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.

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.

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.


Nvidia
Titan X
(Pascal)
Nvidia
GeForce
GTX 1080 Ti FE
MSI
GTX 1080 Ti
Gaming X 11G
Nvidia
GeForce
GTX 1080 FE
Nvidia
GeForce
GTX 980 Ti
GPU
GP102
GP102
GP102GP104
GM200
CUDA Cores
3584
3584
35842560
2816
Base Clock Rate
1417 MHz1480 MHz
1544 MHz
1607 MHz1000 MHz
GPU Boost Clock Rate
1531 MHz+1582 MHz+
1658 MHz
1733 MHz+1076 MHz+
Memory Size and Type
12GB GDDR5X
11GB GDDR5X
11GB GDDR5X8GB GDDR5X
6GB GDDR5
Die Size
471 mm²
471 mm²
471 mm²314 mm²
601 mm²
Process Technology
16nm
16nm
16nm16nm
28nm
Transistors
12 billion
12 billion
12 billion
7.2 billion
8 billion
Streaming Multiprocessors (SM)
28
28
28
20
22
GFLOPS (Base Clock)
10,157
10,609
11,068
8,228
5,632
Texture Units
224
224
224160
176
Texture Fill Rate
317.4 GT/s331.5 GT/s345.9 GT/s
257.1 GT/s214 GT/s
ROPs
968888
6496
Pixel Fill Rate
136 GPix/s130.2 GPix/s135.9 GPix/s
114.2 GPix/s116.7 GPix/s
Memory Data Rate
10 Gb/s11 Gb/s11 Gb/s10 Gb/s7 Gb/s
Memory Bus
384-bit
352-bit
352-bit256-bit
384-bit
Memory Bandwidth
480 GB/s
484 GB/s
484 GB/s320 GB/s
336 GB/s
L2 Cache
3MB
2816KB
2816KB2MB
3MB
TDP
250W
250W
330W
180W
250W

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
System
Intel Core i7-6900K @ 4.3 GHz
MSI X99S XPower Gaming Titanium
Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3200
1x 1TB Toshiba OCZ RD400 (M.2, System SSD)
2x 960GB Toshiba OCZ TR150 (Storage, Images)
be quiet Dark Power Pro 11, 850W PSU
Windows 10 Pro (All Updates)
Cooling
Alphacool Eisblock XPX
Alphacool Eiszeit 2000 Chiller
2x be quiet! Silent Wings 3 PWM (Closed Case Simulation)
Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut (Used when Switching Coolers)
PC Case
Lian Li PC-T70 with Extension Kit and Mods
Configurations: Open Benchtable, Closed Case
Power Consumption Measurement
Contact-free DC Measurement at PCIe Slot (Using a Riser Card)
Contact-free DC Measurement at External Auxiliary Power Supply Cable
Direct Voltage Measurement at Power Supply
2 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 Measurement
1 x Optris PI640 80Hz Infrared Camera + PI Connect
Real-Time Infrared Monitoring and Recording
Noise Measurement
NTI Audio M2211 (with Calibration File, Low Cut at 50Hz)
Steinberg UR12 (with Phantom Power for Microphones)
Creative X7, Smaart v.7
Custom-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 50cm
Noise Level in dB(A) (Slow), Real-time Frequency Analyzer (RTA)
Graphical Frequency Spectrum of Noise

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  • SR-71 Blackbird
    Nice Review , thanks again.
  • 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.
  • 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 ;)
  • 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..
  • 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. ;)
  • derekullo
    Wish it had some Titan Xp benchmarks since that's the competition.
  • 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 ;)
  • 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+-?
  • lorfa
    What exactly is at the hotspot?
  • Sam Hain
    Anonymous 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!
  • Joonhong
    Good review. I guess it is still hard to fully enjoy UHD games with a single card. I wait for the VOLTA!
  • FormatC
    I'm playing only in UHD and have two rigs - one with a water cooled 1080 Ti and my gaming table with two water cooled 1080 non-Ti as SLI. But to be honest, the single card solution gives me the better experience. I'm really sensitive for stuttering. Games like Prey, Andromeda and Ghost Recon are running well on this oc'ed 1080 Ti in UHD (without this power-hungry Nvidia effects). It is not 100% perfect, but better than all this SLI drops und stuttering. And it's more efficient ;)
  • Fiqar_
    Great review!
  • Fiqar_
    What a beast!
  • DotNetMaster777
    The review is very nice
  • TMRichard
    Hey do you guys happen to have a review coming out for the GIGABYTE Aorus Xtreme GTX 1080 Ti? I think you'll agree that the card's clock speeds (Core and VRAM are boosted a fair amount) are wicked fast even compared to this one from MSI!
  • FormatC
    The review of the Aorus 1080 Ti Extreme Edition is already online in Germany and currently in translation. :)

    So don't worry. Also online in German are the EVGA 1080 Ti FTW3 and the Zotac 1080 Ti Amp! Extreme. Both are also in translation now. The Galax 1080 Ti EXOC Black and the Palit 1080 Ti SuperJetstream are in the Pipeline, after this I test the Asus Strix too. :)

    But atm I'm reviewing the single-slot Galax GTX 1070 Katana with a BIOS-improvement togeter with Galax ;)
  • Sam Hain
    Anonymous said:
    I'm playing only in UHD and have two rigs - one with a water cooled 1080 Ti and my gaming table with two water cooled 1080 non-Ti as SLI. But to be honest, the single card solution gives me the better experience. I'm really sensitive for stuttering. Games like Prey, Andromeda and Ghost Recon are running well on this oc'ed 1080 Ti in UHD (without this power-hungry Nvidia effects). It is not 100% perfect, but better than all this SLI drops und stuttering. And it's more efficient ;)


    The GTX 1080 Ti was the answer for me dropping a 2-way GTX 980 Ti setup... Great for titles that supported it BUT SLI support in newer titles is waning. With these newer GPU's getting more and more powerful, with each series release especially the top-tier ones, SLI has seen it's hey-day IMO.
  • FormatC
    I have the feeling, that Nvidia really dislike Multi-GPU and not one of the latest AA games (mostly Nvidia sponsored) was supporting it 100%.
  • WalterDisney
    This may be the card I upgrade to. Looking to get a 1080 Ti, but not sure which manufacturer to go with :(