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Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB Review

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is now the fastest graphics card available, and at $500 cheaper than the previous champ! Should you buy now, or wait for AMD's Vega?

Conclusion

Prior to Jen-Hsun’s pricing announcement on-stage in San Francisco, the Tom’s Hardware team debated where GeForce GTX 1080 Ti might land. $800 sounded cheap. $900 would have even been reasonable, given the card’s theoretical similarities to Titan X (Pascal) at $1200. Nobody suggested that Nvidia might replace GTX 1080 altogether at $700.

Why not? For a couple of reasons.

A $700 GeForce GTX 1080 Ti makes a $1200 Titan X look pretty ridiculous. The Titan’s only advantage is an extra 1GB of GDDR5X, after all. So it’ll either need to go away or drop in price significantly. Because Nvidia only sells the card though its own site, though, controlling Titan X’s fate seems like a simple matter. There’s always the 3840-core GP100 processor, if there ever came a need for a beefier Titan card…

Then there’s the fact that 1080 Ti effectively replaces 1080 at the same price point. If you’re a gamer who didn’t upgrade when the 1080/1070 launched last year, this is great news. But if you bought a 1080 Founders Edition card one month before GDC, then you’re probably reading up on return policies. Shoot, even Oculus knew it’d get backlash after announcing its $600 Rift/Touch package. The company dropped $50 into our Store account, since we had registered our Touch controllers within the 30 days leading up to GDC. But Nvidia says there are no plans to do something similar.

Gamers who were previously on the fence about a new high-end graphics card are looking at an entirely new class of performance at a price point we simply weren’t expecting. In essence, it’s a Titan X at the 1080 Founders Edition’s price. Does Nvidia know something about AMD’s upcoming flagship that nobody else does and is pricing accordingly? Perhaps. Truth be told, secrets don’t last very long in this business. But the beginnings of GeForce GTX 1080 Ti likely started with Nvidia figuring out what it could harvest out of GP102s saddled by a bad ROP cluster or memory controller.

What results is a card capable of smooth performance at 3840x2160, in many games with the quality settings max’ed out. It tears through 1440p too, if you prefer gaming on a fast-refresh display, or want to give G-Sync a spin. We have VR titles in the lab that cause a GTX 1070 to trip up. In time, they’ll start overwhelming 1080s as well, necessitating something like the 1080 Ti to maintain a constant 90 Hz.

Of course, Nvidia is handling this launch differently than Titan X. Board partners will have their own custom designs, to start. The $700 MSRP applies equally to the third-party and Founders Edition models, we’re happy to report. And although some SKUs will undoubtedly command premium pricing, we expect Nvidia’s implementation to anchor the rest, preventing the rampant inflation that plagued Pascal last summer.

When a room full of experienced reviewers hears a price that makes them all look at each other, muttering “wow,” then you know the product’s going to do well. GeForce GTX 1080 Ti delivers frame rates we could have predicted at a price that caught us by surprise.

Equally relevant is the pressure that 1080 Ti puts on the old guard. GeForce GTX 1080 cards are already selling for $500 online, and the Founders Edition board dropped to $550 on Nvidia’s own site. GeForce GTX 1070s aren’t any cheaper yet, but that move could be waiting in the wings once Radeon RX Vega makes itself known.

Oh, right. Vega. We already know so much about what AMD’s next-generation flagship can do. And yet we’re still waiting for some indication of what it can do. It’s hard for us to imagine a scenario where Radeon RX Vega delivers notably better performance per dollar than what we just tested. But we invite AMD to prove us wrong. Really. AMD, please.


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Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.