Quite honestly I did not expect a card with slightly faster graphics memory to make this much of a difference performance wise. On a relative scale, everything is just that, ... relative. As seen from the regular Gaming X model I doubt you're going to notice a few FPS more. But the fact remains that just that 10% faster memory is responsible for an extra 4% in gaming performance (compared to the standard Gaming X). And once we tweak that card that difference is roughly 10% faster compared to the regular Gaming X card. And when we take relativity one step further, once you compare all the way back to a reference (Founders Edition) GeForce GTX 1080 and apply a tweak, you can again up-to 20% in performance. And that certainly is interesting. Other then that, the card is 100% similar towards its younger sibling. And sure, you also need to factor in that every and aany other 1080 can be manually tweaked as well. See, everything is relative ;-)
Now then, this MSI GeForce GTX 1080 GAMING X PLUS as far as I am concerned ticks all the right boxes. You may expect that dynamic boost clock hovering at the 1.90~1.95 GHz marker just with the default clocks and that remains to be a truckload of competitive performance. And hey, you get 8 GB of the fastest graphics memory your money can get you. With the recent 1080 pricedrop, this feature could be very appealing.
MSI tweaked the design a bit ever since the Gaming X and upcoming Z series have been released, this PLUS edition looks, feels and smells 100% similar with the nice TwinFrozr VI cooler and its RGB LED lighting control. Switch it on/off or to any color and animation you prefer, the choice is yours. Cool dibs is that backplate, with opening at the proper areas (GPU/VRM) for venting. As you can see, I remain skeptical about backplates, they potentially can trap heat and thus warm up the PCB. But the flip-side is that they do look better and can protect your PCB and components from damage. Consumer demand is always decisive, and you guys clearly like graphics cards with backplates. Both the front IO plate and backplate are dark matte black which certainly gives the card that premium feel. All that combined with a nicely design 10 phase PCB again in matte black, and the end result is a lovely looking product.
Cooling & Noise Levels
The reference design (founder editions) of the GTX 1080 are set at an offset threshold of 80 degrees C. Once the GPU gets warmer the card will clock down / lower its voltage etc to try and keep the card cooler, that's throttling and it part of the design. MSI however throws in a cooler that manages roughly 500 to 600W of cooling performance. It is a really good one, so good that up-to a degree or 60 on the GPU, this card remains passive and thus inaudible. Once the fans kick in, you can expect to hover at the ~66 Degrees C marker, with seriously demanding games. Please do note that you will need proper ventilation inside your chassis to achieve that number. So MSI shaved off a good 10 Degrees C over reference. Noise wise, we can’t complain about cooling whatsoever. Expect sound pressure values in the 38~39 dBA range at max under load and warm circumstances. That's measured 75 CM away from the PC. This means you can barely hear the card while using it. Once overclocked with a bit of tweaked voltage we always do recommend a little more fan RPM, this does increase noise a tiny bit, but it's nothing dramatic by any standard. Overall this is a very silent and solid cooling solution.
Any GP104 Pascal GPU and thus GP104 based graphics card is rated as having a 180 Watt TDP under full stress, our measurements back that up albeit a notch higher due to the faster clocks and thus voltage usage. Anyhow, at this performance level you are looking at a card that consumes roughly 400~450 Watts for a stressed PC in total, that is okay. We think a 500~600 Watt PSU would be sufficient and if you go with 2-way SLI say an 800 Watt power supply is recommended. It's definitely more than needed but remember - when purchasing a PSU, aim to double up in Wattage as your PSU is most efficient when it is under 50% load. Here again keep in mind we measure peak power consumption, the average power consumption is a good notch lower depending on GPU utilization. Also, if you plan to overclock the CPU/memory and/or GPU with added voltage, please do purchase a power supply with enough reserve. People often underestimate it, but if you tweak all three aforementioned variables, you can easily add 200 Watts to your peak power consumption budget as increasing voltages and clocks increases your power consumption.
The Overall Gaming Performance
Do you really need a card as beefy as the GeForce GTX 1080 really is though? Well, that depends on a rather abstract external factor, your monitor(s) and in specific the resolution you play your games at. If you game at a resolution of 1920x1080 (Full HD) then no, not really. However, more is better and with technologies like DSR (super-sampling) and Ultra HD the raw horsepower this card offers certainly isn't distasteful. Also, with surround gaming (three monitors) the GeForce GTX 1080 will just make a lot of sense, especially with the new simultaneous multi-projection feature build into the rendering pipeline, that probably is one of the most innovative features Nvidia has added that I have seen in a long time. From 1080p to Ultra HD the GeForce GTX 1080 hauls the proverbial toosh compared to whatever other single GPU based graphics card you can name in existence. Obviously it is the fastest kid on the block. This much performance and graphics memory helps you in Ultra HD, hefty complex anti-aliasing modes, DSR and of course the latest gaming titles. I consider this to be among the first viable single GPU solutions that allows you to game properly in Ultra HD with some very nice eye candy enabled. However, I was kinda hoping to be closer to 60 FPS on average with the GTX 1080 in Ultra HD. But that will probably take the future Big Pascal (Ti / Titan). As always, drivers wise we can't complain at all, we did not stumble into any issues. And with a single GPU there's no micro-stuttering and no multi-GPU driver issues to fight off. Performance wise, really there's not one game that won't run seriously good at the very best image quality settings. Gaming you must do with a nice 30" monitor of course, at 2560x1440/1600 or Ultra HD. Now, we can discuss the advantages of an 8 GB framebuffer, but hey, you can draw your own conclusions there. At least you won't run out of graphics memory for the years to come right? So in that respect the card is rather future proof. SLI then, we have to mention this. Starting with Pascal the primary focus for Nvidia in terms of multi-GPU setups is that they will support 2-way SLI, but really that's it and all. One last remark on performance. You will have noticed that in some games this higher clocked product is a good 10% faster where in other just a few percent. That's Nvidia's limiters at work for you. All cards under very hefty load will be limited in a way narrower bracket. Whereas games that leave enough breathing room can advance on that GPU and score better opposed to some other games.
Due to the many limiters and hardware protections Nvidia has built in all and any cards will hover roughly at the 2 GHz on the Boost marker. Now, that frequency will differ per game/application. On 3DMark Firestrike for example it may hover at 1950~2000 MHz, while in Rise of the Tom Raider (2016) you will be close towards 2.1 GHz. The reality is that Nvidia monitors and adapts to hardware specific loads, e.g. an application that is nearly viral like on the GPU will have the effect of the GPU protecting itself by lowering clocks and voltages. The opposite applies here as well, if a game does not try & fry that GPU, it'll clock a bit faster withing the tweaked thresholds at your disposal. Tweaking is fun, but definitely more complicated anno 2017.
The new 11 Gbps memory is really good, and we reached a whopping 12.7 Gbps effective (!). And as this review proofs, Pascal GPUs do like their memory bandwidth so if you can find a high enough stable tweak, definitely go or it if you are seeking that last bit of extra performance.
The new PLUS model of the GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X is offering a small step in additional performance. It is not big enough to justify an upgrade if you are already in that 1070/1080 performance bracket. But with prices on the 1080 cards lowered to 499 USD, this might be a suitable alternative for you. It just is hard to not like the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 GAMING X PLUS 8G. It offers terrific gaming performance, and combined with extra TLC on that memory partition and the MSI cooling and design lovin' this seems to be one of the best and most silent 1080 cards available to date. If you stick to the WHQD 2560x1440 domain this is the card that might last you years to come combined with that lovely 8 GB of graphics memory. For long-term Ultra HD usage (high FPS) however the answer still needs to be found in two cards. But hey, if WHQD is your domain then the GeForce GTX 1080 is a rather future proof product with that proper and fast 8GB GDDR5X graphics memory. The MSI GeForce GTX 1080 GAMING X PLUS is overclocked, yet relatively mildy. That tweak by itself will not be the decisive factor for the purchase as the perf increase is not that relevant. However the overall design, cooling, looks, RGB LED system and sure, that x-factor does make the product hit many sweet-spots. As stated, overall you gain roughly 4% additional game performance seen from the regular Gaming X model and you are 10% faster compared to the reference Founder Edition card. In this performance bracket, that is substantial. If you can spot if for the right price and if you are in need of a proper performance upgrade coming from say a series 9 card, then this card can be just what the doctor ordered. Definitely recommended.
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