Finding The Best GTX 1080
The GTX 1080 is one of Nvidia’s flagship GPUs, offering a whopping 68% performance boost over its predecessor, the GTX 980. In addition to the boost in raw gaming performance, the GTX 1080 is also more power-efficient and produces less heat than its predecessor.
Today, we’re going to walk you through buying the best GTX 1080, and tell you everything you need to know about buying these cards before you dive in.
Where does the GTX 1080 excel?
The GTX 1080 primarily shines in the following scenarios:
- VR gaming. With most games targeting the GTX 1060-6GB as the expected VR spec, the GTX 1080 is more than powerful enough to handle the most intensive VR applications. This means you can utilize things like SteamVR resolution scaling, and don’t need to worry about ever dipping below the refresh rate of the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.
- 4K gaming. The GTX 1080 is equipped to play 4K games at Medium-to-High settings and 40-60FPS in most scenarios. If you have a 4K TV and want to make the most of it, a GTX 1080 isn’t a bad pick, though if budget isn’t a concern, you should also consider the 1080 Ti.
- 1440p gaming. The GTX 1080 will thrash most titles at high-to-max settings at 60+ FPS. If you’re using a 1440p monitor and want to have all the graphical tweaks in your favorite games amped up, the GTX 1080 is the card for you.
Is the GTX 1080 overkill for my usage scenarios?
While the GTX 1080 is a pretty great card all-around, it can be a poor investment if you’re only playing low-end games or not using VR/4K. Here are a few scenarios where you’d probably be better-suited with a 1060 or 1070:
- 1080p gaming. The GTX 1080 has 8GB of VRAM, the primary utilization of which is in texture streaming and pushing higher resolutions. If you’re playing at standard HD instead of 1440p or 4K, then you don’t really need a GTX 1080 for a good experience, even with all games at max settings.
- Weak CPU/budget build. If you’re buying a GTX 1080 and aren’t at least using a modern i5 or a CPU of equivalent power, you’re probably just going to end up bottlenecking your system. The GTX 1080 is a high-end graphics card made for high-end hardware, meaning modern i5+ and Ryzen 5+ processors are where you need to be starting before grabbing one of these.
- Playing eSports titles at 1080p. Modern eSports titles, like Overwatch and Dota 2, run excellently on all hardware. Even if you’re pushing a 144hz display, a GTX 1080 is overkill for this purpose: get a GTX 1070 instead and turn down a few settings if need be. If you’re playing competitively and just starting out, you shouldn’t be spending an extra $200 where it isn’t necessary.
Does the GTX 1080 still look like the right card for you? Keep reading!
For the best performance, we recommend EVGA’s GTX 1080 FTW Gaming ACX 3.0 card.
Thanks to its high factory overclock, great ACX 3.0 cooler and superior build quality, EVGA’s GTX 1080 should provide you with some of the best performance on the market, out of the box. While other cards out there may have higher clock speeds, we’re sticking with the ones that are still available and more reasonably close to MSRP.
At $569.99 at the time of writing, this card isn’t that far above MSRP.
EVGA also offers genuinely superb customer service and RMA support, so if you ever have a problem with this card, don’t worry: EVGA will take good care of you. Just make sure you keep your warranty information on hand!
Our smallest pick on this is Zotac’s GTX 1080, which is small enough to fit into some seriously small builds. While it’s actually slighter taller than the reference 1080, it is much shorter than any other card on this list, which is ideal for builds that don’t have the clearance for long graphics cards.
In addition to its small size, this card is also the cheapest non-reference card on this list at the time of writing, priced at only $549.99. While it’s unlikely to provide any meaningful performance advantage over the stock GTX 1080, it coming at a similar price and a much lower size make it worth considering.
Tired of playing around with tiny graphics cards with inferior cooling solutions? ASUS’ ROG STRIX GTX 1080 is insane. At a hulking length of 11 inches and a three-fan cooler design, the ROG STRIX should provide more than enough cooling for your card.
With great cooling comes another fringe benefit: great overclocking. It should be easier and safer to push overclocks on this graphics card thanks to its triple-fan cooling setup- just make sure to periodically dust it and the rest of your PC to keep your temps stable.
Last up is the reference design “Founders Edition” GTX 1080. You can order these straight from Nvidia themselves, and they provide pretty respectable cooling performance and out-of-box performance. So why are they tanked this low?
Simply put, just about every other card on this list is better than the Founders Edition in some way. Not by a lot- these cards all occupy the same tier of performance- but enough for you to consider one of the other cards listed.
The greatest benefit of the Founders Edition GTX 1080 is that it’s guaranteed to sell at the MSRP of $639.99 , protecting you from the sometimes-volatile pricing of Amazon and Newegg. If, for some reason, the other cards on this list aren’t available or have jumped up in price, the Founders Edition is worth considering.