MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio 8 GB Review 18

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio 8 GB Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio is listed online for $830.
  • Faster than GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
  • RTX Technology not gimmicky, brings tangible IQ improvements
  • Fans stop in idle
  • Deep-learning feature set
  • DLSS an effective new AA method
  • Energy efficient
  • Power delivery upgraded to 2x 8-pin
  • Overclocked out of the box
  • Quiet in gaming
  • Backplate included
  • HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4, 8K support
  • High price
  • Power draw increased over Founders Edition
  • No Windows 7 support for RTX, requires Windows 10 Fall 2018 Update
  • Slightly higher gaming fan noise than Founders Edition
  • Memory not overclocked
  • Long and tall card, might not fit all cases
  • High non-gaming power consumption (fixable, says NVIDIA)
The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio comes with a large overclock out of the box over the Founders Edition; unfortunately, memory has been left at default. Thanks to its overclock, in real-life, at 4K, the card is 4% faster than the RTX 2080 Founders Edition, which is not that much, to be honest. With those performance levels, the card exceeds the performance of GTX 1080 Ti by 13%, making the card ideal for 1440p gaming, or 4K if you are willing to sacrifice some details settings to achieve 60 FPS. Compared to the RTX 2080 Ti, the 2080 Gaming X Trio is around 25% behind. Against the Radeon RX Vega 64, which is the fastest graphics card AMD has on offer, the performance uplift is 50%.

MSI has upped the power input capabilities of their card to 2x 8-pin (the Founders Edition is 8+6). The power limit in BIOS has been increased as well, to 260 W, which brings the limit to the same level as the RTX 2080 Ti. This is where it gets interesting. You would now expect the card to run much better compared to the power-constrained RTX 2080s, gaining a ton of performance, but as mentioned in the previous paragraph, the increase is only 4%. Just like on all other Turing cards, the power limiter is still limiting some games, but many games can run unconstrained.

Looking at power, heat, and noise, we see the card end up much more power hungry than the RTX 2080 Founders Edition, which results in more heat generated, which creates additional work for the cooler and leads to faster fans. All this for a minimal performance improvement. So it looks like NVIDIA actually did the right thing when they limited the power usage of Turing by capping it, which increases efficiency.

The noise level of the MSI Gaming X Trio is comparable to the Founders Edition; slightly higher, by 1 dBA, despite the much bigger cooler. It's great to see MSI include the fan-stop feature on their card, which will turn off the fans during idle and light gaming for a perfectly noise-free experience.

Overclocking the MSI RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio is more complicated, like on all Turing cards, and we gained an additional 10% in performance. Overclocking potential is similar to other Turing cards we tested today, maybe slightly better on the GPU, but spot on for the memory. Overall, the differences are small, with most cards reaching around 2100 MHz on the GPU and between 1950 and 2050 MHz on the memory.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX doesn't just give you more performance in existing games. It introduces RTX cores, which accelerate ray tracing—a rendering technique that can give you realism that's impossible with today's rasterization rendering. Unlike in the past, NVIDIA's new technology is designed to work with various APIs, from multiple vendors (Microsoft DXR, NVIDIA OptiX, Vulkan Vulkan RT), which will make it much easier for developers to get behind ray tracing. At this time, not a single game has RTX support, but the number of titles that will support it is growing by the day. We had the chance to check out a few demos and were impressed by the promise of ray tracing in games. I mentioned it before, but just to make sure: RTX will not turn games into fully ray-traced experiences.

Rather, the existing rendering technologies will be used to generate most of the frame, with ray tracing adding specific effects, like lighting, reflections, or shadows for specific game objects that are tagged as "RTX" by the developer. It is up to the game developers what effect to choose and implement; they may go with one or several, as long as they stay within the available performance budget of the RTX engine. NVIDIA clarified to us that games will not just have RTX "on"/"off", but rather, you'll be able to choose between several presets; for example, RTX "low", "medium", and "high". Also, unlike Gameworks, developers have full control over what and how they implement. RTX "only" accelerates ray generation, traversal, and hit calculation, which are the fundamentals, and the most complicated operations to develop; everything else is up to the developer, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see a large number of new rendering techniques developed over time as studios get more familiar with the technology.

The second big novelty of Turing is acceleration for artificial intelligence. While it was at first thought that it won't do much for gamers, the company devised a clever new anti-aliasing algorithm called DLSS (Deep Learning Super-Sampling), which utilizes Turing's artificial intelligence engine. DLSS is designed to achieve quality similar to temporal anti-aliasing and to solve some of its shortcomings, while coming with a much smaller performance hit at the same time. We tested several tech demos for this feature and had difficulty telling the difference between TAA and DLSS in most scenes. The difference only became obvious in cases where TAA fails; for example, when it estimates motion vectors incorrectly. Under the hood, DLSS renders the scene at lower resolution (typically 50%, so for 4K, 2880x1620), and feeds the frame to the tensor cores, which use a predefined deep neural network to enhance that image. For each DLSS game, NVIDIA receives early builds from game developers and trains that neural network to recognize common forms and shapes of the models, textures, and terrain, to build a "ground truth" database that is distributed through Game Ready driver updates. On the other hand, this means that gamers and developers are dependent on NVIDIA to train that network and provide the data with the driver for new games. Apparently, an auto-update mechanism exists that downloads new neural networks from NVIDIA without the need for a reboot or update to the graphics card driver itself.

MSI's GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio is currently listed online for $830, which is another $30 price increase over the Founders Edition, which by itself is $100 more expensive than the reference designs we are hoping for at an MSRP of $700. The price increase over the Founders Edition isn't that much, justified by the 4% performance increase (4% of $800 is $32). On top of that, you get the fan-stop feature and a larger, more capable cooler that has some potential for tweaking with manual fan controls. On the other hand, power efficiency is reduced a bit, and the enormous cooler has to fit into your case.
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