Skip to main content

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Pascal Review

Conclusion

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 delivers incredible performance at a particularly opportune time. While the GeForce GTX 980 Ti and its principal competition, AMD’s Radeon R9 Fury X, both achieve playable frame rates at 4K, they still force you to either compromise quality or add a second GPU for the kind of performance high-end gamers want to see.

Enabled in part by TSMC’s 16nm FinFET+ process, the 1080’s GP104 GPU wields 2560 CUDA cores at an unprecedented 1607MHz base clock rate. It offers a substantial step up from GM204 and an impressive boost compared to the former flagship GeForce GTX 980 Ti. In fact, across the eight real-world games we benchmarked today, GeForce GTX 1080 averages 34%-higher frame rates than the 980 Ti at 3840x2160. That’s enough performance to let you run with taxing detail settings and still enjoy the experience. Presumably, it’ll make an equally potent (if not better) VR solution, particularly as software developers get their hands on the Pascal architecture and start exposing features like Simultaneous Multi-Projection.

Ironically, the card more enthusiasts are excited about, GeForce GTX 1070, probably won’t let you turn the quality dials as indiscriminately as GTX 1080. Then again, at its $450 price point, you could slap two of them together for less than a GeForce GTX Titan X would cost today.

On the subject of pricing, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang cited two figures for each of the cards he announced earlier this month: one for the Founders Edition and an MSRP for partner boards. As we now know, the Founders Edition is based on the reference industrial design popularized long ago by the GeForce GTX 690. It’s more angular now, but the concept is similar. I’m a big proponent of this implementation, with its centrifugal fan exhausting waste heat from your chassis.

Even if we judge the GTX 1080 at that less favorable $700 price point, it’s still undeniably compelling compared to a GeForce GTX 980 Ti or two GeForce GTX 980s. And although we haven’t seen any partner boards yet, it’s probable that third-party coolers will give enthusiasts access to even more headroom, just as we’ve seen in generations past. While a Radeon R9 Fury X comes somewhat close in games like Ashes of the Singularity and Hitman, there are more examples where Fiji, similar to GM200, just can’t manage playable frame rates at 4K with details cranked up.

If that’s the bar we set for next-gen gaming—playable frame rates at 4K or in VR with quality settings cranked up—then Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 is the first card to cross it.

Are we bothered that Nvidia isn’t standing behind configurations with three or four of these slung together? Something tells me we’ll need to get over the awe of what two can do before we can force ourselves to be disappointed by a lack of three.

Remember also that we’re only speaking to the elements of GeForce GTX 1080 that affect gaming today. As a multi-monitor gamer, I’m cautiously optimistic that game developers will incorporate SMP to make playing across three angled screens perspectively correct. It’s far more probable that VR will extract benefit from the Pascal architecture first, though. From “free” geometry through Single Pass Stereo to increased efficiency via Lens Matched Shading and more effective timewarping enabling by pixel-level preemption, there’s a bunch of coolness just under the surface that we’re eagerly waiting for our favorite developers to exploit.

MORE: Best Graphics CardsMORE: All Graphics Content

Chris Angelini is Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter andGoogle+.

Igor Wallossek is a Senior Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware Germany, covering CPUs and Graphics. Connect with him on Facebook.

Follow us on FacebookGoogle+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

  • toddybody
    These power consumption charts are making me cross eyed :/
    Reply
  • JeanLuc
    Chris, were you invited to the Nvidia press event in Texas?

    About time we saw some cards based of a new process, it seemed like we were going to be stuck on 28nm for the rest of time.

    As normal Nvidia is creaming it up in DX11 but DX12 performance does look ominous IMO, there's not enough gain over the previous generation and makes me think AMD new Polaris cards might dominate when it comes to DX12.
    Reply
  • slimreaper
    Could you run an Otoy octane bench? This really could change the motion graphics industry!?
    Reply
  • F-minus
    Seriously I have to ask, did nvidia instruct every single reviewer to bench the 1080 against stock maxwell cards? Cause i'd like to see real world scenarios with an OCed 980Ti, because nobody runs stock or even buys stock, if you can even buy stock 980Tis.
    Reply
  • cknobman
    Nice results but honestly they dont blow me away.

    In fact, I think Nvidia left the door open for AMD to take control of the high end market later this year.

    And fix the friggin power consumption charts, you went with about the worst possible way to show them.
    Reply
  • FormatC
    Stock 1080 vs. stock 980 Ti :)

    Both cards can be oc'ed and if you have a real custom 1080 in your hand, the oc'ed 980 Ti looks in direct comparison to an oc'ed 1080 worse than the stock card in this review to the other stock card. :)
    Reply
  • Gungar
    @F-minus, i saw the same thing. The gtx 980Ti overclocks way better thn 1080, i am pretty sure OC vs OC, there is nearly no performance difference. (disappointing)
    Reply
  • toddybody
    @F-minus, i saw the same thing. The gtx 980Ti overclocks way better thn 1080, i am pretty sure OC vs OC, there is nearly no performance difference. (disappointing)

    LOL. My 980ti doesnt hit 2.2Ghz on air. We need to wait for more benchmarks...I'd like to see the G1 980ti against a similar 1080.
    Reply
  • F-minus
    Exactly, but it seems like nvidia instructed every single outlet to bench the Reference 1080 only against stock Maxwell cards, which is honestly bullshit - pardon. I bet an OCed 980Ti would come super close to the stock 1080, which at that point makes me wonder why even upgrade now, sure you can push the 1080 too, but I'd wait for a price drop or at least the supposed cheaper AIB cards.
    Reply
  • FormatC
    I have a handpicked Gigabyte GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming Waterforce at 1.65 Ghz in one of my rigs, it's slower.
    Reply