Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

GeForce GTX 1080: Most Bizarre Secret Paper Launch Ever

Didn't we get promised 2.1GHz on air? Did early adopters just get told to pound sand? Now we have a Paper Launch from NVIDIA that just flew under the radar with hardly a notice? The GTX 1080 has generated more than a little conversation in the last couple weeks. I still have a couple of stories to tell and some editorializing to do.


There has been a lot of talk about the GTX 1080 announcement and subsequent reviews that were published yesterday. There are several topics I want to cover in this editorial because this whole Pascal thing has been a very strange ride for the last couple of weeks. We are going to talk about the Paper Launch, missing SLI, the Early Adopter's Tax, but first let me fill you in on where 2.1GHz came from.

The GTX 1080 2.1GHz Presentation

For any of you folks that watched the NVIDIA GTX 1080 and 1070 Announcement a couple weeks ago, you know that at times it seemed a bit unrehearsed, and boy would you be correct. The full presentation is embedded at the link above if you missed it. In that presentation you see it go fully off the rails during a Simultaneous MultiProjection (SMP) demonstration. I was sitting in the audience, and it was so bad, that I truly thought that the shenanigans had been possibly rehearsed. I asked as much of NVIDIA later, but I was assured that all the buffoonery was real time. I still found it very entertaining though. There was one other really big thing that went on that was not rehearsed however, and that was Jen-Hsun Huang showing off the new GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition card running at 2.1GHz at 67C during the Epic Games Paragon demo, and there is a bit of a story behind this.

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This story was related to me by two different NVIDIA employees, at two different times, in two totally different contexts, by people I have known for years, and I take it to be the truth. As I alluded to above, these presentations are usually very well rehearsed. There is not a lot of what goes on, on stage, that has not been prepared for. Showing off the 2.1GHz GTX 1080 clock was not part of the previous rehearsals, at least not for two or three hours before the live stream started. As we know Tim Sweeney of Epic Games fame came up on stage to show off Epic's Paragon demo to the crowd. It was related to me that Tim had never seen this demo run without it being a slide show previously, and during that day's rehearsal, the demo was still not running as well as NVIDIA wanted. At that point NVIDIA began using the new OC Scanner tool to "auto-overclock" the GTX 1080. They were able to stretch the clocks enough to get the Paragon demo to run smoothly at 1080p, which is the resolution of the screen being used on stage.

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To put it frankly, there were more than a few folks at NVIDIA that were very much surprised at this clock rate. While NVIDIA engineers have certainly been working hard to spin up the Pascal clocks, there were more than few people in the room surprised to see a Founders Edition card support 2.1GHz on stock air cooling. So once they tested the demo out a couple times, they ran with it during the live stream, and subsequently Jen-Hsun felt comfortable enough to show you, me, and the whole world the clock rate while it was running the demo live, albeit stationary camera-wise. NVIDIA has sworn to me that this was one of the first GTX 1080 Founders Edition cards that NVIDIA was using and there was not cherry picking going on. This was one of the questions that warranted me being told the backstory.

I personally looked at that 2.1GHz 1080 clock and had a "Holy shit!" moment, as did a few others in the audience. Then I thought to myself, there were a bunch of guys and gals in Austin, TX wearing red shirts that just had a "Holy shit!" moment too, but that is another story to be told soon. Once I got past the excitement of it all, I had a flashback sitting there thinking of Intel's promise of 5GHz on air a couple years ago. And while Jen-Hsun did not promise us anything, he certainly fueled our expectations.

We have seen some good and some bad results from GTX 1080 overclocking so far. I would say the jury is still very much out on what the GTX 1080 FE is capable of in terms of average performance. Brent is working today to dial our 1080 FE card in and find out exactly what its highest in-game stable boost and memory clocks are after 30 minutes of gameplay. We hope to have that published for your tomorrow if everything goes well during final testing today. (Yes, we test to make sure our results and data are repeatable, not good for just one quick run.) As we all know, many times it is easy to run a demo or benchmark once before a video cards cooling system becomes heatsoaked and keep clocks up. You can see exactly how our 1080 FE card's clocks responded under real world usage at fully stock settings on this page.

That all said, this backstory on the 2.1GHz 1080 clock is one I wanted to share with you. It was not a rehearsed bullet point that NVIDIA wanted to highlight to you, but rather a bunch of engineers getting excited about what their baby could do. You may choose to cut NVIDIA some slack on this, or berate NVIDIA for shoddy messaging, but I truly feel that no one was trying to intentionally mislead us.