There's a lot of hype in the tech world. The newest this, the fastest that, the slimmest other thing, and so on. That's why TBG never reprints press releases for new products, because, well, they're professional-drafted hype. They are designed to hype. But when a big new product release hits that really seems to change the PC world, we sit up and take notice.
Enter the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 8GB, introduced today, May 6, 2016. Based on the first new architecture since the GTX 980 was released in September 2014, and the first new manufacturing process (16nm FinFET) since the introduction of 28nm tech with the Radeon HD 7970 in January 2012, there's been plenty to be excited about regarding the GTX 1080 for a long, long time. But performance is what really counts to consumers, not how fancy a new architecture is or how hard or expensive it was to design it (Nvidia claims it cost $2 billion!).
And so Nvidia's claim that the GTX 1080 is 75% faster than the $500 GTX 980, and approximately 30% faster than the $1,000 Titan X, is serious, attention-worthy news. The fact that it will come in at $600 on May 27th is even more impressive. That's just three weeks from the day it was announced, and it's earlier than many (including TBG) had anticipated. Now, let's take another point of comparison, the $650 GTX 980 Ti, which is currently selling for around $600. It's about 5% slower than the Titan X, which means that the GTX 1080 is about 35% faster at the same pricepoint (being generous to the now-discounted 980 Ti). That's impressive. No, it's not quite as impressive as the other comparisons, and that's why Nvidia hasn't made the comparison. But we will, because the 980 Ti was by far Nvidia's most aggressively-priced GPU since the moment it was released in June 2015, and it's really the benchmark by which all other cards should be judged. Getting 35% more performance for the same, or slightly lower, cost, is a great leap for consumers.
A few other important announcements Nvidia made today include the release of the GTX 1070 8GB, arriving on June 10th for $379, and a Founder's Edition of both the 1070 (at $449) and 1080 (at $699) with vapor chamber cooling, and what we're guessing will be significant factory overclocks. Given how overclocker-friendly Nvidia's recent GPUs have been, it makes sense that Nvidia would try to reap a bit more of the potential profits associated with "aftermarket" cards. Nvidia in fact showed off a sample GTX 1080 running at over 2.1GHz, using just the Founder's Edition cooler. Whoa. The highest we've been able to clock any of our Maxwell cards is 1500MHz. We wouldn't be surprised if Nvidia locks the initial run of cards into using the standard or Founder's Edition designs, and that will no doubt make its board partners, like EVGA, MSI, and Asus, a bit unhappy, as they like to add a bit of profit margin on their cards by offering custom designs. But hey, Nvidia is definitely in the driver's seat here, because it's offering a GPU that will help its partners sell a lot of video cards.... [Update, May 9, 2016: It turns out that Nvidia is actually going for a bit of an early-adopter cash grab: the Founder's Edition is simply the reference card, and it will be all that's available upon initial launch, likely only from the Nvidia website, and at the inflated price of $700. That's a great business move for Nvidia, a bad move for consumers...]
Finally, there's the specs, which frankly don't mean too much in the abstract, but translated into reality obviously make these cards fast. As we mentioned, they use a 16nm FinFET manufacturing process, along with 8GB of Micron's new G5X VRAM (short for GDDR5X, we presume). And the high-end GTX 1080 runs with just a single 8-pin power connector and a power envelope of 180 Watts, versus the 250W of the slower GTX 980 Ti. As for the rest of the technical specs, we've posted them here for those who are interested.
It's been a long time since enthusiasts have had a chance to score a whole lot more performance for less money than previous generations. Upon its launch, the GTX 980 was 10% faster than the fastest previous card (the 780 Ti), and cost $150 less. That was pretty cool. But the GTX 1080 is 30% faster than the fastest card (the Titan X) and is $400 less, while it's also 35% faster than the 980 Ti and $50 less. Folks, Pascal is the real deal.
As with all of our video card reviews, our review of the GTX 1080 will be based on a retail sample that we'll buy off a virtual store shelf just like you would. So we'll be getting a sample in our hands as soon as we can, although given the impressive credentials of the GTX 1080, it could be hard for anyone to actually get their hands on this card on release day. We'll do our best, and when we do get our sample, we'll be benching it in a wide array of the most popular games, using our GTX 970, 980, and 980 Ti for comparison, so you know exactly how it performs and whether this hype train delivers!