Nvidia's Pascal architecture marked a new milestone for PC graphics last year. The graphics chips were significantly faster and more efficient than before. They ensured smooth frame rates at 4K resolutions, delivered very fast graphics on laptops and at a price that we found more than justified at the time.
AMD responded with new Polaris GPUs, an impressive family of new Radeon chips that brought great mainstream solutions that most gamers could afford. We have recommended (and still recommend) some of the latest Radeons at specific prices, but couldn't keep up in the high end. AMD offerings did not generate the same enthusiasm as Nvidia.
You may remember that we gave the GeForce GTX 1080 our first perfect result, which was controversial. However, to be clear, this score was given for the GTX 1080 GPU and not for the Founders Edition card, which was sold directly by Nvidia and which we had classified as unfortunate at the time.
The flagship GTX 1080 was followed by the GTX 1070, 1060, Titan X, GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050. Pascal covered price ranges from USD 110 to USD 1200.
The jump from the $ 700 GTX 1080 to the $ 1200 Titan X was the biggest price gap in the series. So it made sense for Nvidia to bring out another part that would slip in there. For over a month, we've been expecting a stripped-down version of the Titan X for between $ 700 and $ 1,000, depending on how much shaving. We assumed that Nvidia would simply turn off one or two SM units and call it a day.
However, last week we learned that the GTX 1080 Ti would be different than everyone expected. Instead of a reduced Titan X, we get a full GP102 GPU with a 3584 CUDA core. Some ROPs have disappeared, which has affected the storage subsystem that uses a storage bus. Nvidia has found a workaround for this, which we will address shortly.
Let's first take a closer look at the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition graphics card.
GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Technical data
Since the GTX 1080 Ti is based on the same GP102 chip as the Titan X, we find both an 8-pin and a 6-pin PCIe power connector. Apart from that, the cards immediately look very similar.
Under the hood is a GP842 GPU with 3584 CUDA core, which consists of an incredible 12 billion transistors. There are also 224 texture units, although the ROPs have been reduced by 8% from 96 to fairly odd 88. This reduces the Titan X's 12 GB buffer to 11 GB, which is yet another odd number. Again GDDR5X memory is used, which works with an incredible frequency of 2750 MHz.
According to Nvidia, they worked closely with Micron to improve the signal noise and jitter of their high-speed GDDR5X memory. The improvements have enabled Nvidia to achieve 11 Gbps in memory, which is faster than the 10 Gbps memory speed of the Titan X and GTX 1080.
The maximum computing throughput of the GTX 1080 Ti is also slightly higher than that of the Titan X due to the higher boost clock and the higher memory bandwidth of the Ti. Although the Ti has a narrower 352-bit memory bus, the higher clocked GDDR5X memory can compensate for this . The end result is an impressive memory bandwidth of 484 GB / s. This is not far from the performance of HBM's first generation.
Officially, Nvidia claims that the GTX 1080 Ti will be about 20 to 40% faster than the Vanilla 1080, given the specs that certainly sound right. It is impressive that the 1080 Ti has the same TDP power of 250 watts as the 980 Ti. It also manages to plug more transistors in a smaller chip area of only 471 mm2, about 20% smaller for 50% more transistors.
GTX 1080 Ti Fair Price Edition
With the card, I can say that it looks almost identical to the GTX 1080 and 1070, and I love the look of these Founders Edition cards. Of course there is the small Ti nomenclature at the end of the GTX 1080 label that looks a bit special, even if it is not properly centered – this has upset my OCD.
According to Nvidia, the 1080 Ti offers improved cooling performance, which offers lower temperatures with less noise. So that's a win. For those wondering, the Ti model weighs 1041 grams, while the original 1080 weighs 1029 grams.
The housing of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition has an aluminum die-cast body and a flat back plate with a removable section. This removable area is useful when two GeForce GTX 1080 Ti cards are paired side by side in an SLI system, with the bottom card receiving less airflow because the other card is placed directly above it. Removing a portion of the backplate reduces the obstacle, which helps improve airflow.
A copper steam chamber is used to cool the GP102-GPU of the GTX 1080 Ti. This steam chamber is combined with a large aluminum heat sink with two slots to dissipate the heat from the chip. A radial fan then draws this hot air through the back of the graphics card and outside the PC case.
To improve the performance of the GPU cooler, Nvidia's engineers have developed a new heat solution with high airflow that offers twice the airflow area of the GeForce GTX 1080. For this purpose, the DVI connector, which has traditionally been removed above the DVI and HDMI connectors on the card holder, is located. Instead, this area is used to provide a larger exhaust gas so that hot air can be expelled from the GPU.
The performance subsystem of the GTX 1080 Ti has been significantly improved compared to the GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition board. If you remember, all GeForce GTX 10 series GPUs were equipped with a dual FET power supply both on the GPU and in memory, which provided cleaner power to these components compared to previous GPUs. This improves energy efficiency, reliability and overclocking.
For the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition, we have integrated a 7-phase 2x dual-FET power design that can supply the GPU with up to 250 amps.
As far as I know, only this Founders Edition card will initially be available with custom board partner cards that will follow a week or two later. The good news for early adopters is that Nvidia has reduced the ridiculous Founders Edition tax, making this reference card available at a starting price of $ 700. That's 42% cheaper than the Titan X, which will stay at $ 1200.
In addition, in an unexpected step, Nvidia cannibalizes its own product line to a certain extent, reducing the GTX 1080's MSRP by $ 100. Lower the beloved 1080 to just $ 500. That's pretty incredible news, and the 16% saving was passed on to consumers even before the 1080 Ti was released.
Test system specifications
Gaming benchmarks: Battlefield 1, Far Cry Primal, Civilization VI
Those looking for extreme frame rates in Battlefield 1 will get them at 1080p with the 1080 Ti because it matches the performance of the Titan XP. This was also the case at 1440p, and here the new flagship gaming graphics card from Nvidia has reached well over 100 fps at all times.
At 4K resolution, Battlefield 1 looks as sharp as the edges in a generic ATX case. Fortunately, with the GTX 1080 Ti that does the rendering work, it's a painless experience. Here we see a smooth average of 75 fps, while the frame rates never dropped below 66 fps. As expected, it is roughly on the level of the Titan XP and only falls a few frames behind.
Here at 1080p we encounter a rather severe CPU bottleneck at 1080p. With 1440p, the 1080 Ti is roughly equivalent to the Titan XP and is 21% faster than the standard GTX 1080. Not a bad result, since the frame rates always remained above 80 fps.
When you switch to 10KB, the 1080 Ti toes are in front of the Titan XP, though the 2fps performance is obviously very similar. Again, we see 20% more power compared to the standard 1080.
Civilization VI is a fairly CPU-demanding game and is known for causing a CPU bottleneck. Here we see the 1080, 1080 Ti and Titan XP with 85 fps. When switching to 1440p, the high-end GPUs are still limited in performance.
At 4K, we find that the high-end GPUs all deliver very similar results. The good news is that all the cards tested can deliver playable performance at this resolution.