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The NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti Performance Review

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Conclusion; The Fastest Just Got More “Affordable”

I thought I would go into this conclusion being completely unsurprised at what NVIDIA is offering with the GTX 1080 Ti. That didn’t happen. Tradition dictates that the “Ti” version of an architecture offers near-TITAN levels of performance while costing significantly less. This particular version accomplished that goal…and then it shattered preconceptions. Not only does it match the latest TITAN X but it supersedes it in many games as well, though not by a massive amount. That’s a notable accomplishment given how high Pascal’s now-replaced flagship set the water mark.

In DX11 there isn’t a game (without mods) in existence that can bring the GTX 1080 Ti to its knees, and that even goes for Fallout 4 with its new memory-gobbling High Resolution Texture Pack. From Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare to Titanfall, you’ll be able to power through pretty much everything, even with AA pushed to the limit. Not only does the GTX 1080 Ti do well in current games, but there’s more than enough juice left in its tank for ultra-smooth 4K performance well into the future.

Moving on to 4K, framerates do obviously suffer but this card is infinitely better positioned to tackle such a high resolution than something like the GTX 1080. However, there is something to say about the 11GB memory layout of this card; with many game engines becoming so much better at the way they handle memory allocation, it is completely overkill. And yet, sometimes overkill is a good thing since with it you will be prepared for that oddball memory muncher that comes along every now and then.

As more triple-A games transition to Microsoft’s new API, consistent performance in DX12 will become increasingly important. As a matter of fact, there are now more DX12 tests within our lineup than those using DX11. Here it is increasingly hard to judge how NVIDIA’s GPUs stack up overall since we’re simply comparing them to one another, without an alternate point of view from AMD.

With that being said, there’s really not much to complain about at 4K but at that ultra high resolutions we start seeing the limits of this card’s power. In Deus Ex, Gears of War, and a few other titles I had to turn down anti-aliasing or other in-game settings to achieve playable framerates. Whether or not you actually need AA at such a high resolution is debatable, but this is nonetheless a hint that more GPU power could be needed for future 4K titles. That’s actually a scary thought.

It isn’t all champagne and roses though. The Founders Edition may look great when compared to the Steampunk-like direction some of NVIDIA’s board partners are taking with their custom designs, but there are notable sacrifices when using a blower-style cooler. First of all, the GTX 1080 Ti’s GP102 core gets nuclear hot and even NVIDIA’s upgraded cooling design can struggle to keep up, particularly when overclocking factors into the equation. The problem here is straightforward: an internal heatsink can be ultra-efficient at whisking heat away from the core, but that heat needs to be dissipated somehow and the single fan just isn’t up to the task.

Overclocking naturally exasperates the thermal issue as well. Even though I was able to push this sample to a relatively constant core frequency of 2.05GHz, that achievement was only accomplished by running the fan at 75% of its stated maximum output. That resulted in awesome framerates, but an unbearably loud acoustical profile. Without the fan speed increase higher clocks were still possible, but they eventually fell back to stock speeds after being strangled by higher temperatures and of course NVIDIA’s Boost algorithms.

Back when I reviewed the TITAN X, I mentioned that anyone’s perception of that card hinged upon their willingness to slap down $1200 on it. The GTX 1080 Ti is fundamentally different since it may demand a princely sum of $700, but it is still infinitely more accessible than any TITAN card ever was. Much like its predecessor, this card stands alone without any competition so it’s perceived value (or lack thereof) will ultimately rest with how much you’re willing to spend for the fastest GPU on the planet. Whereas a $1200 GPU is something many gamers could simply lust after, this one us well within reach for a much larger audience.

At the end of the TITAN X review I asked a simple question: would I buy it? Back then the answer was a resounding “yes, provided my girlfriend doesn’t kill me”. This time around I’m going to unequivocally say “yes, if you have the money”. However, while the GTX 1080 Ti is a technological achievement of pretty epic proportions, and it has staked its territory atop the performance mountain, I think it will be up to NVIDIA’s board partners to make it truly shine. Regardless of what you choose to do – run out and buy a Founders Edition or wait for the inevitable custom designs – the GTX 1080 Ti has set the bar so high that it will be very, very hard to dethrone.

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