One of Nvidia’s most important GPU launches in years is under way with the first card based on the company’s latest 16nm ‘Pascal’ architecture, the GeForce GTX 1080, available to buy now in its ‘Founders Edition’ form. But if you can resist the urge to buy now, here are some good reasons to wait.

Nvidia’s latest GPU is a big deal, for the company celebrating the launch of its first 16nm Pascal architecture, the new platform brings with it some major architectural changes and, for virtual reality users, some potentially huge performance gains in the future thanks to the introduction of hardware accelerated Simultaneous Multi-projection and Lens Matched Shading, which claims to vastly improve the kinds of stereoscopic, multi-viewport rendering that VR relies on for immersion.


The GeForce GTX 1080 was revealed to the world in early May with Nvidia bullishly announcing that the card would outperform the company’s then flagship card the Titan X, but for much less money and using far less power, generating less heat. Over and above the performance gains we saw when we tested the GTX 1080’s performance, we also noted that thanks to that low power draw, the overclocking potential of the GTX 1080 was pretty substantial.

gtx-1080-specs-tableNvidia’s new flagship card is the first in their latest 16nm process ‘Pascal’ line of silicon, and the GTX 1080 sports the latest GP104 GPU, fabricated using so-called ‘3 dimensional’ FinFet transistors  (check this excellent explanation of the differences between standard MosFet and FinFet here). All this at a 16nm fabrication scale means the GTX 1080 now boasts over 7 billion transistors. The GTX 1080’s base clock of 1607MHz boosts at stock to 1733MHz under load and the card comes loaded with 8GB of GDDR5X VRAM. Check out the rest of the specs in the image to the right.

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The Founder’s Edition of the GTX 1080 ships with a core GPU clock rate of 1607Mhz, boosting to 1733Mhz and memory at just over 5Ghz. In our overclocking tests, we managed a solid 250Hz core overclock and boosting to over 2Ghz before hitting what looked to be the Founder’s Edition’s limit. Heat however clearly wasn’t the issue here, with temps at full boost and load, with manual fan speeds of 70% falling well below the card’s theoretical soft temperature limit of 94C. With more voltage on tap, it was clear the GTX 1080 had much more legroom to take advantage of here.

See Also: NVIDIA GTX 1080 Performance Review: Head to Head Against the 980 Ti
See Also: NVIDIA GTX 1080 Performance Review: Head to Head Against the 980 Ti

Nvidia supplied us with a GTX 1080 ‘Founders Edition’, which is a reference design, featuring an aluminium shrouded reference cooler and a board featuring just one, 8-Pin 12v power connector – giving this version of the card a TDP (Thermal Design Power) target of 180 Watts. This is the version you can buy right now for $699 (it’s around £649 in the UK). You could buy now and you’ll likely be very happy with the price to performance ratio, but if you hang on a little longer, 3rd party manufacturers have a raft of cheaper, better spec’ed cards on the way, and the ones to look out for are those offering 2+ phase power, supplied by a second 12v connector.

Just 2 examples of 3rd party designs on their way soon are EVGA’s Flagship GTX 1080’s the ‘Classified ACX 3.0’ and the ‘FTW’ editions, both ship with custom power supply solutions and promise out-of-the-box core and memory overclocks (TBD at the time of writing). The former boasts 10+2 power configuration, the latter 14+3.

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Both cards will allow more voltage to the GPU’s core, in theory allowing much greater levels of overclocking. Prices in the UK for these cards seem to start at around £578. ETAs for stock of these cards in the UK at least look to be around June 3rd.

It’s not just the TDP benefits of Pascal that make the architecture attractive to overclockers either. The new platform introduces GPU Boost 3, which allows enthusiasts to specify a GPU clock-to-voltage curve for more precise control of overclocking. Below is a shot of our test system applying a basic one-click overclocking profile using a preview version of EVGA’s Precision X. The green curve specifies clock frequency and voltage to be applies at that threshold.


In short, there’s never been an Nvidia card more ready for user overclocking than the GTX 1080 (and the soon to be released GTX 1070), and for once the benefits could be substantial.

WCCF have a good round up of partner GTX 1080s that are on their way here, and don’t forget to check out our VR-centric performance review of the GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition right here.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • mellott124

    Having built both air and water cooled systems, I’m really interested in a 1080Ti Hybrid version. That would be a beast of a card. Also waiting to see what the next generation Titan looks like.

    • Blink Fast

      MSI Sea Hawk 1080

    • loved my 980ti hybrid. 1080 ti FTW hybrid will be a beast. It’ll have the 12+2 power phases (or possibly their classified version’s 14+3 phases) :p

  • GrangerFX

    Are the competitors binned like NVidia’s Founders Edition or do you get some random GPU?

    • xostrowx1991

      None of them are binned actually. The founders edition has better quality PARTS on it, but the GPU isn’t guaranteed to higher overclocks or anything. And the basic versions of custom ones like the EVGA SC, Gigabyte G1, etc.. are not binned either. The only ones that we know so far that are binned is the Gigabyte Xtreme one which says uses their “gauntlet sorting”, although it’s probably likely that the EVGA FTW and Classified will be binned whenever they come out and possible that the “OC” version of the Asus Strix will have some binning but nobody knows.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        The GPU of ANY other card isn’t guaranteed to higher overclocks, it’s the rest of the components/cooler that makes it so, not the GPU itself. Any OC version just has better coolers, and that’s about it..
        But then again, it’s only interesting for people who actually want to overclock their GPU’s, if you’re not really interested then you don’t need the extra powerconnectors etc..

  • JKay6969

    The founders edition GPU are NOT binned! Jen-Hsun Huang even said so himself, they simply have high quality components on the board. Founders Edition = Referance Cooler. Don’t fall for the hype, as the article says get a custom cooler and it’ll be cheaper AND potentially better at overclocking as there seems to be Thermal Throttling issues with the Founders Edition as seen in many youtube videos.

  • rocky

    You guys seem pretty smart, so if I wanted to get the best set up for virtual reality HTC Vive (which I just received and use a predator 17 laptop to run with on gtx 980m), and I want to make it the most “portable” desktop (mini sized) , where is best place to start or go to in order to have that built with this 1080.? I obviously would need to know which motherboard, cpu, etc… I would have to settle for to maintain a portable size.

  • El_MUERkO

    Turns out nVidia have hardware limited voltage increased making overclocking past 2015mhz pretty much impossible.