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Last Updated: January 6
Life is pretty good if you’re shopping for a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. There’s a wide selection of fantastic models, and despite having been on the market for a while, it’s still the fastest GPU on the planet for under $1,000. It can hit 60fps at 4k resolution in pretty much all of today’s games, which is a first. That makes it a very special GPU indeed, and due to its high price it’s largely been unaffected by the recent mining craze that’s caused widespread shortages of lower end GPUs. This is all good news for folks who have $750 burning a hole in their pocket, and want the ultimate GPU for 4k gaming, or high frame rate 1440p action. Heck, you could even do 200fps 1080p if that’s your thing.
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Below we’ve broken down everything you need to know about the range of GTX 1080 Tis on the market, our firsthand testing of several of several units, and more. But the bottom line? The EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC2 w/ICX is your best option. It stays cool and quiet, has great accompanying software, and has a great price to power ratio. Read on if you want to know more!
When it comes to GTX 1080 Ti, the available models fall into one of three categories:
Founder’s Edition: This is the reference design, created by Nvidia. There’s nothing technically wrong with it but it’s essentially the least ambitious of all available designs. It differs from most of the “partner” boards in that it features a blower-style cooler with one fan behind the GPU blowing cool air through a heatsink, and exhausting it out of the back of your case. This type of cooling arrangement can be very useful for small form factor builds where you really need the heat from the GPU to not be circulating within the chassis. We reviewed the Founder’s Edition here.
Midrange Partner Boards: All of Nvidia’s partners have a GPU model that is one step up from the Founder’s Edition, but not as lavish as their flagship lineup. The names of these boards vary but they have decent cooling and a custom aesthetic without going hog wild typically. These are essentially the base model for a particular board partner, and usually $20 or $30 more than the Founder’s Edition.
High-End Models: This is the Republic of Gamer’s cards from Asus, the Gaming X line from MSI, Aorus from Gigabyte, Amp! Extreme from Zotac, and so forth. These GPUs have all the latest technology with massive coolers, RGB lighting, and are overclocked out of the box as well. They might not be the pinnacle/flagship models, but they are close.
Though we haven’t tested every single variant of the GTX 1080 Ti, we have tested six of them from Asus, Zotac, MSI, Gigabyte, EVGA, and of course, the reference model. Based on these extensive tests, we have been able to come to a clear answer on what GTX 1080 Ti is the best available. The good news for gamers is that they are all pretty good, and performance is very close across the board. But one in particular is just a tiny bit better overall.
The EVGA SC2 w/ICX is actually a midrange model, as there’s a FTW model above it and even a liquid-cooled one too, but this is the one we tested, and it is the complete package. It has superb performance, runs nice and cool while being satisfyingly quiet, has killer software and lighting, and isn’t exorbitantly priced at $749. Its ICX cooling is also interesting as it has 10 sensors spread across the GPU and VRMs so you can monitor temps all over the board instead of just on the die itself, and those other temps also allow the dual fans to help out when needed.
In our testing its performance was comparable to the other 1080 Tis, which isn’t a surprise. But it was able to overclock slightly better, and ran nice and chilly the entire time with a maximum full-load temperature of 72C, which is 12C cooler than the Founder’s Edition and the 84C limit for these GPUs. Overall it’s just an extremely well-made, and well-rounded package that looks as good as it performs. If you’re in the market for a 1080 Ti, this is the one to get.
Asus has put together a very strong package with the ROG Strix OC Edition. It runs well, looks awesome, and due to its massive 2.5 slot cooler with three fans it’s whisper quiet at all times as well. At $779 it’s one of the more expensive 1080 Ti GPUs, however. Still, it has a few features that make its price tag a bit easier to swallow, including two 3-pin fan connectors on the GPU that allow the GPU’s temp to dictate the speed of case fans. Even cooler; if you have an Asus motherboard with RGB lighting, you can sync it with the GPU’s lights. It’s not our favorite just because its colossal size and slightly higher price, but it is an excellent GPU by any measure.
MSI’s midrange offering checks all the boxes for a high-end GPU, but it’s weird lighting scheme turned us off a bit. Basically there are two LEDs and one of them is always red, but you can change the color of the other one, which can allow for a conflicted lighting scheme. If you prefer the semi-cliche red/black theme however, this card will look pretty sweet inside your battlestation. Lighting aside its massive cooler keeps things chilly and quiet, and its Gaming App software is actually pretty useful since it can display GPU vitals on an overlay in-game. MSI’s Afterburner overclocking software is also legendary. At $779 though, it’s a tiny bit overpriced.
Zotac’s GTX 1080 Ti Mini is smaller than some GTX 1060 cards.
Zotac has offered Mini versions of all the previous high-end GTX 10-Series GPUs, but nobody expected it on the power-hungry flagship 1080 Ti. Nevertheless, here it is and it’s easily the smallest 1080 Ti there is at just 8.3 inches long. This allows it to fit in pretty much any small form factor chassis, making it a superb choice for those rocking mini-ITX or mATX cases. Despite its small size it hasn’t been neutered at all and is roughly equivalent to the Founder’s Edition in terms of overall performance. It eschews RGB lighting for a lone illuminated logo in its side that is always white, and fits in nicely with the card’s overall subtle design. At $749 it’s reasonably priced too.
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Waterforce Xtreme Edition 11G
The Aorus Waterforce is a GTX 1080 Ti with a self-contained liquid cooling setup that’s designed for folks who want maximum silence, and some online cred for a liquid-cooled GPU. It features a water block attached to the GPU with RGB Fusion lighting, and flexible tubes that send the water to a 120mm radiator/fan assembly for eventual exhaust out of your case. At $819 it’s a bit spendy though, and the length of its tubing means it’s only really allowed to be mounted on the top of your case unless you reverse the orientation of the included Aorus fan. Overall it’s a great GPU and is so quiet it is practically inaudible. Plus since the heat is all in the radiator it doesn’t add to your case’s internal temps like a typical air-cooled GPU would. It’s not for everyone, but if you want a super fast GPU that is always quiet, it doesn’t get much better than the Waterforce.
Are you rocking a GTX 1080 Ti? Have any tips or advice? Help out your fellow gamers in the comments below.