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Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 review: The most badass graphics card ever created

Brad Chacos | May 18, 2016
Hail to the new king of graphics cards, baby.

​Pascal GPUs are also certified for Microsoft’s PlayReady 3.0, which allows protected 4K videos to be played on PCs. Presumably thanks to that, Pascal-based graphics cards will be able to stream 4K content from Netflix at some point later this year. Embracing 4K video on the PC means embracing Windows 10 and DRM as well, it seems.

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The Nvidia GTX 1080’s port selection.

To push out all those fancy new videos, the GTX 1080 packs a single HDMI 2.0b connection, a single dual-link DVI-D connector, and three full-sized DisplayPorts that are DP 1.2 certified, but ready for DP 1.3 and 1.4. That readiness enables support for 4K monitors running at 120Hz, 5K displays at 60Hz, and even 8K displays at 60Hz—though you’ll need a pair of cables to run that last scenario.

High-bandwidth SLI bridges

Nvidia’s making some big changes to the way it handles multi-GPU support in the wake of DirectX 12. Starting with the GTX 1080, Nvidia will offer rigidly constructed high-bandwidth bridges dubbed SLI HB, which occupy not one, but both SLI connectors on the graphics card to handle the high flow of information flowing between the cards.

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Credit: Brad Chacos

To match that design—and presumably to cut engineering costs on 3- and 4-way configurations that few people use—Nvidia’s graphics cards will officially support only 2-way SLI going forward, though 3- and 4-way configurations will be unofficially supported with help from an Nvidia tool you’ll have to download separately.

It’s a massive shift, and one we explore in more depth in a separate article about the GTX 1080’s SLI tweaks.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition

The SLI changes don’t matter in this review, as we have only a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition to test. Confusion reigned in the wake of the Founders Edition’s hazy reveal, but in a nutshell: It’s what Nvidia used to call its reference design. There’s no hefty overclock or cherry-picked GPUs whatsoever. Here’s the twist: While the MSRP for the GTX 1080 is $600, the Founders Edition costs $700.

While there’s no doubt a bit of an early adopter’s fee going on here—the Founders Edition is the only GTX 1080 guaranteed by Nvidia to be available on May 27—the pricing isn’t as crazy as it seems at first blush.

Nvidia’s recent GeForce reference cards are marvels of premium engineering. The GTX 1080 continues that trend, with an angular die-cast aluminum body, vapor chamber cooling that blows air out of the rear of your machine, a low-profile backplate (with a section that can be removed for improved airflow in SLI setups), and new under-the-hood niceties like 5-phase dual-FET design and tighter electrical design. It screams “premium” and oozes quality, and the polygon-like design of the metal shroud is more attractive—and subtle—than early leaks indicated it would be.

 

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