- Fantastic performance
- Great design
- Highly overclockable
- Doesn’t hit 60fps in our 4K benchmarks
- More expensive than previous generations
- New Pascal architecture
- 8GB GDDR5X memory
- 2560 CUDA cores
- 1607MHz base clock speed
- 320GB/s memory bandwidth
- Manufacturer: NVidia
- Review Price: £620.00
GTX 1080 LONG-TERM REVIEW – PRICE CUTS MAKE IT A BARGAIN
When I originally reviewed the GTX 1080 (see the full review below), it was priced at over £600, with some third-party models exceeding £700. With the launch of the brand-new GTX 1080 Ti that’s 20-30% faster (and beyond) in the benchmarks, NVidia has adjusted where 1080 sits in the market, slashing its suggested retail price down to £500. That’s a ridiculous price drop that’s already come to bear here in the UK, with several models now available for under £500.
Some models are a little over £100 more than the GTX 1070, which is worth stretching for if you’re building a brand-new PC from scratch.
For the 1080 Ti review, I re-tested the GTX 1080 with the latest drivers to ensure results were fair, and I’ve included the graph below so you can see how it compares with the GTX 1080 Ti. All figures were taken at 4K resolution, maximum settings with the relevant anti-aliasing settings switched on.
The Ti is the ultimate NVidia GPU, but at £200 more than 1080, the latter is arguably better value, especially if you don’t play all of the latest AAA games but want to play your favorite titles in 4K with a graphics setting or two turned down, it’s still a great bet.
WHAT IS THE NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080?
The GTX 1080 is NVidia’s latest top-end graphics card, ready to take on this year’s two-pronged assault of VR and 4K gaming. Its performance this year makes it by far the most powerful consumer-level graphics card (ignoring the outrageous Titan X) and netted it our Graphics Card of the Year award at our 2016 Trusted Reviews Awards ceremony.
If you’re wondering why NVidia’s made such an enormous song and dance out of a consumer graphics card launch, it’s because the company spent ‘billions’ on getting its new architecture to market and now has to make the numbers add up. Both financially and in GPU performance.
While the performance of the GTX 1080 isn’t in doubt, you definitely don’t need to spend the £600+ on it if your ambitions for playing games don’t extend to the world of 4K and VR.
NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080 – SPECS & TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED
To explain why the new GTX 1080 is supposed to be so powerful, we have to talk tech and the GTX 1080 specs for a few paragraphs. If that’s not to your tastes, you can skip to our benchmarking tests on page two of this review.
Still with me? Good. Here comes the tech…
To boost performance and efficiency on the hardware side, NVidia has moved on from its previous architecture, Maxwell, and introduced a new technique called Pascal. The key feature of Pascal is that it uses a smaller manufacturing process (16 nanometers versus 28nm), which means a greater number of transistors on any given piece of silicon.
Doing so increases performance with a much smaller effect on power consumption (and therefore heat and noise) than by simply increasing the number of transistors by using a larger piece of silicon.
A diagram of the layout of the 1080 GPU. Count the CUDA cores
For you and me, where this really matters is that it allows for an increase in the number of CUDA cores, which do the bulk of the work. In the case of the GTX 1080, there are 2,560 of them, around a quarter more than the 2,048 on the GTX 980. Clock speeds are higher, too, with the number of clocks per second up from 1,126MHz to 1,607MHz. All this comes with a peak power draw increase of just 15W (from 165W to 180W) over the GTX 980.
Peak power draw for our entire test system was 286W, compared to 270W and 336W on the GTX 980 and GTX 980Ti respectively, and peak temperatures never went beyond 75 degrees on NVidia’s fairly conservative low fan speed preset.
Even those used to big technological leaps can’t fail to be just a little impressed.
It’s not just the processing power that’s improved; we also finally see a new development when it comes to memory. The GTX 1080 uses GDDR5X memory – like the RAM in your PC or laptop, but much faster and more expensive – replacing the GDDR5 found in the previous generation of NVidia GPUs.
With 8GB of memory versus 4GB in the GTX 980, a higher memory clock of 10,000MHz versus 7,000MHz, the GTX 1080 has 43% more memory bandwidth than the GTX 980. This means there’s more capacity for graphical data and that all of that data can move at a higher speed.
We now come to the physical hardware of the GTX 1080 itself. The Founders Edition card on review here is, let’s face it, probably not the product you’ll end up buying, and by the time you read this review there will probably be several third-party alternative GTX 1080s from the likes of Asus, MSI, and EVGA available for less cash.
Still, if you pick up a Founders Edition card, you won’t be disappointed by its design. One member of the Trusted team commented that it looked like a ‘Deception disguised as a graphics card’. The sharp metal edges and angular design are certainly attractive and give the GTX 1080 a real sense of occasion. If that’s your sort of thing, you’ll be glad to have it in your rig.
It’s quiet, too. The single fan might as well be silent – buried in your PC case, there will be plenty of other components noisier than your GTX 1080, although if you choose to overclock (more on that later), you’ll definitely hear it kicking up a fuss if you push too far. During normal use, though, even when running intensive VR titles for extended periods, I barely heard a peep out of it.
In terms of ports, the GTX 1080 is fairly future proof. There’s a single DVI port, an HDMI port and three DisplayPort connectors. The latter is where the future-proofing lies: whatever the final specification of DisplayPort 1.3 and 1.4 are, the GTX 1080 is ready and will be able to push 4K content at 120Hz, 5K at 60Hz and 8K (yes, really) at 60Hz using two connectors.
The HDMI connector is version 2.0b, which can produce content in 4K at 60Hz.
The GTX 1080 will also support HDR gaming and video playback thanks to its ability to decode HEVC video.
On the software side, NVidia has come on leaps and bounds when it comes to multi-monitor and VR support. Much of the new tech won’t make a difference to visuals or performance immediately, but once developers begin creating games that support NVidia’s features, you’ll notice a difference.
For example, there’s a form of what’s called asynchronous compute, which is a technology GPU fans have been talking about for the last few years. It’s something AMD has used to good effect in its last few generations of GPUs.
Async compute lets a GPU work on graphics and computing tasks simultaneously, effectively increasing performance by dint of both tasks, which need to be completed together, finishing sooner. NVidia’s version is called ‘pre-emption’, which is slightly different, and instead of allowing tasks to be done simultaneously, it lets the GPU choose, at a more granular level, which tasks to priorities.
NVidia says that we won’t really feel the difference with most current games, but we’ll start seeing a difference when the new DirectX 12 standard becomes more common.
There’s also a whole host of optimizations for VR, including Lens Matched Shading, which takes into account any given VR headset and doesn’t render pixels that won’t ever be seen by the user, saving computing power. There’s also Simultaneous Multi Projection, which allows the GPU to render a scene in 16 different viewpoints. This is useful for a fair few pieces of NVidia tech, including Single Pass Stereo which allows the GPU to render a scene in 3D just once, and then shift it slightly using one of the Simultaneous Multi Projection views it’s already rendered.
This technique also helps with multi-monitor setups where the outer monitors are at an angle. Instead of the on-screen image appearing warped (because games assume three monitors are all in a straight line), developers can enable Perspective surround, so the outer monitors get a less warped-looking image.
NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080 – PERFORMANCE AND BENCHMARK RESULTS
Our test bench represents a fairly standard enthusiast gaming PC, with the following components in use.
- Motherboard: Asus Z170-Deluxe
- Processor: Intel Core i5-6600K (not overclocked)
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance 2666MHz, 16GB DDR4
- Cooler: Corsair H60 liquid cooler
- PSU: Corsair CX750M
- SSD: Samsung 850 EVO
- OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Graphics cards for comparison
For this test, we wanted to get in the two most relevant NVidia GPUs from the 900-series graphics generation and test them at the same time as the GTX 1080, with the latest drivers available for each.
These are third-party, Non-NVidia-manufactured components that represent the best of the 900-series generation, just before 1080 was launched.
- 6GB EVGA GeForce GTX 980Ti
- 4GB MSI GeForce GTX 980 Gaming Edition, provided by Overclockers UK
GTX 1080 VERSUS 980 AND 980 TI – BENCHMARKS
Dirt Rally is by far the easiest game to handle here. It’s most challenging elements are lighting and fast-moving textures. It’s a great way to test a card’s baseline performance in Full HD and 4K. Its built-in benchmark is fully representative of real gameplay conditions.
In Full HD at Ultra settings, all three cards screamed through the benchmark without any hitches, with the GTX 1080 managing an average of 154.8fps, 10% faster than the 980 Ti and a whopping 40% faster than the GTX 980.
In 4K, all three cards passed with flying colors, but the GTX 1080 was once again a standout performer, managing an average frame rate of the magic 60fps. It was 15% faster than the GTX 980 Ti and 60% faster than the GTX 980, which still managed a decent 39.7fps.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shadow of Mordor is loaded with environmental effects including weather, fire and explosions. Its built-in benchmark is short but packs in all the most challenging effects the game can serve up. I ran the game at maximum graphical settings.
It was here that the GTX 1080 really started to stretch its advantage over its predecessors. While all three passed with flying colors at Full HD, the GTX 1080 delivered an excellent average frame rate of 54.9fps at 4K – 20% faster than the GTX 980 Ti’s 45.9fps and the GTX 980’s 32.7fps. Minimum fps is also important here, and the GTX 1080 never dropped below 42fps during even the most challenging portions of the benchmark.
GTA V is a technically challenging game with a huge number of things going on at once, challenging both the graphics card and processor of any gaming system. The built-in benchmark tests the game in various ways, and I paid attention to the flying and the driving portion, which are by far the most difficult.
I turned every setting up to maximum, with all settings on their highest and all anti-aliasing and visual effects as high as they would go. All three performed commendably at Full HD, but they all struggled a little at 4K.
Even the GTX 1080 could only manage an average 33.3fps, dropping down to 25fps at times. It was 22% faster than the GTX 980 Ti, though, which could only chug to 27.2fps. The GTX 980 wasn’t able to compete in this particular test; GTA V would not allow itself to exceed the 980’s 4GB of memory.
This test was not in any of the GPUs’ favor, so I also ran it with a few of the rather unnecessary effects switched off, and both the 980 Ti and 1080 were considerably more stable while the game still looked great, and both were able to exceed 50fps averages in this instance.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider has some very fancy weather and lighting effects that will tax any GPU. Its built-in benchmark looks at a variety of environments and while it isn’t fully representative of gameplay, it does tax the GPU sufficiently to the point where its results are useful.
At Full HD, all three cards managed decent results, with the GTX 1080 exceeding a 135fps average frame rate – 25% faster than the 980 Ti and 60% faster than the 980.
At 4K resolution, the 980 Ti closed the gap slightly, but 1080 still led the pack with an average frame rate of 48.3fps – 17% faster than the 980 Ti and 62% faster than the GTX 980.
Hitman’s built-in benchmark is challenging, with a lot of objects, NPCs and lighting effects. It provides a proper test of both a GPU and CPU.
Hitman proved to be a bit of a head scratcher in Full HD, with 1080 unable to beat the 980 Ti under any circumstance on our test rig. I suspect there are some bottlenecking issues elsewhere, as this result does not match the results I achieved with any other game. It is worth bearing in mind, though, that as with any new hardware there may be a few ‘ghosts in the machine’ to sort out on your own personal gaming rig before everything runs tickety-boo.
At 4K, normal service was resumed, with the GTX 1080 putting in one of its best scores against the 980 Ti. 1080 managed an average frame rate of 47.7fps, which was 23% faster than the 980 Ti and 65% faster than the 980.
I also ran 3DMark’s Fire Strike Ultra benchmark. Fire Strike Ultra isn’t representative of any game in particular, so the scores here only give a partial picture of overall performance and should be taken in the context of all the other results. The GTX 1080 scored a whopping 4,884 – 16% more than the 980 Ti ad 48.6% more than the 980.
Finally, I ran the Fire Strike Extreme benchmark. This was in order to compare the GTX 1080 with GPUs that weren’t available for this review, such as AMD’s £550-600 R9 Fury X and the NVidia GeForce Titan X. It’s worth noting the Fury X and Titan X were benchmarked on a different system several months ago, so the results don’t represent anything but a rough comparison of how the GTX 1080 compares and also doesn’t represent real-world gaming performance.
The GTX 1080 stretched its lead here, well ahead of the Fury X and Titan X.
The GTX 1080 is clearly cut out for 4K, but VR is where it truly shines. We can’t benchmark in VR, so I’m drawing on my own personal experience to come to conclusions.
First, I fired up the Oculus Rift and Project CARS, a game that has had a fairly rough ride with VR. For a long time, it wasn’t particularly well optimized for virtual reality, but it also provides a huge amount of flexibility for testing GPU performance.
The best test I was able to conduct in this game was to head to Donington Park, turn up the graphics to maximum, switch the weather to rain and start from the back of a 38-car grid. On the GTX 980, this was a nauseatingly unpleasant experience, with a huge amount of judder for the entire race.
Switching over to the GTX 1080, things were silky smooth with no hint of judder whatsoever. Frame rates seemed to remain at the crucial 90fps where nausea is less likely.
Rinse and repeat for EVE: Valkyrie – the game felt fantastic even with all the settings turned up to the max.
Even without all the impressive new VRWorks features enabled, the GTX 1080 is the best choice when it comes to VR games, and things can only get better as developers start plugging some of Nvidia’s features into their titles.
The GTX 1080 is much more powerful than the GPUs that came before it, and at 4K resolutions, nothing from the previous generation of Nvidia cards can touch it. It doesn’t quite reach the magic 60fps average at maximum settings for 4K, though, so there is room for improvement. Or, more specifically, room for an inevitable GTX 1080 Ti.
Frankly, though, at 4K resolutions, there are plenty of graphical settings you can afford to dial down just a little, and assuming your system doesn’t have any bottlenecks elsewhere, you’ll be averaging 40fps+ on most games in 4K.
I wasn’t able to produce results running compatible games in DirectX 12; there was next to no performance delta when doing so. This is something we’ll revisit when DX12 becomes more widely supported.
OVERCLOCKING AND SLI
NVidia is encouraging overclocking with its new GPUs. Its new GPU Boost 3.0 allows more granular changes to frequencies and voltages to improve stability, squeezing the absolute most out of an overclock.
Overclocking on the Founders Edition card was easy and, more importantly, very quiet. I was able to get a fairly meaty 200MHz GPU overclock in around an hour, and I was also able to give the memory an 189MHz clock boost, too, netting some stable 5fps improvements in my standard benchmark games. This bodes extremely well for third-party cooler manufacturers, who will be able to sell cards with beefy coolers and massive overclocks, hopefully without a huge cost premium.
SLI is a tricky issue for the GTX 1080. If you want to run two GTX 1080s together, you can, but go beyond that and you’ll have to register your intentions with NVidia to get an unlock key to be able to do so. For its part, and I happen to agree, NVidia SLI beyond two cards these days is a recipe for trouble, because so few games support it properly. Unless you love tinkering and spending too much money, you probably won’t see all that much benefit.
SHOULD I BUY THE NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080?
The GTX 1080 has lived up to its billing in terms of basic performance, which is encouraging when you consider that many of its features can’t even be used yet by the average consumer.
In raw performance terms, it’s a huge step up from the previous-generation GTX 980, although at this point the two are barely comparable due to the huge price and performance gulf.
It’s actually the GTX 980 Ti that presents the biggest problem for a prospective GTX 1080 buyer, especially considering you can find some models for £100 less than the GTX 1080. In many circumstances, it’s only 20% slower at Full HD resolutions, and if you’ve no plans to upgrade your monitor to Ultra HD and don’t fancy VR, you’ll be more than happy with its performance for years to come and don’t need to shell out on a GTX 1080.
Or look to the lower-spec and cheaper GTX 1070 if you don’t need top-of-the-range 4K performance.
If you’ve decided the GTX 1080 is the card for you, check out our Best GTX 1080 round-up to see what the difference is between alternative cards.
As it stands, it’s the most powerful consumer graphics card you can buy, with AMD yet to show its hand in 2016. The 1080 also represents good value, even if the price is higher than the previous generation. This is (nearly) gaming perfected.