Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 review: The most badass graphics card ever created

Hail to the new king of graphics cards, baby.

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A new king

So we’re back to where we started: Nvidia’s first long-awaited Pascal-based graphics card truly is a beast in every sense of the word, smashing performance records while veritably sipping on power.

The leap over the GTX 980 is nothing short of insane. While the GTX 980 delivered frame rates roughly 18 to 35 percent higher than its direct predecessor, the GTX 780, the new GeForce GTX 1080 surges ahead by a whopping 70-plus percent in every game tested. That’s crazy. The entire time I was testing this monster, I felt like David Bowman at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, staring wide-eyed into a new world full of stars. Moving on from 28nm GPUs is every bit as wonderful as gamers had hoped, and the GTX 1080 is everything Nvidia promised and more.

Hail the conquering hero, indeed.

Nvidia’s powerhouse isn’t quite capable of hitting 60fps at 4K in every game, as the results from Division and Far Cry Primal show, but it’s awfully close—especially if you invest in a G-Sync monitor to smooth out sub-60fps gameplay. And it’s worth noting that game engine optimization can play a big role in potential performance as the disparity in Hitman and AoTS results between AMD and Nvidia cards clearly show. Regardless, the GTX 1080 annihilates everything you throw at it.

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Don’t rush to bend your knee to the freshly crowned champion just yet, though. Be patient. Give it a few weeks.

AMD promised that its Polaris GPUs would show up in the middle of the year, and numerous leaks hint that its big unveiling will come at Computex in early June. Every indication from the company seems to suggest that its initial Polaris salvo will target more mainstream prices rather than starting from the top like the GTX 1080, but who knows? AMD’s Radeon cards are leaping to 14nm FinFET technology as well, and if Team Red has something up its sleeve, things could get very interesting, very quickly. That goes doubly so if Radeon cards continue to hold a commanding lead over Nvidia in DX12 async compute performance.

Waiting a few weeks will also likely give custom cards from Nvidia’s board partners time to trickle into the market, and who knows how high those beasts will be able to fly? Plus, the GTX 1070 is scheduled to hit the streets on June 10 with what Nvidia claims is Titan X-level performance—and at $370, it’s almost half the price of the GTX 1080 itself. Considering that the GTX 1080 delivers roughly a third more performance than the Titan X, the GTX 1070 may assume the GTX 970’s position as the enthusiast price/performance sweet spot in Nvidia’s lineup. Patience is a virtue!

Similarly, I’d counsel GTX 980 Ti and Titan X owners to sit tight before bolting out the door for a GTX 1080. Sure, Nvidia’s new card outpunches the 900-series heavyweights, but it doesn’t render them obsolete—and can you imagine how mind-blowing a full-fat GTX 1080 Ti or Pascal-based Titan would be, if the GTX 1080 can do this?

Don’t feel bad if you can’t resist the urge to grab a GTX 1080 though. A Pascal-based Titan would be unlikely to launch before spring 2017, and Nvidia’s new flagship is hands-down the new paragon for graphics cards. The GTX 1080 is badass incarnate.

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At a Glance
  • The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 is the first graphics card built using 16nm technology after GPUs stalled on 28nm for four long years. The performance and power efficiency gains are nothing short of astounding.


    • Outrageous performance leap over GTX 980
    • Hugely power efficient
    • Attractive premium design
    • Numerous new features


    • Doesn't blow away Radeon cards in heavily AMD-optimized games
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