Our First Look

How does our first third party RTX card stack up?

Over the years, the general trend for new GPU launches, especially GPUs from new graphics architecture is to launch only with the "reference" graphics card designs, developed by AMD or NVIDIA. While the idea of a "reference" design has changed over the years, with the introduction of NVIDIA's Founders Edition cards, and different special edition designs at launch from AMD like we saw with Vega 56 and Vega 64, generally there aren't any custom designs from partners available at launch.

However with the launch of NVIDIA's Turing architecture, in the form of the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti, we've been presented with an embarrassment of riches in the form of plenty of custom cooler and custom PCB designs found from Add-in Board (AIB) Manufacturers.

Today, we're taking a look at our first custom RTX 2080 design, the MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio.

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio
Base Clock Speed 1515 MHz
Boost Clock Speed 1835 MHz
Memory Clock Speed 7000 MHz GDDR6
Outputs DisplayPort x 3 (v1.4) / HDMI 2.0b x 1 / USB Type-C x1 (VirtualLink)

12.9-in x 5.5-in x 2.1-in (327 x 140 x 55.6 mm)

Weight 3.42 lbs (1553 g)
Price $849.99

Introduced with the GTX 1080 Ti, the Gaming X Trio is as you might expect, a triple fan design, that makes up MSI's highest performance graphics card offering.

Comparing the RTX 2080 to the GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio, we can see a similar design language with the asymmetrical fan size design, but with some subtle refinements.

The most significant change with the RTX 2080 model is, of course, the addition of programmable RGB lighting zones across the front and the top of the card. 

Although, while the top of the card RGB zone is programmable, the "MSI GeForce RTX" nameplate features some unfortunate red accents that may clash with your intended color scheme.

To accommodate an NVLink bridge for multi-GPU support, you must unscrew and remove part of the shroud, allowing the bridge to clear the height of the graphics card. I think this is a nice detail, allowing the vast majority of users who won't use a multi-GPU setup to have a cohesive visual design but without limiting the users who do want to go in that direction.

The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio moves from the 8-pin plus 6-pin connector found on the RTX 2080 Founders Edition to a dual 8-pin design.

One thing is for sure; the MSI RTX Gaming X Trio isn't a small graphics card. At over 12" long, 5.5" wide, and occupying the height of 3 PCI Express slots, potential buyers will have to take a hard look at their PC chassis to make sure they have the available physical space for this graphics card.

Due to its massive size, and 3.4 lb weight, MSI has included a graphics card brace in the box with the RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio. This brace attaches to an available expansion card slot in the back of your chassis, and provides support along the entire length of the graphics card, helping prevent the dreaded GPU sag.


With just a 35 MHz difference between the rated boost clock speeds on the RTX 2080 Founders Edition versus the MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio, there is likely to very little performance difference between these two cards in a stock configuration. 

While the MSI RTX 2080 Ti is a bit faster than the NVIDIA RTX 2080 Founders Edition, it still doesn't close the gap between the RTX 2080 and the GTX 1080 Ti in affected titles, such as GTA V and 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra.


With NVIDIA including a 90MHz overclock out of the box on their Founders Edition cards, the competition is more stiff for third-party manufacturers looking to differentiate their products. The increased cooling capacity of the MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio, however, should provide additional overclocking headroom.

First, let's take a look at what clock speeds and temperatures the MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio is hitting in its stock configuration.

At stock, the MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio levels out to a clock speed of 1935 MHz during our testing in the Unigine Heaven benchmark. Compared to the RTX 2080 Founders Edition, which dipped below 1900 MHz in the same test, we see a slight advantage to the increased cooling capacity of the MSI RTX 2080. 

Speaking of which, temperatures for the stock MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio sit at 66 degrees Celsius under a sustained load, compared to 70 degrees for the Founders Edition.

Applying a manual overclock, we got an achieved an additional 110 MHz GPU offset for the GPU, as well as a 500MHz overclock for the GDDR6 memory. This results in sustained clock speeds of 2025 MHz under load, very similar to the 2040 MHz we saw with the Founders Edition.

Considering the temperature between stock and overclocked states didn't change, from around 65 degrees Celsius, this points to the overclocking limit we hit being due to the silicon lottery, and not the design of the MSI RTX 2080.

This additional overclocked helped the MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio gain a 1-3% advantage over the RTX 2080 Founders Edition.

Another data point we gathered was comparing our manual overclock to the one automatically generated by the NVIDIA Scanner functionality built into the latest beta version of MSI Afterburner.

Please note the axis of this graph, which starts at 2000 instead of zero, to illustrate the difference between scenarios.

The difference between the NVIDIA Scanner results and our manual overclock are less than I expected, about 15 MHz. Given the time saved by using NVIDIA Scanner, I would recommend this option as opposed to manual tuning for the vast majority of users.

An interesting note in the overclocking department, currently you can only apply a maximum of 110% power target on this MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio, while we've seen power targets of 119% for the Founders Edition, as well as slightly higher power targets for other partner cards. We're not sure what the cause of this is, and have asked MSI for further clarification.

Editor's Note: MSI has responded to our inquiry about the power target limits. The MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio has a higher factory base power limit than other cards like the RTX 2080 Founders Edition. The available 110% maximum power target on this card will still reach the same maximum power limits as all other RTX 2080s.

Just like the fantastic temperate results from the MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio come impressive sound level results. In both stock and OC states, the MSI card is almost two dBA quieter than the RTX 2080 Founders Edition, and six dBA (or half as loud) as the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition.

MSI's Zero Frozr technology also keeps the two of the fans off until the GPU hits 56C and the other until it hits 60C, which helps quiet down your PC when not gaming, and worked just as advertised in our testing.

At $849, the MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio has a $50 price premium over NVIDIA's Founders Edition RTX 2080 cards. For that extra $50, MSI is providing substantially quieter performance, at much lower temperatures, even when overclocked and under load.

As long as your chassis can fit the substantial size, the MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio would be a good option for buyers set on an RTX 2080 but are more conscious about heat in their chassis, and sound levels while gaming.

Review Terms and Disclosure
All Information as of the Date of Publication
How product was obtained: The product is on loan from MSI for the purpose of this review.
What happens to the product after review: The product remains the property of MSI but is on extended loan for future testing and product comparisons.
Company involvement: MSI had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.
PC Perspective Compensation: Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by MSI for this review.
Advertising Disclosure: MSI has purchased advertising at PC Perspective during the past twelve months.
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Consulting Disclosure: MSI is not a current client of Shrout Research for products or services related to this review.