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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition Review

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Category: Video Cards
Price: $699
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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition Introduction:

Just a couple years ago, the GTX 980 Ti reigned supreme until NVIDIA dropped the Pascal GP104-based beast last may with a full stack of products to follow that essential emasculated the GTX 980 Ti. We found that the GTX 1080 Founders Edition offered up exceptional performance with significant improvements across the board in FPS performance generated. The GTX 1070 and GTX 1060 Founders Edition cards filled the gaps to truly put the Maxwell-based 9 series in the history books.

Here we are a scant 10 months after the introduction of NVIDIA's 16nm FinFET architecture with the card that had to inevitably happen, the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition. For this card, NVIDIA paired the GP102 core with 11GB of 11Gbps G5X memory to truly push the limits on 4K FPS performance. It comes with the same commitment to excellence in design that we saw with last year's GTX 1080 FE. Priced at the same $699 entry price point that we saw for the GTX 1080 FE, NVIDIA should have no trouble selling all its can make. Let's take a deeper dive into what NVIDIA has brought to the table.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition 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 are 1480MHz with a boost clock of 1532MHz, although it may run higher depending on the power and thermal operating conditions. NVIDIA skipped HBM and went with 11GB of 11Gbps rated Micron GDDR5X memory for this generation, running through a 352-bit bus that was achieved through the dedication to improving memory trace layout and pathways. A total of 12, yes 12, billion transistors are packed into the 471 mm² die area. These improvements push memory bandwidth to 484 GB/s and the Texture Rate (Bilinear) to 331.5 GigaTexels/sec.

 

This "Founders Edition" GTX 1080 Ti is the latest card from NVIDIA that we are looking at today. Much like with the GTX 1080, the "Founders Edition" is the nomenclature used to replace the reference designs of the past. What we get is the same robust industrial faceted aluminum card design we saw last year as an improvement over the design first introduced on the GTX 690. Much like its forebears, the GTX 1080 Ti is a two-slot design. While we get some common features in the design, like the clear polycarbonate window over the heat sink fins, there is also a change in how the brace/rear cooler is implemented (when compared to the GTX 980 Ti) with a better managed two-piece rear cooling plate/brace. The rear section of this assembly can be removed to promote better cooling via improved airflow when running in a multi-GPU configuration. What you see is an increase in the maximum amount of airflow into the vapor chamber cooling solution for max cooling and minimal noise.

Measurements are pretty standard for the form factor NVIDIA has been using, at 10.5 inches long using a two-slot sized cooling solution. This allows the GTX 1080 Ti to fit in the largest selection of chassis on the market in motherboards equipped with a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot. Much like the GTX 1080, the GTX 1080 Ti easily fits my Node 304 chassis in a mini-ITX board.

 

 

 

Display connectivity on the GTX 1080 Ti sees a change from the GTX 1080. The single Dual Link DVI port has gone the way of the dinosaurs to improve cooling performance and reduce the noise signature of the card.  A trio of DisplayPort 1.2 certified, 1.3, and 1.4 ready ports, and a single HDMI 2.0b port are all that remain and support up to four independent displays at one time with six connector nodes. By using this configuration, the GTX 1080 Ti 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 has enough free space to allow the airflow to escape the  new vapor chamber cooling solution and faceted aluminum shroud when the fan speed is set to chill! Much like previous designs, the GTX 1080 Ti FE sports an intake air channel on the back end of the cooling shroud. Airflow directly from the front of the chassis can be pulled into this channel, helping cool the power circuitry at the back of the PCB. It's a solution that works.

 

 

 

 

Power connectivity on the GP102-based GTX 1080 Ti is going to require a bit more juice than you can get from the single 8-pin PEG connection on the GTX 1080. As a card with a 250 watt TDP, NVIDIA stepped up to an 8-pin + 6-pin pairing to deliver  225 watts from the power supply, along with the 75 watts from the PCIe slot, to make a total of 300 watts available for use by the GTX 1080 Ti. Sure, that offers a little head room over the advertized TDP of the card, but in my testing I see that the card bounces right at the limit. PSU recommendations are going to see a slight boost over the 500 watt PSU recommendation seen with the GTX 1080, but a 650 watt PSU should handle this card and the rest of the system.

NVIDIA's SLI multi-GPU solution is supported on the GTX 1080 Ti. 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 funtionality.

 

 

The cooling solution used on the Pascal 16nm-based GTX 1080 Ti is a robust vapor chamber design. This design can carry a 250W load, which the Pascal GP102 core is rated at a 250W TDP.  NVIDIA has been effective at managing thermals over the past few architectural changes by using similar blower-based designs. Not only are the thermals managed, but the noise generated by the blower fan has been reduced with smart monitoring and management of the fan profiles. A 2x improvement in surface area on the I/O port bracket was gained by eliminating the DVI port.

Crafting a premium product was the goal with the Founders Edition cards. As we saw with the GTX 1080, improved trace layouts for the GDDR5X memory helped with memory bandwidth. WIth the improved G5X 11Gbps memory used on the GTX 1080 Ti, available bandwidth improves further. To handle the additional hardware under the hood per se, NVIDIA stepped up to a 7-phase 2x dual-FET power design optimized for bandwidth and phase balancing. Adding capacitance and optimizing the power delivery circuitry resulted in improved power efficiency.

 

 

As a card built for sale to the public, NVIDIA gets in the game with its packaging and delivers the GTX 1080 Ti just as you would see it on the shelf of your big box retailer or if you purchased it online. Internally, there is a dense foam that keeps the card in place and protected during shipping. One change is that now you get a quick start guide, support guide, and a welcome manual.

 

 

Just on specifications alone, the GTX 1080 Ti FE earns my hard earned coin! Add in the next level performance and additional ecosystem enhancements, and you really cannot go wrong with this one.




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