nVidia’s 1080 and 1070
Brad Chacos gives 10 reasons why he’s excited by NVIDIA’s gaming powerhouses
NVidia’s long-awaited GEFORCE GTX 1080 is spectacular – at least on paper. If you missed our review last month, here are the 10 things you need to know about the new card along with the just-as-impressive GEFORCE GTX 1070.
1 Ludicrous speed
The most important thing to know is that this thing is fast. “Faster than dual GEFORCE GTX 980s in SLI” fast, which handily beats NVIDIA’s flagship Titan X, the most potent single-GPU graphics card ever released. During a demonstration, the new Doom topped out at roughly 200fps at 1080p resolution, with all the graphics settings set at maximum.
2 Impressive speed redux
The Titan X’s high-water mark is the new mid-range for NVIDIA’s Pascal GPU architecture. The step-down GEFORCE GTX 1070 out punches the Titan X too, according to NVIDIA, though it never said exactly what was being compared.
3 Black magic
The secret behind the jaw-dropping performance gains is the adoption of several cutting-edge technologies, all at once. After being stuck on the 28-nanometer transistor manufacturing process for four long years, NVIDIA is building its Pascal GPUs on the 16nm process – a two-generation technological leap. What’s more, the chips embrace advanced FinFET technology, as well as 8GB of an improved form of memory dubbed GDDR5X that allows for whopping 10Gb/s speeds. No, that’s not as fast as the cutting-edge high-bandwidth memory found in AMD’s Fury graphics cards, but HBM is currently limited to 4GB capacities and GDDR5X is still plenty speedier than the GTX 980’s 7Gb/s memory. You can find the full set of announced GTX 1080 tech specs on NVIDIA’s website (tinyurl.com/zbte2y8) if you’re interested.
4 Power efficiency
Beyond enabling eye-watering performance, those technological leaps have helped the Pascal architecture become NVIDIA’s most energy-efficient GPU yet: the firm says the GTX 1080 boasts three times the efficiency of the Maxwell GPUbased Titan X. Yet despite offering more performance than dual GTX 980s, the GTX 1080 only demands 180W of power over a single eight-pin power connector. That seems like it shouldn’t be possible – powering a pair of GTX 980s demands the use of four six-pin power connections, by comparison.
5 Overclocks like a beast
But then there’s still plenty of overclocking headroom for people who want more power hiding behind that modest power draw. While the GTX 1080 offers clock speeds hundreds of megahertz higher than the GTX 980 out of the box – with a maximum boost clock of 1733MHz – NVIDIA showed a Paragon demo running on a GTX 1080 overclocked to a blistering 2114MHz. And it was air-cooled, and still running at a comparatively chilly 67ºC.
6 Simultaneous multi-display
NVIDIA is loading up the GTX 1080 with some new software tricks, too. Simultaneous multi-display improves how games look on multiple displays or virtual reality headsets, using technological tricks to prevent the distortion that naturally occurs when you’re projecting an image onto multiple displays tilted at slightly different angles. (Think of a straight line drawn on a piece of paper, then how it appears when you fold that paper instead – angled, rather than straight.)
Another one of SMP’s tricks can supercharge traditional one-monitor gaming, too. In a nod to the way VR headsets render scenes, SMP renders the edges of a scene at lower pixel resolution, since it’ll get all warped and scrunched together through a VR headset’s lenses anyway. Since the GPU’s rendering far fewer pixels, you’ll see a big frames-per-second performance boost. You can still use that technology on a single monitor and see similar performance gains, and with less visual degradation than you’d expect. We played a demo of Cyan Worlds’ Obduction (at 4K resolution) that let you toggle SMP on and off; in a scene where frame rates hovered around 42fps, enabling SMP jacked it up to the monitor’s 60fps maximum, and you couldn’t see any blurring or artifacts around the edges of the screen unless you were standing still in-game and really looking for it. The developers said that enabling SMP can provide a 30 percent or higher frame rate boost in the game, depending on the scene. Exciting stuff, all built on the shoulders of NVIDIA’s multi-resolution shading.
NVIDIA’s looking to bring more art to screenshots with Ansel, an in-game 3D camera utility that lets you capture screenshots and then manipulate numerous filters, brightness levels, and other options to create the gaming masterpiece of your
dreams. You can even use a free camera mode in Ansel to go places you normally wouldn’t be able to travel in-game, and at crazy high resolutions – up to 61440x34560, even if the game doesn’t support it. You can even take 360-degree ‘bubble’ pictures that you can then check out on your HTC Vive or Google Cardboard headset. That’s great since developers need to explicitly enable support for Ansel. Existing games such as Witcher 3 and The Division – both of which already featured NVIDIA GAMEWORKS tools – are slated to receive Ansel support though, as does Cyan’s Obduction.
8 Tweaked design
NVIDIA’s Founders Edition cards – previously known as reference cards – sport a new aesthetic that largely mimes the look of the GTX 900-series reference cards, down to the aluminium exterior and transparent front panel, but with a more aggressively angular design that brings tessellation triangles to mind. The GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 Founders Edition cards will be sold directly from NVIDIA…
9 Price and launch date
…for slightly more than you might think. While reference card previously meant ‘entry-level’ (despite the stunning build quality of NVIDIA’s reference boards), the GTX 1080 Founders Edition costs £619 at launch, compared to an MSRP starting price of £529 for the GTX 1080. The GTX 1070 costs £399 for an NVIDIA Founders Edition at launch in June, or just £375 at its suggested starting price – and yes, that’s despite out punching a Titan X.
10 What’s AMD up to?
Finally, the most important thing to keep in mind with the GEFORCE GTX 1080 is that AMD’s new RX 480 is also moving to a smaller (14nm) manufacturing process bolstered by FinFET.
The RX 480 doesn’t have the raw firepower to compete with even the GTX 1070 (let alone the 1080) but AMD is pricing its new card so aggressively that you can buy two and run them in Crossfire mode for less than the price of a GTX 1080. It’s too early for any benchmark results from a pair of RX 480s, but it’s certainly going to be an exciting couple of months for gamers.
Obduction’s simultaneous multi-display demonstration
The move to a 16nm process gives nVidia’s newest GPU an insane jump in performance and efficiency
NVidia-supplied performance comparison of the GTX 1080 versus the GTX 980
A scene from The Witness captured in nVidia’s Ansel