|Specs at a glance: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti|
|MEMORY BUS WIDTH||352 bits|
|MEMORY SIZE||11GB GDDR5X|
|Outputs||3x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0b with support for 4K60 10/12b HEVC Decode|
|Release date||March 9, 2017|
|PRICE||Founders Edition (as reviewed): £700/$700. Partner cards priced at: £700/$700.|
I find it odd that a room full of otherwise seemingly normal human beings (press excluded) would cheer at being charged £700/$700 for the GTX 1080 Ti, even if it does claim to be the fastest gaming graphics card money can buy.
After all, that £700 could otherwise be spent on an entire gaming PC, the latest iPhone, a return flight from London to Los Angeles, or 139 bottles of the finest Scottish craft beer. Besides, surely those Americans in attendance at Nvidia's grand GTX 1080 Ti reveal in San Francisco had more pressing things to worry about? Life isn't all graphics cards and iPhones when your health is on the line.
Still, Nvidia was true to its word: the GTX 1080 Ti is indeed the fastest gaming graphics card money can buy—even faster than the £1,100/$1,200 e-peen extension that is the Titan X Pascal. It's a hell of a lot faster than the GTX 1080 too—which now sits in a "cheaper" price bracket of £500/$500—by as much as 30 percent. It's the first graphics card since the Titan XP that can play many games in 4K at 60FPS without having to fiddle with settings—you just whack everything on ultra and start playing. Plus it's a quiet graphics card, in its Founders Edition form at least, thanks to the improvements Nvidia has made to its iconic all-metal shroud.
But for all of Nvidia's bluster, it's hard not to be just a teensy bit disappointed. In all but memory capacity, which sits at an odd 11GB, the GTX 1080 Ti is a carbon copy of the Titan XP with a slightly higher clock speed. The likelihood of getting a fully unlocked GP102 GPU with all its cores enabled (a strategy taken with 780 Ti) seems slim. And with competition at this end of the market some months away—AMD has pencilled in a Q2 2017 release for Vega—there's little to stop Nvidia continuing to charge a premium for its top-of-the-range graphics cards, even if it's not the most expensive the company has released.
Those with deep enough pockets can pick up a Founders Edition GTX 1080 Ti directly from Nvidia on March 9, with partner cards arriving in the following weeks. Both are priced at the same £700/$700, which makes a nice change from the premium Nvidia used to charge for the Founders Edition. That said, Nvidia hasn't got the best track record with getting graphics cards into shops on release day, so expect inflated prices until availability levels out.
In Founders Edition form, the GTX 1080 Ti comes wrapped in Nvidia's slick, multifaceted cooling shroud—a blower-style design made of die-cast aluminium complete with a low-profile backplate and copper vapour chamber. Not everyone is a fan of the shard-like aesthetic (personally, I think it looks great), but there's no denying that it's a successful branding exercise—you can spot an Nvidia card a mile off. Internally, Nvidia has made a few tweaks, starting with the removal of the DVI port. Those with older, but perfectly usable 30-inch dual-link DVI monitors may lament its removal, but the vast majority of modern monitors connect via HDMI or DisplayPort, with the GTX 1080 Ti sporting one of the former and three of the latter.
Nvidia claims that by removing the DVI port, it's able to double the airflow compared to the GTX 1080 due to the larger exhaust area. Doubling airflow is an ambitious claim, but in a subjective listening test at least, the GTX 1080 Ti is seemingly quieter than its predecessors under load. It's not a dramatic change, and you'll certainly still hear the card if your PC isn't in a cupboard or under a desk, but any improvement to noise levels is welcome. The removal of the DVI port also means it's possible to create a single-slot water-cooled version of the GTX 1080 Ti without having to hack the port off or desolder it. Score one for the modders.
Internally there's an improved seven-phase 2x dual-FET power design for cleaner power with less heat, which does a good job of feeding the GTX 1080 Ti's 250W TDP via its 8-pin and 6-pin PCIe power connectors. At the heart of the GTX 1080 Ti is the same Pascal architecture GP102 GPU used in the Titan XP. There are the same 28 SMs and 3,584 CUDA cores out of a possible 3,840, meaning the GTX 1080 Ti still doesn't use a fully enabled GPU. If you want the full 3,840 you'll have to get the Quadro P6000, which costs roughly a bajillion pounds.
Don't worry, though: the 1080 Ti has plenty of performance on tap. Nvidia's new graphics card has some special GDDR5X memory chips that can be pushed to an impressive 11GHz. Coupled with a 352-bit memory interface, the GTX 1080 Ti has a memory bandwidth of 484GB/s, which is a teensy bit higher than the Titan XP's 480GB/s and miles ahead of the GTX 1080's 320GB/s.
|GTX Titan XP||GTX 1080 Ti||GTX 1080||GTX 1070||GTX 1060||GTX Titan X||GTX 980 Ti||GTX 980||GTX 780 Ti|
|Memory Bus Width||384-bit||352-bit||256-bit||256-bit||192-bit||384-bit||384-bit||256-bit||384-bit|
|Memory Size||12GB GDDR5X||11GB GDDR5X||8GB GDDR5X||8GB GDDR5||6GB GDDR5||12GB GDDR5||6GB GDDR5||4GB GDDR5||3GB GDDR5|
That's not far off the 512GB/s of bandwidth pushed by AMD's Fury graphics cards, which are equipped with stacked High Bandwidth Memory (HBM). Its upcoming Vega range, which will be equipped with HBM2, should push well beyond that, though.
Such high bandwidth memory does wonders for games running at 4K and above, where high-resolution textures need to be pushed into memory, but there is a small compromise for GTX 1080 Ti buyers: you only get 11GB of memory instead of 12GB. Nvidia has simply removed one of the 12 VRAM chips surrounding the GPU, resulting in the odd 352-bit memory interface and 88 ROPs. That's an understandable point of differentiation from a business standpoint: if Nvidia opted to strap 12GB of RAM to the 1080 Ti it would have a massive 528GB/s of bandwidth, completely blowing the Titan XP out of the water.
Still, for the vast majority of people, particularly gamers, that missing 1GB of memory will make little difference to performance. Even those making use of the Titan X's exemplary FP16 performance in science applications could stand to make a significant saving by buying GTX 1080 Tis instead of Titan Xs. I have it on good authority, however, that the Titan X remains a compelling option, if only for those trying to cram as much graphics memory as possible into the limited space of a science server rack.
Alongside the GTX 1080 Ti, Nvidia is dropping a few improvements to its drivers, as well as new features for developers. Most notable for consumers is further improved performance under DirectX 12. Nvidia suffered the briefest of performance deficits in key DX12 titles at the launch of the GTX 1080, and certain games continue to perform better under one graphics card vendor than the other thanks to marketing sponsorships and the way that the low level APIs of DX12 require more developer optimisation. But for the most part any glaring performance issues have been levelled out or greatly improved.
There's also a new version of ShadowPlay called ShadowPlay Highlights that automatically captures clips and screenshots of impressive gameplay—say, a 10-person kill-streak—but it does require game support. So far only the upcoming shooter Lawbreakers has been confirmed to support ShadowPlay Highlights. In-game photography tool Ansel should fare better thanks to the release of a public SDK for multiple game engines. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the latest game to support the tool, with support for Amazon's free Lumberyard game engine arriving shortly after.
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