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MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X 11G Review

Our Verdict

This is a big, expensive graphics card, but we're giving it a recommendation anyway. MSI does a good job of maintaining balance between performance and acoustics with its default settings. On the other hand, it went the extra mile with a highly effective cooling solution that addresses the shortcomings we identified when we reviewed the GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G. Sure, a whopping 2.7 pounds (1.2 kilogram) of weight is killer, especially if you plan to ship your assembled PC anywhere. But there are plenty of support brackets you can add if stress on your PCIe slot is a concern. In fact, it would have been nice to see MSI bundle one in this card's packaging. In addition to a recommendation, we might have been compelled to dust off our highest-level award for the occasion.

For

  • Fast
  • Quiet
  • Well-built cooler

Against

  • Large
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X 11G Review

MSI doesn't do the understated approach. The company likes to add a little extra whenever a reference specification looks too conservative. And why not, as long as there's value to tap into? In the case of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, we're already talking about the very highest-end graphics card available, short of Titan Xp. But MSI arms its interpretation with an available ~330W power target and a massive cooler, giving us reason to be optimistic about this board's prospects.

Since the actual performance of any third-party card depends on the GPU Boost frequency it can sustain, and thus on cooling, power limits, and processor quality, any review that relies on bar charts is little more than a snapshot of a single specimen. That's why we're putting our emphasis on the actual implementation of each model. To that end, a lot of equipment goes into thoroughly documenting a graphics card's behaviors. If you'd like a peek at what goes into such an evaluation, check out our Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB Review. It makes for a good baseline on which MSI builds.

Specifications

The Package, Dimensions, and Interfaces

MSI doesn't aim for the absolute highest overclocked frequencies possible, even if the software-selectable ~330W power target makes room for aggressive tuning. It's our job, then, to figure out how well the substantial cooler copes (or doesn't cope) with GP102's excess heat.

Compared to MSI's GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X (without the Ti), this card is quite a bit heavier. We're not surprised, though. In our Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Graphics Card Roundup, we found problems with the way MSI cooled its voltage converters and memory modules. So it's only natural that the company made improvements between then and now.

With an impressive weight of 1.253kg, a moderate length of 27.9cm (measured from the outer edge of the slot bracket to the end of the shroud), a height of 13.5cm (from the top of the motherboard slot to the upper edge of the cover), and a width of 4.57cm, this effectively three-slot card is a bulky beast. Additionally, it requires an extra 0.5cm of space in the back; keep that in mind if you're using a large CPU cooler.

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The fan shroud's mix of red and black plastic is a matter of taste. But it religiously follows MSI's corporate design, so you know what you're getting one generation after the next.

Up top, there's a back-lit MSI logo and printed GeForce branding. Two eight-pin power connectors are positioned at the end of the board and rotated by 180°.

A look at the end and bottom of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X 11G reveals that its fins are oriented vertically. They won't allow any waste heat to exhaust out the back. Instead, hot air is pushed from the top and bottom, warming up other components in your case, along with your motherboard underneath. As such, this design decision is rather counterproductive.

We spy another, more pleasing detail: MSI took past feedback to heart and integrated a real VRM heat sink in its large cooler.

The end of the card reveals three 6mm heat pipes and a single 8mm one for the right part of the cooling structure.

The slot bracket features five display outputs, of which a maximum of four can be used simultaneously in a multi-monitor setup. In addition to one dual-link DVI-D connector, the bracket also hosts two HDMI 2.0b ports and two DisplayPort 1.4-capable interfaces. No doubt, this is a nod to Rift and Vive owners who need at least one HDMI output for their HMD. The rest of the slot plate is dotted with openings for airflow, though they're not functional due to MSI's fin design.

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A GPU-Z screenshot provides the most pertinent technical information, even if the GPU Boost values we observed were much higher than MSI's official specifications.

NvidiaTitan X (Pascal)NvidiaGeForce GTX 1080 Ti FEMSIGTX 1080 TiGaming X 11GNvidiaGeForce GTX 1080 FENvidiaGeForce GTX 980 Ti
GPUGP102GP102GP102GP104GM200
CUDA Cores35843584358425602816
Base Clock Rate1417 MHz1480 MHz1544 MHz1607 MHz1000 MHz
GPU Boost Clock Rate1531 MHz+1582 MHz+1658 MHz1733 MHz+1076 MHz+
Memory Size and Type12GB GDDR5X11GB GDDR5X11GB GDDR5X8GB GDDR5X6GB GDDR5
Die Size471 mm²471 mm²471 mm²314 mm²601 mm²
Process Technology16nm16nm16nm16nm28nm
Transistors12 billion12 billion12 billion7.2 billion8 billion
Streaming Multiprocessors (SM)2828282022
GFLOPS (Base Clock)10,15710,60911,0688,2285,632
Texture Units224224224160176
Texture Fill Rate317.4 GT/s331.5 GT/s345.9 GT/s257.1 GT/s214 GT/s
ROPs9688886496
Pixel Fill Rate136 GPix/s130.2 GPix/s135.9 GPix/s114.2 GPix/s116.7 GPix/s
Memory Data Rate10 Gb/s11 Gb/s11 Gb/s10 Gb/s7 Gb/s
Memory Bus384-bit352-bit352-bit256-bit384-bit
Memory Bandwidth480 GB/s484 GB/s484 GB/s320 GB/s336 GB/s
L2 Cache3MB2816KB2816KB2MB3MB
TDP250W250W330W180W250W

Test System & Methodology

We explained our test system and methodology in How We Test Graphics Cards. If you want to learn more about the procedures we're using in today's review, have a look at that story.

Since its publication, however, we did beef up our platform and CPU cooling, mostly to rule out the possibility of a processor-imposed bottleneck. This is particularly important given the flagship status of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.

Test Equipment And Environment
SystemIntel Core i7-6900K @ 4.3 GHzMSI X99S XPower Gaming TitaniumCorsair Vengeance DDR4-32001x 1TB Toshiba OCZ RD400 (M.2, System SSD)2x 960GB Toshiba OCZ TR150 (Storage, Images)be quiet Dark Power Pro 11, 850W PSUWindows 10 Pro (All Updates)
CoolingAlphacool Eisblock XPXAlphacool Eiszeit 2000 Chiller2x be quiet! Silent Wings 3 PWM (Closed Case Simulation)Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut (Used when Switching Coolers)
PC CaseLian Li PC-T70 with Extension Kit and ModsConfigurations: Open Benchtable, Closed Case
Power Consumption MeasurementContact-free DC Measurement at PCIe Slot (Using a Riser Card)Contact-free DC Measurement at External Auxiliary Power Supply CableDirect Voltage Measurement at Power Supply2 x Rohde & Schwarz HMO 3054, 500MHz Digital Multi-Channel Oscilloscope with Storage Function 4 x Rohde & Schwarz HZO50 Current Probe (1mA - 30A, 100kHz, DC) 4 x Rohde & Schwarz HZ355 (10:1 Probes, 500MHz) 1 x Rohde & Schwarz HMC 8012 Digital Multimeter with Storage Function
Thermal Measurement1 x Optris PI640 80Hz Infrared Camera + PI ConnectReal-Time Infrared Monitoring and Recording
Noise MeasurementNTI Audio M2211 (with Calibration File, Low Cut at 50Hz)Steinberg UR12 (with Phantom Power for Microphones)Creative X7, Smaart v.7Custom-Made Proprietary Measurement Chamber, 3.5 x 1.8 x 2.2m (L x D x H)Perpendicular to Center of Noise Source(s), Measurement Distance of 50cmNoise Level in dB(A) (Slow), Real-time Frequency Analyzer (RTA) Graphical Frequency Spectrum of Noise


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  • Dark Lord of Tech
    Nice Review , thanks again.
    Reply
  • Scorpionking20
    Thanks. I would love a database of clocks/temps/noise comparing differing cards. I'm looking to sidegrade my 1070's to a 1080ti, and am not in a rush. Noise bugs me a lot more than others, so I try to go for the most quiet solution...but I may be getting a Ryzen with a proper loop too, so if I did that I may get a FE card to throw into the loop...too many options.
    Reply
  • FormatC
    I've already tested four cards in Germany (four more in pipeline), all other stuff is already in translation. After publishing a few more cards on US site, we will put also a kind of landing/summary page with comparable data ;)

    But I can't spoiler the other reviews results before publishing it ;)
    Reply
  • zthomas
    Sound and temp is it increased with this card? .. with its own cooler how much cooler? Lots of fans pushing air.. yeah I updated my case.. has three large fans.. one thing i don't get.. I have seen nothing of temperature controls, no meters nothing to indicate temperatures inside the case.. or nothing showing use a peak times during gaming..
    Reply
  • FormatC
    I can't understand your question, sorry.

    But you can monitor the GPU temperature by yourself with tools like GPU-Z or MSI Afterburner (also with an OSD). Then compare the results with my IR pictures and you have a good point to calculate the other temps by yourself. ;)
    Reply
  • derekullo
    Wish it had some Titan Xp benchmarks since that's the competition.
    Reply
  • FormatC
    The problem is:
    Nvidia has never sampled this card.

    I have here a Quadro P6000 and this card is similar. Due the thermal limits of Nvidias stock cooler it is not significant faster. Ok, a little bit, but not a whole universe. And Nvidia will not be amused, if I use a 5000 USD workstation card in gaming benchmarks ;)
    Reply
  • LwNickV
    I have a question about Overclocking, you mention you need to "max out the voltage slider". But i saw it mentioned in another review that Voltage Slider is locked for this card. So what do you mean with that statement? Is just upping the Power Target to 330 enough to reach 2000 mhz+-?
    Reply
  • lorfa
    What exactly is at the hotspot?
    Reply
  • Sam Hain
    19669306 said:
    I have a question about Overclocking, you mention you need to "max out the voltage slider". But i saw it mentioned in another review that Voltage Slider is locked for this card. So what do you mean with that statement? Is just upping the Power Target to 330 enough to reach 2000 mhz+-?

    Tom's was given an unlocked version of MSI AB back in March to test an FE Ti with it and was done using H20 cooling; http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-1080-ti-water-cooling,4975-2.html They also give instructions on how to manipulate AB to access the voltage settings, until a new(er), unlocked version of AB rolls...

    "We're fortunate enough to have a version of MSI’s Afterburner utility unlocked especially for us. If you want access to similar settings before a new version of Afterburner is released, you can manually add your 1080 Ti to the third-party database using the VDDC_Generic_Detection entry under the VEN_10DE&DEV_1B06&SUBSYS_120F10DE&REV_?? key. A quick search online should turn up plenty of in-depth instructions on how to do this."
    However, you can just move the POWER-LIMIT slider to the max, along with bumping your clock settings. These aftermarket cards will crack past 2K MHz, no problem w/out touching voltage, this card included... It's a CHAMP!
    Reply