Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080: An ice-cold, whis­per-silent beast of a graph­ics card

Talk about heavy me­tal.

PCWorld (USA) - - Reviews Windows 10 October 2018 Update - BY BRAD CHA­COS

The hulk­ing Asus ROG Strix Geforce RTX 2080 shows how Nvidia’s graph­ics card part­ners can still stand out from the crowd in an era when Nvidia’s mak­ing it harder than ever to shine.

Last gen­er­a­tion, all cus­tom­ized GTX 1080 Ti graph­ics cards plateaued at vir­tu­ally the same level of per­for­mance. Cus­tom cards were no­tably bet­ter than Nvidia’s own GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edi­tion, though, be­cause Founders Edi­tion cards were re­strained by ref­er­ence clock speeds and a sub­par sin­gle­fan, blower-style cooler.

This gen­er­a­tion, it’s look­ing like power lim­its will im­pose a new ceil­ing on Geforce

RTX 2080 per­for­mance—but now, Nvidia’s vastly im­proved RTX Founders Edi­tion cards pack a dual-fan cooler, a gor­geous de­sign, and an 80MHZ out-of-the­box over­clock. Nvidia’s com­pet­ing against its own part­ners some­thing fierce.

The ROG Strix RTX 2080 ($870 on Newegg [ go.]) fights back with heavy me­tal. Asus equipped the card with a mas­sive heat sink, three fans, and ex­tra fea­tures ga­lore, giv­ing the Strix RTX 2080 the abil­ity to run in­cred­i­bly cold—or vir­tu­ally silent. The choice is yours.


Let’s take a quick look at the

ROG Strix 2080’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

The raw specs aren’t very dif­fer­ent from those of

Nvidia’s Geforce RTX 2080

Founders Edi­tion ( go. at their core. The ROG Strix RTX

2080 of­fers a higher fac­tory over­clock, at 1,860MHZ com­pared to the FE’S 1800MHZ. (The RTX 2080’s ref­er­ence boost clock is 1,710MHZ.) If you in­stall Asus’s GPU Tweak II soft­ware, you’ll un­lock an­other “OC Mode” that bumps up the clock to

1,890MHZ. Me­mory sticks to stock speeds.

Asus crammed an ex­tra HDMI 2.0b port into the ROG Strix, bring­ing the card’s to­tal to a pair of HDMI 2.0b ports and twin Dis­play­port 1.4 con­nec­tions. They’re joined by a Vir­tu­allink USB-C con­nec­tion ( go. for fu­ture vir­tual re­al­ity head­sets. The card also fea­tures an up­graded power con­fig­u­ra­tion for over­clock­ing, re­quir­ing a pair of 8-pin power con­nec­tors com­pared to the Founders Edi­tion’s 6-pin + 8-pin setup.

The ROG Strix RTX 2080 also in­cludes the RT cores and ten­sor cores re­quired to en­able new and po­ten­tially amaz­ing RTX graph­ics tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing ray trac­ing and Deep Learn­ing Su­per Sam­pling. Our Tur­ing GPU deep-dive ( trng) ex­plains how the new tech­nolo­gies work, but un­for­tu­nately, we can’t test them to­day. Ray trac­ing and DLSS aren’t cur­rently en­abled in any games, though Nvidia says the first ray traced games will show up some­time in Oc­to­ber.

But enough about the spec sheet. The fear­some cooler de­sign and ex­tra fea­tures make the Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 spe­cial.


The ROG Strix 2080 builds upon the suc­cess of last gen­er­a­tion’s very im­pres­sive Strix de­sign. This mas­sive triple-slot graph­ics card mea­sures a foot long and well over two inches thick, and it’s ut­terly bristling with fans, heat pipes, and a mam­moth heat sink. The cooler’s so big that Asus re­in­forced it with a me­tal brace that runs the length of the card, mounted to both the back­plate and the I/O shield, to pre­vent it from bend­ing your PCB slot. No­body likes GPU sag.

The cool­ing starts with “Max­con­tact Tech­nol­ogy,” a pre­ci­sion ma­chin­ing tech­nique that Asus claims makes the heat spreader 10 times flat­ter than usual, re­sult­ing in twice as much sur­face con­tact with the graph­ics chip. That helps trans­fer more heat into the gar­gan­tuan alu­minum heat sink,

which has over 20 per­cent more sur­face area than its pre­de­ces­sor, Asus says. Three big ax­ial-tech fans blow the heat out of the card.

Asus loaded the ROG Strix RTX 2080 with dual BIOSES, which can be tog­gled via a small switch on the outer edge of the card, cen­tered but un­der­neath the card’s at­trac­tive back­plate. By de­fault, it’s flipped to the left for Per­for­mance mode; flip­ping it to the right ac­ti­vates Quiet mode. Per­for­mance mode op­ti­mizes for lower tem­per­a­tures, so the fans al­ways spin. Quiet mode op­ti­mizes for acous­tics, so it has a much less ag­gres­sive fan curve, and the fans go idle if the GPU core tem­per­a­ture drops be­low 55 de­grees

Cel­sius. Both are tremen­dously ef­fec­tive at their given goals, as you’ll see in our bench­mark re­sults later.

The pre­ci­sion-ma­chined PCB fea­tures the 10+2 phase “Su­per Al­loy Power II” power de­liv­ery sys­tem. Asus claims SAP II de­liv­ers bet­ter over­clock­ing head­room, lower tem­per­a­tures, more ef­fi­cient power de­liv­ery, less elec­tric buzzing, and en­hanced longterm dura­bil­ity.

The ROG Strix RTX 2080 comes laden with RGB LEDS, though you can dis­able them quickly by press­ing a “Stealth Mode” but­ton em­bed­ded in the card’s back­plate. The ROG logo on the back­plate and the “Repub­lic of Gamers” text on the edge of the graph­ics card both light up, as do ac­cents around the triple fans. A col­or­ful glow emits from through­out the heatsink. It’s con­trolled via the

Asus Aura Sync soft­ware ( aura), and you’ll find an Aura SYNC RGB header on the end of the graph­ics card, next to a pair of 4-pin fan head­ers. If you plug fans into these, they’ll be man­aged by the fan curves you set in the Asus GPU Tweak II soft­ware (— handy if you point a fan di­rectly at the Strix 2080.

Bot­tom line: As a com­plete pack­age, the Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 is huge, im­pec­ca­bly man­u­fac­tured, and just plain im­pres­sive. You could al­most call it in­tim­i­dat­ing. Let’s see how it han­dles on the test bench.


We over­hauled our ded­i­cated graph­ics card test sys­tem for this new gen­er­a­tion of graph­ics cards, as our older Core i7-5960x rig was start­ing to show its age. We equipped the sys­tem with some of the fastest com­ple­men­tary com­po­nents avail­able to put the per­for­mance bot­tle­necks squarely on the GPU it­self. Most of the hard­ware was pro­vided by the man­u­fac­tur­ers, but we pur­chased the cooler and stor­age our­selves. Here’s what’s in­side:

• In­tel Core i7-8700k pro­ces­sor ($375 on Ama­zon at • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liq­uid cooler ($120 on Ama­zon at c240)

• Asus Max­imus X Hero moth­er­board ($260 on Ama­zon at mxmc)

• 64GB Hyperx Preda­tor RGB DDR4/2933 ($420 for 32GB on Ama­zon at

• EVGA 1200W Su­per­nova P2 power sup­ply ($180 on Ama­zon at go.pcworld. com/spnv)

• Cor­sair Crys­tal 570X RGB case, with front and top pan­els re­moved and an ex­tra rear fan in­stalled for im­proved air­flow ($170 on Ama­zon at

• 2x 500GB Sam­sung 860 EVO SSDS ($100 on Ama­zon at

We’re com­par­ing the Asus ROG Strix RTX

2080 ($870 on Newegg [ go.pcworld. com/ne28]) against Geforce RTX 2080 Founders Edi­tion ($799 at Best Buy [ go.] or [ go.]) and RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edi­tion ($1,199 at Best Buy [ go.] and [ go.]), of course. We’ve also tested its per­for­mance com­pared to the the Geforce GTX 1080 Founders Edi­tion ( go. and PNY Geforce GTX 1080 Ti ( Nei­ther of those are on sale any longer, but you can find other cus­tom­ized GTX 1080s start­ing around $470 on Newegg (, and cus­tom GTX 1080 Tis start­ing around $700 on Newegg ( Fi­nally, to give the Red Team some rep­re­sen­ta­tion we’ve in­cluded the re­sults from the Radeon RX Vega 64 ref­er­ence card, AMD’S most po­tent GPU. Cus­tom Vega 64 mod­els start around $500 on Newegg ( go., though most sell for $550 or more.

Each game is tested us­ing its in-game bench­mark at the high­est pos­si­ble graph­ics pre­sets, with Vsync, frame rate caps, and all GPU ven­dor-spe­cific tech­nolo­gies—like AMD Tressfx, Nvidia Game­works op­tions, and Freesync/g-sync—dis­abled, and tem­po­ral anti-alias­ing (TAA) en­abled to push these high-end cards to their lim­its. If any­thing dif­fers from that, we’ll men­tion it.


The fol­low­ing bench­marks re­sults were taken us­ing Per­for­mance mode, the de­fault con­fig­u­ra­tion for the Asus ROG Strix 2080. We’ve tested the card’s Quiet and OC modes as well, though and wanted to share some quick com­par­isons and thoughts for each.

Quiet mode bench­marks are iden­ti­cal to Per­for­mance mode’s, within a mar­gin of er­ror. Only tem­per­a­tures and noise lev­els dif­fer­en­ti­ate the two. We’ll dive more deeply into those dif­fer­ences in the ther­mal and acous­tics sec­tion later in the re­view.

We didn’t test with the Asus OC mode for a cou­ple of rea­sons. First of all, ac­ti­vat­ing it

re­quires down­load­ing the sep­a­rate Asus GPU Tweak II soft­ware, which many users may not do. Sec­ond, the 30MHZ it adds doesn’t equate to any real ad­di­tional per­for­mance in games. Over­clock­ing RTX graph­ics cards is a bit tricky over­all, ac­tu­ally. While you can in­deed ap­proach or break the 2,000MHZ bar­rier of­ten, the cards don’t nec­es­sar­ily run at full clock speeds at all times.

In­stead, Nvidia’s im­posed power and volt­age lim­its of­ten ramp down per­for­mance in more de­mand­ing ti­tles and scenes. You might be able to hit 2,000MHZ in your over­clock­ing soft­ware, and see a per­for­mance up­lift in syn­thetic bench­mark­ing tools like Fire Strike or Unig­ine Heaven, but we’re not see­ing many ad­di­tional frames per sec­ond in ac­tual games even with power, tem­per­a­ture, and volt­age raised to the max­i­mum. The power limit holds per­for­mance back, not the raw max­i­mum clock speed.

Adding in­sult to in­jury, Nvidia lets you boost the RTX 2080 Founders Edi­tion’s power limit by 23 per­cent. Asus lets you raise the ROG Strix RTX 2080’s power limit by 25 per­cent. Again, Nvidia’s home­brew graph­ics cards are com­pet­ing hard with the cus­tom­ized part­ner op­tions.

Our ROG Strix re­view sam­ple lost the sil­i­con lot­tery re­gard­less. Af­ter ap­ply­ing OC mode, we were only able to add an­other 60MHZ in man­ual over­clock­ing, top­ping out at 1,950MHZ. That’s well above the RTX 2080’s 1,710MHZ ref­er­ence boost clock, but be­low the 2,000Mhz-plus we’ve seen on some other RTX GPUS.


Let’s kick things off with Strange Brigade ($50 on Hum­ble at, a co­op­er­a­tive third­per­son shooter where a team of ad­ven­tur­ers blast through hordes of mytho­log­i­cal en­e­mies. It’s a tech­no­log­i­cal show­case, built around the next-gen Vulkan and Directx 12 tech­nolo­gies and in­fused with fea­tures like HDR sup­port and the abil­ity to tog­gle

asyn­chro­nous com­pute on and off. It uses Re­bel­lion’s cus­tom Azure en­gine.

We tested Directx 12 with async com­pute off, as it tra­di­tion­ally only boosted

Radeon GPUS, though the RTX 20-series makes huge gains in those re­gards thanks to its re­vamped GPU ar­chi­tec­ture. We’ll likely en­able the fea­ture in fu­ture tests. The gains amount to only a cou­ple of frames per sec­ond in this game, though.

The Asus ROG Strix pulls ahead of the Nvidia RTX 2080 Founders Edi­tion by a few per­cent­age points across all res­o­lu­tions, a trend you’ll see across the board in our test suite. We’ll mostly let the games bench­marks speak for them­selves be­cause of that. For a more in-depth anal­y­sis of how the RTX 2080 com­pares against its ri­vals and pre­de­ces­sors, be sure to read our Geforce RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti re­view (

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider ($60 on Hum­ble at shdw) con­cludes the re­boot

tril­ogy, and it’s ut­terly gor­geous— so much so that even the state-ofthe-art Geforce RTX 2080 Ti barely man­ages to av­er­age 60 fps with all the bells and whis­tles turned on at 4K res­o­lu­tion. Square Enix ac­tu­ally op­ti­mized this game for DX12, and only rec­om­mends DX11 if you’re us­ing older hard­ware or Win­dows 7, so we test with that. Shadow of the Tomb Raider uses an en­hanced ver­sion of the Foun­da­tion en­gine that also pow­ered Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Far Cry 5

Fi­nally, a Directx 11 game! Far Cry 5 ($60 on Hum­ble at go.pcworld. com/fcr5) is pow­ered by Ubisoft’s long-es­tab­lished Du­nia en­gine.

It’s just as gor­geous as its pre­de­ces­sors— and al­most even more fun. The game also sup­ports HDR. More on that later.

Ghost Re­con Wild­lands

Move over, Cr­y­sis. If you crank all the graph­ics op­tions up to 11, like we do for these tests, Ghost Re­con Wild­lands ($50 on Hum­ble at recn) and its Anvil­next 2.0 en­gine ab­so­lutely melts GPUS.

Even the Geforce RTX 2080 Ti can’t come close to 60 fps at 4K res­o­lu­tion. Drop­ping the graph­ics set­tings down to Very High or High greatly in­creases per­for­mance, but we don’t do that in our test­ing.

Mid­dle-earth: Shadow of War

Mid­dle-earth: Shadow of War ($50 on Hum­ble at go.pcworld. com/shwr) adds a strate­gic layer to the series’ sub­lime core game­play loop, adapt­ing the Neme­sis sys­tem to let you cre­ate an army of per­son­al­ized Orc com­man­ders. It plays like a champ on PC, too, thanks to Mono­lith’s cus­tom Lithtech Fire­bird en­gine.

F1 2018

The lat­est in a long line of suc­cess­ful games, F1 2018 ($60 on Hum­ble at f118) is a bench­mark­ing gem, sup­ply­ing a wide ar­ray of both graph­i­cal and bench­mark­ing op­tions—mak­ing it a much more re­li­able op­tion than the Forza series. It’s built on the fourth ver­sion of Code­mas­ters’ but­terys­mooth Ego game en­gine. We

test two laps on the Aus­tralia course, with clear skies.

Ashes of the Sin­gu­lar­ity: Es­ca­la­tion

Ashes of the Sin­gu­lar­ity ($40 on Hum­ble at sing) was one of the very first DX12 games, and it re­mains a flag­bearer for the tech­nol­ogy to this day thanks to the ex­treme scal­a­bil­ity of Ox­ide Games’ next-gen Nitrous en­gine. With hun­dreds of units on­screen si­mul­ta­ne­ously and some se­ri­ous graph­ics ef­fects in play, the Crazy pre­set can make graph­ics cards sweat. Ashes runs in both DX11 and DX12, but we only test in DX12, as it de­liv­ers the best re­sults for both Nvidia and AMD GPUS these days.


We’re go­ing to wrap things up with a cou­ple of older games that aren’t re­ally vis­ual barn­burn­ers, but still top the Steam charts day-in and day-out. These are games that a lot of peo­ple play. First up: Grand Theft Auto V ($30 on Hum­ble at gtav) with all op­tions turned to Very High, all Ad­vanced Graph­ics

op­tions ex­cept ex­tended shad­ows en­abled, and FXAA. GTA V runs on the RAGE en­gine and has re­ceived sub­stan­tial up­dates since its ini­tial launch.

Sur­prise! The Geforce GTX 1080 Ti is faster than the newer RTX 2080 in GTA V.

Rain­bow Six Siege

Fi­nally, let’s take a peek at Rain­bow Six Siege ($40 on Hum­ble at, a game whose au­di­ence just keeps on grow­ing, and one that still feels like the only truly next-gen shooter ( go. af­ter all these years. Like Ghost Re­con Wild­lands, this game runs on Ubisoft’s Anvil­next 2.0 en­gine, but

Rain­bow Six Siege re­sponds es­pe­cially well to games that lean on async com­pute fea­tures. That’s why it per­forms so much bet­ter on Vega 64 and the RTX 20-series cards com­pared to the older GTX 10-series GPUS.


We also tested Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 us­ing 3Dmark’s highly re­spected Fire Strike syn­thetic

bench­mark. Fire Strike runs at 1080p, Fire Strike Ex­treme runs at 1440p, and Fire Strike Ul­tra runs at 4K res­o­lu­tion. All ren­der the same scene, but with more in­tense graph­i­cal ef­fects as you move up the scale so that Ex­treme and Ul­tra stress GPUS even more. We record the graph­ics score to elim­i­nate vari­ance from the CPU.

As you’d ex­pect, the slightly higher-clocked ROG Strix earns a slightly higher Fire Strike score in all ver­sions of the test.

We test power draw by loop­ing the F1 2018 bench­mark af­ter we’ve bench­marked ev­ery­thing else with a card, and not­ing the high­est read­ing on our Watts Up Pro meter. The ini­tial part of the race, where all com­pet­ing cars are on­screen si­mul­ta­ne­ously, tends to be the most de­mand­ing por­tion.

We test thermals by leav­ing Hwinfo’s sen­sor mon­i­tor­ing tool open dur­ing the F1 2018 5-lap power draw test, not­ing the high­est max­i­mum tem­per­a­ture at the end.

Look at those tem­per­a­tures. In its de­fault Per­for­mance mode, the Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 is

ice-cold. That’s the power of heavy me­tal. But I wish the quiet mode were the de­fault in­stead of the sec­ondary op­tion.

The ROG Strix hits those 64de­gree-cel­sius tem­per­a­tures at roughly the same noise lev­els of Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Founders Edi­tion—which, ad­mit­tedly, isn’t too loud. But in Quiet mode, the ROG Strix de­liv­ers the same per­for­mance while run­ning vir­tu­ally silent. I’ve never heard a high­per­for­mance, air-cooled graph­ics card run this qui­etly. The idle fan when the GPU is be­low 55 de­grees con­tin­ues to be a very wel­come fea­ture when you’re hang­ing out on the desk­top in­stead of gam­ing.


I’m in awe of Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080’s mas­sive, po­tent cus­tom cool­ing so­lu­tion. It de­liv­ers truly awe­some cool­ing, or the qui­etest high-end graph­ics card ex­pe­ri­ence we’ve ever heard. Pick your poi­son. I’d se­lect the Quiet BIOS and I wish it were the de­fault; the lower tem­per­a­tures are im­pres­sive in­deed, but re­al­is­ti­cally, they’re just smaller num­bers on the screen. A whis­per-quiet graph­ics card im­proves your en­tire gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and you get it with no per­for­mance loss.

First, you’ll need to de­cide whether you want to buy an RTX 2080 over an over­clocked GTX 1080 Ti to be­gin with. (Asus’ own ROG Strix GTX 1080 Ti costs $720 on Newegg [ go.] with a free copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 thrown in.) The two

GPUS trade blows and un­lock the same 1440p/144hz or 4K/60 ex­pe­ri­ence in tra­di­tional games. The RTX 2080 costs more but whis­pers promises of a brighter fu­ture, with im­proved per­for­mance in HDR ti­tles and the ded­i­cated RT and ten­sor core hard­ware nec­es­sary to un­lock real-time ray trac­ing, Deep Level Su­per Sam­pling, and other fu­tur­is­tic tech­nolo­gies. The GTX 1080 Ti lacks those awe­some ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Ray trac­ing and DLSS aren’t avail­able in

games ship­ping to­day, though. Early de­mos seem very promis­ing in­deed ( go.pcworld. com/fe28), but we have no idea when they’ll pick up steam. Nvidia has dozens of games lined up for RTX sup­port ( rtrt) with no timetable for any of them.

Bot­tom line: If you buy an RTX 2080 over a GTX 1080 Ti to­day, you’re tak­ing a leap of faith and in­vest­ing ex­tra money in those promises for the fu­ture. Whether that’s worth­while is up to you. Our Geforce RTX 2080 vs. GTX 1080 Ti com­par­i­son can help you break down the de­ci­sion in finer de­tail (

If you’re in the mar­ket for an RTX 2080, Nvidia’s Founders Edi­tion ($799 at Best Buy [ go.] or [ go.]) sets a high bar. It’s gor­geously de­signed, over­clocked, and much cooler and qui­eter than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions were. The ROG Strix RTX 2080’s gar­gan­tuan cooler out­classes it, though. While the mas­sive (lit­er­ally) cool­ing im­prove­ments fail to de­liver much of a boost in gam­ing frame rates, at only around 3 per­cent, the ROG Strix runs a whop­ping 12 de­grees Cel­sius cooler than the Founders Edi­tion, or vir­tu­ally silent at the same tem­per­a­tures as the FE if you en­able the Quiet BIOS. The Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 beats the Nvidia RTX 2080 Founders Edi­tion in ev­ery way.

Well, ex­cept for price. At $870 on Newegg (, the Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 is the most ex­pen­sive RTX 2080 listed on Newegg ( go.pcworld. com/ex28), and by a fair mar­gin. Other high-end RTX 2080 graph­ics cards by EVGA ( and MSI ( go. top out at $850, and no RTX 2080 mod­els come any­where near the $700 start­ing MSRP cited by Nvidia.

We haven’t had an op­por­tu­nity to test other cus­tom mod­els yet, but based on our ther­mal and acous­tic tests, there’s no doubt that the ROG Strix will wind up be­ing one of the more im­pres­sive cus­tom cool­ing so­lu­tions this gen­er­a­tion. If the idea of a nearly silent or ice-cold gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence ap­peals to you, the ROG Strix RTX 2080 comes highly rec­om­mended—much more so if noise lev­els are im­por­tant to you. This beast is quiet. But with such a mi­nor per­for­mance in­crease over the Founders Edi­tion model, the ROG Strix RTX 2080 would be much eas­ier to swal­low if Asus shaved $20 or $40 off the sticker price.

The Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080’s de­sign.

Glow­ing, glow­ing ev­ery­where.

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