MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X OC 11 GB Review – The Thunderous GeForce Gaming Graphics Card
Last year, NVIDIA introduced to the world, their latest and greatest GPU architecture, codenamed Pascal. The new Pascal GPU powered everything from enterprise level supercomputer chips to blazing fast GTX 10 series graphics cards. Utilizing the 16nm FinFET architecture, NVIDIA unleashed a new generation of graphics cards that delivered the highest clock speeds on any consumer GPU to date, the fastest graphics processing capabilities and a wide range of memory technologies that were supported by these chips like HBM2 and GDDR5X.
A year has gone by since NVIDIA launched the fastest consumer graphics card, the GeForce GTX 1080, but NVIDIA is not stopping there. This year, NVIDIA introduced their latest flagship product, one that offesr even higher performance than the GeForce GTX 1080. Meet the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, a juggernaut GPU that is in a class of its own. What I have written above about the card being a juggernaut is true as months have gone by and the card still remains the undisputed king of the GPU throne, featuring the best in class price, performance and efficiency.
Today, I’ll be testing the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X variant which I have waited since a very long time to get my hands on. I would also like to thank MSI for arranging this sample for our review.
Meet GeForce 10 Series – Now Featuring The Behemoth GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
With Pascal, NVIDIA launched a new generation of GeForce cards, the GeForce 10 series. The GeForce 10 series comprises of Pascal based GeForce GTX 1080, GTX 1070, GTX 1060, GTX 1050 and now the GTX 1080 Ti. All cards feature the same Pascal DNA and aim at the entire top-to-bottom segment of the gaming market.
NVIDIA also launched the Titan X (Pascal) last year and the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti has a lot of resemblance to that card, except the latter comes at a lower price and features a better tuned core design for increased gaming performance.
NVIDIA GeForce 10 Pascal Family:
|Graphics Card Name||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3 GB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3 GB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 5 GB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Ti||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080||NVIDIA Titan X||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti||NVIDIA Titan Xp|
|Process Node||14nm FinFET||14nm FinFET||16nm FinFET||16nm FinFET||16nm FinFET||16nm FinFET||16nm FinFET||16nm FinFET||16nm FinFET||16nm FinFET||16nm FinFET||16nm FinFET|
|Transistors||3.3 Billion||3.3 Billion||4.4 Billion||7.2 Billion||4.4 Billion||4.4 Billion||7.2 Billion||7.2 Billion||7.2 Billion||12 Billion||12 Billion||12 Billion|
|CUDA Cores||640 CUDA Cores||768 CUDA Cores||1152 CUDA Cores||1152 CUDA Cores||1280 CUDA Cores||1280 CUDA Cores||1920 CUDA Cores||2432 CUDA Cores||2560 CUDA Cores||3584 CUDA Cores||3584 CUDA Cores||3840 CUDA Cores|
|Base Clock||1354 MHz||1290 MHz||1506 MHz||1506 MHz||1506 MHz||1506 MHz||1506 MHz||1607 MHz||1607 MHz||1417 MHz||1480 MHz||1480 MHz|
|Boost Clock||1455 MHz||1392 MHz||1708 MHz||1708 MHz||1708 MHz||1708 MHz||1683 MHz||1683 MHz||1733 MHz||1530 MHz||1583 MHz||1582|
|FP32 Compute||1.8 TFLOPs||2.1 TFLOPs||4.0 TFLOPs||4.0 TFLOPs||4.4 TFLOPs||4.4 TFLOPs||6.5 TFLOPs||8.1 TFLOPs||9.0 TFLOPs||11 TFLOPs||11.5 TFLOPs||12.5 TFLOPs|
|VRAM||2 GB GDDR5||4 GB GDDR5||3 GB GDDR5||3 GB GDDR5||6 GB GDDR5||6 GB GDDR5||8 GB GDDR5||8 GB GDDR5||8 GB GDDR5X||12 GB GDDR5X||11 GB GDDR5X||12 GB GDDR5X|
|Memory Speed||7 Gbps||7 Gbps||8 Gbps||8 Gbps||8 Gbps||9 Gbps||8 Gbps||8 Gbps||11 Gbps||10 Gbps||11 Gbps||11.4 Gbps|
|Memory Bandwidth||112 GB/s||112 GB/s||192 GB/s||192 GB/s||160 GB/s||224 GB/s||256 GB/s||256 GB/s||352 GB/s||480 GB/s||484 GB/s||547 GB/s|
|Bus Interface||128-bit bus||128-bit bus||192-bit bus||192-bit bus||160-bit bus||192-bit bus||256-bit bus||256-bit bus||256-bit bus||384-bit bus||352-bit bus||384-bit bus|
|Power Connector||None||None||Single 6-Pin Power||Single 6-Pin Power||Single 6-Pin Power||Single 6-Pin Power||Single 8-Pin Power||Single 8-Pin Power||Single 8-Pin Power||8+6 Pin Power||8+6 Pin Power||8+6 Pin Power|
|Display Outputs||1x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|1x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|3x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|3x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|3x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|3x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|3x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|3x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|3x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|3x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|3x Display Port 1.4|
1x HDMI 2.0b
|3x Display Port 1.4
1x HDMI 2.0b
|Launch Date||October 2016||October 2016||September 2016||TBD||TBD||13th July 2016||10th June 2016||26th October 2017||27th May 2016||2nd August 2016||10th March 2017||6th April 2017|
|Launch Price||$109 US||$139 US||$199 US||$199 US||TBD||$249 US||$349 US||$449 US||$499 US||$1200 US||$699 US||$1200 US|
The Pascal GPUs were designed to deliver a generational leap in performance over its predecessors by embracing the latest FinFET process. The increasing demand of graphics performance in high-end gaming PCs and also the emergence of Virtual Reality market have opted graphics manufacturers to focus on next generation of DirectX 12 and Vulkan graphics while delivering increased performance to drive high-resolution, HDR capable displays.
Using the TSMC 16nm FinFET process, the Pascal GP102 GPU was crafted for GeForce gamers and offered in two products that stand a class apart from their predecessors like the 980 Ti and GTX Titan X. Right now, we are going to give you a run through of the entire GP102 GPU which is the heart of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card.
NVIDIA GP102 GPU Dissected – A More Tamed Version of NVIDIA’s Flagship GP100 GPU
NVIDIA has gone all out with the specifications of their grandest graphics card to date. The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti features the same Pascal GP102 GPU featured on the NVIDIA Titan X but is better than that in all ways possible. The NVIDIA GP102 Pascal GPU packs 12 Billion transistors and has 6 graphics processing clusters of which two are disabled. This adds up to a total of 28 SM units with 128 cores each. The card is geared to power compute and memory hungry gaming applications at higher resolutions with tons of texture and geometry processing power.
The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti features 3584 CUDA Cores, 224 Texture Mapping Units and 88 ROPs. These are clocked at a base clock of 1480 MHz and boost clock of 1582 MHz which can go as high as 2 GHz with overclocking. The Pascal cards are built to overclock like crazy and custom models will further boost the clock rates on availability day.
The Pascal FinFET architecture allows significant increase in clock frequency. The reference GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is clocked at 1506 MHz base anad 1683 MHz boost clock. The model ASUS sent us is clocked much higher thanks to their factory overclocked specs.
The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti delivers 12 TFLOPs of compute performance on its stock configuration. All of this circuitry is housed in a 471mm2 die size which is impressive. As for performance, you would be delighted to hear that the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is 35% faster on average and up to 40% faster than the GeForce GTX 1080 in gaming benchmarks. The GTX 1080 Ti’s blazing fast even comes at the same price of the original GTX 1080, at just $699 US.
The card also features a 11 GB GDDR5X VRAM that run across a 352-bit bus interface. NVIDIA has shipped their flagship with the fastest G5X solution to date. The Titan X (P) used 10 GB/s models while the 1080 Ti makes use of the new 11 GB/s memory chips which results in a cumulative bandwidth of 484 GB/s that’s going to be on par with SK Hynix’s HBM2 memory launching in Q2 2017. The card is powered by a 8+6 Pin power configuration and has a rated TDP of 250 Watts.
For those who are wondering what to do with the massive 11 GB frame buffer? Well, NVIDIA is touting this card as a 5K ready frame buffer so you can enjoy your favorite games at even higher resolutions then was ever possible before.
With the new compression and tiled caching system, the bandwidth on GTX 1080 Ti can be boosted up to 1200 GB/s which is more than what’s achievable with HBM2 as of right now.
In addition to better performance, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is also packing new technology features such as compression and tiled caching boost bandwidth, tiled rendering, DirectX 12 Flex and Flow, NVIDIA Aftermath (A New Tool To identify cause of GPU crashes) and Shadowplay Highlights which will further boost gamer experiences running GeForce hardware.
Faster clocked GDDR5 memory still offers great performance and loads of bandwidth to the card. There are tons of features enabled on the Pascal cards such as Compute Preemption, memory compression, simultaneous multi-projection which you can read in our detailed post here. Also, NVIDIA has launched the full fat configuration of the GP102 GPU on the latest NVIDIA Titan Xp graphics card which was just launched a few days ago.
NVIDIA GeForce 10 Pascal Feature Slides:
The MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X features a fully custom card design. There are two things to note here, the Tri Frozr cooling and a beefy PCB design with Military Class components.
I have waited since the day the GeForce 10 series arrived on the market for MSI to release a new Lightning graphics card. The wait is finally over as MSI has unveiled the GTX 1080 Ti Lightning Z. This power raging graphics card features a 2.5 slot design and a triple fan cooler which looks amazing.
The Lightning Z features the latest revision of MSI’s Tri-Frozr cooling solution that houses triple Torx 2.0 fans with double ball bearings. This cooling shroud features a matte black color with several cut out patterns that MSI calls color highlights. MSI ships the cards with several colors so that user can customized his graphics card for more personalization.
The cooling is provided by dual Torx 2.0 fans that come with dispersion fan blades and double ball bearings. These extend the cooling airflow and deliver low noise output even under intense loads. Furthermore, MSI’s ZeroFrozr technology is onboard which means that the fans won’t spin unless temperatures hit beyond 60C (Degrees).
The triple MSI TORX 2.0 Fan technology uses the power of teamwork to allow the hefty Tri-Frozr thermal design to achieve new levels of cool. These fans push air towards a very dense aluminum fin based heatsink block. This heatsink is fitted with a total of 10 heatpipes and offers great cooling for the GPU, memory and VRM chips. The heatpipes lead towards are large nickel plated copper base which makes direct contact with the GPU.
MSI also features an anti-bending plate to support the PCB alongside a PCB backplate. The top of the shroud and the backplate comes with LED functionality allowing you to change the colors of MSI logo on the side of the card.
There’s also a separate PCB base plate that is called “Close Quarter heatsink”. This delivers better thermal performance to memory, VRM and electrical components and even has its own separate heatpipe cooling. The card’s backplate also comes with a thick heatpipe that connects to the back of the PCB and runs almost the entire length of the PCB. This delivers additional heat dissipation on the card.
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning Z Clock Specifications – Not a Card For Kids To Play With
As for clock speeds, the GP102 GPU with 3584 CUDA cores is configured in three modes. The Silent mode runs the card at 1480 MHz base and 1582 MHz boost clocks which is the reference speed. In Gaming mode, the card operates at 1544 MHz base and 1657MHz boost. Finally, we have the best Lightning mode which configures the card to operate at 1569 MHz base and 1683 MHz boost clock. For power delivery, the card features triple 8-pin connectors so we are looking at a very beefy VRM power delivery system.
Memory on the card is 11 GB of GDDR5X VRAM that is clocked at a reference speed of 11000 MHz. With Gaming and Lightning modes, the memory overclocks to 11120 MHz for a good performance boost. The display connectivity on the card includes dual DisplayPort DVI, dual HDMI 2.0 and a single DVI port.
In terms of clock speed, we are looking at three modes which are listed below:
Boost Clock / Base Clock / Memory Frequency
- 1683 MHz / 1569 MHz / 11124 MHz (Lightning Mode)
- 1657 MHz / 1544 MHz / 11124 MHz (Gaming Mode)
- 1582 MHz / 1480 MHz / 11016 MHz (Silent Mode)
Coming to the PCB, we are looking at MSI’s best high-performance design to date, featuring MSI’s Military Class IV components and 14 DrMOS power phases. High-end components include 60 A, DrMOS MOSFETs, Hi-C CAP, Super Ferrite Chokes and solid state capacitors. There’s support for an LN2 model switch which totally unlocks the power, current and thermal limit on the card for max overclocking. It also ensures that you won’t face any risk of damaging the card by soldering it or doing hard-mods.
The card uses a pure digital PWM PCB controller that enables accurate control and monitoring of power delivery to specific key parts of the PCB. Fine-tune each area to find for maximum performance and stability during overclocking sessions.
The higher clock speeds are a great addition but users can also manually overclock their cards since this packs a enthusiast class PCB design. The card comes with larger PCB for extra cooling and packs a 8+2 phase PCB that includes Hi-C CAPs, Super Ferrite Chokes and Japanese Solid Caps. The card is powered by dual 8-Pin connectors and would be a great product for high-end builders.
There’s also multi-temp monitor sensors on board the PCB which monitor temperatures of various parts such as GPU, Memory, VRM through MSI’s AfterBurner application. Finally, the graphics card will be available for retail in July for a cost touching the $800 US mark.
The MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X comes in a large rectangular box. The box is very similar to NVIDIA’s Founder Edition packages. The top cover is removed by sliding it in upwards direction and the card is held between the two boxes in foam. The front features very nice aesthetics along with a picture of a jet which illustrates the Thunder and Lightning theme of the card itself.
Features such as DirectX 12, Gameworks, Ansel and VRWorks are labeled on the front along with MSI Gaming X, VR Ready, DirectX 12 and 11 GB GDDR5X memory marketing logos. The new GeForce 10 series graphics are also fully compatible with NVIDIA GeForce Experience technology allowing for on-the-go Game-Ready driver updates, Optimized Game Settings and the ability to Capture, Share, Screenshot and broadcast games.
The back side of the box contains overview of the various features along with the graphics cards specs. Some key information about MSI’s custom LED Lighting through their Mystic LED system is displayed on the box. There’s also detailed overview of MSI’s Twin Frozr VI heatsink and MSI’s Gaming App.
The accessories come in a large box that includes a Guide book, a Product Manual, A Driver Disk, a pair of molex connectors, thermistors, different color stickers that can be applied on the front side of the card, a Thank You letter and a triple slot I/O bracket which is coated in matte black color and looks great. The card is triple slot so it makes a lot more sense to use this instead of the dual slot IO panel as the triple slot one provides increased flow for exhaust air.
Out of the box, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X is one huge graphics card. It’s tremendous in size and we can also expect the same in terms of performance.
That’s about it as far as the package is concerned and we move over to the unboxing section where we will get a detailed look at the card and other aspects of the product.
MSI’s Tri Frozr heatsink is one of the biggest heatsink cooling solution that I have ever tested. It’s even bigger and beefy than the one featured on the GTX 980 Ti Lightning. It measures 320mm (length) x 140mm (width) x 61mm (height). The cooling extends all the way to the back of the PCB and it requires a casing with good interior space for proper installation.
It is recommended that a case with 3 slot space is required for proper functioning of cooling on this card. The card also weighs in at 1707 grams which is a whole lot of stress for the PCI-Express slot. But all that heft load means that the card packs a good bunch of components with an emphasis on quality.
In terms of design, we are looking at an updated version of the Tri Frozr heatsink which is now in its third variation. The first variation started off with the GTX 780 Ti Lightning, second was the 980 Ti Lightning and now we have the 1080 Ti Lightning. The new heatsink looks absolutely phenomenal with a white and black design and full use of RGB to display its prowess.
The card has three fans on the front, of which two are 100mm and one is 90mm. The card comes with MSI’s patented Torx 2.0 fan design that offers 22% more air pressure, allowing for increased air flow and cooler operation of the card itself.
On the back of the card, we spot an extremely good looking and full coverage backplate. The whole plate is made of solid metal and adds to the durability of this card. The matte black finish on the backplate gives a unique aesthetic and has the RGB Lighting support for full personification.. There are cut outs in screw placements to easily reach the points on the graphics card. There are open vents for the hot air to move out from the back too.
Coming back to the fans, the card actually features two different fan designs based on the Torx 2.0 system. The two fans on the sides use a dispersion fan blade technology that has a steeper curved blade that accelerates airflow and as such increases effectiveness in keeping the GPU cool. The middle fan is more of a traditional one which pushes down a steady build of airflow to keep the heatsink cool. All fans deploy double ball bearing design and can last a longer time while operating silently.
MSI also features their Zero Frozr technology on the Tri Frozr heatsink. This feature won’t spin the fans on the card unless the reach a certain threshold. In the case of the Tri Frozr heatsink, that limit is set to 60C. If the card is operating under 60C, the fans won’t spin which means no extra noise would be generated.
The GTX 1080 Ti GPU comes with two SLI gold fingers which technically mean that the card supports 4-Way SLI but that has changed in the GeForce 10 series. While 4-Way SLI support is physically present, there are little applications that can even scale well on 4 or even 3-Way SLI. NVIDIA recommends the use of 2-Way SLI with the new high-bandwidth SLI bridge for the best scaling and SLI performance in games that support Multi-GPU. For those who are still interested in 3 or 4 Way SLI can register at NVIDIA’s site for a SLI key to enable support on their cards.
Display connectivity on the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X includes two Display Port 1.4 (4K @ 120 Hz), two HDMI 2.0b (4K @ 60 Hz) and a single DL-DVI which means that it is capable to support all next-gen displays with new standards such as HDR, VR and multi-res / multi-screen panels.
The MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X features a custom PCB which means the power circuitry is entirely non-reference. Power is provided through a dual 8-Pin connector configuration which means we are looking at a maximum power input of 300W. The card has a official TDP of 250W but the premium components make sure that every bit of juice gets supplied to core, memory and VRMs when overclocked.
MSI has fused the Tri Frozr heatsink with very aggressive accents. These black color shroud looks monstrous and the card emits RGB LED lighting which can be configured them through the MSI Gaming App. These are part of the MSI Mystic LED system that is incorporated within a wide range of their gaming products.
The MSI Lightning is featured in the center of the side shroud and has a large strip of LED Lighting which can be configured through MSI’s Gaming App. The labels are inverted so when you plug the graphics card inside your PC, they will show up straight rather than upside down.
There’s a large “GeForce GTX” label on the side of the shroud. It does look great but doesn’t come with any backlit LED lighting. It’s not that big of a deal but it should have looked even better since you are paying a good sum for this graphics card.
As far as cooling is concerned, the fans do their job well but the real heat is handled by the might heat sink block inside the MSI Graphics card. The Tri Frozr heatsink is based on five 8mm thick copper heat pipes that offer direct contact to the GPU when running through the copper base plate. The GPU base plate is a solid nickel-plate copper design with loads of surface area for efficiency dissipating heat load. MSI says that they are using a premium thermal compound on their GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X cards so we will see if they do a better job than the other 1080 Ti we tested.
MSI adds extra protection to their impressive PCB by including a rugged anti-bending plate. This also acts as a memory and MOSFET cooling plate while the PWM heatsink with micro fins keeps the VRM cool under stressful conditions. MSI makes use of a 14 phase PWM design that includes their Military Class 4 components such as Hi-C Caps, Super Ferrite Chokes and Japanese Solid Caps.
We used the following test system for comparison between the different graphics cards. Latest drivers that were available at the time of testing were used from AMD and NVIDIA on an updated version of Windows 10. All games that were tested were patched to the latest version for better performance optimization for NVIDIA and AMD GPUs.
|CPU||Intel Core i9-7900X @ 4.5 GHz|
|Motherboard||ASUS X299 PRIME Deluxe|
|Video Cards||MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X (Overclock)
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 TI Gaming X (Overclock)
ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1080 Ti OC (Overclock)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition (Reference)
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Gaming
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Titanium
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Armor X OC (Overclock)
MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Lightning OC (Overclock)
XFX Radeon R9 Fury X (Reference)
|Memory||G.SKILL Trident Z Series 32GB (4 X 8GB) CL16 3600 MHz|
|Hard Disk||Samsung 960 EVO 500 GB M.2 NVMe|
|Storage Disk||Seagate 3 TB (7200 RPM) Hard Disk Drive|
|Power Supply||Corsair RM 750X Gold Plus|
|Drivers||NVIDIA GeForce 388.00 / AMD Radeon Software Crimson Relive 17.7.2|
|Operation System||Windows 10 64-bit (Creators Fall Update)|
- All games were tested on 2560×1440 (2K) and 3840×2160 (4K) resolutions.
- Image Quality and graphics configurations have been provided in the screenshots below.
- Games with PhysX were benchmarked with the settings on Low or off for fair comparisons.
- The “reference” cards are the stock configs while the “overclock” cards are factory overclocked configs provided to us by various AIB partners.
Do note that the OC profile also overclocks the memory to 11124 MHz which is higher than what’s usually shipped by other AIBs making 1080 Ti custom model. This would yield an additional gain in performance.
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X Overclocking:
For overclocking, I pushed the core to +185 MHz beyond it’s overclock profile and +500 MHz on the memory. The end result was the memory bandwidth boosting beyond 544 GB/s and the core boost beyond 2160 MHz under gaming load. By increasing the power limit, I managed to get a pretty big overclock which was shocking at first as most other 1080 Ti cards top out around 2050-2120 MHz. I guess we will be testing out the card whether it can stick with the overclocked speeds and deliver us a nice boost in gaming performance compared to the other GTX 1080 Ti’s.
In 2016, Id finally released Doom. My testing wouldn’t be complete without including this title. All cards were capable to deliver ample frame rates on 1440p resolution using Nightmare settings so my focus turned over to 4K. Here, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is more than twice as fast as the Fury X and the 980 Ti on the highest 4K resolutions. The overclocked Lightning squeezes in a few extra FPS over the other 1080 TI cards but overall, we are looking at similar performance results when running at the default OC profiles.
Ashes of The Singularity
NVIDIA and AMD have been tweaking performance of their cards for Ashes of the Singularity since the title released. It was the first to make use of DirectX 12 API and the first to leverage from the new Async compute technology that makes use of the DX12 renderer to improve performance. Here, the GTX 1080 Ti deliver a good increase over the GTX 1080 at both 4K and 1440P resolutions. The AMD cards have had a slight edge with the title since launch and with Vega launched, we will be testing the title once again when we have a sample in our hands. Overall, the 1080 Ti Lightning X is the fastest in this title.
Battlefield 1 takes us back to the great war that was meant to end all wars aka World War 1. Using the latest Frostbite tech, the game does a good job at looking gorgeous in all ways possible. From the open world environments to the intense and gun blazing action, this multiplayer and single player FPS title is one of the best Battlefield to date.
The GeForce cards show a strong performance in Battlefield 1 with the GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti scoring over 100 FPS at 1440P and the latter delivering more than 60 FPS at 4K resolution while delivering maximum visual quality. AMD has also tweaked their performance in the title and GCN based cards now deliver good performance compared to their rivals. The 1080 Ti Lightning X is the fastest of the bunch when overclocked.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Humanity is at war with itself and divided into factions. On one end, we have the pure and on the other, we have the augmented. That is the world where Adam Jensen lives in and this is the world of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The game uses the next generation Dawn Engine that was made by IO interactive on the foundation of their Glacier 2 engine. The game features support of DirectX 12 API and is one of the most visually intensive titles that taxes the GPU really hard.
Here, the likes of the 1080 Ti are unable to reach 60 FPS on 4K but deliver around mid 40s (average) frame rate. We can most definitely increases the FPS by reducing a few visual settings but overall, 1080 TI Lightning packs a lot of power compared to the other cards in this game.
With the latest drivers, NVIDIA has managed to up the performance of their Pascal and Maxwell parts in Hitman (2016). The game has been a major win for AMD graphics cards that still show a strong gain in performance when switching over from DX11 to DX12 but NVIDIA is slowly catching up with their drivers game. Here, the GTX 1080 Ti delivers more than 80 FPS at the highest settings on 4K resolution. That’s almost twice the FPS of Fury X.
Rise of The Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of the most beautiful game that I have played recently and was patched to the DX12 API. The game features a wide variety of settings and we chose Very High, HBAO+ without any AA. The game managed to hit 60 FPS on the 1080 Ti at 4K and over 100 FPS at 1080P.
Batman Arkham Knight
The final chapter in the Batman Arkham series, Arkham Knight, is a great hack n slash title. It features a great story line how ever, the PC version was plagued with several issues at launch but was fine tuned as time went on. Now, the game delivers an impressive visual quality and is very optimized for the PC platform.
The game comes with NVIDIA’s Gameworks technology but we will be keeping those disabled for a fair test showdown. The game does well on GeForce and even AMD cards with most hitting north of 100 FPS at 1440P. At 4K, most of the high-end cards manage to close in the 60 FPS mark while the 1080 Ti goes way past them to touch the 90 FPS barrier.
Fallout 4 (Hi-Res Textures)
Fallout 4 is a great addition in the Fallout universe. Fallout fans like me have fallen in love with this new game since it was released. Being a huge fan on RPGs and especially Sci-Fi RPG (Mass Effect for life), the game has the most advanced version of the Creation engine which was recently updated with NVIDIA’s GameWorks feature. The latest Hi-Res texture pack was released a while ago and weighed in over 50 GB which is mind boggling for a texture pack, I mean, what the hell Bethesda?
Grand Theft Auto V
GTA V is the most optimized gaming titles that has been made for the PC. It’s so optimized, it even runs on my crap GT 840M based laptop with a smooth FPS on a mix of medium/low settings. I mean what???
Aside from being optimized, GTA V is a great game. It was the Game of The Year for 2013. At 1440p Ultra quality, the game gave us smooth frames on all cards were tested. At 4K, we saw the GTX 1080 reach over 60 FPS but the GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X was a whole league ahead with over 90 FPS.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Using the new Anvil Next engine that was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, Ghost Recon: Wildlands goes wild and grand with an open-world setting in entire Bolivia. This game is a tactical third person shooter which does seem an awful lot similar to Tom Clancy’s: The Division. The game looks pretty and the wide scale region of Bolivia looks lovely at all times (Day/Night Cycle). Here, the GTX 1080 Ti is the only card that manages to break past the 60 FPS barrier at 1440P and 40 FPS barrier at 4K on full quality settings.
The Witcher 3 Game of The Year Edition
Witcher 3 is the greatest fantasy RPG of our time, it has a great story, great gameplay mechanics and gorgeous graphics. This is the only game I actually wanted to get a stable FPS at 4K. With Gameworks disabled, I gave all high-end cards the ability to demonstrate their power. While the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 were fast last year, they still weren’t able to run the game at 4K with visual quality toned down. Fast forward to 2017, and I can finally enjoy Witcher 3 in all its glory at over 60 FPS with everything turned to max. Isn’t the technology cycle great?
Mass Effect Andromeda
Being a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, I was highly anticipating the arrival of Andromeda to store shelves. Now that it’s here, I put the fastest gaming card to the test. Using Frostbite, the latest Mass Effect title looks incredibly gorgeous and the open world settings on the different planets immerses you a lot.
This means that the game has to be a bit graphics intensive which it is. The GTX 1080, GTX 1080 Ti and the 980 Ti Lighting can hit 60 FPS or 60+ FPS (for 1080 / 1080 Ti) at 1440P but 4K means you need to sacrifice a little visual quality to hit the golden 60 FPS mark. Here, the 1080 Ti Lightning X achieves around 44 FPS with the OC profile and 51 FPS average with manual overclock. Like other titles we tested, reducing the visual quality by a bit can result in better performance that can reach or even exceed the 60 FPS barrier.
Watch Dogs 2
Finally, we have Watch Dogs 2. Gone is Aiden Pearce as the new game takes us away from Chicago and puts us in the feet of Marcus, a seasoned hacker in San Francisco. Running off the Disrupt engine, the game is based on DirectX 11 API and is a graphics hungry monster. You can see the results for yourself below:
No graphic card review is complete without evaluating its temperatures and thermal load. The MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X is fitted with the most advanced version of the Tri Frozr cooling design. The latest Tri Frozr cooler features a massive heatsink with multiple heatpipes which extend beyond the aluminum fin based design that lead towards the incredibly dense heatsink block. The card comes with PWM cooling and an anti-bending plate that keeps the card sturdy and durable in the most harshest environments inside your PC.
The Patented Torx fan 2.0 design and Zero Frozr technology featured on this card make sure that it delivers the best cooling performance and best acoustics while operating. The Lightning X runs at a steady 60C with the overclock profile and around 66C when overclocked which is surprising. It does look like that the triple fan solution and the large heatsink does provide better cooling potential.
Note – We tested load with Kombuster which is known as ‘Power viruses’ and can permanently damage hardware. Use such software at your own risk!
I compiled the power consumption results by testing each card under idle and full stress when the card was running games. Each graphics card manufacturer sets a default TDP for the card which can vary from vendor to vendor depending on the extra clocks or board features they plug in on their custom cards. Default TDP for the GTX 1080 Ti is set at 250W and since we are testing a custom board, the figures can be lower or also exceed the default TDP.
The new 16nm process on the GeForce 10 series cards based on Pascal architecture deliver huge increases in performance per watt values meaning that the GTX 1080 Ti is able to deliver higher performance while sipping in drastically lower power than the 980 Ti OC.
In the case of our MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X sample, we are looking at three 8 pin power connectors. These would immediately indicate a 525W power consumption but in real world usage, the card never reached that limit. The extra power is only for extreme overclocking sessions which the board is designed to handle. In LN2 cases, overclocks can be performed on the board with use of custom power mods and BIOS that can allow the board to utilize more power for better clocking and voltage supply to the GPU and memory. In regular gaming sessions, we don’t see that kind of power use and the overall consumption remains close to other GTX 1080 Ti cards.
You can see the results for yourself below which show that the GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X has a total power input of 349W with OC profile while the GTX 980 Ti Lightning has a peak draw of 351W. We can see that the GTX 1080 Ti offers much more performance at a slightly same power input which demonstrates its efficiency increase.
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti has dominated the enthusiast graphics market for a whole quarter and it looks like it will keep on doing so. The graphics card is the fastest that gamers can purchase right now and even after AMD’s Radeon RX Vega launch, nothing has changed for this card. Compared to the competition, the GTX 1080 Ti still feels like miles ahead and it just keeps on getting better. MSI gave me the opportunity to test one of their mightiest production card to date, the GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X and this one truly is a powerful card.
The GTX 1080 Ti replaced the GTX 1080 as the fastest consumer graphics card at the same price of $699 US. The card I tested today goes for $839 US and that’s a big premium you are paying for this overclocked model. The Lightning Z costs even more at $869 US but features higher clock speeds. Truth be speaking, the Lightning Z clock speeds are great but nothing that can’t be achieved with a small manual overclock on the Lightning X. There are some thing to note about the GTX 1080 Ti in terms of clock speeds. All cards max out around 2050-2100 MHz with the default voltage. NVIDIA is not opening voltage control any time soon but the Lightning cards manage to cross some barriers.
The MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X makes every other card seem like a generation old already even though it’s utilizing the same Pascal architecture that is featured on the GTX 1080, GTX 1070 and Titan X. It offers a massive uplift to game performance and has three different profiles for gamers who want silent card operation, good gaming performance and enthusiast caliber OC performance.
But that’s not it, this card allowed me to see the full potential of the Pascal GP102 chip. When I was testing games, I saw clocks north of 2050 MHz with ease and also mighty stable compared to other 1080 Ti’s that I had tested. But even with a manual OC, I can only utilize a fraction of the facilities in the Lightning X. This card is meant to be overclocked and that too by a professional one with ample supply of liquid nitrogen at hand. I unfortunately don’t have the kind of tools or a big supply of LN2 to push this to the limits like world record holders do.
As for the cooling solution, it’s big, it’s bulky and it’s heavy. But in return, it provides the best cooling performance of all other thermal solutions for the 1080 Ti that I have tested. It even bests MSI’s own Twin Frozr VI heatsink which is known to be a great performer and ASUS’s DirectCU III. With just 60C in gaming and 66C when hitting the highest overclock, the Tri Frozr heatsink proved tremendously well in the cooling results.
As for power consumption, the 1080 Ti Lightning X has a lower power draw than the 980 Ti Lightning X while delivering almost twice the performance out put. The card is a fantastic and a true enthusiast product but it comes at a very high cost. It’s one of the most aggressive heatsink designs that I have seen to date but it also performs really well and the clocks this beast can hit are amazing. I would say that the MSI GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X is an enthusiasts choice with a high-end PCB design, tremendous overclocking potential and tons of gaming performance packed inside its belly.
- Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. NVIDIA Embraces FinFET With Pascal Graphics Architecture
- 3. MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X Overview
- 4. MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X Package
- 5. MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X Unboxing
- 6. Test Setup
- 7. MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X Benchmarks (VULKAN)
- 8. MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X Benchmarks (DirectX 12)
- 9. MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X Benchmarks (DirectX 11)
- 10. MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X Thermal Tests
- 11. MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X Power Consumption
- 12. Conclusion - MSI's 1080 Ti Lightning X Is The God of Thunder For GeForce Users
The MSI GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X is an enthusiasts choice with a high-end PCB design, tremendous overclocking potential and tons of gaming performance packed inside its belly.
- Great performance at 4K resolution
- Factory Overclocked Out of Box. Ships with 3 profiles (Silent/Gaming/OC)
- Tri Frozr heatsink cooling performance is great
- ZeroFrozr Technology Included on Torx 2.0 fans
- Close quarter heatsink design promises optimal VRM, MOSFET, VRAM temps
- Great overclocking potential, full tuning options with MSI Afterburner app
- Memory modules on the Lightning X can hit more than 500 GB/s bandwidth
- Backplate includes heatpipe solution for increased heat dissipation
- RGB Lighting support on the shroud and backplate are a plus
- Included stickers for personalization on the front of the shroud
- Good driver support for GeForce products, compatibility with DX11, DX12, Vulkan, OpenGL titles
- Performance per watt is great on Pascal graphics cards
- Lot's of display connectivity, great for VR and multi-display PCs.
- High Price ($839.99 US)
- Requires Three 8 Pin connectors
- Triple Slot Design, May not fit in small cases
- Overclocking limited unless using custom vMods