MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Review

Manufacturer: MSI
UK price (as reviewed):
£679.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $719.99 (ex Tax)

In case you weren't aware, there's a new graphics card king in town – the GTX 1080 – and it's only natural to see Nvidia's board partners get heavily involved. Being top of the food chain always means high pricing in the hardware market, and a lack of competition from AMD means the GTX 1080 is currently a very expensive product. Recent political events here in the UK have only compounded this – even the least expensive GTX 1080 has shot up from £525 to £570 following the pound's recent demise against the dollar. Still, there will always be those willing and able to pay top buck for top performance, so there are big margins to be made. MSI alone has at least 10 different SKUs of the GTX 1080, and the one we have, the Gaming X 8G, is likely to be its most popular. Currently retailing for a cool £680, it's £20 more than the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW we reviewed a few weeks back, so let's see what it brings to the table.

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Review
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First, a note on nomenclature. MSI is splitting its Gaming series of graphics cards into three lines: Gaming, Gaming X and Gaming Z. All three feature Twin Frozr VI cooling and overclocks, but the overclocks get higher as you progress through them in that order. The vanilla Gaming card has an optional backplate, while for the Gaming X it comes as standard and with the Gaming Z the backplate sports RGB lighting too.

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Review
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At 279mm long and 140mm tall, the GTX 1080 Gaming X is a fairly bulky card, but not overly so for one of this calibre, and it is well within the dual-slot form factor too. Aesthetically, the Twin Frozr VI cooler still carries an aggressive design with red and black styling, but we think it holds up pretty well – you're free to disagree, of course. The fan shroud is plastic but the 1.1kg card is nonetheless very rigid, with the awesomely strong backplate helping a great deal here.

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Review
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The MSI and dragon logo along the top edge, as well as the red strips on the front face of the cooler, are backlit by RGB LEDs, controllable via the MSI Gaming App. They can be synchronised or given different effects and colours as you see fit.

The Gaming App is also used to switch between the built-in overclocked modes. These are OC Mode (1,708MHz core, 1,847MHz boost and 10.1GHz memory), Gaming Mode (1,683MHz core, 1,823MHz boost and 10GHz memory) and Silent Mode (1,607MHz core, 1,747MHz boost, 10GHz memory). It's unfortunate MSI hasn't been able to integrate its RGB and OC mode controls into Afterburner in the same way that EVGA has with Precision XOC.

MSI has been subjected to the same criticism as Asus for shipping to reviewers cards that default to OC Mode while the retail cards default to Gaming Mode. Personally, we still think it's much ado about nothing, since the difference between modes is virtually non-existent and both are easily accessible to the end-user anyway. Regardless, our card is a retail sample, but we've still tested at the full-speed OC Mode. 1,708MHz is a 6 percent increase on stock speeds, and ever so slightly below the 1,721MHz engine clock of the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW. Still, with its superior cooler and better boosting potential, MSI says clock speeds should be roughly 14 percent higher than reference cards.

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Review
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MSI has used the reference set of display connectors. We did like Asus's use of two HDMI ports in the GTX 1070 Strix (allowing for VR and HDMI display connection together), but even so you've plenty of options with this setup.

The dual Torx fans have been upgraded to version 2.0 here, with air pressure and airflow both increased in the new patented design. There are still 14 blades, with the shape alternating between dispersion blades (steeper and more curved to speed up airflow) and traditional blades that push the air downwards. The fans feature double ball bearings and will switch off completely whenever the GPU is below 60°C.

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Review
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The GTX 1080 Gaming X heatsink features small deflectors to better guide air to the six heat pipes, which themselves have a square-shaped base where they meet the GPU baseplate. The heatsink makes full use of the card's length too, with the horizontal fins helping to guide at least some air out of the rear I/O panel. The whole apparatus is nickel-plated, and MSI has upgraded its thermal compound too. As well as being quieter and cooler than a reference blower, the Twin Frozr VI cooler is said to be up to 40 percent quieter than the previous design at the same temperature levels.

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Review
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MSI has also used a dedicated memory cooling plate for all eight chips, while the MOSFETs and VRMs are cooled by their own miniature heatsink with fins. Even the chokes haven't been forgotten about, with a single thermal pad connecting them directly to the heatsink fins above. Even the backplate will help a little with passive heat dissipation – it's a true all-round cooling system, and the attention to detail is impressive.

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Review
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The usual 8-pin PCI-E header is joined by an additional 6-pin one on the GTX 1080 Gaming X, and power is fed through an 8+2 PWM phase design (the reference design is 5+1) that uses MSI's Military Class 4 components.

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G Review
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There are no accessories in the box, but you do get a one year license for Xsplit Premium and a two month one for WTFast Premium. These are said to be worth $50 and $20 respectively. More tangible is the warranty, which is MSI's standard three year affair.

Specifications

  • Graphics processor Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, 1,708MHz (1,847MHz boost)
  • Pipeline 2,560 stream processors, 160 texture units, 64 ROPs
  • Memory 8GB GDDR5X, 10.1GHz effective
  • Bandwidth 323.2GB/sec, 256-bit interface
  • Compatibility DirectX 12, Vulcan, OpenGL 4.5
  • Outputs/Inputs 3 x DisplayPort 1.4, Dual Link DVI-I, HDMI 2.0b
  • Power connections 1 x 8-pin PCI-E, 1 x 6-pin PCI-E, top-mounted
  • Size 279mm long, 140mm tall, dual-slot
  • Warranty Three years

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