MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X Review: The Silent Beast

How would you write about one of the fastest single GPUs you’ve ever had grace your presence? How could you fault something that effortlessly turns the most demanding games into buttery smooth goodness? Could you look at something that achieves 60FPS on most games at 2560 x 1440p and playable 30FPS at 4K? Imagine a graphics card that did this while being as silent as a fish, and cooler than the other side of the pillow. The MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X is just one such rarity.

MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X:  Software and Overview

Alessandro has already introduced us to NVIDIA’s Pascal Perfect GTX 1080 FE, and for the most part this non-reference GTX1080 is every bit the card you will find in the FE, having the same GP104 chip with 2560 CUDA Cores  and 8GB of that blistering fast GDDR5X memory operating at 10GBps.

It’s also so much more; it’s cat friendly.

Besides being furry friendly, MSI have graciously factory overclocked the socks off this card to a maximum of 1,708MHz/1847MHz (although it ventured far above this), junked the FE cooler in favour of their own Twin Frozr VI cooling solution with four 6” and two 8” heat pipes to keep the 16nm 314mm² GP104 chip cool.

It’s a non-reference PCB with an upgraded 8+6 pin power connector so the board can take a total of 300W of power. I was unable to disassemble the cooler for fear of invoking the mighty wrath of TVR and MSI South Africa (Thanks for the review sample!), but it’s safe to say that MSI has crafted, if out the box performance is anything to go by, a spectacular card.

This card is simply a beast. It’s a chunky 28.0cm long and 14.5cm tall 2.5 slot behemoth that thanks to the “anti-flex” bracket on the card actually prevents you from installing the card in a tool-less fashion. Nothing a screw driver can’t fix, but it was literally the most irritating thing about this card. MSI have stuck with the same display connections as the reference model, giving us three DisplayPort 1.4, one HDMI 2.0b and a single Dual-Link DVI-D.

The majority of the cards chunkiness can be attributed to the Twin Frozr VI cooler. Besides the red “lightning” LEDs, the red and black fan shroud seems like a minimal update from the Twin Frozr V. Although the fans here are double ball bearing TorX 2.0 fans which have a “dispersion fan”, apparently increasing air pressure and providing better cooling. I’m not sure if all of that is pure market-speak, but I cant argue with the results; the cooling on this card is fiercely impressive and the best I’ve ever experienced, something I’ll discuss in the performance section of this review.

The backplate offers some kickass aesthetics (with the Dragon the right way this time!) while the RGB and fan shroud lighting does its job of providing effective, if a little incomplete, LED options. To make use of the LED lighting you need to download the provided MSI Gaming App since the version on the included driver CD could not access the LEDs or change the 3 different OC modes on the GPU.

The primary RGB LEDs on the Gaming X are able to match your build colour theme or operate in 8 different modes, or in my case simply sync with the Mystic Lighting on the MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon that TVR sent with the card. The RGB lighting can react to music or in-game sounds, but it’s far too haphazard to be anything but distracting eventually. A glaringly obvious omission is any GPU-centric LED lighting showing temperatures scales, GPU load or even fan speed—although admittedly the card runs so cool that I doubt you’d get lots of variation in colour. I can’t argue with how good a LED lit interior looks in a case.

There is a bevy of software that might interest the streamer, such as a XSplit Gamecaster and Broadcaster 2 month premium license and  MSI Dragon Eye, which allows you to play a game and watch a YouTube or Twitch Stream simultaneously. It was not really an option I could use with my 2MB/s connection, even I was interested in it. The only software we made use of was the MSI gaming App and MSI Afterburner to crank up clock speeds.