Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 review: An ice-cold, whisper-silent beast of a graphics card

Talk about heavy metal.

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Test system configuration

We overhauled our dedicated graphics card test system for this new generation of graphics cards, as our older Core i7-5960X rig was starting to show its age. We equipped the system with some of the fastest complementary components available to put the performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU itself. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves. Here’s what’s inside:

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($30 on Amazon)
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($120 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard ($260 on Amazon)
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($420 for 32GB on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($180 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow ($170 on Amazon)
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($100 on Amazon)

We’re comparing the Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 ($870 on Newegg) against GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition ($799 at Best Buy or GeForce.com) and RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition ($1,199 at Best Buy and GeForce.com), of course. We’ve also tested its performance compared to the the GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition and PNY GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. Neither of those are on sale any longer, but you can find other customized GTX 1080s starting around $470 on Newegg, and custom GTX 1080 Tis starting around $700 on Newegg. Finally, to give the Red Team some representation we’ve included the results from the Radeon RX Vega 64 reference card, AMD’s most potent GPU. Custom Vega 64 models start around $500 on Newegg, though most sell for $550 or more.

Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets, with VSync, frame rate caps, and all GPU vendor-specific technologies—like AMD TressFX, Nvidia GameWorks options, and FreeSync/G-Sync—disabled, and temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) enabled to push these high-end cards to their limits. If anything differs from that, we’ll mention it.

ROG Strix RTX 2080: Performance vs. Quiet vs. OC mode

The following benchmarks results were taken using Performance mode, the default configuration for the Asus ROG Strix 2080. We’ve tested the card’s Quiet and OC modes as well, though and wanted to share some quick comparisons and thoughts for each.

rog strix dual bios switch Asus

Quiet mode benchmarks are identical to Performance mode’s, within a margin of error. Only temperatures and noise levels differentiate the two. We’ll dive more deeply into those differences in the thermal and acoustics section later in the review.

We didn’t test with the Asus OC mode for a couple of reasons. First of all, activating it requires downloading the separate Asus GPU Tweak II software, which many users may not do. Second, the 30MHz it adds doesn’t equate to any real additional performance in games. Overclocking RTX graphics cards is a bit tricky overall, actually. While you can indeed approach or break the 2,000MHz barrier often, the cards don’t necessarily run at full clock speeds at all times.

Instead, Nvidia’s imposed power and voltage limits often ramp down performance in more demanding titles and scenes. You might be able to hit 2,000MHz in your overclocking software, and see a performance uplift in synthetic benchmarking tools like Fire Strike or Unigine Heaven, but we’re not seeing many additional frames per second in actual games even with power, temperature, and voltage raised to the maximum. The power limit holds performance back, not the raw maximum clock speed.

rog strix 2080 angle opposite Brad Chacos/IDG

Adding insult to injury, Nvidia lets you boost the RTX 2080 Founders Edition’s power limit by 23 percent. Asus lets you raise the ROG Strix RTX 2080’s power limit by 25 percent. Again, Nvidia’s homebrew graphics cards are competing hard with the customized partner options.

Our ROG Strix review sample lost the silicon lottery regardless. After applying OC mode, we were only able to add another 60MHz in manual overclocking, topping out at 1,950MHz. That’s well above the RTX 2080’s 1,710MHz reference boost clock, but below the 2,000MHz-plus we’ve seen on some other RTX GPUs.

Next page: Gaming performance benchmarks begin

At a Glance
  • The powerful, massive Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 lets you choose between chilly temperatures or near-silent operation, outclassing the Nvidia Founders Edition in every way. It's huge and very pricey, though.

    Pros

    • Excellent 4K/60 or 1440p/144Hz gaming
    • Very low GPU temperature in Performance mode
    • Virtually silent in Quiet mode
    • Stuffed with features: Dual BIOS, RGB and fan headers, etc.
    • RT and tensor cores for ray tracing, DLSS, and more

    Cons

    • Extremely expensive
    • Matches GTX 1080 Ti's performance in games
    • Ray traced and DLSS games aren't available yet
    • Massive; may not fit in some cases
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