MSI GTX 1080 & GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
Price: GTX 1080 $719, GTX 1070 $400
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MSI GTX 1080 & GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G Introduction:
Having just recently looked at the latest architecture and ecosystem updates from NVIDIA, the first round of AIB cards have made it in to OCC. Now that NVIDIA is fully engaged in the market with the Founders Edition cards, the AIB's, such as MSI, will be putting together packages that offer better cooling and enhanced base and boost core clock speeds on the 16nm FinFET silicone. Tie in all the additional features put on board and you get cards that should perform better than the Founders Edition cards right out of the box.
Case in point is this pair of Pascal GPUs I am looking at today, the MSI GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G video cards. The X designation lets you know that these are the factory overclocked models that get a backplate and RGB lighting for the cards. Both the GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G and the GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G see a significant boost to their core clock speeds and memory speeds. The GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G sees a boost to 1847MHz on the core and up to 10108MHz on the G5X memory. The GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G sees a maximum clock speed of 1797MHz under load in OC mode on the core and 8108MHz on the high-speed GDDR5 memory. Clock speed always adds performance. Keeping these cards cool is the latest iteration of the Twin Frozr cooling solution version VI.
Priced at roughly the same price points as the Founders Edition cards, it should prove interesting to see just how the market shakes out. Let's take a better look at this pair of cards from MSI and see how the technology is leveraged to improve MSI's market share.
MSI GTX 1080 & GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G Closer Look:
Let's start with the packaging for MSI's GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G and GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G. Visually, the packaging is identical for the two cards, using the same imaging and highlights. The front side of the package hits all the key NVIDIA-based features. These card both are equipped with an 8GB frame buffer, GDDR5X on the GTX 1080 and high-speed GDDR5 on the GTX 1070. DirectX 12 is supported and these cards are ready for the virtual world, and all the experiences that it brings along. On the bottom right you see some of the NVIDIA ecosystem components with the mention on the Twin Frozr VI cooling splitting the features.
The back side of the packaging shows off the MSI specific features that make up the points of difference on these cards. RGB LED lighting for the logo on the card and LED accents on the shroud are new features included on this update to MSI's line up. For MSI's Pascal lineup, the company is introducing Twin Frozr VI cooling with Zero Frozr technology. MSI's Gaming App integrates all the tech together for the end user and offers a wealth of options to play with, including a one-year subscription to XSplit Gamecaster V2 as an added value component.
Inside the packaging you get a black embossed box with the accessory bundle. Under this box are the cards packed in a dense open cell foam enclosure. The accessory bundle is slim by most standards, but includes some stickers to show your brand loyalty, a quick installation guide, driver disc, and thank you card with the registration information so you can get your warranty put into effect. Not a lot, but when you are not pushing 250W to cards any more and the connectivity flexibility of today's cards, you no longer need an adapter in most cases.
Visually, the GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G and GTX 1070 X 8G are identical in every way, except for the type of memory and the GPU hidden under the massive shroud. Measuring 279 x 140 x 42 mm, the cards are fairly large by any standard. At 11 inches long, it is not the longest card ever and should fit most chassis, as long as you do not have a height restriction to work around. These cards are designed to run in a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot, but are backwards compatible. The front of the card features a unique design to the shroud with ribs that feature LEDs for lighting that are controlled via MSI's Gaming App.
As a dual-slot design, MSI had to cram a bunch of cooling into a small slot form factor. MSI managed to fit the five heat pipe cooler under the shroud while employing Close Quarters cooling to cool the components under the shroud. The back side features a ventilated back plate that stiffens up the card while just looking god for the masses. Unlike the Founders Edition cards, there is not a part of the back plate that is removable. Torx 2.0 fans are used to provide the airflow through the cooling solution on this card. These 100mm fan blades use dispersion technology to force up to 22% more airflow through the heat sink package.
Display connectivity for the MSI GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G include a trio of DisplayPort 1.2 certified, 1.3, and 1.4 ready ports; a single HDMI 2.0b port; and a single dual-link DVI port that support up to four independent displays at one time with six connector nodes. By using this configuration, the cards support 4K displays at 120Hz, 5K displays at 60Hz, and 8K displays at 60Hz by using a pair of cables. Pascal GPUs officially support PlayReady 3.0 (SL3000) and hardware level support of HEVC decode. MSI uses a tribal style design on the I/O panel to provide airflow out of the chassis when the fans are set to push the max air flow volume.
While the Founders Edition cards used a single 8-pin power connection, MSI takes it a step further to ensure power delivery is not a problem. Using a 6-pin and 8-pin PEG power connections, you can pump a maximum of 300 watts into either the GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G or the GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G. Interesting since the rating for each card is either 180 watts on the GP104 used on the GTX 1080 and 150 watts used on the GTX 1070. Either way a 500+ watt power supply is recommended for these cards.
NVIDIA's SLI multi-GPU solution is supported on the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070. Two cards is the preferred solution, although three and four card solutions are supported, but not recommended. To improve bandwidth between GPUs, NVIDIA has linked the two SLI bridge connections on the PCB to work in a high bandwidth mode to handle the data throughput with the Pascal architecture. To handle this bandwidth, NVIDIA has put together a trio of SLI bridges supporting 2, 3, and 4-Way configurations. That being said, the best solution for VR gaming is a three card solution with a pair of GPUs handling the graphics, with the third card handling the audio and async compute.
Pulling apart the cards are not that difficult. Getting a look at the common PCBs of the GTX 1080 X 8G and GTX 1070 X 8G, we see that MSI has gone full custom with a 10-phase power circuit to feed the 16nm GPU cores. MSI's Close Quarters cooling package is used to cool the PCB level components, including the Military Class IV parts.
The bulk of the cooling solution is the heat pipe-based Twin Frozr VI cooler. Using 6mm and 8mm heat pipes, this design proves to be very efficient if push comes to shove when taking care of the thermal load pumped out by the GP104 16nm core. An aluminum fin array is interspersed with directional fins inside the heat sink to keep airflow in the heat sink longer and direct it to the hottest parts of the design. A pair of 100mm Torx 2.0 fans are used to provide the airflow through the shroud and PCB. By using dispersion blades on the fan, they are able to push up to 22% more airflow for enhanced cooling. The fans feature a dual ball bearing hub that should improve long term stability of the hub and fan.
MSI uses Zero Frozr Technology to reduce fan noise when in low load situations under 60 °C. At temperatures less than 60 °C, the fans do not spin when running a 2D load, effectively giving the end user a zero noise impact on the card. In the past, this technology has done a good job of reducing system noise.
The heart of these cards are NVIDIA's 16nm FinFET Pascal GP104 graphics computing cores. The GTX 1080 uses four Graphics Processing Clusters of 20 Pascal Streaming Multiprocessors and eight 32-bit memory controllers. In the GP104 iteration of the Pascal architecture, each GPC ships with a dedicated raster engine and five SMs. Each SM contains 128 CUDA cores, 256 KB of register file capacity, a 96 KB shared memory unit, 48 KB of total L1 cache storage, and eight texture units with a Simultaneous Multi-Projection Engine being incorporated into the Polymorph engine. On the GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G, this configuration results in a total of 2560 CUDA cores, 160 texture units, and 64 ROPs. Baseline clock speeds for the GP104 core on the GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G are 1708MHz, with a boost clock of 1847MHz in OC mode, although it may run higher depending on the power and thermal operating conditions. MSI stuck with the 8GB of Micron GDDR5X memory for this generation of cards running at 10108MHz through a 256-bit bus.
The GTX 1070 Gaming sees a reduction in CUDA core count to 1920 CUDA cores, 120 texture units, and 64 ROPs. Baseline clock speeds for the GP104 core on the GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G is 1607MHz, with a boost clock of 1797MHz, although it may run higher depending on the power and thermal operating conditions. While the top of the food chain GTX 1080 gets G5X memory, the GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G gets 8GB of really fast GDDR5 memory running at 8108MHz through a 256-bit bus. A total of 7.2 billion transistors are packed into a 314 mm² die area. The node shrink allows NVIDIA to pack more hardware in a smaller package that should help with cooling overall.
Tuning and tweaking MSI's hardware results in improved performance across the board. MSI's Afterburner tool has been used in the past for tuning all GPU cores and is ready to roll with Pascal. However, MSI needed an application that was more than just an overclocking utility. The Gaming App does utilize some limited overclocking, but adds additional features that are specific to the gamer user base. There are three basic profiles that tune specific frequencies. OC mode has the highest core clock speed, Gaming sees a drop down in clcok speed and seems to keep the same fan profile, and Silent mode reduces core clock speed further so you can tune for silent running. You get a variety of buttons for streaming games via Dragon Eye, ramping the fan up with Snow Mode, and the LED mode that controls the RGB MSI logo on the side of the card and the behavior of the main shroud LEDs. Pretty cool stuff.
If you go on looks alone, the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G video cards from MSI are a success before they even start populating the pixels on a 4K display. Featuring enhanced cooling, an improved 10-phase VRM, and boosted clock speeds, they should do even better than NVIDIA's Founders Edition cards when you look at actual gaming performance.