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.