EVGA GTX 1080 FTW2 Gaming iCX Video Card Review

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EVGA has been on the forefront of GPU technology since they came on the scene back in 1999. Fast forward numerous years and accolades later, we come to another turning point, a deeper integration of the GPU with their new iCX Technology. This new integration will help keep cards cool where it needs to be cooled allowing for better control of thermals and fan noise. The first implementation of this technology comes in the form of the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW2 Gaming iCX sporting the new iCX cooler, an evolution of their formidable ACX cooling solution. We will take a look at some of the changes, and have a lot of other cool things to show you in this review, including a tour of the new EVGA facility where we learned about all the new technology on the card. Read on!

Specifications

Below is a list of specifications for the FTW2. It is a standard GTX 1080 sporting its 2,560 CUDA cores and a 8GB GDDRX5 on a 256-bit memory bus. The clocks come in at 1721 MHz base, 1860 MHz boost clock which is the same as the original FTW Gaming ACX it replaces. The FTW2 has the same display outputs in a single DVI-D, three DisplayPorts, and a single HDMI. You will still need two 8-pin PCIe power connectors to drive this 180W card. A (quality!) 500W power supply is recommended for the system.

You can find all details in the table below and the thumbnail of their specification page below it well as the website.

EVGA GTX 1080 FTW2 Gaming iCX
Graphics Engine NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 1080
Bus Standard PCI Express x16 3.0
Video Memory GDDR5X 8GB
Engine Clock Base/Boost Clock: 1721/1860 MHz
CUDA Cores 2560
Memory Clock 10,000 MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit
Resolution Digital Max: 7680 x 4320

Interface

 

DVI Output : Yes x 1 (Native DVI-D)
HDMI Output : Yes x 1 (Native 2.0)
Display Port : Yes x 3 (Native 1.4)
HDCP Support : Yes
Power consumption (W) / Power Connectors 180W+ / 8-pin x 1, 8-pin x1
DirectX / OpenGL Version Support DX12_1 / Open GL 4.5
Card Dimensions (mm) 266.7 x 128.6 x ~40 mm (11.73″ x 5.28″ x ~1.57″)

Features – iCX Technology

Slide from iCX Day Presentation at EVGA

EVGA has taken a look at the graphics card and asked itself if one sensor was really enough for the best cooling on a video card. Traditionalists would say it is, but this tends to leave an imbalance between the PWM area and the core. Your power bits tend to run warmer than the core in a lot of cases, true, but using nine additional sensors (three on the memory, five on the PWM, and one on the GPU) to run your fans can lead to quieter operation. In order to get to the final product, countless engineering hours led to a total of 11 newly acquired, or in process, patents for the iCX Technology.

EVGA, through their Precision XOC monitoring tool, allows for Asynchronous cooling or allowing the the fans to spin independent of each other. When the core gets hot, the GPU fan will spin up, but the other fan for the memory and PWM stay slower, or faster, as needed. These Asynchronous fan speeds reduce noise as two fans at the same speed/frequency are louder. That is the beauty of such a system, using the increased telemetry for improved cooling efficiency and reduced fan noise.

In order to quickly see what is going on with the card, without the use of an application or the OSD, EVGA has added a Thermal Display System on the top of the card. It gives you three RGB LED readouts in the form of letters right across the top. The letters are “G” for GPU temperature, “P” for PWM, and “M” for memory. Each of these LEDs, as well as the EVGA logo LEDs, are RGB. The letters can be controlled via the new MCU’s (Management Control Unit) on the PCB and the EVGA Precision XOC software which can adjust for both color and temperature of each value. It can also call on temperature hysteresis functionality to keep those fans from quickly transitioning speeds.

EVGA has not forgotten about the much maligned, and in my opinion blown out of proportion, issue of their VRMs running hotter than others (but still well within NVIDIA’s rated temperature of 125 °C) since it did not have a thermal pad on some of the PWM. Although the iCX was already on the drawing table before this event ever happened, you can imagine it probably pushed development a bit faster to get it released and put those concerns fully in the rear view mirror.

In their manufacturing process EVGA is using die-cast, form-fitted base plates and back plates on this card. The goal here was to ensure there are contacts on all vital components to help keep things cool. The base plate covers the memory and PWM area. There are thermal pads, which make contact with said base plate, which in turn make contact with the heatsink. EVGA has brought back something used in the past, sparingly lately, in their Pin Fin design on the base plate. Instead of thin fins, they use small cylinders/pins to increase the surface area on the base plate. The back plates, yes, there are two, are also thermally functional. It isn’t there simply for looks or structural integrity as many other card partners do. There are heat pads covering the back of the GPU, back of the PWM, and memory.

The cooler itself was re-designed to allow for better airflow through the heatsink. If you look through the fins, you will see there are holes drilled out in each one through the length of the fin array. This prevents some blow back of air through the fans and improves cooling as more air can get through the fins and away from the card. On the bottom of some of these fins, specifically where the PWM area is and above the GPU and its heat plate, it is a “half open fin”. In other words, the fin is “L” shaped. At the bottom of the fin there is more contact area for the thermal pad and PWM to get the heat away from those most important of parts.

Last, but not least, EVGA has installed a fuse right on the PCB for an additional layer of protection against catastrophic failure. The theory here is this fuse will protect the card from really biting the bullet if there are problems with a component on the board itself. This part is not user replaceable.

A more complete list found below and at the EVGA website for the FTW2:

9 Total Sensors

  • Memory
  • PWM
  • Core

iCX Technology

  • Multiple MCUs
  • Precision XOC Monitoring
  • Asynchronous Cooling/Fans
  • Built in LED thermal display system

Asyncronus Cooling and Asyncronus Fan Control

Improved Cooling Efficiency and Reduced fan Noise

GPU fan speed determined by GPU temperature. PWM/Memory fan determined by PWM/Memory temperatures

Thermal Display System

  • Customizable RGB color and visual alarm settings (through PXOC)
  • G LED for GPU Temperature
  • P LED PWM Temperature
  • M LED Memory Temperature
Die-Cast Form Fitted

Both the Baseplate and Backplate are die cast aluminum.

  • Contacts all vital components
  • Interlaced Pin Fin Design on the baseplate
  • Functional backplates (two) with heatpads on the back of the GPU, PWM, and Memory to keep things running cool
Optimized Airflow Fin Design
  • Fin Holes Direct Airflow Through fins
  • Half Open Fin (L- shape fin on base) maximizes airflow and increase surface contact
Integrated Safety Fuse
  • Additional layer of protection

EVGA Tour, iCX Day

EVGA invited out several media to their new (been there about a year) US Headquarters in Brea, California to discuss the iCX technology and implementation. We had a chance to see their facilities from the sales and customer service offices, to the warehouse, testing, RMA, and repair centers. The CEO Andrew Han, CBO Joe Darwin, and Product Manager Jacob Freeman walked us through a presentation and showed us around the facility. Below are some pictures I took while at iCX Day. Enjoy!

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GPU-Z

Below is our always gratuitous screenshot of GPU-Z. The specifications above have not been made a liar!

GPU-Z v1.16

Retail Packaging and Accessories

The retail packaging for the FTW2 card doesn’t look terribly different than previous packaging. Replace ACX with iCX and that about does it. The front lists the card model inside while the back shows a few more specifications and details. You can also see the S/N of the card through a hole in the back. Match that to the sticker just above it to make sure things haven’t been swapped out.

After opening the outside box, you are greeted by another box which contains the card and all accessories. As per usual, the card itself rests in form fitting foam keeping the card safe during transit to the shelves and your PC.

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Meet the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW2 with iCX Cooler

The look of the card between ACX and iCX cooling at least the front, really isn’t much different. The fans and shroud are the same outside of the name changes. There are customizable RGB LED’s in the honeycomb areas surrounding the fans as well as in the display up top. Flipping the card over, we can see better pictures of the die-cast form fitting back plate. Overall its a good looking card, which is pretty theme-agnostic, and it can fit with any themed case without issue.

EVGA GTX 1080 FTW2 w/iCX Cooler – Front

Back

Alternate 1

Alternate 2

Top

Bottom

A Closer Look

Getting a bit closer we see the outputs which consist of three DisplayPort, one HDMI, and one DVI-D connection. This supports up to 8K resolutions (digital). You will note you need two 8-pin PCIe power connectors, this is more than the typical single 6-pin and single 8-pin we see on many cards. These will be able to give the card plenty of power. Something else you can see in this picture is a small switch for the dual bios. I’m sure if you look on the internet you can find some of these modified if you are really looking to push the limits.

Outputs – 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, and 1x DVI-D

Two 8-Pin PCIe Power plugs Required! Also note the BIOS switch

The design of the PCB, outside all the iCX Technology, is largely unchanged. EVGA did mention they are using different MOSFETs on the FTW2 however. Even so, its still the 10 Phase (5 doubled) beast carried over, for all intents and purposes. If you flip the card over you will see, pretty obviously, where the thermal pads made contact with the PCB… the PWM area, Memory, and back of the GPU.

The next picture shows the base of the heatsink an base plate. You can clearly see the thermal pads all over the place. It covers the Micron Memory IC’s and all the power bits. Same thing with the last picture here of the back plates. We see thermal pads on them as well covering everything that is needed.

Heatsink and Baseplate Removed

Back – Backplates Removed

Heatsink Base

Backplate Basea

The next set of pictures shows one of the MCUs (blurry with a red dot) and the integrated fuse (middle right with gold colored ends). Again, if that fuse is tripped, it’s RMA time and hopefully it did its job and saved the card. The picture after that is a side view of the heatsink showing the holes we mentioned earlier. These holes help get air through the heatsink more efficiently and prevent air from bouncing back through the fan.

Last up, those beautiful 10 phases feeding the card power!

MCU (blurry with Red dot) and Fuse pictured

Holes in heatsink fin array for better dissipation

Power Delivery Area – 10 Phase (5 doubled)

Oh yes, there is still a GP104 under there. Not pictured, but confirmed via GPU-Z, is the Micron GDDR5X memory IC.

GP104 Core

Monitoring/Overclocking Software – EVGA Precision XOC

By now I am sure we are familiar with EVGA’s Precision XOC GPU monitoring and overclocking software. The newest release today, will have the updated functionality you are seeing below. Now you will have the ability to control each fan independently or use the multitude of sensors and let it be done for you. The zero fan is still in use here, but when things get going there are opportunities that other cards with one sensor don’t have a chance to capitalize on, like the fans at different speeds.

EVGA seems to have done well on the integration of the sensors into this software. Using it is straightforward and I did not run into any problems.

LED Control

Fan Control

Test System

GPU Test System
CPU Intel 7700K @ 4.2 GHz (to match previous testing)
Motherboard ASUS Maximus IX Apex
RAM 2×8 GB DDR4 GSkill Ripjaws4 @ 3000 MHz 15-15-15-35 2T 1.35 V
Graphics Card EVGA GTX 1080 FTW2
Stock: Core -1721 MHz, 1962 MHz (Actual Boost), / 1251 MHz Memory
Overclocked: Core – 1830 MHz, 2088 MHz (Actual Boost) / 1355 MHz Memory
Storage OCZ RD400 (512GB)
Power Supply SeaSonic SS-1000XP (80+ Platinum)
Operating System Windows 10 x64 (Fully Updated)
Graphics Drivers 376.33
Other Equipment
Digital Multimeter, Kill-A-Watt

Benchmarking Method/Settings

Note all testing below uses 1920×1080 screen resolution (settings also carry over to 2560 x 1440 and Surround/Eyefinity testing, if applicable).

All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings, with game benchmarks at noted settings:

  • 3DMark Fire Strike – Extreme, default setting.
  • 3DMark Time Spy – Default
  • Unigine Valley Benchmark v1.0 – 1080p, DX11, Ultra Quality, 8x AA, Full Screen
  • Unigine Heaven (HWbot) – Extreme setting
  • Crysis 3 – Very High settings with 8xMSAA/16xAF (2nd level when you procure and use the Crossbow to get across the level and kill the Helicopter)
  • Metro:LL – DX11, Very High, 16xAF, Motion Blur – Normal, SSAA Enabled, DX11 Tessellation – Very High, Advanced PhysX – Disabled, Scene D6
  • Dirt: Rally – 1080p, 8x MSAA, everything on Ultra that can be, enable Advanced Blending
  • Grand Theft Auto V – 1080p, high settings (see article below for details).
  • Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor – 1080p, everything Ultra that can be (Lighting quality High), FXAA and Camera + Object Blur, DOF/OIT/Tessellation enabled.
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider – 1080p, SSAA 4X, VSync Off, DirectX 12 On, Very High Preset
  • The Division – 1080p, Ultra Preset, VSync Off
  • Far Cry: Primal – 1080p, Ultra Preset, VSync Off
  • Ashes of the Singularity – 1080p, DX12, Crazy Preset

More details found in our article: Overclockers.com GPU Testing Procedures

GPU’s Used for Comparison:

Synthetic Benchmarks

Now, fancy cooling aside, it’s on to the results! What we have here, unsurprisingly, is a GTX 1080 through and through. You will notice throughout the testing that this FTW2, a slower clocked card compared to the rest here, ends up just slightly behind its previously tested peers outside of 3DMark Time Spy for whatever reason. Note, all cards used in this comparison are with the 376.33 driver.

Unigine Valley (Extreme) and Unigine Heaven (Hwbot)

3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) and 3DMark Time Spy

Gaming Benchmarks

On to the gaming side of things we see, even with our Ultra settings and use of AA, the EVGA GTX 1080 Gaming FTW2 really pounds through all the titles. The lowest average we had was when playing Rise of the Tomb Raider at 67 FPS. Ashes of the Singularity hit 68 FPS, while Crysis 3 hits 69 FPS. Anything else is hitting 90 FPS, or well over 100 FPS, at these settings. An impressive 180W card.

Crysis 3, Dirt: Rally, Metro: Last Light

Far Cry: Primal, Middle Earth: SOM, GTA V

Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Division, and Ashes of the Singularity

2560×1440 and 4K UHD Results

Jacking up the resolution to 2560×1440 (not 2K, people!!) brings things down a bit, but outside of Crysis 3 and ROTR, we are at at least 59 FPS or much higher.

Moving up to 4K really starts to hurt and not a single title is above 60 FPS when using our settings in these titles. As I have said in the past, you don’t need copious amounts of AA at 4K since the pixel density is so high, so that can be disabled and FPS will shoot up considerably. I play Doom and BF1 on Ultra without AA at 4K and its sits around 60 FPS.

2560×1440

4K UHD

Pushing the Limits

Next I cranked up the clocks, power limit, and voltage (for what little that does on Pascal at ambient temps) and ended up with a final core clock of 2126 MHz (actual boost clocks). Much past this and I would see artifacts and some benchmarks wouldn’t complete. The memory I was able to get up to 1425 MHz/11480 MHz effective) which seems about right for the Micron GDDRX5. I also raised up the CPU to 5.1 GHz and the memory to 3866 MHz… here is what we got!

Fire Strike (Extreme) – CPU @ 5.1 GHz, Memory 386. GPU @ 2126 MHz 1435 MHz

Time Spy – CPU @ 5.1 GHz, Memory 386. GPU @ 2126 MHz 1435 MHz

Temperatures and Power Consumption

So, after all these changes, where did all that get us? About the same place, honestly. But to also be honest, that isn’t a fair comparison considering nothing has really changed on the GPU heatsink for the GPU temperatures itself.

With that in mind, temperatures were what we see with our testing here at OCF with the temperatures of the 1080 Gaming FTW2 card peaking at 73 °C while overclocked. This is with the fans on auto. The highest temperature I saw at stock clocks was 71 °C. The second fan on the iCX cooler didn’t appear kick on until the VRMs/Memory were in the mid 50’s. Using the quiet profile, the card was very quiet with one fan doing the lifting until we broke the threshold for it to kick on. The PWM temps peaked at 60 °C across over an hour of testing with Unigine Valley (22­ °C ambient). The memory hit 61 °C. Actually, on the memory, only one of the areas monitored hit 61 °C, the rest were 8 °C and 10 °C below that. Note that the Mem3 sensor is close to the PWM area, so it will naturally run warmer.

It appears the changes they have made to the cooler, and ensuring there is good contact with the right parts, has kept these hot parts pretty cool. I have to admit, it was really neat to see so much temperature information and watch the fans adjust as needed, both independent of each other. If I wasn’t told how it worked, I probably would assume it to be broken! Overall a very intuitive way to keep things cool and quiet, with iCX Technology.

Temperatures

Power consumption with this card was right in the ballpark with the other 1080’s we tested. In this case, our peak reading was 319W at the wall. This was of course with the GPU (only) overclocked. Stock all around and we hit 289W. Sipping on the power here with this Intel/NVIDIA setup.

Power Consumption

Conclusion

Whether you call it good timing or just plain old luck, EVGA coming out with new technology in their new iCX cooling solution could not have come at a better time for them considering the hullabaloo with the VRM temps (again, they were well in spec) on the original FTW. Even though the issue was well overblown and their reaction to it prompt, it still left a bad taste in people’s mouths. Worry no more however, iCX is here. With it comes those 11 total patents, newly designed heatsink allowing for better integration to both the card and system, airflow penetration/efficiency of the cooler, thermally functional base and back plates, display LEDs for each zone, additional temperature sensors and MCUs, and an update to the Precision XOC software. Plenty has changed, even if the look really hasn’t. We will find the new iCX line on the GTX 1060 and above. The lower tiered cards, 1050Ti and 1050, will not use iCX cooling.

In our meeting, EVGA mentioned it costs about $20 more to make these cards, and the MSRP should be about $30 more than their original FTW 1080. You can find that on sale now at Newegg for $610 (reg. $680). I would expect to see this somewhere around the $650-$700 dollar range, which is right at the higher end for air cooled GTX’s and fits right in with its competition’s comparable card pricing.

Upon release today, EVGA will be offering a $99 ACX to iCX direct upgrade for those that want to switch to the iCX cooler (Link here!). That is less than one would lose selling the ACX version and buying the iCX so it seems like a pretty solid deal for those who may want to make that leap. Make sure the EVGA GTX 1080 Gaming FTW2 is on your list when shopping for a GTX 1080, or use the $99 upgrade program.

Click here to find out what this means.

– Joe Shields (Earthdog).

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Discussion
  1. Nice write up!

    The link to the "$99 upgrade program" sparked my interest. I contacted EVGA yesterday, and they are not offering any sort of cross-ship option with it. So, if you can be without your GPU for up to 4 weeks then this is for you! (I doubt very many people will use this because of the long turn around time.)

    Sent from my iPhone using Overclockers
    As usual, nicely written! The virtual ride along at EVGA was a nice addition to the review, as well. Their quick response and ongoing efforts over the VRM non event keep them at the top of my recommendations for nvidia GPUs. Unless you just have to have a white one. Then, well, you know.... :)