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MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio Review

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Category: Video Cards
Price: $799
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MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio Introduction:

The GTX 1080 Ti proved that it was the top performing gaming video card on the planet when it was launched. Truth be told it really still is as even AMD's Vega series is delivering FPS performance that most closely matches the GTX 1080 Founders Edition. We have seen several different versions of the GTX 1080 Ti as every manufacturer put together their own versions, since the Founders Edition was initially an NVIDIA specific card. I looked at the Founders Edition and MSI's own Armor 11G version of the card. Equipped with higher core clock speeds and a quieter, larger cooler, it proved that the MSI Armor 11G was a higher performing card that ran a bit cooler and quieter than the Founders Edition GTX 1080 Ti.

Now we get to look at a card from MSI that takes the GTX 1080 Ti to new heights. MSI put together the GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio with a whole slew of features that speak to the gamer and enthusiast with both visual and performance cues. There are items that make this card more attractive on each front. A massive, quiet running cooling solution and an impressive RGB lighting package are the big takeaways, but they do nothing to diminish the performance of the GTX 1080 Ti.

With the current GPU crypto mining craze, finding high-end video cards come with a price. The current pricing on the GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio sits at $799 and includes the game Destiny 2. While pretty high, you are getting a custom card with a pretty stout 1683MHz boost clock that compares price-wise with similarly built cards from other manufacturers. Let's see if the GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio earns its price point.

MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio Closer Look:

NVIDIA's latest Pascal architecture is built around roughly the same GPC architecture that we have been seeing since Fermi. Enhancements were made at each generational shift through Kepler and Maxwell. The big changes for this go around is the move to the 16nm FinFET process and inclusion of the Simultaneous Multi-Projection Engine being incorporated into the Polymorph engine. The Pascal 16nm GP102 architecture uses six Graphics Processing Clusters of 28 Pascal Streaming Multiprocessors and 11 32-bit memory controllers. In the GP102 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.

This configuration results in a total of 3584 CUDA cores, 224 texture units, and 88 ROPs. Baseline clock speeds for the GP102 core used in the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition are 1480MHz with a boost clock of 1532MHz. MSI chose to make those the dead silent clock speeds on this card. However, when you run the everyday clock speeds at the OC speeds, MSI gives the end user a baseline clock speed of 1569MHz with a boost clock speed of 1683MHz. These speeds are a significant bump in clock speed ergo performance. Much like with every Pascal-based card I have looked at, these speeds are truly the starting point as Pascal cards will run much higher when the thermal and current limits are not exceeded. Much like the Founders Edition cards, MSI stuck with 11GB of 11Gbps rated Micron GDDR5X memory running through a 352-bit bus. The core is composed of 12 billion transistors that are packed into the 471 mm² die area.  

 

What reaches out and grabs you when you look at the packaging is the RGB lighting effects that are a big part of the visual on the GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio. The front panel shows the RGB lighting effect that is used along the spine of the card. The MSI and Dragon logos are on the top left, while the model name and card type are just off the bottom. It's an interesting look! The back side shows the Mystic Lighting effects capable of on this card, and looks at the Torx 2.0 fans and massive Tri Frozr cooling solution with the 8mm superpipes. Inside the box, the card comes packed in a dense closed cell foam to keep the card from damage in transit or the unplanned drop. The accessory package includes a quick start guide, the driver disc, warranty card, 6 to 8-pin power adapter, and the graphics card support bracket.

 

 

 

MSI's GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio is built with NVIDIA's GP102 Pascal core as the base that everything starts from. The standard GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X cards have MSI's excellent Twin Frozr VI cooling solutions, but this card gets something a bit more robust to drive cooling performance. The Tri Frozr cooler features a trio (pun intended) of MSI's Torx 2.0 ball bearing fans and is just one of those points of difference between the standard Gaming X cards and this one.

The front of the shroud has a series of LED's that light up in a single color. The back side of the card uses a robust vented backplate to not only provide structural stability for the custom PCB, but is also vented to release any heat generated from the back side of the PCB. Looking at the side views of the GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio, you get an idea of just how much of the card is covered with the dual fin arrays that carry six nickel-plated heat pipes. The top view of the card shows the MSI and GeForce logos that light up when the card is powered on.

As you can imagine, this card is big and heavy. So much so that MSI includes a support bracket to keep the card from bending under its own weight. At close to 13 inches long and 5.5 inches tall, the card may provide some challenges with installation in a smaller chassis, but did not present size related issues in my Corsair 780T.  Full measurements clock in at 325 x 140 x 48mm with a weight of just over three pounds.

 

 

 

Display connectivity on the MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio consists of a pair of DisplayPort 1.4 ports, a pair of HDMI 2.0b ports, and a single dual-link DVI port that supports up to four independent displays at one time with six connector nodes. Using this configuration, the GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio supports 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. The I/O panel features a tribal design that mirrors the openings on the backplate to get rid of some of the thermal load out of the chassis via the airflow generated by the Torx 2.0 fans. The back end of the card is open to aid in directing airflow from out of the Tri Frozr shroud. The second fin array extends over the back end of the card and shows just how large the cooler is and how much space it occupies.  The shroud LED and fan power connections are under the cooling solution at the bottom of the card.  

 

 

NVIDIA's SLI multi-GPU solution is supported on this card from MSI. As noted when Pascal launched, two cards are the preferred multi-GPU 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. MSI, as well as NVIDIA, offer high bandwidth SLI Bridges that support the needs of the market if you choose to run a multi-GPU solution. As VR gaming is starting to come into its own, 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 functionality.

Power connectivity on the GP102-based GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio is a pair of 8-pin PEG connections to deliver up to 375 watts to the card when you include the 75 watts from the PCIe 3.0 16x slot. As a 250 watt TDP, this might seem like overkill, but with overclocking a strong probability, this card may need the added power insurance. PSU recommendations for the MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio are going to come in at the same 600 watt rating we saw with the Founders Edition cards.

 

 

The spine of the card is where MSI has a lot going on on this card. The shroud gets single color LEDs in the ribs, while the MSI logo and the LED lighting effects bar add the extra visual appeal to the card. While you can run this RGB LED system on a single color, you can use MSI's Mystic Lighting application to coordinate the RGB lighting on your motherboard, memory, LED strips, and supported peripherals, as long as they are supported by MSI's Mystic Lighting application. 

 

 

Blowing the card apart you get a look at the components that make up the Tri Frozr and Close Quarters cooling systems. From the front to the back are the three Torx 2.0 fans that use ball bearings for stability and longevity. The Torx 2.0 fans us a dispersion blade system that improves airflow through the wave curved fins in the heatsink by up to 22%. At each end is a 100mm fan while the middle fan is slightly smaller at 90mm across. By using three fans, the card's length dimension creeps up to almost 13 inches. The pair of fin arrays on this card are not equipped with MSI's Airflow technology that uses vanes in the fin array to better manage airflow.

For this card, the pair of heat sinks are massive and use Wave curve technology to improve the surface area in the fin arrays that promote more efficient cooling. To get the thermal load from the cooling surface, MSI uses a total of six heat pipes that flatten out over the cooling surface to improve heat transfer. The four 6 mm nickel plated heat sinks are split between the pair of fin arrays, with three going to the back fin array and one going forward. The two 8mm "Super Pipes" are also going to the rear heat sink, but one loops through the front heat sink, adding even more cooling capacity to the cooling solution.

After the airflow passes through the Tri Frozr cooler it gets the Close Quarters cooling heat sinks that keep the G5X memory from cooking, as well as handling the thermal load from the all-digital Military Class power circuitry. As seen on pretty much all of the MSI Gaming line, Super Ferrite Chokes, Hi-C Caps, and Dark Capacitors are used for a cooler running, more efficient, longer lived solution.       

 

While the MSI GTX 1080 Ti Armor 11G was a pretty stout piece of hardware, the GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio looks like it can take the performance seen on that card up a bit of a notch on both the FPS performance and cooling fronts. 




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