On May 6th NVIDIA announced its latest Pascal architecture and the technologies that will be supported by the newest GPUs, part of the GTX 10xx series. At the event that took place in Austin, Texas, the world witnessed the announcement of GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080. We gave greater attention to the more powerful GPU, and this is understandable, considering the performance of the most powerful single-chip graphics card.
Even though our first review of GeForce GTX 1080 was of a non-reference version, it was namely the Founder’s Edition model that was announced during the spectacle organized by the American company. This is why we decided to examine it in great detail and present to you this review of GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition. Of course, we shall compare it to GTX 1080 Gaming X, since both models are by MSI.
If you are interested in MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition, you can check its price and availability here: http://amzn.to/29lRLfb
What’s in the box?
As you may have read in our Gaming X review, Founder’s Edition comes in a bigger box but the GPU itself is slightly shorter – 26.7 cm. In comparison to the aftermarket model, there is no image of the graphics card on the box, which makes it even more interesting for us to unbox it. You can find system requirements, short list of specifications and supported technologies on the back.
By removing the exterior, you will see a smaller box with “MSI” written on it, which reminds you again that you’ve purchased a graphics card produced by the Taiwanese company. In this smaller box there is a disc with drivers, user manual and a leaflet expressing thanks that we have purchased this particular product. Below these there is the GeForce GTX 1080 packaged in an antistatic bag. The design has changed when you compare it to the previous generation and you will learn more about it in the lines below.
We shall again have a look at the supported technologies before discussing this GPU, because NVIDIA first announced these new software features that improve the performance of Pascal GPUs and others. Some of the technologies overlap with the ones described in our previous review, but in case you have not read our publication on MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X, we shall discuss again what NVIDIA has to offer.
Even though we did not include the new SLI bridge in the previous review, we shall discuss it here as we expect to be testing Founder’s Edition models in SLI configuration soon. For those of you who don’t know what SLI is and how it works, we shall explain in the next couple of lines. In a nutshell, the bridge allows us to connect graphics cards so as to achieve higher performance in our system. For this purpose you need two or more NVIDIA GPUs. AMD have a bridge of their own called CrossFire. Up to now the SLI Bridge allowed one to connect up to four graphics cards because of some peculiarities.
SLI is characterized by the following peculiarities – communication protocol integrated in the GPU, a high-speed digital interface that facilitates the flow of data between two or more graphics cards, as well as a software package to provide highest possible performance and compatibility with gaming titles. Each GPU includes two interfaces (fingers) – in Quad SLI both of them are employed because the first allows us to connect each GPU to another one. On the other hand, the second interface is needed because all remaining graphics cards have to transfer the rendered frames to the monitor connected to the main GPU (most often this is the top most graphics card) – up until now each interface used to be independent.
The latest bridge, officially announced in Austin, is slightly different from the current ones, which leads to several changes in Pascal GPUs. Its name is High Bandwidth (HB), and it is used to connect the two interfaces of each GPU, which means that if you want to use SLI HB to connect your GPUs, you will have to say goodbye to Quad SLI configurations. The new bridge occupies both interfaces (fingers) for the sake of better memory bandwidth between the two GPUs. This results in speed of 650 MHz with the High Bandwidth bridge, while the conventional ones, Legacy, bring up to 400 MHz. NVIDIA said that the focus is only on the regular SLI, because 3 or 4 GPUs from the newest architecture will be most efficient in synthetic applications such as Futuremark. For now, HB SLI can be used only with latest generation NVIDIA GPUs – GeForce GTX 10xx.
After we discussed the new SLI bridge and the opportunity to create images out of various scenes and perspectives, it is time to see how NVIDIA has managed 4K support and what Simultaneous Multi-Projection is about. If you follow our posts, you will know that we have mentioned SMP twice but since this is a review, we include everything that concern us and is related to GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition. We simply can’t miss this part.
This technology, like the ones mentioned above, was announced at the long-awaited event in Austin. Despite this, it does not have anything in common with SLI HB. Simultaneous Multi-Projection targets those of you who have one or more 4K monitors, as it allows you to enjoy heavier games in normal frame rate.
It offers a very interesting approach that facilitates image rendition, allowing the GPU to increase its performance. NVIDIA thinks that while gaming you focus mainly on the object in front of you, and the peripheral areas are not that important. This is why when you are playing in 4K, the image before you is being rendered in 3840 х 2160 pixels (this is the most important part of the screen, it is where you focus), and the remaining parts are in FHD (1920 x 1080 p). According to NVIDIA, the loss of quality is very little and is visible only if you pixel peep.
NVIDIA VRWorks Audio
Now that we touched upon one of the most important technologies that increase GeForce GTX 1080’s performance, it’s time to have a look at the improvements that have direct effects on our perception. VRWorks aims to provide as realistic audio as possible, so that we may be immersed in the world of virtual reality. But how? As you may tell by the name, it’s about audio and VR. This technology allows us to enjoy games like never before.
According to the manufacturer, everything that surrounds you in a game has an effect on the sound signal you receive. If you don’t know how to understand this, imagine that you’re playing The Sims and you are beginning to build a house. This means that the room is empty, and the sound and echo will be louder. On the other hand, if you’ve already finished the room of your dreams, the objects in it absorb sound waves. Briefly said, this is what VRWorks Audio is about, but if you want to learn more about it, you can watch the video below.
We are back to a technology that makes us direct participants in games. Ansel is a sort of “hidden” camera that is not present in the options menu of games – each virtual world has at least one camera perspective that displays our actions via a monitor.
NVIDIA’s new technology allows much greater freedom in recording certain episodes from a game because of several reasons. Firstly, you can use Ansel at any time – when you start this application, the game is being paused (we don’t recommend this if you are playing MOBA or online games because it may have some unfavorable consequences). While the game is paused you are provided with a particular frame and camera that can be moved in all directions and this leaves it to your imagination to decide what picture to take. This is facilitated by the filters provided in Ansel. You can learn more about this technology in the video below.
Build, construction and design
We want to remain true to our style and after we’ve reviewed the supported technologies, it is time to have a look at the GPU itself – MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition. In the next couple of lines we shall touch upon the core, the build and what NVIDIA’s reference cooler (Founder’s Edition) is about.
Build quality of the new Pascal core
We begin with the “heart”of the GPU, where the core is located. As you may already know, it is part of the Pascal architecture and the chip is called GP-104. It is found not only in GeForce GTX 1080, but also in GTX 1070. On the level of architecture there are no differences between MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X and Founder’s Edition.
The graphics card uses a 16nm technological process that was anticipated for four years – the first 28nm architecture, called Kepler, was released in 2012.
Despite this, the system that has been used for the manufacturing of the die is not different than that of Maxwell, Kepler or even Fermi (40nm). The difference (apart from the technological process which is decreasing over time) is the presence of Simultaneous Multi-Projection Engine integrated in the Polymorph Engine.
We are presented again with four Graphics Processing Clusters that include five Streaming Multiprocessors and eight 32-bit memory controllers. Additionally, each SM has 128 CUDA cores, 48 KB L1 cache, 96KB shared memory block and eight texture cores. All this means that GeForce GTX offers a total of 2560 CUDA cores, 160 texture and 64 raster cores. The base frequency of this GPU is 1607 MHz and it can go up to 1733 MHz thanks to Turbo Boost. Depending on the temperature and the power supply, this frequency may vary. In our case, MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition was ticking at 1835 MHz and this is without an overclock.
Furthermore, the memory type is different from the currently available on the market – DDR3, GDDR5 and HBM. It’s name is GDR5X and for the present GeForce GTX 1080 is the only GPU with this memory type. NVIDIA has made this choice for several reasons. Firstly, HBM is unable to support more than 4 GB. As you may guess, AMD GPUs equipped with this memory type offer namely such capacity. Even though HBM is somewhat close to the graphics chip, thus allowing higher memory bandwidth, this memory type allows engineers to incorporate a maximum of four 1 GB chips. HBM2 solves this problem, but it’s current price is not so affordable. Perhaps we shall find this technology in GeForce GTX 1080 Ti or even in the new GTX TITAN. For the time being, however, nothing has been confirmed. In other words, the choice of memory type is between GDDR5 and GDDR5X.
Even though GTX 1070 is based on the same core, it offers GDDR5 memory type, while GeForce GTX 1080 features GDDR5X. This leads to an increase in the memory bandwidth, which in GTX 1080 reaches up to 10 000 MHz efficiency via a 256-bit bus.
Construction and design
After our discussion of the core, specs and memory type, it is time to have a look at the new NVIDIA reference cooler called Founder’s Edition. Its design is quite similar to those of top class GPUs such as GeForce GTX 980 Ti and GTX TITAN. This is a good news for both the cooling and the style of the GPU – it appealed to us at least.
Additionally, the GPU length is 26 cm, which means that MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition will fit in most standard boxes. The card itself is supplied by an 8-pin connector that supplies 150 Watts, and by the motherboard that can provide from 75 to 150 Watts – this offers great overclocking potential. In this way the power consumption reaches a maximum of 225 Watts if you are using the Power Limit at 120% (maximum value). All this is thanks to the 5-phase power supply and to an additional supply, installed because of the GDDR5X memory. According to NVIDIA, a quality power supply with a capacity of 500 Watts is good enough if you want to install this GPU in your system.
The entire component is cooled by a not very complicated system, although it’s quite hard to reach the chip because of the numerous small elements that have been added for more aggressiveness of design. The cooling system is made of aluminum that can be observed through the small transparent window, placed in the upper part of the GPU.
Next to it there is the fan of GeForce GTX 1080 that draws out hot air through the vent located in the rear part of the GPU. Unfortunately, the VRMs and the memory chips are in proximity to the fan, which had more or less an effect on our temperature tests. We can’t say that the backplate facilitates the cooling process. Also, the back part consists of two separate parts that protect the chip from potential damage. Despite this, NVIDIA stated that if you want better airflow in SLI configurations, it is advisable that you remove the backplate. Both MSI and NVIDIA have added LED lights along the sides, that make the GEFORCE GTX logo stand out, especially in the dark.
In the I/O panel you can notice a vent above the HDMI and DP ports that allows the hot air to leave this “chamber”. Apart from these two ports, there are also Dual Link DVI and two additional Display Ports. This makes a total of 3 Display Ports, one HDMI 2.0b and a Dual Link DVI. The maximum digital resolution supported by GeForce GTX 1080 is 7680 х 4320 pixels.
Specs sheet of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
|Base core clock||1607 MHz|
|Boost core clock||1733 MHz|
|Memory speed||10 Gbps|
|Memory type and size||GDDR5X, 8GB|
|Memory bandwidth||320 GB/s|
|Digital maximum resolution||7680×[email protected]|
|Video output||DP 1.42, HDMI 2.0b, DL-DVI|
|Technologies supported by GeForce GTX 1080||
|Dimensions||26.7 cm x 11.12 cm, dualslot|
|Maximum temperature||94 degrees Celsius|
|Maximum power consumption||180 Watts|
|Power connectors||1 x 8-pin|
|Recommended PSU||500 Watts|
Specs sheet of our configuration
|CPU||Intel Core i7-5820K (6-core, 3.30 – 3.60 GHz, 15MB cache)|
|Motherboard||MSI X99A Godlike Gaming Carbon|
|RAM||16GB (2x 8192MB) – DDR4, 2133Mhz|
|GPU||1x MSI GeForce GTX 1080 (8GB GDDR5X)|
|HDD/SSD||256GB M.2 SSD|
|Connectivity||LAN 10/1000/1000 Mbps|
Benchmarks and MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X comparison
We have prepared several synthetic tests as well as some results screenshots from the Unigine Heaven benchmarks, which are, perhaps, the best choice for overclocking and stability tests. Of course, we have included an overclocking test with the software package of 3DMark and the above listed applications. Since we’ve also tested a modified version called GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X, we would like to compare the reference model to the aftermarket one, so as to see if there is any difference, how significant it may be and whether the price difference is worth it.
3DMark Firestrike and Firestrike Ultra
We start again with the heaviest 3DMark benchmark – Firestrike and Firestrike Ultra, so that we may see what fps to expect in 4K and FHD resolution. Of course, the GPU performance in actual games will be totally different and that’s why we have included gaming tests that can be found further down. Here are the results we got from or GPU in these 3DMark tests, conducted with the help of NVIDIA drivers ver. 368.39…
3DMark Sky Diver
3DMark Cloud Gate
Unigine Heaven 3.0 и 4.0
Another software that allows us to test the GPU capabilities is Unigine Heaven. Like we said, we believe that this is the best choice for a test that checks for any artifacts resulting from an overclock, because 3DMark is quite hard on the GPU, whereas Heaven also provides a 100% stress test but is more gentle. You may be wondering what is the idea behind the above statements. Well, games can hardly reach (not to say never) workload that Firestrike exercises on the graphics card. Thus, if there are any artifacts in the benchmark, it is very unlikely that you will see any such in games. If banding or strange textures appear in Unigine, however, it is very likely that you have gone beyond the GPU potential for overclocking. Here are the results we achieved in Heaven 3.0 and the latest 4.0 version…
Juxtaposition of the above results and those of GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X
The results in the table below are the maximum registered in our testing of GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition (FE) and GTX 1080 Gaming X. In the case of the latter we have used the results from the Silent mode (or standard). After pressing the OC button in the MSI Gaming App, we got readings with better values (you can check them in our previous review).
|Model||GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition||GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X (standard mode)||Difference|
|Unigine Heaven 3.0||6062||6091||~+0,5%|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||5118||5170||+1%|
|3DMark Cloud Gate||135 064||140 630||+4,1%|
|3DMark Sky Diver||73 534||77 591||~+6%|
|3Dmark Fire Strike||21 712||22 236||+2,4%|
|3DMark Fire Strike Ultra||5010||5396||+8%|
All tests were conducted with NVIDIA’s official driver, Version 368.39. We include the results from the Gaming X model (base frequency) again.
|Model||Tomb Raider (1080p, Low)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Medium)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Max)|
|Founder’s Edition||581 fps||329 fps||169 fps|
|Gaming X||581 fps||341 fps||173 fps|
|Model||F1 2015 (1080p, Low)||F1 2015 (1080p, Medium)||F1 2015 (1080p, Max)|
|Founder’s Ediotion||212 fps||170 fps||150 fps|
|Gaming X||207 fps||166 fps||150 fps|
|Model||GTA 5 (1080p, Low)||GTA 5 (1080p, Medium)||GTA 5 (1080p, Max)|
|Founder’s Edition||171 fps||134 fps||61 fps|
|Gaming X||173 fps||135 fps||63 fps|
|Model||Hitman: 2016 (1080p, Low)||Hitman: 2016 (1080p, Medium)||Hitman: 2016 (1080p, Max)|
|Founder’s Edition, Direct X 11||123 fps||115 fps||97 fps|
|Gaming X, Direct X 11||122 fps||115 fps||99 fps|
|Founder’s Edition, Direct X 12||140 fps||136 fps||110 fps|
|Gaming X, Direct X 12||140 fps||137 fps||115 fps|
|Model||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Low)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Medium)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Max)|
|Founder’s Edition||242 fps||210 fps||165 fps|
|Gaming X||225 fps||196 fps||164 fps|
Overclocking capabilities, temperatures and stability
Since we did not mention anything about overclocking capabilities of the GPU after the gaming tests, you may have rightly assumed that something went wrong. Unfortunately, along with the increase of frequency, temperatures also increased up to 80 degrees Celsius, which did not allow the graphicс card to maintain high frequency. Even though we observed 2041 MHz at first, this was for a really short period of time after which it fell to the stable 1911 MHz.
Perhaps, this was due to the temperature that rose up to 80 degrees quite quickly. It is namely because of this facts that we do not present an overclocking comparison. If we want to keep higher frequencies, we have to increase the rpm of the fan, which leads to additional noise. Because we are comparing Founder’s Edition to Gaming X in this entire review, we decided it would be best to preserve the silent operation, without incorporating a comparison of overclocking results.
In idle state the temperatures were more than decent – 32 degrees Celsius in a room where the temperature is 23-4 degrees. We did not observe high temperature values in games either – 71-2 degrees Celsius. Anyway, in the next couple of lines we shall discuss the GPU performance during a continuous 100% stress test.
Even though we measured 32 degrees at first, it did not stay like that for long – when the full potential was engaged the initial measurements were 60 degrees and a maximum of 1860 MHz, which started to decrease slowly in the course of the test. After the first minute the card reached 72 degrees and a maximum frequency of 1810 MHz. The fan was spinning at 1200 rpm and 42%. Additionally, the below thermal photos display that the backplate and the GPU itself are relatively cool – 28.4 degrees and 26 degrees in the are of the window, located in the front part of MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition.
However, this was not the end of our test. The temperatures reached 82 degrees (and luckily did not go beyond this value), and the frequency remained at 1784 MHz, which is almost 100 MHz lower than in the beginning of our test. We must note again that we didn’t overclock the GPU which would have additionally increased the chip temperature. As far as the exterior is concerned, it did not remain exactly cool. We measured 62 degrees Celsius in the backplate area, whereas in the lower part we got 51.5 degrees.
The two MSI models GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition and Gaming X offer similar performance at stock frequencies. Despite this, the second model offers factory overclock that additionally increases performance – you just need to press the OC button in the MSI Gaming App. With GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X we reached 2038 MHz and 71-2 degrees Celsius after a manual overclock. Of course, the reference model can be overclocked, too, but if you prefer quiet operation of your configuration, you may very well like to refrain from overclocking. It may be a matter of luck, but our unit did not register significant increase of frequency as temperatures were too quick to rise. However, as it was mentioned above, if you sacrifice silence for the sake of additional performance, you might get lucky.
In addition, the design of this GPU is really appealing, and the efficiency of the reference cooler is a tad better than that of GeForce GTX 980. The revamped cooling design contributes to the better airflow and additional aggressiveness of style. If you are planning to disassemble the graphics card in order to clean accumulated dust, visible through the window, you must be very patient. GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition features a lot of components that will make your disassembly process longer. Considering the price difference between the two models ($699.99 vs $974.95) we will leave it for you to decide if the extra couple of hundred dollars are worth it.
If you are interested in MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition, you can check its price and availability here: http://amzn.to/29lRLfb
You can also have a look at all available GeForce GTX 1080 models here: http://amzn.to/29zgpZg
- Nice design and great build quality
- Revamped reference cooler
- Additional performance with DirectX 12
- New NVIDIA technologies
- Limited overclocking capabilities
- Higher temperatures after continuous workloads