First Thoughts

Wrapping up our preview of the GeForce GTX 1080, I think it’s safe to say that NVIDIA intends to start off the 16nm/14nm generation with a bang. As the first high-end card of this generation the GTX 1080 sets new marks for overall performance and for power efficiency, thanks to the combination of TSMC’s 16nm FinFET process and NVIDIA’s Pascal architecture. Translating this into numbers, at 4K we’re looking at 30% performance gain versus the GTX 980 Ti and a 70% performance gain over the GTX 980, amounting to a very significant jump in efficiency and performance over the Maxwell generation.

Looking at the bigger picture, as the first vendor to launch their 16nm/14nm flagship card, NVIDIA will get to enjoy the first mover’s advantage both with respect to setting performance expectations and with pricing. The GeForce GTX 1080 will keep the performance crown solidly in NVIDIA’s hands, and with it control of the high-end video card market for some time to come.  NVIDIA’s loyal opposition, AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group, has strongly hinted that they’re not going to be releasing comparable high-performance video cards in the near future. Rather the company is looking to make a run at the much larger mainstream market for desktops and laptops with their Polaris architecture, something that GP104 isn’t meant to address.

The lack of competition at the high-end means that for the time being NVIDIA can price the GTX 1080 at what the market will bear, and this is more or less what we’re looking at for NVIDIA’s new card. While the formal MSRP on the GTX 1080 is $599 – $50 over what the GTX 980 launched at – that price is the starting price for custom cards from NVIDIA’s partners. The reference card as we’ve previewed it today – what NVIDIA is calling the Founders Edition card – carries a $100 premium over that, pushing it to $699.

GeForce GTX 1080 Configurations
  Base Founders Edition
Core Clock 1607MHz 1607MHz
Boost Clock 1733MHz 1733MHz
Memory Clock 10Gbps GDDR5X 10Gbps GDDR5X
Cooler Manufacturer Custom
(Typical: 2 or 3 Fan Open Air)
NVIDIA Reference
(Blower w/Vapor Chamber)
Availability Date June 2016? 05/27/2016
Price Starting at $599 $699

While the differences between the reference and custom cards will be a longer subject for our full review, the more immediate ramification is going to be that only the Founders Edition cards are guaranteed to be available at launch. NVIDIA can’t speak definitively for their board partners, but at this point I am not seriously expecting custom cards until June. And this means that if you want one of the first GTX 1080s, then you’re going to have to pay $699 for the Founders Edition card. Which is not to say that it’s a bad card – far from it, it’s probably NVIDIA’s finest reference card to date – however it pushes the card’s price north of 980 Ti territory, some $150 higher than where the GTX 980 launched in 2014. For those who can afford such a card they will not be disappointed, but it’s definitely less affordable than past NVIDIA x80 cards.

Anyhow, we’ll be back later this week with our full review of the GeForce GTX 1080, so be sure to stay tuned.

Spring 2016 GPU Pricing Comparison
  $699 GeForce GTX 1080 FE
Radeon R9 Fury X $609  
  $589 GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  $429 GeForce GTX 980
Radeon R9 390X $399  
Radeon R9 390 $289 GeForce GTX 970
Gaming Performance, Power, Temperature, & Noise
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  • Ushio01 - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    Could this be more underwhelming? guess I can skip this gen and keep my 670 for another few years.
  • Jtaylor1986 - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    This card exists in the zone of being overpowered at 1080P and 1440P and still a hair too slow at 4k in some titles. I guess we will have to wait until the big die 14/16nm gpus come out before we get no compromise 4k.
  • FMinus - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    If you have a 980Ti, overclock it (it probably already is) and it's going hand to hand with the stock 1080, no need to upgrade really.

    Looking at the reviews right now, I doubt the 1070 will even touch the 980Ti, and if they keep the EU pricing up, highly overpriced at 460-520EUR, for what it delivers. So I'm just gonna wait for what AMD brings to the table.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    Or wait for 3rd party models. Techspot showed pretty good gains from OCing, so the big coolers(or liquid cooling) that can hit 2+GHz are going to be where the 1080 shines.
  • jasonelmore - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    EU pricing is high because of VAT not currency exchange.
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    If you're not trying to drive 4k resolutions, there probably isn't a compelling reason to upgrade from a 670 until the generation after the 10x0. I do agree that the 1080 strikes me as "yet another GPU refresh" because the performance increase isn't significant and the power/thermal numbers are only holding steady despite the more efficient FinFET process.

    I'm still interested in reading the full review, but at this point Ryan's comment about AMD's possible future plans - "Rather the company is looking to make a run at the much larger mainstream market for desktops and laptops with their Polaris architecture, something that GP104 isn’t meant to address." is far more interesting to me since I'd like to see the new process node put to use in laptops and in lower end portions of the GPU market.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    The GP106 (presumably 1060/1050) is due out in the fall.

    AMD will initially have the middle of the market to itself. It'll be interesting to see how well they're able to exploit it though. Not having a true flagship until Vega launches will hurt them among the large body of ignorant consumers who look at the headline numbers for top of the line cards because they're the most visible and buy based on that; a problem that's been dogging them for the last few years as nVidia has grown its market share.

    The biggest question is if the lack of a flagship at launch is due to due to the unavailability of HBM (ie Vega doesn't have GDDR5/x memory controllers at all) or a deliberate decision to go for the center of the market first; or is an indicator that GloFo is struggling on 14nm yields. The latter is alarming if true; since it would mean that despite probably being able to crush nVidia in the mid-range for the next few months limited availability would prevent them from being able to exploit their lead effectively at a time when AMD desperately needs a cash cow generating win somewhere.
  • medi03 - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    PS4k is to be released in October this year (major French retailer leak) so 14nm should be there.
    Also, remember that it's actually Samsung's 14nm.
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    Yes, there's no question that there'll be some lost sales over the impression of market leadership that spills over into unrelated segments where that competition for the fastest high end GPU isn't really relevant. Buyers who don't look at the value proposition of the specific product they're purchasing relative to its price bracket are pretty commonplace when it comes to computer components. I think it might hurt AMD's bottom line, but maybe not if the mid range volume is high enough to offset those lost sales.

    With respect to 14nm yields, I'd think that positioning the company to tackle the middle of the GPU price/performance market would be exceptionally unwise if there were problems with yield so I'd don't think it's worth worrying much about. Lower end GPUs use less wafer and that might offer an advantage, but lower priced cards sell in larger numbers typically than the top end cards so the demand will be higher and expectations for fab output might be higher as well. I'd like to think the decision is deliberate. AMD has also exhibited a history of targeting unfilled or less well served segments in order to find a niche that generates sales when they aren't in a position to lead in performance as demonstrated by their dropping out of the high end CPU market. That might be a bad strategy though since it hasn't done them any favors at retaining CPU market share and it does look like they're following a similar course with graphics.

    I'm not sure what to think really, but I will be keeping an eye out for AMD's upcoming graphics products as they're released since they may offer more value for the dollar. I don't really need a lot of GPU since I keep resolutions low and use Steam's streaming exclusively now, but I would like to upgrade out of the GT 730 with a 16/14nm card that offers a little more of everything, but stays in a reasonable power budget.
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    Considering that the gpu in the current gen A10 APU's destroys your GT730. the 50w Polaris 11 will probably deliver around GTX960/370 performance.

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