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Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 review – Performance, benchmarks and conclusion

By Michael Passingham

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Summary

Our Score:

9

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 – Performance and benchmark results

Testing methodology

Our test bench represents a fairly standard enthusiast gaming PC, with the following components in use.

Graphics cards for comparison

For this test, we wanted to get in the two most relevant Nvidia GPUs from the 900-series graphics generation and test them at the same time as the GTX 1080, with the latest drivers available for each.

These are third-party, Non-Nvidia-manufactured components that represent the best of the 900-series generation, just before the 1080 was launched.

GTX 1080 versus 980 and 980 Ti – benchmarks

Dirt Rally

Dirt Rally is by far the easiest game to handle here. Its most challenging elements are lighting and fast-moving textures. It’s a great way to test a card’s baseline performance in Full HD and 4K. Its built-in benchmark is fully representative of real gameplay conditions.

In Full HD at Ultra settings, all three cards screamed through the benchmark without any hitches, with the GTX 1080 managing an average of 154.8fps, 10% faster than the 980 Ti and a whopping 40% faster than the GTX 980.

In 4K, all three cards passed with flying colours, but the GTX 1080 was once again a standout performer, managing an average frame rate above the magic 60fps. It was 15% faster than the GTX 980 Ti and 60% faster than the GTX 980, which still managed a decent 39.7fps.

GTX 1080 performance graphs

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Shadow of Mordor is loaded with environmental effects including weather, fire and explosions. Its built-in benchmark is short but packs in all the most challenging effects the game can serve up. I ran the game at maximum graphical settings.

It was here that the GTX 1080 really started to stretch its advantage over its predecessors. While all three passed with flying colours at Full HD, the GTX 1080 delivered an excellent average frame rate of 54.9fps at 4K – 20% faster than the GTX 980 Ti’s 45.9fps and the GTX 980’s 32.7fps. Minimum fps is also important here, and the GTX 1080 never dropped below 42fps during even the most challenging portions of the benchmark.

GTX 1080 performance graphs 5

GTA V

GTA V is a technically challenging game with a huge number of things going on at once, challenging both the graphics card and processor of any gaming system. The built-in benchmark tests the game in various ways, and I paid attention to the flying and driving portion, which are by far the most difficult.

I turned every setting up to maximum, with all settings on their highest and all anti-aliasing and visual effects as high as they would go. All three performed commendably at Full HD, but they all struggled a little at 4K.

Even the GTX 1080 could only manage an average 33.3fps, dropping down to 25fps at times. It was 22% faster than the GTX 980 Ti, though, which could only chug to 27.2fps. The GTX 980 wasn't able to compete in this particular test; GTA V would not allow itself to exceed the 980's 4GB of memory.

This test was not in any of the GPUs’ favour, so I also ran it with a few of the rather unnecessary effects switched off, and both the 980 Ti and 1080 were considerably more stable while the game still looked great, and both were able to exceed 50fps averages in this instance.

GTA V 1080 performance

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider has some very fancy weather and lighting effects that will tax any GPU. Its built-in benchmark looks at a variety of environments and while it isn’t fully representative of gameplay, it does tax the GPU sufficiently to the point where its results are useful.

At Full HD, all three cards managed decent results, with the GTX 1080 exceeding a 135fps average frame rate – 25% faster than the 980 Ti and 60% faster than the 980.

At 4K resolution, the 980 Ti closed the gap slightly, but the 1080 still led the pack with an average frame rate of 48.3fps – 17% faster than the 980 Ti and 62% faster than the GTX 980.

GTX 1080 performance graphs 6

Hitman

Hitman’s built-in benchmark is challenging, with a lot of objects, NPCs and lighting effects. It provides a proper test of both a GPU and CPU.

Hitman proved to be a bit of a head scratcher in Full HD, with the 1080 unable to beat the 980 Ti under any circumstance on our test rig. I suspect there are some bottlenecking issues elsewhere, as this result does not match the results I achieved with any other game. It is worth bearing in mind, though, that as with any new hardware there may be a few ‘ghosts in the machine’ to sort out on your own personal gaming rig before everything runs tickety boo.

At 4K, normal service was resumed, with the GTX 1080 putting in one of its best scores against the 980 Ti. The 1080 managed an average frame rate of 47.7fps, which was 23% faster than the 980 Ti and 65% faster than the 980.

GTX 1080 performance graphs 3

3DMark

I also ran 3DMark’s Fire Strike Ultra benchmark. Fire Strike Ultra isn’t representative of any game in particular, so the scores here only give a partial picture of overall performance and should be taken in the context of all the other results. The GTX 1080 scored a whopping 4,884 – 16% more than the 980 Ti ad 48.6% more than the 980.GTX 1080 performance graphs 2

Finally, I ran the Fire Strike Extreme benchmark. This was in order to compare the GTX 1080 with GPUs that weren't available for this review, such as AMD's £550-600 R9 Fury X and the Nvidia GeForce Titan X. It's worth noting the Fury X and Titan X were benchmarked on a different system several months ago, so the results don't represent anything but a rough comparison of how the GTX 1080 compares, and also doesn't represent real-world gaming performance.

The GTX 1080 stretched its lead here, well ahead of the Fury X and Titan X.

GTX 1080 performance graphs 1

GTX 1080 versus 1070

Our original test results did not include GTX 1070 benchmarks, as that card had not been released.

In most of the benchmarks we ran at 1440p, the GTX 1070 was universally around 15-20% slower than the GTX 1080 at 1440p, with a slightly smaller, but still significant, performance drop at 4K resolutions. Despite the reduction in performance at 1440p, the 1070 is still the best-value choice for today’s games at that resolution; its frame rates in our test titles were well above 60fps in all of our benchmark games.

Bear in mind that third-party versions of each card (we tested the Nvidia-built Founders Edition) have been released, so overclocking and extra cooling will increase both cards’ performance. We'll be testing them in the near future.

Virtual Reality

The GTX 1080 is clearly cut out for 4K, but VR is where it truly shines. We can’t benchmark in VR, so I’m drawing on my own personal experience to come to conclusions.

First, I fired up the Oculus Rift and Project CARS, a game that has had a fairly rough ride with VR. For a long time, it wasn’t particularly well optimised for virtual reality, but it also provides a huge amount of flexibility for testing GPU performance.

Related: Everything you need to know about virtual reality

The best test I was able to conduct in this game was to head to Donington Park, turn up the graphics to maximum, switch the weather to rain and start from the back of a 38-car grid. On the GTX 980 this was a nauseatingly unpleasant experience, with a huge amount of judder for the entire race.Oculus Rift

Switching over to the GTX 1080, things were silky smooth with no hint of judder whatsoever. Frame rates seemed to remain at the crucial 90fps where nausea is less likely.

Rinse and repeat for EVE: Valkyrie – the game felt fantastic even with all the settings turned up to max.

Even without all the impressive new VRWorks features enabled, the GTX 1080 is the best choice when it comes to VR games, and things can only get better as developers start plugging some of Nvidia’s features into their titles.

Performance conclusions

The GTX 1080 is much more powerful than the GPUs that came before it, and at 4K resolutions, nothing from the previous generation of Nvidia cards can touch it. It doesn’t quite reach the magic 60fps average at maximum settings for 4K, though, so there is room for improvement. Or, more specifically, room for an inevitable GTX 1080 Ti.

Frankly, though, at 4K resolutions there are plenty of graphical settings you can afford to dial down just a little, and assuming your system doesn’t have any bottlenecks elsewhere, you’ll be averaging 40fps+ on most games in 4K.

I wasn't able to produce results running compatible games in DirectX 12; there was next to no performance delta when doing so. This is something we'll revisit when DX12 becomes more widely supported.

Overclocking and SLI

Nvidia is encouraging overclocking with its new GPUs. Its new GPU Boost 3.0 allows more granular changes to frequencies and voltages to improve stability, squeezing the absolute most out of an overclock.

Overclocking on the Founders Edition card was easy and, more importantly, very quiet. I was able to get a fairly meaty 200MHz GPU overclock in around an hour, and I was also able to give the memory a 189MHz clock boost, too, netting some stable 5fps improvements in my standard benchmark games. This bodes extremely well for third-party cooler manufacturers, who will be able to sell cards with beefy coolers and massive overclocks, hopefully without a huge cost premium.

SLI is a tricky issue for the GTX 1080. If you want to run two GTX 1080s together, you can, but go beyond that and you’ll have to register your intentions with Nvidia to get an unlock key to be able to do so. For its part, and I happen to agree, Nvidia SLI beyond two cards these days is a recipe for trouble, because so few games support it properly. Unless you love tinkering and spending too much money, you probably won’t see all that much benefit.

Watch: Your graphics card questions answered – #AskTrusted

Should I buy the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080?

The GTX 1080 has lived up to its billing in terms of basic performance, which is encouraging when you consider that many of its features can’t even be used yet by the average consumer.

In raw performance terms, it’s a huge step up from the previous-generation GTX 980, although at this point the two are barely comparable due to the huge price and performance gulf.

It’s actually the GTX 980 Ti that presents the biggest problem for a prospective GTX 1080 buyer, especially considering you can find some models for £100 less than the GTX 1080. In many circumstances it’s only 20% slower at Full HD resolutions, and if you’ve no plans to upgrade your monitor to Ultra HD and don’t fancy VR, you’ll be more than happy with its performance for years to come and don't need to shell out on a GTX 1080.

Or look to the lower-spec and cheaper GTX 1070 if you don't need top-of-the-range 4K performance.

If you've decided the GTX 1080 is the card for you, check out our Best GTX 1080 round-up to see what the difference is between alternative cards.

Verdict

As it stands, it’s the most powerful consumer graphics card you can buy, with AMD yet to show its hand in 2016. The 1080 also represents good value, even if the price is higher than the previous generation. This is (nearly) gaming perfected.

Overall Score

9

Christopher Wortman

May 27, 2016, 4:43 pm

Nvidia had better step up it's game. As well as Intel. AMD is going to fire off some new Zen related stuff, and a new video card featuring HBM, while I am no fanboy and I have an Intel setup, I can see AMD taking back it's crown. Only the consumers win I guess.

Darrel

May 27, 2016, 11:14 pm

AMD hasn't had a "crown" in years, and it likely never will again. By the time they release their new line then the fact that they are still on DDR3 and PCIE 2.0 will bottleneck the systems, and as always AMD will be 3 steps behind Intel and Nvidia. Additionally the processors from AMD are hardly worth looking at considering it takes a 240w 8 core space heater(Which is the best they have) to even compare to a quad core i7 6700k. To insinuate that HBM will put them ahead of Nvidia is ridiculous considering they do not even have the hardware capabilities to take advantage of it.

Christopher Wortman

May 28, 2016, 4:20 am

too bad the new AMD chipsets support ddr4

shadowhedgehogz

May 28, 2016, 8:42 am

Considering the 980Ti is close to stock 1080 there really isn't much in it when you OC the 980Ti compared to the 1080, the pricing is extremely stupid on the 1080.. you can buy a used 980Ti for over 200 cheaper than a 1080 that is only 10-20% slower overall when both are oced.

Nvidia really ripping people off, i think when the 1080Ti comes prices will be a bit better because of the competition from AMD with Vega.

paalo sordoni

May 28, 2016, 5:58 pm

Future-proof always makes me laugh.

Wow Really?

May 28, 2016, 6:34 pm

Back when I was in High School 15-ish years ago. AMD was the way to go their processors were cheaper and in some cases performed really well. Alot of things have changed since 2000-2001 AMD processors are great for low budgets systems and perform admirably well but cant compete with Intel on most levels.

As far as graphics go in 2006 ATI saw the writing on the wall they just couldnt compete with the GTX line. So they sold the company to AMD and its really been mediocre since then. Its been at least 10 years since AMD or ATI could say they had the better product.

I'd say wait for both to see how it goes, however if you want to game now go with NVIDIA you wont be sad that you did. The chances that AMD will be better are very slim and even if its close AMD will cost more as they usually do.

Starman3482

May 28, 2016, 8:02 pm

Having played all of the major Vive games I can say I'm going to hold out upgrading my 980 Ti Zotac until the next card after the 1080, not really feeling any performance problems in any games with that and an i7 6700. I'm tempted but I'm just not having any performance issues yet.

Sandscourge Skarner

May 29, 2016, 12:44 am

What at the end of the year with Vega? After the market has been picked clean for months at an enthusiast level? Sounds like a great business plan.

Granted they could be amazing GPUs when released however the crown is already going out the door.

Personally I'd love to see Nvidia lose a bit of market share to get competition heated back up, however at this point it's been consistently sliding out of AMD's grasp for a good few years.

Munchy

May 29, 2016, 1:11 pm

if amd go buy the last 12 years I used them then these cards will be super hot and super loud, that's the main reason I moved to NVidia, low power very quiet 970 g1 running awesome sause. I no longer just got for the higherst fps but it helps lol.

Munchy

May 29, 2016, 1:13 pm

haha nice, duron and thunderbird days lol, I was amd cpu for years but when I went back to intel with a 6600 quad go step I felt the difference in reliability straight away, ive been and probably will be intel for ever now.

Buddydudeguy

May 29, 2016, 9:29 pm

You do what, till it turns WHAT color? For how many jelly beans??

mike dar

May 30, 2016, 1:29 pm

Not near the improvement I hoped for going into the 1080 series with only 256 bus and 25** Cudas.
Might even have to wait for a new MB needed modeling for GPUs before justifying changing out my TitanXs.
While this 1080 is a step up for gamers, a little, I don't see the associated consumers from rendering getting much excitement with the 1080, I know I'm not feeling any buzz.
Well, maybe for a 1080X that significantly picks up the pace with Cuda counts and bandwidth.

jq747

May 31, 2016, 2:40 am

I hope you're right. The only thing worse than a duopoly is a monopoly.

Eric Wi

May 31, 2016, 6:55 pm

AMD was the first to release a product using HBM unfortunately still not faster.

Jack Awf

May 31, 2016, 9:36 pm

Typical response from someone who owns TitanX's in SLI. Definitely no bias there.
Fact of the matter is, the 1080 is generating stupid amounts of interest and founders edition cards are now backordered for months. You know why? because people who are interested are upgrading from older cards and didnt buy excessively expensive cards at the end of their architecture life, then compare it to the base model of a brand new architecture to justify it.

adryyy

June 1, 2016, 10:33 am

You forget TDP

David Wilson

June 1, 2016, 11:22 am

Will these " video cards" eventually replace eCards?

mike dar

June 1, 2016, 11:36 am

Jack, so Typical , the 'stupid amounts of interest' originated in believing a larger bus and cuda count was coming.
This card is just another small step forward.. without a bus or cuda as expected.. maybe an "X" variant will come with those solved..
till then, play with your video game and maybe the standard of the "x' always being towards the end of a series development will come true.
The next set that doesn't use DDr5 might be something helpful and seems to be the lynchpin..
Any way, disappointed... and SLI isn't needed for me.. hence bus and cuda needed.

Nabi

June 1, 2016, 4:48 pm

Coming from a G1 980 TI, the 1080 doesn't seem a worthwhile upgrade. If the price was more reasonable, maybe.. Don't screw previous gen users by sending out faulty drivers to force them to buy the newer cards Nvidia.

FrankVVV

June 1, 2016, 9:20 pm

But, it will be future proof for a few months :)

FourEyedGeek

June 2, 2016, 10:04 am

Not all bad, I'm still rocking 2 x 7950's. On release they matched NVIDIA 580's, after AMD improved their drivers or NVIDIA drivers hampered performance, they are now equal to 680s. Still very playable in gaming and a great choice at the time.

Alex Walsh

June 2, 2016, 10:24 am

The 1080 is only high end in terms of relative performance against the old range. Yes, it's faster than a 980Ti and a Titan X, but considering there is inevitably going to be a 1080Ti and a Titan equivalent down the line, it's perhaps more useful to compare the 1080 to the card it directly replaces- the 980. At some point, the 1080 will be the bottom rung in the enthusiast top tier, if that makes sense.

980s were £500 at launch and while you can pick up some of the third party 1080s for £560 (I've seen some aggressive pre order prices on HUKD), by and large the 1080s are around the £600 mark. That's a 20% price jump at launch over the previous generation,and that is disappointing.

spawntohell

June 2, 2016, 11:31 am

I tottaly agree i was in my 20's then duron and athlon 3200 where great, i had ati till it got joined with amd got bought or whatever and ever since i coukd not jump back to the red team as price per buck got crap. Amd ati used to be the way to go price performance, few fps but literally half the price of intel or nvidia, that segment used to be entusiast area... Where profesionals who could use intels power as amd was mainstream and gaming... I still hope in a come back with zen and vega tho...

janon

June 4, 2016, 5:46 pm

Yeah I totally agree. These reviews keep saying "HUGE GAIN" 20% higher gps at 4k and STILL not hitting 60 fps isn't "huge" anything for 700 relative to a 980ti

Sure for people still sitting on a 580 it's great, but 980ti owners should wait

janon

June 4, 2016, 5:47 pm

Typical response to a typical response.

It's 20% faster than a 980ti and still can't manage 60 fps in 4k. That is NOT that great, sorry.

This comment is idiotic too because the people you're talking about are waiting to over pay for a mid range reference card years later and are proud of themselves for having skipped an entire generation or more of performance by avoiding ACTUAL high end cards.

If the goal was to pat yourself on the back for waiting for "commodity 4k" then you're an idiot because this card clearly ain't that. There is always pent up demand from morons who reward scalpers for every stupidly hyped release. People paid 1500 for PS4s. And?

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