Two EVGA GTX 1080 FTW cards have now been run through a few dozen hours of testing, each passing through real-world, synthetic, and torture testing. We've been following this story since its onset, initially validating preliminary thermal results with thermal imaging, but later stating that we wanted to follow-up with direct thermocouple probes to the MOSFETs and PCB. The goal with which we set forth was to create the end-all, be-all set of test data for VRM thermals. We have tested every reasonable scenario for these cards, including SLI, and have even intentionally attempted to incinerate the cards by running ridiculous use scenarios.

Thermocouples were attached directly to the back-side of the PCB (hotspot previously discovered), the opposing MOSFET (#2, from bottom-up), and MOSFET #7. The seventh and second MOSFETs are those which seem to be most commonly singed or scorched in user photos of allegedly failed EVGA 10-series ACX 3.0 cards, including the GTX 1060 and GTX 1070. Our direct probe contact to these MOSFETs will provide more finality to testing results, with significantly greater accuracy and understanding than can be achieved with a thermal imager pointed at the rear-side of the PCB. Even just testing with a backplate isn't really ideal with thermal cameras, as the emissivity of the metal begins to make for questionable results -- not to mention the fact that the plate visually obstructs the actual components. And, although we did mirror EVGA & Tom's DE's testing methodology when checking the impact of thermal pads on the cards, even this approach is not perfect (it does turn out that we were pretty damn accurate, though, but it's not perfect. More on that later.). The pads act as an insulator, again hiding the components and assisting in the spread of heat across a larger surface area. That's what they're designed to do, of course, but for a true reading, we needed today's tests.

So begin our buyer's guides for the season. The first of our Black Friday & holiday buyer's guides is focusing on the top video cards under $200, highlighting ideal graphics cards for 1080p gaming. We've reviewed each of the GPUs used in these video cards, and are able to use that benchmark data to determine top performers for the dollar.

This generation's releases offer, in order of ascending MSRP, the RX 460 ($100), GTX 1050 ($110), GTX 1050 Ti ($140), RX 470 ($170), RX 480 4GB ($200), and GTX 1060 3GB ($200). A few active sales offer rebates and discounts that drop a few noteworthy cards, like the 4GB RX 480 and 3GB GTX 1060, down to below MSRP. The same is true for at least one RX 470.

As we've drawn a clear price line between each of the major GPUs that presently exists in this segment, we're making it a point to specifically highlight cards that are discounted or higher performance per dollar. This is a quick reference guide for graphics cards under $200; for the full details and all the caveats, always refer back to our reviews.

This tutorial walks through the process of installing EVGA's thermal pad mod kit on GTX 1080 FTW, 1070 FTW, and non-FTW cards of similar PCB design. Our first article on EVGA's MOSFET and VRM temperatures can be found here, but we more recently posted thermographic imaging and testing data pertaining to EVGA's solution to its VRM problems. If you're out of the loop, start with that content, then come back here for a tutorial on applying EVGA's fix.

The thermal mod kit from EVGA includes two thermal pads, for which we have specified the dimensions below (width/height), a tube of thermal compound, and some instructions. That kit is provided free to affected EVGA customers, but you could also buy your own thermal pads (~$7) of comparable size if EVGA cannot fulfill a request.

We received a shipment of EVGA GTX 1080 FTW cards today and immediately deployed them in our test bench. The cards have undergone about 8 hours of burn-in on the 1080 FTW without thermal pads so far, though we've also got the 1080 FTW with thermal pads for additional testing. In the process of testing this hardware, GamersNexus received a call from EVGA with pertinent updates to the company's VRM temperature solution: The company will now be addressing its VRM heat issues with a BIOS update in addition to the optional thermal pads replacement. We have briefly tested each solution. Our finalized testing will be online within a few days, once we've had more time to burn-in the cards, but we've got initial thermographic imaging and decibel level tests for now.

EVGA's BIOS update will, as we understand it, only modify the fan speed curve so that it is more aggressive. There should not be additional changes to the BIOS beyond this, it seems. Presently, the GTX 1080 FTW tends to max its fans at around ~1600RPM when under load (maxes at around ~1700RPM). This results in a completely acceptable GPU diode reading of roughly 72C (or ~50C delta T over ambient), but doesn't allow for VRM cooling given the lack of thermal interface between the PCB back-side and the backplate. The new fan speed will curve to hit 2200RPM, or a jump to ~80% in Afterburner/Precision from the original ~60% (max ~65%). We've performed initial dB testing to look at the change in noise output versus the fan RPM. Our thermal images also look at the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW with its backplate removed (a stock model) at the original fan RPM and our manually imposed 2200RPM fan speed.

We've had enough suggestions lately to revisit older hardware that we thought it was time. The GTX 770 2GB cards first shipped in May of 2013, marking the GPU now three years old, and launched at a $400 price-point. That makes the GTX 1070 the most linear upgrade -- it's a direct path in nomenclature and in price, also around $400 -- but it's not alone in this market. The RX 480 assuredly outperforms the GTX 770, as does the GTX 1060. More curious, though, is the once mighty GTX 770's performance in relation to the GTX 1050, RX 460, and 1050 Ti, all of which can be had below $140.

It's probably about time for an upgrade for GTX 770 owners. Don't get us wrong: The GTX 770 2GB can still hold its ground just fine, but only with the assistance of settings reductions when playing modern AAA titles. Even for "just" 1080p performance, the likes of Ultra and High aren't necessarily feasible in games like Battlefield 1.

Resolution is a worthwhile side-point, too. Last time we talked about the GTX 770 in depth, 1080p was really the only resolution worth considering from a review standpoint. We certainly didn't have 4K monitors in the lab yet, and 1440p was still only a small fraction of the market. With 1920x1080 holding more than 80% of the gaming market today, it's easy to believe that the share was even greater in 2013.

Things are changing, though, and the industry is evolving. We talked about this in our GTX 1060 and RX 480 reviews, both devices that are capable of 1440p gaming with relatively high graphics settings. Considering the price of each card, around $240-$250 for the bottom line devices, that's a major accomplishment for this year's GPU architectures.

EVGA has been facing thermal issues with its ACX series coolers, as pointed out by Tom's Hardware - Germany earlier this week. We originally thought these issues to be borderline acceptable, since Tom's was reporting maximum VRM temperatures of ~107-114C. These temperatures would still allow EVGA's over-spec VRM to function, granted its 350A abilities, as that'd still land the output around 200A to the GPU. A GTX 1080 will pull somewhere around 180A without an extreme overclock, so that was borderline, but not catastrophic.

Unfortunately for EVGA, temperature increases to the VRM have nearly exponential increases in damage. Hitting a temperature greater than 125C on the VRM with EVGA's design could result in MOSFET failure, effectively triggered by a runaway thermal scenario where the casing is blown, and OCP/OTP might not be enough to prevent the destruction of a FET or two. The VRM derates and loses efficiency at this point, and would be incapable of sustaining the amperage demanded by higher power draw Pascal chips.

The Titan X Hybrid mod we hand-crafted for a viewer allowed the card to stretch its boost an additional ~200MHz beyond the spec. This was done for Sam, the owner who loaned us the Titan XP, and was completed back in August. We also ran benchmarks before tearing the card down, albeit on drivers from mid-August, and never did publish a review of the card.

This content revisits the Titan XP for a review from a gaming standpoint. We'd generally recommend such a device for production workloads or CUDA-accelerated render/3D work, but that doesn't stop that the card is marketed as a top-of-the-line gaming device with GeForce branding. From that perspective, we're reviewing the GTX Titan X (Pascal) for its gaming performance versus the GTX 1080, hopefully providing a better understanding of value at each price-point. The Titan X (Pascal) card is priced at $1200 from nVidia directly.

Review content will focus on thermal, FPS, and overclocking performance of the GTX Titan X (Pascal) GP102 GPU. If you're curious to learn more about the card, our previous Titan XP Hybrid coverage can be found here:

AMD issued a preemptive response to nVidia's new GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti, and they did it by dropping the RX 460 MSRP to $100 and RX 470 MSRP to $170. The price reduction's issuance is to battle the GTX 1050, a $110 MSRP card, and GTX 1050 Ti, a $140-$170 card. These new Pascal-family devices are targeted most appropriately at the 1080p crowd, where the GTX 1060 and up were all capable performers for most 1440p gaming scenarios. AMD has held the sub-$200 market since the launch of its RX 480 4GB, RX 470, and RX 460 through the summer months, and is just now seeing its competition's gaze shift from the high-end.

Today, we've got thermal, power, and overclocking benchmarks for the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti cards. Our FPS benchmarks look at the GTX 1050 OC and GTX 1050 Ti Gaming X cards versus the RX 460, RX 470, GTX 950, 750 Ti, and 1060 devices. Some of our charts include higher-end devices as well, though you'd be better off looking at our GTX 1060 or RX 480 content for more on that. Here's a list of recent and relevant articles:

The goal of this content is to show that HBAO and SSAO have negligible performance impact on Battlefield 1 performance when choosing between the two. This benchmark arose following our Battlefield 1 GPU performance analysis, which demonstrated consistent frametimes and frame delivery on both AMD and nVidia devices when using DirectX 11. Two of our YouTube commenters asked if HBAO would create a performance swing that would favor nVidia over AMD and, although we've discussed this topic with several games in the past, we decided to revisit for Battlefield 1. This time, we'll also spend a bit of time defining what ambient occlusion actually is, how screen-space occlusion relies on information strictly within the z-buffer, and then look at performance cost of HBAO in BF1.

We'd also recommend our previous graphics technology deep-dive, for folks who want a more technical explanation of what's going on for various AO technologies. Portions of this new article exist in the deep-dive.

AMD sent us an email today that indicated a price reduction for the new-ish RX 460 2GB card and RX 470 4GB card, which we've reviewed here (RX 460) and here (RX 470). The company's price reduction comes in the face of the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti release, scheduled for October 25 for the 1050 Ti, and 2-3 weeks later for the GTX 1050. Our reviews will be live next week.

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