NVIDIA's GTX 1080 Ti - Titanic Performance, Available Today

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅09.03.2017 14:01:29

It's been a long old week for a lucky cohort of PC gamers but the day they've been waiting for has finally arrived: the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is now available in stores. Offering class-leading performance in desktop gaming without setting you back nearly as much as an NVIDIA TITAN X, it just might be the start of a gaming revolution that pushes through the 4K resolution barrier; or, at least, NVIDIA would have you think that. Reviews of the new graphics card should also be available at the time of publication - including our Vortez Video Review - but before jumping in let's quickly go through what you can expect from the Green Team's latest monster.

Once again day-one SKUs have the now familiar Founder's Edition aesthetics - aluminium shroud and all - yet unlike those before it NVIDIA are neither charging a premium nor withholding the model to direct sales through their website. Partner Editions, such as the MSI GAMING and ASUS STRIX models teased last week, will follow in due course; for now at least however it's Founder's Edition or nothing.

Throughout discussions centered around the GTX 1080 Ti you will see two major comparisons being made. Firstly to the Geforce GTX 1080, the card it replaces as flagship of the GTX 10-series both in terms of performance and price, which NVIDIA's own internal benchmarking claims it surpasses by an average of 35% across multiple resolutions. Secondly, the NVIDIA TITAN X, with which it shares the GP102 GPU but comes in at only a little bit more than half the financial outlay. However an enormous price disparity on one hand, and performance disparity on the other, really singles the card out as uniquely positioned in NVIDIA's product stack.

Technical Specifications

Shader Modules :- 28
CUDA Cores :- 3584
Base Clock :- 1480 MHz
GPU Boost Clock :- 1582 MHz
Texture Units :- 224
Texel fill-rate :- 331.5 GT/s
Memory Clock (Data Rate) :- 5505 MHz
Memory Bandwidth :- 484 GB/s
ROPs :- 88
L2 Cache Size :- 2816 KB
TDP :- 250W
Transistors :- 12 billion
Die Size :- 471mm^2
Manufacturing Process :- 16nm
SLI Support :- Yes (High Bandwidth Bridge)
Video Outputs :- HDMI 2.0b, 3 x DisplayPort 1.4
HDCP :- 2.2

Going Up Against A TITAN

NVIDIA's TITAN X Pascal Edition has since it was launched been stuck in something of a no-man's-land in the product stack. Clearly enormously compelling for enthusiasts with very deep pockets - it's a $1200 GPU after all - the card is tailored to the sorts of professional workloads required for realtime near-photorealistic image rendering and academic Deep Learning research. In many respects the gaming market was crying out for a more aggressively priced alternative, but that alternative seemingly was pushed back from an expected Q4 2016 reveal, to CES 2017 in January, and finally GDC this month. The question is how, if at all, NVIDIA could differentiate enough from the TITAN X to not cannibalise its own customer base. The answer is in a remarkably subtle variance in configuration.

GTX 1080 Ti GP102 Block Diagram

As stated, the GTX 1080 Ti uses a variant of the same GP102 GPU seen in the TITAN X. CUDA Core numbers are identical - 3584 in total - as is the final tally for TMUs, both of which are critical for broadly comparable baseline gaming performance. The rasterizing engine isn't quite as powerful though, and with one fewer 32-bit memory controller, less L2 Cache and a 11GB memory buffer, the 1080 Ti won't be quite as tempting for professional workflow. The tweaks don't stop there.

Debuting on the GTX 1080 Ti is a new memory speed made possible through partnership with DRAM vendors and tighter power delivery through the card. The 11GB GDDR5X VRAM is rated at 11Gbps, which should be a nice boost for high resolution gaming at 4K and beyond in particular. This memory will also be filtering down to other models lower in the product stack over the course of the next few months as 'OC' SKUs, so keep your eyes open for that.

Finally, a modest jump in base and boost frequencies will help push very high frame rates at lower resolutions, and overclocking enthusiasts will be fascinated to hear that NVIDIA still claim a potential 2GHz overclock for the card. The card certainly isn't for 1080p60 or even 120Hz gamers, but push out to 1440p and towards the new generation of 240Hz panels... well, lets just say that G-SYNC owners should be very interested in this new beast.

The Laws Of Thermodynamics Still Apply

Performance rarely comes without a cost, and for the GTX 1080 Ti the price is a 250W TDP. Of course that's not anything new for GPUs - indeed prior flagships have blown through that particular budget on more than one occasion - but in order to ensure high operating frequencies on the 16nm Pascal architecture the power needs to be of exceptionally high quality, and temperatures can't be allowed to get out of control for even a moment. As a result the GTX 1080 Ti has a redesigned cooling solution and power delivery system, catering to the demands of the Pascal architecture on this scale.

The power infrastructure in particular has been upgraded versus both the TITAN X and GTX 1080. Now incorporating a 7-phase 2x dual-FET power design (for a total of 14 phases), the card can supply up to 250A of precision power to the GPU and memory subsystem which will improve stability at higher clock speeds. It will be interesting to see if this Founder's Edition or over-specced Partner models (such as the ASUS ROG or MSI Lightning models) become the design of choice for professional overclockers.

Immediately apparent by contrast is an increased width on the thermal exhaust. Gone is the half-width vent alongside a DVI connector, now the reference solution is a full-width vent and no DVI output at all, opting instead for the compact triple-DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0 configuration. By improving air flow in this way not only should the card be cooler, the blower fan should also be able to operate at lower RPM for the same level of heat dissipation. NVIDIA are claiming around 66C under continuous operation.

Under the hood, the GTX 1080 Ti makes use of a vapour-chamber cooler design with large (2-slot height) aluminium heatsink. A metal baseplate keeps contact with other toasty surface-mounted components such as the memory chips and power circuitry, ensuring that they too benefit from the active cooling. A handy side-effect of this design is that the card is held rigid, and by mounting the vapour chamber to the base plate the more fragile PCB is placed under less mechanical stress is teh system is frequently moved.

A metal back-plate also helps to cool rear-mounted components, but in this instance is partitioned in two. A curious innovation, it's specifically intended for cramped SLI configurations where even a low-profile back plate can impede air flow. Simply take off one half and you improve cooling a little (and as we well know, every little helps).

A TITAN In All But Name?

A full picture of the GTX 1080 Ti's place in the market will only be known when the full landscape of performance benchmarks are unveiled over the next few hours, but without a shadow of a doubt it's been groomed as the gaming alternative to the premium TITAN X, which is exactly as it should be for the flagship x80 Ti card. The pedigree of this sub-brand is without compare, whether it was the brutish GTX 780 Ti or more refined (thanks to its Maxwell architecture) GTX 980 Ti. Thankfully, this new card is also immediately having an effect on the rest of NVIDIA's product stack.

The GTX 1080 Ti has an MSRP of $699 US, identical to the June launch price of the GTX 1080. This is pushing the GTX 1080 down to a distinctly more palatable $499, which in tern has caused many retailer to reduce the asking price of the GTX 1070. Without competition in this space from AMD this sort of reshuffle is the only way gamers without the deepest of pockets will be able to take advantage of new technology as it matures.

Across this side of the pond the Pound's protracted post-Brexit weakness against the US Dollar does inflate the MSRP, which sits at 699; similarly the Euro valuation sits at a relatively high 819/824 depending on region. The card was always going to be a considered purchase, but now at least British gamers can jump on a more affordable GTX 1070 or 1080.

Finally, as mentioned we should remind you that GTX 1080 and GTX 1060 OC reference SKUs, both featuring new high-speed memory (11Gbps GDDR5X and 9Gbps GDDR5 respectively) will be available from partners in the near future. If you're itching for a new card you might want to hold off a couple of weeks to assess the lay of the land.

This isn't the last we will hear from NVIDIA this month, so keep your eyes open and ears to the ground.

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