Like clockwork, Nvidia has unleashed their GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and we all knew it was coming. But these are the rules of engagement: the GTX 1080 Ti is the definitive benchmark gaming graphics card money can buy—exceeding the expensive workstation TITAN X flagship at roughly half the price.
At $700 this is seemingly a tickle-down bargain, challenging a cycle the “Ti” traditionally observed, but never dared exceeded all the way back to the GeForce 700 series. Things are radically different now that graphic cards are tasked at doing everything from being faster, efficient, and even handle frame rates at native 4K resolution with fluidity. Pricing and relentless consumers would demand it.
A Familiar Champion
Let’s briefly go over how this beast looks, which there really isn’t much to gloss over. Like the rest of the family, Nvidia kept the external two-slot chassis and aluminum body common of the Founder’s Edition now; so if you’ve already seen any of their existing 10.6×4.3-inch reference cards this probably won’t catch your eye again. Things continue appearing identical with the removable back plate optimized for better airflow and a single (HSF) blower fan.
Nvidia unceremoniously deleted the DVI port in order to provide a larger surface area for cooling, and when all is said and done you’re left with three DisplayPort (DP 1.4) connections and one HDMI 2.0b with HDR/WCG color enhancement. However, you do get a DP-to-DVI adapter for legacy convenience.
Think of the GTX 1080 Ti like an enhanced GTX 1080 in name, albeit more akin to the TITAN X in overall specifications. It’s still built off the Pascal architecture utilizing a 16nm FinFET GP102 GPU process with 12 billion transistors, while the 3,584 CUDA cores inside 28 streaming microprocessors (128 CUDA cores per microprocessor) match the latter.
The differences Nvidia implemented are moderate in scale, with the arguably biggest hike being the 11GB of GDDR5X VRAM, up from 8GB. This iteration of high-capacity graphic memory is PCB clocked at an operating frequency of 5,505MHz and an 11Gbps data rate, as a result the supplied modules from Micron have an aggregated memory bus of 352-bit with peak bandwidth topping out at an incredible 484GBps.
Compared to the TITAN X there are minor compromises elsewhere, with the number of render output units (ROPs) have been cut down from 96 to 88—cache allocation and traffic has also been reduced too, from 3,072K of L2 to 2,816K to be exact.
Having a current-gen machine is not a qualification for running a modern graphics card, as most people are probably rocking desktops equipped with a Haswell processor. For benchmarking consistency though, our system will be an Intel Core i7-6700 clocked at 3.4GHz, along with 32GB of Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4-2400 dual-channel memory. We did 3DMark, light overclocking, and overall gaming impressions for a handful of titles with emphasis on 4K material (3840×2160/60p).
Nvidia wasn’t exaggerating when they said the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti would perform noticeably better than anything before it. During synthetic tests on 3DMark the GTX 1080 Ti outpaced the TITAN X on all stress rundowns, with a gap of almost 300 points on Firestrike Ultra. FAHBench (the official Folding@Home GPU benchmark utility) in a small twist, leaned towards the former card, but its best run was around 31% faster than the original GTX 1080 and 78% more than the previous GTX 980 Ti.
Jumping right into games was eye-opening with the results ranging from breathtaking to “oh my god”, all of my examples running at 4K/UHD resolution. An SLI setup for the hardcore will be a thing of the past as a single GTX 1080 Ti ate up everything I could throw at it, coupled by the fact that graphic options were at their extreme presets by default. Compared to the GTX 1070 I have where it did do 4K gaming only when scaling back enhancements to mediocre levels, that obviously isn’t the case this time.
DOOM was finally all I wanted it to be in Nightmare settings and plays as stunning as it looks at an average 86-107fps, while never dipping below 65fps in any of my reinvigorated playthrough with Vulkan API enabled. Battlefield 1 in when operating in DirectX 12 was impressive and met the minimum 61fps count to match the TITAN X on Ultra setting. As a whole the campaign looked flawless as hoped, and no real differences to point out—another nod towards the GTX 1080 Ti prowess. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was a similar story staying north of 60fps without issue, beautifully proficient with the extra options unlocked.
No matter what, the synopsis was amazing across the board. For other titles like Grand Theft Auto V, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Forza Horizon 3 the GTX 1080 Ti breathed a lot of exhilarated life into these games, that will tempt you into another playthrough. If not for the 4K then at least for the velvet-like response of over 100 motion frames by 1440p/144Hz.
Welp, as you can imagine with the GTX 1080 Ti and its claim to fame, availability is pretty damn nil to put it bluntly. In fact, it’s out of stock directly and just as impossible to purchase on Amazon on Newegg, including the partner variants that are more common in the wild. Currently, you’ll need a extraordinary amount of luck finding one as the month rolls onward, and the likelihood of paying over MSRP is all but guaranteed too. Keep your fingers crossed, everybody.
If you’re a PC gaming enthusiast then the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti will be almighty. Not only does it complete the link in Pascal puzzle this generation, but does so by offering impeccable benchmarking without paying over a thousand dollars. We knew the GTX 1080 Ti would be an amazing performer, but I didn’t anticipate this unprecedented level of tact.
So where does that leave company’s own current TITAN X? It’s a dilemma, especially if you’re someone who initially dropped $1200 for bleeding-edge supremacy. That point is now largely irrelevant for those who lusted after one for gaming until now. But with AMD planning to return in a colossal way, this could be Nvidia’s preemptive attack on the upcoming Vega-based GPUs at the expense of loyal enthusiasts.
Hell, it’d be wrong not to declare the GTX 1080 Ti the dominant 4K gaming card on the market today. With virtually no competition on any front, Nvidia will probably reign the throne for a while.