Sound Testing, Pricing and Conclusions

Table of Contents

I know that many of our readers are concerned about the sound levels of the blower style coolers used on the GTX 1080 and previous NVIDIA reference cards, so I wanted to show a bit of our testing of that here.

My idle noise testing puts the cooler on the GTX 1080 right in line with the idle noise floor of the GTX 980 and fairly close to the GTX 980 Ti. Under a full load, testing with Unigine Heaven 4.0 running for 10+ minutes, the Founders Edition of the GT 1080 again matches up with the GTX 980 reference design, but stays noticeably quieter than the GTX 980 Ti. The Fury X measures quieter than the GTX 1080 under a full load, but sound level meters don't catch the still very noticeable coil and pump whine that comes from our early sample.

I'm quite certain there will be coolers from third parties on the GeForce GTX 1080 that will be quieter and will keep the GP104 GPU cooler than the 83C levels we reach with the Founders Edition cooler. But for now, this is what we have; and I know for a fact that many gamers prefer the look and style of NVIDIA's in-house designs anyway.

Performance Summary

If you stuck with me through all the testing and benchmarks, it is obvious how the GTX 1080 stacks up in the current market of graphics cards. NVIDIA built the GeForce GTX 1080 to not just be faster than the GTX 980 Ti / Titan X and AMD's Fury X, but to do so by a significant margin. In the testing of seven different games from DX11 to DX12 and even including UWP titles, the GTX 1080 is 20-65% faster than both the GeForce GT 980 Ti and the Fury X. AMD's flagship Radeon GPU gets closest in Hitman at 2560×1440, falling just 17% behind the GTX 1080, but that is immediately countered by the 4K results that put the new Pascal card 32% ahead.

Comparing the new GTX 1080 to the GTX 980, it's not even close. GP104 is never less than 52% faster than GM204 and in a couple of cases (Hitman and Gears of War at 4K) is approaching 2x the performance! The added clock speed, CUDA core count and memory speed really put last generation's enthusiast part in its place. 

The GTX 980 cards in SLI tell an interesting story. That pair of GPUs is actually faster in our DX11 games but in all three DX12 titles, Hitman, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Gears of War, multi-GPU support just doesn't exist, giving the GTX 1080 a clear advantage. If SLI and CrossFire are going to survive as relevant technologies in the coming generation of games, all parties involved (AMD, NVIDIA, Microsoft, game devs) need to get together and really figure this one out.

Other Features

There are a couple of other features that NVIDIA is launching along with the GeForce GTX 1080 that I didn't have time to cover in this review. One of them is called Ansel, as NVIDIA calls it, is a new platform for artists. Think of it as a screenshot tool on steroids, allowing you to do things with games (that integrate support) that were never possible before. That includes features like a free camera, 360 degree integration, super high resolutions (like 450 Mpix!), tiling, stitching, post processing and more. It looks like a tool that could revolutionize art from games, for both games and for developers. Scott did a good write up on this technology for us today as well, and it is DEFINITELY worth checking out.

For VR, as a part of VRWorks, NVIDIA is bringing two new options for developers. VR Audio uses ray tracing to follow the path of audio and sound propagation through a scene in virtual space. It actually simulates acoustical energy and can be VERY compute intensive based on what we have had heard thus far. VR Touch will enable specific haptic interfaces for user interaction with virtual object. Hopefully I'll get some time to try out demos and learn more about these in the near future.

Pricing Comparison

One of the key metrics for buyers looking at new graphics cards is how much performance can you get for your dollar. Admittedly, at the high end that we are working at here with the GTX 1080 and the $599-699 price point, the impact of this can be exaggerated somewhat. Also, though some people may consider this the end-all data point, the truth there is a lot more to carefully consider when buying a graphics card: stability, style, driver updates and reliability, technologies like G-Sync, VR, etc.

In the following two graphs I have boiled down days of testing to a single point – it’s kind of depressing to be honest. What you will see is the performance (in average frames per second) that you get with each card per dollar spent. The prices used for this graph are the same referenced at the start of our story.

Notice that for this result I have TWO listings for the GTX 1080 – one for the announced starting price and one for the Founders Edition that we are actually reviewing today. As you will see, that $100 makes a sizeable difference when judging the card. Results are normalized to the GTX 1080 at $599, so the numbers on each data point represent the effective percentage of value you get for each product compared to it.

Click for Larger Version

The most interesting thing to note, for me at least, is that the GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition takes an immediate hit with the $699 price tag, resulting in just 86% of the performance per dollar value that you get for the GTX 1080 at the $599 MSRP. But let’s consider the GTX 1080 from a general view, rather than this card specifically, assuming we’ll see AIB cards at $599 relatively soon.

The GeForce GTX 980 Ti averages from 65% to 80% of the value of the GTX 1080 with the GTX 980 show a similar range of 67% to 79%. This isn’t raw performance, this is performance as measured by the amount of cash you have to shell out to get the card, keep that mind! AMD’s Fury X suffers as well, coming in at nearly half the effective value in games like GTA V and Rise of the Tomb Raider. The GTX 980 SLI configuration is obviously a bad value, as multi-GPU tends to be, especially in games like Gears of War and the two DX12 titles where scaling was non-existent.

Look at the Hitman results here as well. The GTX 1080 Founders Edition result and the Fury X result are pretty close, meaning that the $100 price premium on the Founders Edition is definitely impacting the value of the GTX 1080. However, glancing at the next result for Tomb Raider, the gap is large…

Click for Larger Version

The results for 4K testing are pretty similar – the only noticeable change I see is that the GTX 980 Ti, GTX 980 and Fury X creep up from ~60% of the value of the GTX 1080 to ~80% of the value in Gears of War. The rest of the results seem to stay in the same range.

What does this tell us? Not only is the GeForce GTX 1080 giving us the most performance per watt of any GPU we have tested to date, it also offers the best performance per dollar in the high end of the market. Obviously $599 and $699 is a lot money to shell out for a graphics card, regardless of its performance, but I’m confident that buyers will not feel cheated with the value they get.


The GeForce GTX 1080 will be on sale on May 27th though only as the Founders Edition. It will be sold on as well as from the normal outlets like Newegg and Amazon through board partners. The first shipments of boards from partners will be Founders Editions as well, there will be some amount of time before we see anything below the $699 starting price point for this new flagship card from NVIDIA. As best as I can tell from my conversations with AIBs, there will be additional cards, with non-Founders Edition coolers and at lower prices, in 10-20 days after initial on sale date.

Honestly, that sucks. Telling the world the price of the GTX 1080 is $599 but only having it available for $699 for a couple weeks, and that’s BEFORE the initial price hikes that will occur with limited stock, is a confusing at best and devious at worst. It’s up to each gamer to decide if the higher price is worth it, but at least knowing that this edition of the card will be maintained at $699 could make it a bit easier to accept.

Final Thoughts

NVIDIA has excited the PC gaming world with the release of Pascal and the GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card. It hits some critical points in the process of doing so. It’s the fastest GPU in the world. It’s the most power efficient GPU in the world. It could be among the best values in a high graphics card in years. It leaves me craving both the inevitable “big Pascal” card as well as the lower cost 1070/1060/1050 options coming later in the year. If you are PC gamer, regardless of your current GPU commitments, you WANT to see launches like this, ones that push the envelope and make competitors work harder to keep up. NVIDIA’s GP104 launch does exactly this.

It’s not a perfect release – the added $100 to what was once the reference design, but is not renamed the Founders Edition, will leave a sour taste in many gamers’ mouths. Does NVIDIA deserve to be able to charge $100 more for the early adopters? Sure, capitalism states that they should sell it for whatever people will buy it for. We had this same argument about G-Sync monitors and the market upheld NVIDIA’s higher prices. I think the same will happen here with the GTX 1080. You may not like it, and I’m not a big fan, but it clearly is what NVIDIA thinks is best for them in the long term.

I am very eager to see how the likes of EVGA, ASUS, MSI and every other board partner handle this launch. It’s unique in many ways. We had boards before most partners and system vendors did so my attempt to get a second for SLI testing fell through (damn!). But the added price on the reference/Founders cards might actually give them an advantage they haven’t had before – an ability to undercut NVIDIA’s own design while offering better cooling solutions along the way. Does an ACX 3.0 or Strix based GTX 1080 for $619 appeal to you? I think we’ll have both of those options before the middle of June, and THAT really has me smiling.

The GTX 1070, with its $379/449 price tag will be along sometime in early June. And the AMD Polaris architecture promises to wow us with its power efficiency next month as well. It doesn’t appear that AMD has a competitor for the GTX 1080 until 2017, Vega 10 with HBM2 according to rumors, and instead will focus on the $299 price level instead. That gives NVIDIA free reign over the high end for the foreseeable future. Will AMD drop Fury X / Fury prices accordingly?

There is a lot that will unfold in the next 60 days. The GTX 1080 is the first shoe to drop, but there is a considerable amount of footwear to go.

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