Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review

December 9, 2016 // 11:40 a.m.

Tags: #gigabyte #gigabyte-geforce-gtx-1080-xtreme-gaming-waterforce-wb-review #graphics-card #gtx-1080 #nvidia #pascal #water-block #water-cooling

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review

Manufacturer: Gigabyte
UK price (as reviewed):
£828.49 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $799.99 (ex tax)

The GTX 1080 is not a graphics card for anyone on a budget – it's the card most of us wish we could have, but that far less of us can actually afford. Performing admirably at 1440p and even making a solid go of 4K, it's undeniably powerful and currently unmatched by any AMD single-GPU offering. At this lucrative end of the market, Nvidia's board partners tend to go all out with custom coolers, heavy overclocks and unique features. We've reviewed four custom GTX 1080s so far, each as envy-inducing as the last, but they've all had one thing in common: being air-cooled. Not so with Gigabyte's GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB – the WB stands for 'water block', as this card comes pre-fitted with one for integration into a custom water-cooling loop. We've already seen the impact of water-cooling on the flagship mighty Nvidia Titan X Pascal, so we jumped at the opportunity to review this monster and see what proper liquid-cooling could unlock with the GTX 1080.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review
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First impressions are frankly excellent. The massive amount of copper used in the full-cover water block makes the card reassuringly weighty. The nickel plating looks great through the acrylic window, while the front aluminium cover completes the look with Gigabyte's Xtreme Gaming style without overdoing it. The aluminium backplate, meanwhile, adds further rigidity and aesthetic consistency. Being water-cooled, there's also no need for additional bulk and the low-profile rectangular shape of the water block gives the card some understated elegance, even with the orange highlights and angled indents. It also keeps it pretty confined at 266mm long and 145mm tall including the tubing inlets.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review
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Liquid-cooling is often used to increase overclocking potential, so we're happy to see a decent overclock on both the core and the memory. By default, the card is set to a base clock of 1,759MHz (boost 1,898MHz) but is also validated to run in OC Mode, toggled easily in Gigabyte's Xtreme Engine utility, which ups the speeds to 1,784MHz base and 1,923MHz boost. Going by base clock, this is an overclock of more than 11 percent, but the card will probably boost further than most others thanks to lower temperatures. GPUs for this card have also been binned via Gigabyte's GPU Gauntlet Sorting programme – hopefully this means improved overclocking potential, but without knowing the specifics of the process it's impossible to say for sure. Meanwhile, the 8GB of GDDR5X memory has been increased to an effective speed of 10.2Gbps – an increase of two percent.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review
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Gigabyte at first appears to be using the standard selection of display outputs, with a trio of DisplayPort headers joined on the rear I/O panel by one HDMI port and one DVI-D connector. However, the right side of the card has two internal HDMI outputs, which you can use to connect power HDMI ports on the front of your PC. These are starting to appear in cases like the NZXT S340 Elite, and you can also buy 5.25in bay adaptors with them, the whole point being to offer easy connectivity for VR headsets. Outputs are automatically detected when restarting the PC, and using one or both of the internal HDMI headers will disable a pair of DisplayPort connectors round back.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review
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Gigabyte is going all out with power inputs, offering two 8-pin PCI-E connectors instead of the reference specification of one. Theoretically, this means the card can draw up to 375W; far more than it's ever likely to need, but this is hardly a card that's about playing it safe. The connectors themselves are indented to aid cable tidying and have little LEDs used to indicate a correct connection. A dual 6-pin to single 8-pin adaptor cable is also supplied with the card.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review
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Prying off the cooler reveals an excellent design whereby the massive copper plate makes full contact with the GPU (via thermal paste) and all critical components (via thermal pads) excluding the memory VRMs. Water flows in first near the rear I/O over some of the memory chips before passing over the mini fins of the GPU jetplate and then looping around over the VRM area. An extra tube of thermal paste is supplied in case you ever need to remount the block and a pair of plugs are supplied for the G1/4-sized inlets.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review
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A nice bonus is the acrylic covering that lets you see the main flow area – sure to look great with coloured coolant. Further adding to the aesthetics is an RGB LED strip fitted along the lower edge and shining light through the acrylic. The Xtreme Engine utility has controls for this built in, allowing you to tweak the colour, brightness and effect of the light, including dynamic colour variation based on different GPU measurements like load, voltage or temperature as well as audio-based pulsing. It's great to see Gigabyte merging software-based overclocking tools and RGB control in a single utility as other companies like Asus are yet to do this.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review
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The PCB is unchanged from the standard PCB used with air-cooled Xtreme Gaming GTX 1080 cards in Gigabyte's range. That said, 'standard' doesn't really do it justice. Much like Asus's Strix cards, the Xtreme Gaming range is assembled on a fully automated process for improved quality and reliability. The PCB also gets an aerospace-grade PCB coating said to provide resistance to dust, debris, moisture and corrosion.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming Waterforce WB Review
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Gigabyte uses a mighty 12+2 power phase configuration here, which is said to reduce overall MOSFET temperatures (by spreading the load) and to provide a more stable voltage. The chokes and capacitors are said to be 'highest-grade', similar to those used on the Titan X.

The card is supplied with a three-year warranty, but this is easily upgraded by a year simply by registering the card for free.

Specifications

  • Graphics processor Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, 1,784MHz (1,923MHz boost)
  • Pipeline 2,560 stream processors, 160 texture units, 64 ROPs
  • Memory 8GB GDDR5X, 10.2Gbps effective
  • Bandwidth 326.4GB/sec, 256-bit interface
  • Compatibility DirectX 12, Vulcan, OpenGL 4.5
  • Outputs/Inputs 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, Dual Link DVI-I, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, 2 x HDMI 2.0b internal
  • Power connections 2 x 8-pin PCI-E, top-mounted
  • Size 266mm long, 145mm tall, dual-slot
  • Warranty Three years (four years with registration)

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