Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080: Australian Review

Nvidia's newest graphics card is — again — its most powerful, its most energy efficient, and its best for next-generation gaming in virtual reality and in Ultra HD resolutions. It's also surprisingly cheap internationally, and unsurprisingly expensive in Australia. But price aside, if you do happen to pick up a new GTX 1080-based card either from Nvidia or any of its manufacturing partners, you'll get yourself an extremely powerful and future-proofed card that also serves as a great bellweather for what will be a very important year in graphics technology.

What Is It?

Specifications
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    • Base Clock: 1607MHz
    • Boost Clock: 1733MHz
    • Memory Clock: 10.0Gbps
    • Memory: 8GB GDDR5X
    • Power: 180W, 8pin

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 is the first graphics card released by Big Green on its brand new Pascal microarchitecture. Pascal is the first 16-nanometre graphics card architecture out there, and that represents a significant leap forward in the efficiency of turning electricity into 1s and 0s versus the older 28-nanometre process used in Nvidia's Kepler and Maxwell cards — you might know them better as the GeForce GTX 6xx, 7xx and 9xx series. The GeForce GTX 1080 is — for now — the flagship card in the line, with a slightly less powerful GTX 1070 also being released a couple of weeks after the 1080.

The GTX 1080 is significantly more efficient than the GTX 980 and GTX 980 Ti and GTX Titan X that it inherits Nvidia's gaming performance crown from. The chipmaker says it trounces all three of these cards in outright gaming performance, but at the same time it does so while consuming less power. And you can tell that's true purely through the card's physical design — it uses a single 8-pin power connector and is rated for 180 Watts of energy usage, where previous models were in the 250 Watt range and used a combo of paired 8- and 6-pin or 8- and 8-pin cables.

While the GTX 1080's geometrically-interesting shroud looks new, its blower design and integrated vapor chamber are effectively the same as the one used on the GTX 980 Ti and Titan X. Third-party cards will have their own (usually superior) cooling solutions. The rear I/O design, too, is the same as 980 Ti with three full-size DisplayPort and one HDMI, as well as a legacy DVI-D connector. The difference is that these ports are all the latest standard — the HDMI, for example, is HDMI 2.0b and supports all the newest gizmos like High Dynamic Range video output and 4K at 60 frames per second.

The GTX 1080 is the first card in Nvidia's new line-up to use GDDR5X memory, a faster and higher-bandwidth standard that's a little more expensive than regular GDDR5 but not as expensive as High Bandwidth Memory (HBM), as used in AMD's new Radeon cards. GDDR5X is anywhere up to two times as fast as GDDR5, and Nvidia has stacked the GTX 1080 with a full 8GB complement of it — this card is intended to be used for the high-res textures and assets of Ultra HD and VR games of this year and next.

What's It Good At?

In our standardised 1080p benchmarks, the GeForce GTX 1080 monsters through every game thrown at it — it's more than overkill if you're looking for consistent 1080p performance above 60 frames per second. It's a similarly powerful choice for 1440p; with the GTX 1080 being the first in a new generation of graphics cards and also the first of the year alongside AMD's imminent Radeon refresh — code-named Polaris and Vega — we're also moving to only running graphics tests both at 1440p and 2160p (4K Ultra HD, 3840x2160 resolution). We're also going to abandon a few of these games and move to a more modern suite of Rise Of The Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto V, DOOM, Project Cars and Battlefield 4 for various DirectX 12, Vulkan and VR testing.

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

Almost across the board, this represents a roughly 35 per cent performance improvement on Nvidia's GeForce GTX 980, and around 20 per cent on the previous generation's card to beat, the GTX 980 Ti, especially at 1080p and 1440p resolutions. The gap narrows somewhat up at the pointy end of 4K, but consistent average frame rates of 45-60FPS shows that this is just about the first single-card solution that makes 4K games playable at a consistently smooth frame rates. Anecdotally, I can say that it's still a little short of impressive when it comes to demanding virtual reality resolution and frame rate, but I don't have the numbers to back that up.

Nvidia has sold its first-run Founder's Edition cards to its potential buyers on the strength of its craftsmanship and design, and it absolutely is a beautiful piece of technology — as much as a graphics card can be. For something that sits hidden away inside most computer cases, this isn't a big deal, but if you're the kind of hardcore gamer that will buy the 1080 to show it off lit up inside your windowed PC case, then you'll appreciate its chiseled good looks. It certainly feels and looks solid.

The GTX 1080 is partial to a bit of overclocking, too. I'm not a particularly avid overclocker myself — my experience ended with tracing pencil lines on old AMD chips — but the 1080 is the first Pascal card that supports a one-click, card-customised overclocking process through a third-party tool like EVGA's Precision. The Pascal architecture lets users find the maximum safe clocks at each voltage increment — Nvidia calls this GPU Boost 3.0 — and it's a very easy way to maximise performance. I hit a maximum full-voltage boost clock of 2.04GHz perfectly easily on my GTX 1080, and from everything I've read I'd expect that to be a relatively mainstream result.

What's It Not Good At?

Nvidia's claims about performance have, this particular card and this particular generation of cards, been significantly massaged to make it sound more powerful than it is — which is a pity because it's already so powerful that it doesn't need any superfluous marketing on top of that excellent hardware performance. Nvidia says you'll get three times better performance than the previous generation of GeForce cards, but that 3x figure is only within one specific virtual reality workload — and relies on some new Nvidia tech inside the card that have significantly improved VR processing. So the claims are accurate, just very specific. For regular, everyday gaming, it's about 30 per cent better than last generation's GTX 980. Which is plenty.

The GTX 1080, as far as we can tell so far, is going to suffer from a serious dose of Australia Tax when it launches locally on May 27. At $US599 for 'regular' cards and $US699 for Founder's Edition units, those prices translate to $850 and $960 respectively, but Kotaku is reporting local stockists charging up to $1500 for early adopters. This is seriously not on — considering I could almost certainly secure myself one shipping internationally for under $1000 — and it's a good reason to wait a few weeks or months after launch to see prices settle significantly.

And, on May 27, you'll likely see a range of Founder's Edition cards available from third-party vendors like MSI and Gigabyte and EVGA, with similar pricing to Nvidia's regular faux-reference edition unit and with the same cooling solution and reference PCB design, but with third-party merchandise and software and enticing extras thrown in. It's almost a certainty that these will be better value than the Nvidia version, which will still continue to be sold for the life of the card. Or you could also wait for a more basic third-party version, albeit sans out-of-the-box overclocking and a fancy dual- or triple-fan setup, for that $US599 price point or even lower.

Should You Buy It?

I'm really, genuinely impressed with the performance that I got out of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080. It's a crazy powerful graphics card, and brings that 30 per cent boost in performance at only 70 per cent of the energy consumption of the previous generation of graphics card. Simply that fact, on paper and in abstract, should be enough to tempt you to purchase the GTX 1080. It's an impressive feat for Nvidia to pull off.

But then there's the price tag to consider. Taken in the context of the US$999 ($1600 locally) GTX Titan X that it beats soundly in outright flatscreen gaming performance, and the still-circa $1200 local price of GTX 980 Ti graphics cards available today through All Reputable PC Component Retailers, the GTX 1080 comes with a great price tag. But there's a big Australia Tax, and a big early adopter tax on top of that.

This is shaping up to be a very exciting year in PC graphics, and it's guaranteed to be one of the best years to upgrade your gaming rig — especially if you're using Nvidia's 700-series or AMD's 7000-series GPUs in your PC already, or an even older card. A card like the GTX 1080 will likely be more expensive than its sticker price if you take into account the fact that you should probably get a new (1440p or 4K) monitor, and you don't want your old CPU to bottleneck things, and you could really do with a SSD as well...

I'm very interested to see what AMD brings to the table in the next couple of weeks and months. With that said, it's almost a certainty that Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 will hold the single-card gaming performance crown until the 1080 Ti or the next Titan is announced, and if flagship levels of graphical grunt are what you're looking for then you won't be disappointed with the GTX 1080 that you buy.

Our testbed for all our 2016 graphics card benchmarks is a pretty powerful rig — it's the kind you'd buy if you were a serious gamer, but not necessarily into extreme overclocking and getting the best possible synthetic test scores. It uses a sixth-gen Intel Core i7-6700K processor running at stock 4.0GHz clocks on an Asus Maximus VIII Gene, has 32GB (4x8GB) of Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 RAM, and uses a 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2 SSD for Windows and game files alike. Cooling is courtesy of a Noctua NH-U12S and everything is housed in a Fractal Design Define Mini.


Comments

    What size PSU is in your test setup and what is the Minimum the card needs?
    Cheers.

      The PSU in the test PC is a Bitfenix 750 Watt, nothing serious -- not as grunty as my Corsair 1200W in the other PC. The GTX 1080 is significantly more efficient than last generation's cards, and only needs 180W max. I would suggest a minimum 500W PSU if you have a mainstream system, 600 if you're intending on using a high-Wattage CPU or if you have a bunch of spinning-disk drives.

        I wish you'd actually do some testing on power rather than just repeating nVidia figures. I've read a couple other reviews that seems to indicate that it's consuming a similar amount of power as the previous gen cards. Far more power efficient in terms of FPS/watt but still ultimately consuming a similar amount of power under load.

        Even throwing in a Corsair AX type PSU with power monitoring would be a good test (don't need to go as crazy as Anandtech).

          Happy to do that for you and report back. I have a wattage load reporter sitting on the machine all the time, but I don't have a saved figure from the 980Ti that was previously in the rig (and I don't have a 980 on hand any more to compare).

          On the Nvidia figures, it's not possible for it to safely draw any more than 180W because it's a 5+1 phase VRM -- 6x30W per phase is a 180W unit.

            That would be terrific. Seeing some real world power figures in the review would be valuable.

            Ditto

            I have the seasonic fanless 520W

            I know it can handle it but would like to know for piece of mind

              Love those Seasonic PSUs. If it's fanless then it's the 80 Plus Platinum, so you'll be sweet -- but will check for you!

                Great

                Please let me know. That's the one I'm using

    How much do you want for it? Since it's been well used and is now second hand, how does say $300 sound? I could even throw in a picture of a seven legged spider if it would help.

      Tell you what, it goes on sale in three days and I'll give you this pre-warmed one for the bargain price of $3000.

        Though I'm glad you value the cost of a picture of a seven legged spider at $2700, since it's now so valuable, I expect you to cover the cost of registered post with insurance and delivery confirmation to get the picture to you.

    A future proof graphics card?
    Was it meant to be sarcasm or what.

      What I'm saying is that you'd be smarter to buy into Pascal at the start of its life cycle than you would be to buy into Maxwell at the end of its, for example. This is a card that, being top of the line at the moment, will comfortably run a lot of games at high resolution/quality for some time to come.

        Probably would have been better to say that. That is true its the new gen achitecture so itll will stay for a while. But Saying future proof is just plain wrong. That's not what the term means.

        Last edited 24/05/16 6:37 pm

      " " " " Future Proof " " " "

    I've seen prices already set at $1200+ AUD. I suggest anyone wanting this card order it direct from NVidia or wait a few months for Aussie retailers to fall into line.

    So Netplus had the Gigabyte GTX 1080 OC on their website for $1299 this morning and all of a sudden it's been taken down. Can still see it on Staticice: http://staticice.com.au/cgi-bin/search.cgi?q=gtx1080&spos=1 Not sure they were supposed to have the pricing up already however if that's the price they are going to sell at, holy F*#k are we getting taken for a ride. Will be importing one from the states for sure.

    So the best video card with billions of dollars in R&D that isn't even really out on the market yet still can't play those games @ 60fps on the highest settings.....

    Is this just because the technology wasn't out there yet and if they made the same game today they'd take the cards capabilities into consideration and work to the cards strengths, or is it a case of no matter how you spin it... the res and graphics details just can't be done at 60fps yet?

      I'll just leave this here for you:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSQnJOD1EVc

        Cool vid, but like I said it's kind of concerning that you can drop $1300 on a video card that can't even handle a modern game on full res/setting @ 60fps.

        The main reason I was eyeing these down was for a VR setup. Might just accept that the PC Rig cost + Video card isn't worth it today... I'll see how the PS4.5 looks with Morpheus and probably hang out for gen2 VR units and the tail end of the 10 series of cards or even 11 series.

        Used a Vive at a mates house on a 980 and it's truly spectacular.... Just not sure I'm willing to drop a minimum of 2k on it with the current content. The stuff will get cheaper and there will be plenty more content within the next 12 months, much excite.

          The Titan X is able to handle any game on the market with full res @ 60 fps without skipping a beat. The Pascal is the evolution of that card and ethos. You're always going to pay more for the best card on the market for a PC, however you will NEVER get even CLOSE to similar performance out of a console. Furthermore the GTX 1080 has been optimized to hell and back for VR, with preliminary testing suggesting that it's 2-3x faster than the current set of GPU's. To even think that as a viable option is pure delusion. You get what you pay for, the old adage that you gotta pay to play, always rings true.

          Last edited 25/05/16 6:33 pm

            Horsepower vs horsepower is one thing but content is another. It's obvious that the ps4.5 wont even come close to the horsepower of a 1080/rift rig.... but in 3-6 months time I reckon if you price up a ps4.5 with Morpheus vs a complete pc rig with a Geforce 1080 and Rift you'll be paying 2-3x the cost. If sony smacks down the content you start to go.... is it really a wise investment dumping 2-3k on gen 1 VR hardware?

            Right now I don't own a ps4 so picking up lets say a 1k bundle for ps4.5 with morepheus ticks a couple of boxes.... gives me a ps4 and gives me a taste of the vr world with some hopefully polished vr games, videos and experiences. By the time gen2 VR/GFX card hardware comes along (not really gen2 but Rift2/1180 or whatever) then I'd be happy to lump down the 2-3k for slicker hardware with a back catalogue of shit ready to go.

            I guess I personally can't justify paying top dollar now for a bunch of glorified tech demos and a handful of videos. I was absolutely blown away by the capabilities of the Vive and was willing to part with my cash then and there.... but a day or so later it wore off and I thought.... yeah I'm not dropping the cash for that just yet, I need to see a bunch of solid hits before I dump the serious cash down.

    Well, I am kicking myself for spending $1250AUD on a hybrid cooled 980ti for my new VR setup six weeks ago - all my mates helped in convincing me to just pull the trigger
    "Pascal consumer cards won't be out until Q3-4"
    "Not much of an improvement without HBM"
    "980ti will be more than enough power"
    I can live with the 1080 being an extra 10-25% faster in synthetic benchmarks, but the VRWorks/SMP architecture boost is giving me so much buyers remorse right now.

    So far scorptec is only one with prices... still no release date.. $1179 for MSI and EVGA $1249 for gigabyte. All founders editions.

    Funny as When i checked an hour or so ago they were almost $100 dearer from the same company, heck knows whats going on..

      UMart has the cards for $1,200 https://www.umart.com.au/umart1/pro/Products_list.phtml?id=10&bid=2&id2=551&name=GeForce%20GTX%201080

    Massdrop has the MSI variant on pre-order for around $750 US ($1050 AUS) incl. postage if anyone is interested... https://www.massdrop.com/buy/msi-gtx-1080-founders-edition

    Last edited 28/05/16 12:17 am

      any customs tax on that price? or does it bypass customs...

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