means that, inevitably, the GTX 1080 Ti isn’t going to rule the roost for an incredibly long period of time. It’ll be superseded by something even faster. But, until that time, and well into the future, it’s gosh darn brilliant.

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