EVGA GTX 1080 FTW review: The most powerful graphics card in the world, made better

This is the GeForce GTX 1080 you’ve been waiting for.

This is the GeForce GTX 1080 you’ve been waiting for.

Don’t get me wrong: The reference version of the GTX 1080 exploded onto the scene as the most badass graphics card ever. But the first volley of GTX 1080s available—in very limited quantities—were restricted to rebrands of the Nvidia Founders Edition alone. While that’s a nice card, the Founders Edition costs $100 over the GTX 1080’s $600 MSRP, and that surcharge doesn’t even get you an overclock or a beefy custom cooling solution. You couldn’t help but wonder what would happen once the wide world of graphics card vendors out there were able to stamp their personal touch on Nvidia’s beastly card.

The EVGA GTX 1080 FTW ($680 on Newegg, when it’s in stock) is the answer. This overclocked graphics card’s base clock is nearly as high as the GTX 1080 Founders Edition boost clock, and between its custom cooling and extra 8-pin power connection, it has the potential to go a hell of a hot higher.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s cheaper than Nvidia’s less capable Founders Edition? Let’s dig in.

Meet the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW

dsc00881 Brad Chacos

With EVGA yet to release a Classified, Kingpin, or Hydro Copper versions of the GTX 1080, the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW currently represents the pinnacle of the company’s lineup. As with all custom graphics cards, the core specs of the GTX 1080 FTW largely mirror what you’ll find with the reference version. It’s still built around Nvidia’s new 16nm Pascal GPU, with 8GB of cutting-edge GDDR5X memory running at a speedy 10Gbps. EVGA didn’t overclock the RAM. You can catch up on all of the base-level technical details on the first page of PCWorld’s GeForce GTX 1080 review.

That said, there are some major, major differences between the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW and its Founders Edition counterpart. You’ll notice the first one as soon as you install the card: While the Founders Edition draws 180 watts of power over a single 8-pin connection, the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW is rated at a 215W TDP via a pair of 8-pin connections. That extra juice amps up the potential for lofty overclocks, though your GPU’s maximum speed always depends on how lucky you get in the silicon lottery. (That’s why we don’t often include overclocking results in graphics card reviews, though we will for this one.)

evga gtx 1080 ftw specs

The EVGA GTX 1080 FTW’s essential spec sheet. (Click to enlarge any image in this article.)

Speaking of which, the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW rocks a fairly healthy overclock out of the box. While the stock GTX 1080 uses a 1,607MHz base and 1,733MHz boost clock, the EVGA FTW starts at 1,721MHz and boosts up to 1,860MHz. That gives EVGA’s card a decent leg up over Nvidia’s Founders Edition.

And that advantage is multiplied by the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW’s efficient ACX 3.0 cooling. The new generation of EVGA’s vaunted custom-cooling solution features a pair of massive 100mm fans that shut off in low power scenarios and contain double ball-bearings that help them last up to four times longer than competing cards, EVGA claims. Those sit over a full-sized set of heat sink fans, with the GPU itself covered by a large copper plate with six heat pipes of various sizes snaking out of it. The card’s memory and MOSFET are covered by a cooling plate, too, and the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW supports 10 power phases (compared to the Founders Edition’s five).

evga gtx 1080 ftw acx 3

EVGA’s ACX 3.0 cooler dissected.

The importance of slapping a powerful custom cooler on the GTX 1080 can’t be overstated. While we technically overclocked the Founders Edition to up to 2,088MHz (on air!!!), in practice the card began thermal-throttling speeds down to 1,870MHz or less under load, as Nvidia’s single-fan vapor chamber cooler struggled to keep the GPU cool. EVGA’s ACX 3.0 solution, on the other hand, kept an overclock running at 2,050MHz or higher across the board, topping out at a mere 74 degrees Celsius in gameplay scenarios.

Beyond the cooler, the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW packs multi-hued RGB lighting across the entire length of the card that can be adjusted via the company’s PrecisionXOC software, which can also be used to overclock your card. (There’s a dual BIOS switch onboard to help you recover if you push things too far.)

The overall physical design of the card is attractive indeed, with a black and silver design, metal everywhere, and an eye-fetching EVGA-branded backplate. The port selection consists of an HDMI 2.0b port, DVI-I (rather than the GTX 1080-standard DVI-D), and three DisplayPort 1.4 connections.

evga gtx 1080 ftw backplate

Of course, the EVGA GTX 1080 also supports the Pascal GPU’s arsenal of fresh features, including DirectX 12-boosting asynchronous compute additions and simultaneous multi-projection (detailed in depth on page two of PCWorld’s GTX 1080 review), software perks like Ansel screenshots, and fancy customized overclocking with GPU Boost 3.0 (detailed on page three of our GTX 1080 review), and Nvidia’s new high-speed SLI bridge.

Got it? Good. Let’s move on to the fun stuff—game performance!

Next page: Testing setup

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Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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