MSI Gaming X 1080 Review – Is Single GPU 4K Really Here?

Jul 10, 2016
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Wrapping Up

So, what have we learnt? Well, at the start of this review I posed a question. Are we now in the era of truly capable 4K gaming? Realistically, unfortunately the answer is still a no from me.

Can we game at 4K? Absolutely. But as things stand, compromises still need to be made to do so. Either in putting up with the inherent problems of multi-gpu setups or in compromising graphical fidelity in the search for playable frame rates. The tests done in this review were on fairly punishing detail levels and this isn’t to say that you can’t have a good experience with a 1080 at 4K. The first thing I tend to do upon installing any game is turn off any kind of AA since it’s questionable whether it’s really needed at the resolution, but even without AA, we’re not yet into the realms of smooth 60FPS gameplay.

Certainly we’re getting closer, but we’re still not there yet and if you’re looking for 4K gaming and have a 980 Ti or Titan X, chances are the added cost isn’t going to be the wisest investment in terms of return for your dollars, pounds, euros or yen. Additionally, given that 1080’s are still in fairly short supply and (certainly in the UK) prices have been increasing, likely as a result of the collapse in the pound vs. the dollar since the UK voted to leave the European Union recently, it makes it a difficult sell for anyone who already has a top end card, particularly given that in all likelihood, Nvidia has a new Titan/1080 Ti coming sometime in the next 6 to 9 months while AMD has Vega chips also due in early 2017 to resume battle at the high end with Nvidia.

The 1080 is a good card, a great card even if you’re going to be looking for silky smooth, super high frame rates at 1080p or very good frames at 1440p. As for 4K? Certainly it’s the best available at the moment, but buyers should still be aware that there is still some way to go before we get what I’d consider to be a real “fire and forget, install a game, turn everything up to ultra and play at 4K” GPU.

Also worth considering (less of a problem for water or 980 Ti users) is that the overclocks I used for the Titan X are generally the ones I use when I’m going for maximum performance. Half of the Titan X’s memory chips are on the underneath of the card and have no cooling on them other than the air the case moves around inside itself. As such, I tend not to use that aggressive a memory overclock when gaming, simply because I have no way of monitoring the memory temperature. This is a problem for me given that the Titan X gets a decent amount of its performance boost from the memory overclock so in terms of the differential from overclock to overclock, it’s probably greater than represented here. As a rough rule of thumb, I’d probably achieve only about 50% – 60% of the performance boost I have here with the Titan X, whereas with the 1080, I’m pretty comfortable with the level of overclock.

Additionally, the blower design on the Titan X (as well as reference 1080’s) certainly makes for a louder experience. Than the MSI 1080 Gaming X’s Twin Frozr VI.

Ultimately, it’s a definite overall improvement on the Titan X in all areas, AIB 980 Ti’s will perform better than the Titan X anyway, but I’d still expect a reasonable boost in performance. Really though the 1080 is aimed at previous “medium chip” owners.

If you’re not looking for real 4K ultra gaming, the 1080 will be a great card for you depending obviously on the price performance point you’re looking at. For those that want the top end though? We’re still in compromise territory. I’ll be keeping it and selling the Titan X, but even so, I’ll still be buying a GP102 (Nvidia) or Vega (AMD) based card in the not too distant future I suspect.

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