Today we will take a detailed look at the performance and features of the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G video card. For this Gaming card, MSI strapped on its TwinFrozr VI cooler and gave the VRM area some additional support for quieter, cooler running parts, and a more stable overclock. Let’s see how they did!
Specifications and Features
Listed below are the specifications from the MSI website on the GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G. There are a couple of other “Gaming” 1080s on the MSI website, the plain Gaming model, the Gaming X and the Gaming Z that is on the test bench today. The Gaming Z is the highest clocked model of the list with the X and vanilla Gaming model following. All models listed sport 8192 MB of GDDR5X memory which over DDR5, allows for a lot more bandwidth while using less power. It’s still not the HBM2 many are looking for, but that really only starts to shine at higher resolutions anyway. The 8GB of memory sits on a 256-bit bus and comes in at 2027 MHz or 10,108 MHz GDDR5X, This speed allows for 323.6 GB/s bandwidth.
Clocks on this card come in using the OC Mode at 1771 MHz base clock with 1911 MHz boost. MSI does ship to reviewers with the OC Bios already enabled. If you would like to reach these speeds, you will need to using the MSI Gaming App and press one button to get there, or download the OC BIOS from the website and flash the card.
The card supports four maximum displays and a resolution of 7680×4320. The ports on the card are your now typical assortment of a single DL DVI-D, one HDMI (2.0), and three Displayports (1.4).
One of the more amazing things about such a powerful card, is the low power it is said to use. Pascal architecture, including the die-shrink, yields cards that smoke 980 Ti GPUs and does so with a board power/TDP of 150 W. Compare that to the 250 W of the 980 Ti and you see how much more efficient the entire architecture of Pascal really is. If one of these isn’t powerful enough (it should be through 2560×1440 resolutions), you can SLI the cards. However, Tri/Quad SLI is not possible.
|MSI GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G|
|Graphics Processing Unit||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080|
|Interface||PCI Express x16 3.0|
|Memory Size (MB)||8192|
|Boost / Base Core Clock||1771 MHz / 1911 MHz / 10108 MHz (OC Mode)
1733 MHz / 1873 MHz / 10108 MHz (Gaming Mode)
1607 MHz / 1733 MHz / 10010 MHz (Silent Mode)
|Memory Clock (MHz)||8108 (OC Mode)|
4 Max displays
DisplayPort x 3 (Version 1.4) / HDMI (Version 2.0) / DL-DVI-D
Max Resolution: 7680 x 4320
|Multi-GPU Technology||SLI, 2-Way|
|Power consumption (W) / Power Connectors||150W / 6-pin x 1, 8-pin x 1|
|HDCP / HDMI / DL-DVI Support||Yes (all three)|
|DirectX / OpenGL Version Support||DX12_1 / Open GL 4.5|
|Card Dimensions (mm)||279 x 140 x 42 mm (11″ x 5.5″ x 1.6″)|
|Weight||1112g (2.45 lbs)|
Below is a look at several features from the MSI website. As we know from the GTX 1070 Gaming X review, they have updated their TwinFrozr cooler to the TwinFrozr VI. This includes the TORX 2.0 fan which is said to add 22% more air pressure to help get get that air through the heatsink and off the card. The two fans now are of the double ball bearing variety to help keep noise down and provide longer life. Another feature that helps fan life is the Zero Frozr mode… the fans stay OFF until temperatures reach 60 °C. This means for browsing the web, multimedia, and even light gaming the card will not make a sound!
Speaking of the heatsink, MSI has engineered it to move more air to/through where the heatpipes are located to help with improved efficiency. The baseplate on the heatsink is made of nickel-plated copper to move the heat to the smoothed and flattened heatpipes, up to 8 mm in size, which will maximize heat transfer from the base plate. MSI uses a premium thermal paste as well. That should keep the Military Class 4 components running plenty cool! One cannot forget the addition of the LEDs that were put on the TwinFrozr VI cooler. They are RGB and can be controlled through the MSI Gaming App.
See these features and more at the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G website:
Below is our gratuitous screenshot of GPUz confirm all the specs above. As you can see, this review sample again comes with the “OC Mode” BIOS as default with the clocks coming in at 1772 MHz on the core with a base boost of 1911 MHz (found this to consistently hit 2000 MHz on my sample/system). The memory comes in at 1264 MHz or 10018 GDDR5X. Behind the clocks sit 64 ROPs and 160 Texture Management units, TMUs which break down to 2560 shaders in total.
Photo Op – Retail Packaging and Accessories
Taking a look at the retail packaging, if you read our 1070 review, you will notice it is exactly the same being from MSI’s Gaming line of cards. The red and black theme is of course here along with a picture of the card on the front along with its namesake, GTX 1080. The back of the packaging goes over some high-level specifications and features.
When you open up this packaging you see the accessories box on top, and the card itself below it. The card sits in form fitting foam as well as an anti-static bag for protection during shipping and storage. No worries about this kind of packaging.
A Closer Look – Meet the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G
When you see the card, it is pretty tough to tell the difference between its Gaming models as there really are not many distinguishing features. The Twinfrozr VI (TFVI moving forward) cooler looks exactly the same, because, well, it is the same. There are LED’s on the top and bottom of the fan and glow a nice red color.
The back of the card does have a backplate on it, but this one has the MSI gaming badge and brand name. The neat part about that is the backplate actually has an LED in it to make the gaming badge glow as well. A nice value add to their current Pascal flagship offering. On top of the card, you can see the heatpipes from the TFVI under the shroud as well as the white LED-lit MSI brand name and Gaming Dragon (photos below MSI Gaming App).
There are plenty of modern options for outputs on the 1080 Gaming Z 8G, these consist of:
- 3x DisplayPort (v1.4)
- 1x HDMI (v2.0)
- 1x Dual-link DVI-D
The Founders Edition, AKA NVIDIA reference card, comes with a single 8-Pin connector capable of delivering a total of 225 W to the card (includes PCIe power). The MSI version comes with an additional (required) 6-Pin plug to further increase the incoming power. Now, I highly doubt that is needed overclocking wise with how limited voltage control is, but hey, it’s there when you need it!
I took off the TwinFrozr VI cooler to expose how things work below it. Here we see a plate covering the all of the GDDR5X to help keep things cool on the memory. To the right of that are some of the Military Class components on the VRM such as the Super Ferrite Chokes, Japanese solid caps, and Hi-C Caps as well. The power bits are cooled by its own heatsink while the SFCs have a thick piece of thermal tape on top which makes contact with the main heatsink. We can see MSI’s abundant application of its premium TIM on the core as well.
Pictured next are the VRM and memory heatsinks base showing they made good contact. I also threw in a photo of the back of the heatsink showing the LED which lights up the MSI gaming symbol and letters on the other side of the backplate.
Below we show the power delievery area. The FE model of the 1080 comes with 6-Phases while MSI stepped it up quite a bit and threw 10-Phases on here. Plenty to reach the full overclocking potential of the card and live a long life!
Last we see pictures of the GP104-400-A1 GPU as well as the new and smaller footprint of the GDDR5X ICs from Micron.
Monitoring/Overclocking Software – MSI Afterburner, MSI Gaming App
Our good old standby, MSI Afterburner, is still doing a great job managing your MSI (and other brand) GPUs. The latest version is v4.3.0 Beta 4 (latest “stable” is 4.2.0) as pictured below. MSI AB controls the core and memory clocks, power limit, voltage, and even fan speed and profiles. The monitoring portion can monitor anything under the sun it seems from the GPU and even the CPU as well. This is my go to choice for overclocking most cards and monitoring them.
The other app they have is named, appropriately, the MSI Gaming App. This small footprint app allows you to change clock speeds from three different presets with one touch. OC Mode (which is how this card arrived), Gaming Mode (which is how retail cards will land), and Silent Mode. You are also able to change fan speeds and control any LEDs on your device with this application. It also displays a current clock speed so you can see where you are at. It is great for the average user which may be intimidated by the MSI Afterburner software. Below are some pictures of the card lit up in my system. Please note in the first picture the red is much more, well, red!
|GPU Review System|
|CPU||Intel 6700K @ Stock (for the motherboard – 4.2 GHz)|
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme|
|RAM||2×4 GB DDR4 GSkill Ripjaws4 @ 3000 MHz 15-15-15-35 2T 1.35 V|
|Graphics Card||MSI GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G
Stock (OC Mode): Core: 1771 MHz, Boost 1911 MHz (actual 2000 MHz)/ 1264 MHz Memory
Overclocked: Core: 1838 MHz, Boost 1977 MHz (actual) 2114 Mhz / 1365 MHz Memory
|Solid State Drive||OCZ RD400 (512GB)|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic SS-1000XP (80+ Platinum)|
|Operating System||Windows 10 x64 (Fully Updated)|
Other cards used for comparison are as follows (links are to their reviews):
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 11 – Performance Level
- 3DMark Fire Strike – Extreme, default setting.
- 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
- Battlefield 4 – Default Ultra setting (Tashgar level – ‘on rails’ car scene)
- 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
Our first results come from 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme). Here the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G scored 10,046 at stock speeds. This beat out its little brother by almost 17% while beating out the 980 Ti by almost 20%. 3DMark 11 doesn’t show as much of a difference with the 1080 Gaming Z holding a bit over a 3% lead here in this older, lower resolution test.
Moving on to some hwbot.org benchmarks, in Unigine Valley, the 1080 hit 4,521 points while leading the 1070 by only 10% here. In Heaven, that lead drops down to about 9% scoring 5,354. Only 3DM FS seemed to show the potential of this beast in synthetic testing. The lower resolution of the other benchmarks really doesn’t show the actual difference… the games however, will be a different story!
The games do tell a different story! In our first graph we have more of our “less stressful” games (at least at our settings in GTA V). Here we see BF4 hitting nearly 160 FPS with about a 22 FPS lead over the 1070 and nearly 30 FPS over the 980Ti. In ME:SOM, the 1080 Gaming Z averages 145.5 FPS while the 1070 hits 118 and the 980 Ti nearly 120. In our last benchmark for this graph, GTA V, our 1080 hits 122 FPS while the 1070 shows 109.4. Not as big a difference here. But we can see a significant improvement over the 1070 and 980 Ti.
To give you an idea of just how fast the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G is, it’s the first card to break the 60 FPS threshold in Crysis 3 at our settings! It managed a buttery smooth 65.3 FPS. This was over 5 FPS faster than the 1070. It rolled through our racer, Dirt: Rally at 92.7 FPS, while in Metro: Last Light it also averaged 90.7 FPS.
Overall our testing yielded an average across all games of over 13%. The biggest difference came in ME:SOM at 23% with the least, surprisingly, in Dirt:Rally at 7.9%.
Before I let you go, we may be changing up some of our review suite and I wanted to add some of the games we were thinking about adding like Tom Clancy’s The Division and Ashes of the Singularity. For AOTS, I used the “Crazy” preset and for The Division, the Ultra preset, as well as turning Vsync off and using 1080p resolution. For now I will put these in a table as additional results. They will get graphs when additional cards are tested and may become a permanent fixture in the future.
|Other Game Results (in FPS – Average)|
|GPU||Ashes of the Singularity||The Division||Rise of the Tomb Raider||Far Cry: Primal|
|MSI GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G||63.4||102.8||72||112.1|
|MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G||52||89.5||59.7||93|
|MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G||50||88.2||60.6||91|
2560×1440 and 5760×1080 Results
Next we turned up the resolution on the cards to 2560×1440 and 5760×1080. You can see in the graph below there wasn’t one game in our testing that averaged below 30 FPS. Crysis 3 and AOTS were close with the triple monitor setup, but otherwise things were plenty playable at the card’s stock settings.
Pushing the Limits
I pushed up on the clocks a bit more and ended up reaching a core clock of 2114 MHz while the memory peaked at 1402 MHz or 11,216 GDDR5X. Remember, this is without a whole lot of voltage control. For some reason on this card, I was not able to read the voltage through MSI AB which was a surprise. When we reviewed the 1070, we saw very little voltage gains (.03-.05) when cranking the voltage slider up.
The issue though isn’t so much the voltage, though that is limiting, as it is to how NVIDIA boost is working on Pascal. As most may know, with Pascal they have upgraded to GPU Boost 3.0. With this feature, there is a direct correlation to temperature, as was with Boost 2.0, but it starts a lot lower. From my testing, bins start to drop around 54 °C mark. With the card hitting a maximum temperature of 61 °C (fan was at 80% manually set), I only seemed to drop one bin from 2126 to 2114. While this really wouldn’t affect gamers much, it could affect those that are benchmarking. Keep this thing as cool as you can so it doesn’t drop clocks will be the motto for ambient cooled runs. I also threw a little of the new Futuremark DX12 Benchmark, Time Spy, in there as well. We may add that to our benchmarking suite soon!
Temperatures and Power Consumption
While idle, the card sat at 37 °C with the fans off. When load testing, temperatures on this card climbed to a peak of 71 °C with the fan reaching 54%. They were nearly inaudible at that speed. There is a lot more cooling headroom left in the TwinFrozr VI. It can do it quietly, it can do it when overclocked without breaking a sweat.
Power consumption peaked at an almost laughably low for how fast this card is, 324 W in 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme. Remember folks, that is at the wall (under 300 W actual). This power draw is from a stock 6700K based system and a 150 W card. Amazing the power efficiency of Pascal even over the last generation. A quality 550 W power supply would still be plenty to overclock both the CPU and GPU under ambient cooling.
MSI took a great base of the Pascal GP104 silicon and made it even better with the release of their take, the GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G. They started out by adding more power phases (up from 6 on the FE to 10) along with better quality parts in the Super Ferrite Chokes, Hi-C Caps, and Japanese solid caps, to support more power, cleaner power, yielding higher overclocks. Those higher clocks mean more heat needs dissipated. This is where the improved TwinFrozr VI comes in with its Torx 2.0 fans, large heatpipes, and channeled air all aim to keep this card cool, and do it quietly. It does. Period. There is plenty of cooling headroom left as well.
Truth be told, I really do not have anything to complain about that would be MSI’s fault anyway. It seems with each new generation, video cards are becoming more and more difficult to push to their real limits. Certainly, you can overclock even more out of the box, but gone are the days where the limit of the card is when it went POP! Now, don’t misunderstand me, the performance out of these cards for the power they use is incredible, but for us enthusiasts, we need to find more and more creative ways to get around the limits NVIDIA puts on AIBs. Hopefully the handcuffs are removed or loosened when we see MSI’s Lighting line (not sure if they are going to put out one based on the 1080 or wait for the 1080 Ti). Small rant out of the way, I was very close to the power limit with this card when pushing the limits. On my particular sample, the core puttered out before I really ran into it… lack of real voltage control and all. If we only had voltage control and a modded BIOS… oh what fun we will have!
Pricing on the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G comes in at $749.99 at Newegg.com. This is $30 more than its MSRP of $719! We are seeing these prices due to the “new car smell” on the cards and a lack of availability. In fact, at the time of this writing, there wasn’t one available at Newegg… at least a custom model anyway (one FE at $700 and $780 was available). Competing cards are coming in less with the same clocks (ASUS Strix), or lesser clocks (Gigabyte Extreme Gaming and Zotac AMP! Extreme) ranging from $699 to $729, so it is the most expensive out of its direct competitors.
Overall, the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming Z 8G performed very well in our testing keep its cool under the TwinFrozr cooler while delivering great frame rates up to 5760×1080 resolutions. If you are in the market for a quiet GTX 1080 that has the gusto to let loose after hours, make sure the MSI Gaming Z 8G is on your list!
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)