NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition Review & Benchmark

By Published May 17, 2016 at 9:00 am

Additional Info

  • Component: Video Card
  • Awards: Best of Bench
  • Original MSRP: 700
  • Manufacturer: NVIDIA

GTX 1080 Thermal Benchmark – Founders Edition / Reference Temperatures

Our specialty – thermals – begins the objective analysis of nVidia's new GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card. This test looks at temperatures over time for the new GTX 1080 Founders Edition, which uses an nVidia-made heatsink that effectively replaces the old “Reference” nomenclature. From a product standpoint, the Founders Edition is basically the reference card. FE replaces reference. Keep that in mind.

We decided to primarily focus on testing other reference designs to plot nVidia's performance change over their own cards. Other devices, like MSI's Twin Frozr cards or EVGA's GTX 980 Ti Hybrid (which uses Asetek liquid cooling), are also included in this bench.


(Note: Our test methodology has changed since our 980 Ti Hybrid review; the card performs cooler in our new bench configuration. Old thermal data is NOT comparable.)

This chart represents a data set that we loosely call our “equilibrium” measurements, meaning the averaged temperature output after the GPUs have been fully loaded and cease temperature/fan RPM fluctuations. All values above are delta T over ambient. Lower is, obviously, better (to an extent, anyway).

The GTX 1080 operates at 57.5C under load and 7.96C idle. Comparatively, that's roughly 49% warmer than the Fury X (36.39C) and is effectively identical to the GTX 980 Ti. The Founders Edition cooler, in conjunction with thermal and power management improvements on the silicon, is able to keep the more powerful GTX 1080 at about the same temperature as the GTX 980 Ti's reference cooler does for the GM200 chip.

GTX 1080 Thermals Over Time

This next chart represents the full thermal data, what we call “Thermals over Time.”


As shown here, the thermal torture commences at the same time across all tested devices. We're only showing the most immediately relevant contenders or comparable coolers above. The only card producing a smoother thermal output is the GTX 980 Ti reference, though the rest are all reasonable. There are no major fluctuations and fan speeds remain consistent across the board (on the auto setting), ensuring that there are no major, sudden pitch changes to the user. This is most important when worrying about noise levels, as sudden changes are more noticeable than sustained noise.

Thermally, the GTX 1080 FE performs about identically to the GTX 980 Ti. After adding ambient back in, we see that thermals hit ~80C and stay there – the fan will adjust itself accordingly to maintain this thermal level. It has been traditional of nVidia reference cards to throttle the clock-rate once the card hits 80C, useful as a means of keeping thermals under control. We'll explore that in a moment.

The averaged load temperatures are reflected in the previous chart (same data-set for both).

GTX 1080 Thermals versus Frequency (And Thermal Throttling)

This test was conducted over a 2-hour period (~8000 seconds). Rather than Kombustor, we used a real-world game to analyze performance and throttles in gaming scenarios. DiRT Rally was used at its maxed-out settings (4K, 8-tap MSAA, advanced blending, Ultra settings) to torture the card. To further amplify the thermal torture and create somewhat of a worst-case scenario, we also disabled all three front intake fans. This left the GPU entirely to its own devices – mostly the VRM blower fan and alloy heatsink / vapor chambers – to cool itself.

This data is absolute temperature, not the delta. We changed our data presentation for this chart to more clearly illustrate the point of throttling, without the necessity of simple math to add in ambient. This is an absolute temperature.


The frequency is fairly stable here, but shows dips in frequency which grow in consistency as the test continues. Let's zoom in on that data; the scale is a little wide to properly see what's going on. Here's a blown-up version of those spikes, truncating the data from ~5500s to ~7500s:


Frequency fluctuations show a range of approximately ~60MHz each time the GPU diode hits ~82C absolute. This can trigger a slight latency increase or framerate fluctuation at the exact moment of frequency fluctuation, but is basically imperceptible.

Here's a look at the most exaggerated spike:

Time (s) Core MHz Abs. T. (C)
5636 1797 82
5637 1797 82
5638 1797 82
5639 1797 82
5640 1797 82
5641 1797 82
5642 1733.5 82
5643 1759 82
5644 1771.5 82
5645 1759 82
5646 1759 82
5647 1759 82
5648 1771.5 82
5649 1771.5 82
5650 1797 82

A few hits later, the temperature falls pursuant to this frequency throttle (which is the point of the momentarily throttle):

Time (s) Core MHz Abs. T. (C)
5677 1797 81
5678 1797 81
5679 1797 82
5680 1797 81
5681 1797 81
5682 1797 81
5683 1797 81
5684 1797 81
5685 1797 81
5686 1797 81
5687 1797 81
5688 1797 81
5689 1797 81
5690 1797 81
5691 1797 81
5692 1797 81
5693 1797 81
5694 1797 81
5695 1797 81
5696 1797 81
5697 1797 79

With the frequency restored and the game continuing to crunch numbers and graphics, temperatures eventually return to 82C and drop again.

This dance occurs five times in a span of 42 minutes. To this end, the metric is important to measure, but can be ignored as an end user. You will not perceive these hits, and the frequency throttle is so minimal as to be imperceptible on framerate in the greater scheme of a 2-hour play session.

NVIDIA GTX 1080 Power Consumption & Watt Draw

Power consumption is a pretty simple test. After analyzing data from our logging wall meter, we found peak system power consumption (in the final 200s of our 1080s thermal burn-in) to post as below:


NVIDIA GTX 1080 Founders Edition Noise Levels / Decibel Output

The below chart shows our noise level analysis, using the methodology defined on the previous page.


Idle noise levels are more or less imperceptibly varied between all cards tested. After the five-minute GPU load period (auto), the R9 290X pushes the loudest dB output (49.3dB) and would be perceptible even from within an enclosure. The R9 Fury X may only be 39.08dB, but produces the same high-pitched pump whine that we wrote about ages ago. The MSI Twin Frozr card keeps the lowest dB level at 38.37, aided by its dual-fan push setup and massive alloy heatsink (reducing the need to run higher RPMs). The GTX 980 Ti VR edition operates at 40.7dB; the GTX 1080 runs at 40.8dB, but the difference is within margin of error and the cards sound identical.

Almost no card will run at 100% fan RPMs, but we test them for an absolute and reliable measurement. Most auto settings seem to peak around 50-55%. At 100%, the R9 290X reference design hits 70dB, which is louder than most conversational speech (~65dB, though that's obviously dependent on the speaker). You'd have to raise your voice to compete with the 290X at full bore. The GTX 1080's 100% setting operates at only 57.2dB, the 980 Ti at a noticeably louder 63.4dB, and the 980 at 59.52dB. It isn't until the Fury X and Twin Frozr cards that we get more manageable ~50-52dB outputs.

Note that the MSI Twin Frozr card did not run the 50% test, as it is impossible to get both fans operating at 50% through a forced MSI Afterburner setting. Refer to the Auto mode for this data (runs close to 50% and with slight variance).

Continue to the next page for DirectX 12, Vulkan, & DirectX 11 gaming on the GTX 1080.

Last modified on May 17, 2016 at 9:00 am
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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