Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 (Founders Edition)

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Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080

MSRP
$699.00

  • Pros

    Outstanding performance. Excellent value given its power.

  • Cons

    Founders Edition version is additionally expensive. Competing cards may be physically smaller. Pascal architecture discourages use of three- or four-card SLI.

  • Bottom Line

    With performance that tramples that of the previous generation's highest-end offerings and a bewitchingly low price, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 is a game-changing video card.

By

Matthew Murray

It's not every year that a video card comes around that completely reshapes the PC gaming landscape. But such a card has arrived in 2016: the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 ($699).

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The GTX 1080 is based on Nvidia's new Pascal architecture, which uses a 16nm production process and 3D FinFET transistors that stack to allow for higher performance and lower power usage. Among the new technologies supported by Pascal include Ansel, a system for taking superior in-game screenshots; Simultaneous Multi-Projection, which is designed to improve performance in multimonitor and VR gaming; and Fast Sync, a new monitor syncing mode that that can reduce screen tearing in gaming scenarios with extremely high frame rates. One potential downside for multicard gamers: Pascal cards are designed to be used only in two-way SLI; Nvidia has made three- and four-card setups more difficult to implement.

On a technical level, the GTX 1080 has four Graphics Processing Clusters, 20 Streaming Multiprocessors (SMs), and 2,560 CUDA processing cores—the previous-generation GTX 980 had 16 SMs and 2,048 CUDA cores. Both the base and boost clock speeds of the GTX 1080 are higher, too (1,607MHz and 1,733MHz versus 1,126MHz and 1,216MHz), as are the memory speed and bandwidth (10Gbps and 320GBps versus 7Gbps and 224GBps). (Note that because the GTX 1080 uses 8GB of GDDR5 memory, it is going to be noticeably larger than cards that use High-Bandwidth Memory that can be located directly on the processing die.) All of this ensures that the GTX 1080 turns out graphics that soar not only at high levels of detail, but in some of the most intensive applications on the market today: 4K and virtual reality.

If there's no question that the GTX 1080 is more powerful than the GTX 980, in some tests it's also proven faster than Nvidia's 2015 champ, the Titan X, which cost considerably more (upwards of $1,000) upon its release.

Considering that, the GTX 1080's list price of $599.99 is a huge selling point; top-end cards, from Nvidia and AMD alike, typically come in well above that level. The only wrinkle, at least right now, is the special "Founders Edition" card, which gives early adopters access to Nvidia's reference design for an additional $100 cost; if $699.99 is still a good value for what you get, it feels like an unnecessary tax. (And it's not entirely clear at what point it will go away—if the cards sell at this price, why should it?)

If $699.99 or $599.99 (eventually) is still too steep for you, you can step down to the GTX 1070, which offers much of the GTX 1080's performance at an even lower price. But if you want the fastest single-GPU video card ever—by a long shot—the GTX 1080 is an impressive achievement well worth your money.

For more details, check out the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 (Founders Edition) review at our sister site, ComputerShopper.com.

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Matt Murray

By Matthew Murray
Managing Editor, Hardware

Matthew Murray got his humble start leading a technology-sensitive life in elementary school, where he struggled to satisfy his ravenous hunger for computers, computer games, and writing book reports in Integer BASIC. He earned his B.A. in Dramatic Writing at Western Washington University, where he also minored in Web design and German. He has been building computers for himself and others for more than 20 years, and he spent several years working in IT and helpdesk capacities before escaping into the far more exciting world…
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