MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GAMING X 4K Video Card Review

We review a custom GeForce GTX 1080 Ti based video card with custom cooling and a factory overclock built for overclocking. Can the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GAMING X truly deliver a consistent enjoyable high-end graphics setting gameplay experience in games at 4K finally? Is a single card viable for current generation gaming at 4K?


Today we are going to evaluate our first fully custom retail NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU based video card built for overclocking. The MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GAMING X carries a hefty factory overclock out-of-the-box, plus potential for even more overclocking. With all this clock speed, and the raw performance of the GTX 1080 Ti, can we really enjoy 4K gaming now on a single-video card at very high graphics settings finally? Before we dive into the custom video card itself, and its potential for the gaming experience at 4K gaming, let’s briefly go over what the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is all about.

On March 9th, 2017 NVIDIA unveiled the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti video card at $699. For $699 you get the fastest GPU under the hood for gaming. The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is based on NVIDIA’s latest Pascal architecture at 16nm FinFET and 12 billion transistors. The GPU contains 3584 CUDA Cores, 88 ROPs and 224 Texture Units and 28 SMs and 6 GPCs. The base clock runs at 1480MHz and the boost clock runs at 1582MHz. There is 11GB of GDDR5X memory running at 11GHz on a 352-bit memory bus giving it 484GB/sec of memory bandwidth. The TDP is 250W.

In our review of the reference GeForce GTX 1080 Ti we experienced that the real-world gaming frequency of the GPU does exceed the boost clock. We experienced an average of 1781MHz with a minimum of 1721MHz and maximum of 1886MHz at peak. Knowing this, we will want to compare today’s custom overclocked MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GAMING X’s clock speeds to the reference one. It should run even higher, so we will have to find out by how much.

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MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GAMING X

When you browse graphics cards at MSI, and select "GeForce GTX 1080 Ti" on the left side under NVIDIA, you will see a complete listing of all GTX 1080 Ti products MSI offers. You will notice MSI offers many different SKUs of GTX 1080 Ti based video cards. You will find reference design, up to some sporty cooler designs, to even more sporty and custom cooler designs and higher and higher factory overclocks.

The main brands to look for in regards to custom coolers and clock speeds is AERO, ARMOR, DUKE, SEA HAWK and GAMING. It is the GAMING series we are focused on today, specifically the higher clocked GAMING X series.

We are evaluating the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GAMING X 11G video card today. Note that there is a non-X version available, this one is the same design, same PCB, and same cooler, but lower Gaming Mode and OC Mode factory overclocks. The "X" version has the higher and fastest clock speeds.

The MSI GTX 1080 Ti GAMING X does carry a price premium, for the features and overclock, and is currently $739.99 on Newegg right now.

What separates the GAMING X apart from the others is its heightened clock speeds and custom cooling design. In Gaming Mode (which is also the default shipping clock speed setting) the GPU runs at 1544MHz base and 1657MHz boost. Remember, the reference runs at 1480MHz base and 1582MHz boost.

There is also an optional software selectable OC Mode which takes it up to 1569MHz base and 1683MHz boost and even overclocks the memory to 11.1GHz. On the gaming mode memory runs at default 11GHz. Now, due to GPU Boost the actual in-game frequency is going to run higher, and on the following pages we will see what that is with this card.

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Since this card consists of a custom Printed Circuit Board and cooling it is very much different, and better, than the reference design in every way. This video card uses MSI’s Twin FROZR VI thermal design. It uses a large heatsink, which is large because the PCB is oversized to give it more room, and utilizes aerodynamics to direct more air directly onto the heatsink and heatpipes.

The close quarters cooling heatplate cools memory, and the PWM modules are also cooled with micro fins. The heatpipes are smoothed and make direct contact with the GPU using premium thermal paste. The fans used are MSI’s TORX FAN 2.0 design. It uses a dispersion fan blade with a steeper curved blade which accelerates airflow. The fans also use double ball bearings to extend life.

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On the PCB are MSI’s Military Class IV hardware components such as the Hi-C CAPs, Super Ferrite Chokes and Japanese Solid Caps. MSI has equipped this video card with a 10-Phase PWM design, the reference is 7-phase. MSI has also included an extra 8-pin power connector, 150W. Last but not least, there is an RGB MSI logo atop the video card which can be changed to any color, and different flashing patterns.

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The video care measures 11.5" in length. There are 2 DisplayPort, 2 HDMI ports and DL-DVI-D on board. The TDP of this video card is 250W and the recommended PSU is 600W.