ProsFantastic performance; reasonable power use, heat, and noise; surprisingly-good value
ConsVery limited overclocking headroom; not really "the fastest GPU ever!"
Nvidia has been on a serious roll lately. And by lately, we mean the past three years or so. Every new high-end card it has launched has soundly beaten every previous card that has come before it, often at significantly lower prices. That being said, even we were surprised when Nvidia launched the GTX 1080 Ti in March of 2017 at an introductory price of $700. This was the very same price it had launched the GTX 1080 at in May of 2016, and $500 less than it had launched the Titan X Pascal at in August of 2016. Nvidia made bold claims about the GTX 1080 Ti, of course, saying it was the fastest card ever released, but we don't print marketing copy... we test the cards ourselves and tell you how they perform!
So it's with great pleasure that we're providing you with this in-depth performance review of the EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB Founders Edition, which we purchased at retail the very day it was launched. We chose not to publish a launch-week review because all the big sites had that covered. What we instead wanted to do was get a feel for the 1080 Ti and really determine what metrics would be important to users. After much interaction with readers on our Forum, we determined that people cared about three things: how well does it really do versus the Titan X Pascal, how does it compare to the GTX 980 Ti (a crucial question for upgraders), and of course how well does it perform once fully overclocked. Given the haste with which most launch-week reviews were published, very few touched upon these critical questions, and we're not aware of any that extensively touched on all of them. So in this review, we're going to show you a whole lot of benchmarks, every one of which is going to include the 980 Ti, the Titan X Pascal, and yes, the 1080 Ti both stock and overclocked! For good measure, we're also going to throw in some benchmarks we previously compiled on the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080, in both single-card and SLI configurations.
As we've done with every previous video card benchmarking article published on this site, we purchased all the GPU hardware for this article at retail in order to eliminate any potential conflict of interest. The breathless "fastest GPU ever" intro is what reviewers publish when Nvidia supplies them with a sample card. We'll save our conclusions until the end, thank you very much! Furthermore, because we know full well what it feels like to pay for each product, we won't be tempted to dismiss cost as a "theoretical" impediement to consumers. It's a real issue, and gamers looking to maximize performance on a fixed budget must always consider price. If you'd like to support this approach to component testing, please use the product links in any of our articles to start your next tech purchase!
Here are the specs (and a photo) of the system we used for benchmarking:
- CPU: Intel Core i7-6900K, overclocked to 4.3GHz
- Motherboard: Asus X99-Pro/USB3.1
- RAM: Corsair 4x8GB Vengeance RGB DDR4-3000
- SSD #1: Samsung 950 Pro M.2 512GB
- SSD #2: Samsung 850 Evo 1TB
- Case: SilverStone Primera PM01
- Power Supply: EVGA Supernova 1000 PS
- CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro H100i v2
- Operating System: Windows 10
- Monitor: LG 27UD68-P 27-Inch 4K
And here are the video cards we tested:
- EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB (discontinued)
- EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB FE plus EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC 8GB for SLI
- EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB FE plus EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 SC 8GB for SLI
- EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB FE
- Nvidia Titan X Pascal 12GB (discontinued)
Note that while some of these cards were factory-overclocked, all cards were set to run at reference speeds, although as noted above we're also going to include 1080 Ti OC numbers. As with all Pascal cards, overclocking headroom of the GTX 1080 Ti is fairly limited; we were able to increase its core by 160MHz (about 9%) and its memory to 11,800MHz (up 7% from the reference 11,000MHz). We ran these clocks in every single one of our games, and the card simply could not maintain stability if clocked any higher. We're always suspicious of overclocking claims, even those done by professional reviewers, when the results are shown for just one or two games. That, dear readers, does not a valid overclock make! Our Titan X Pascal was actually a better overclocker, hitting a +175MHz overclock (around 10%).
Note that our GTX 980 Ti, shown above alongside our 1080 Ti FE sample, could overclock from the stock 1202MHz to a bit over 1400MHz (a 16.5% gain), proving that Nvidia left a lot less free performance on the table with the Pascal generation of cards. From a marketing perspective, it really doesn't make sense to sell GPUs that run their clocks way below what every sample can achieve, and this is one way Nvidia justified selling the GTX 1080 for $700 back in May of 2017 when it was far less complex than the GPU that would eventually become the $700 GTX 1080 Ti. It's also, to a certain extent, how the 1080 Ti was able to "beat" the Titan X Pascal for Nvidia's marketing purposes, but we'll touch upon that a bit more later. The GTX 980 Ti, released in May 2015, was a member of the Maxwell family of GPUs, which had tremendous overclocking potential, more than any other family of Nvidia GPUs released in the past five years.
To eliminate system bottlenecks as much as possible, we used our X99-based benchmarking system, which features an Intel Core i7-6900K processor was overclocked to 4.3GHz. As we found in our recent CPU shootout, in many games, the extra power of this eight-core processor is critical to getting the most out of a high-end GPU configuration. For our testing, we're using one synthetic benchmark and eight games, all running at a native 4K resolution: 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra, Crysis 3, Far Cry 4, The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider, DOOM, Battlefield 1, and Watch_Dogs 2. Each game was run with the highest preset available, typically referred to as "Very High" or "Ultra." Note that in every game other than Battlefield 1, this is actually not the highest setting available, as individual parameters may have additional quality settings beyond Ultra, for example DOOM has a few "Nightmare" settings, and a number of games have extra ambient occlusion settings that aren't included in any preset. For the sake of making comparisons easy, we decided it wasn't worth it to max out each individual quality setting.
All game data was collected in actual in-game runs, which often provide totally different (and obviously more relevant) results than canned benchmarks. We used FRAPS to collect data for three 30-second samples of each benchmark on each video card setup. And take note: as always, we bench Battlefield 1 in a multiplayer round, which performs far differently from the single-player game that no one actually plays! Trust us when we say that getting reliable data in live BF1 matches takes almost as long as collecting all the other data combined! We tested only at 4K because we truly believe that if you're spending this much money on a video card, you should be gaming on a high-end monitor, which today means either 4K/60Hz or 1440p/100+Hz, the latter resolution which runs about twice as fast as 4K, as a rule of thumb. Have a 1080p monitor and want a GTX 1080 Ti? Get a new monitor first, please!
OK, now that we've explained the method to our madness, it's time to move on to the results!