The MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio is a large piece of hardware, a no holes barred implementation of the RTX 3080 with a hearty triple-slot, triple-fan cooling solution. Unlike past generations, the bulk of the card's RGB bling has been moved towards the top-edge of the card, near the backplate, as those parts of the card are more readily visible to you in a typical windowed case than the front-end with the fans. There are still some ARGB streaks near the fans.
Dimensions of the card are 32 x 14 cm.
Installation requires three slots in your system.
Display connectivity options include three standard DisplayPort 1.4a and one HDMI 2.1. Interestingly, the USB-C port for VR headsets, which NVIDIA introduced on Turing Founders Editions, has been removed—guess it didn't take off as planned. The DisplayPort 1.4a outputs support Display Stream Compression (DSC) 1.2a, which lets you connect 4K displays at 120 Hz and 8K displays at 60 Hz. Ampere can drive two 8K displays at 60 Hz with just one cable per display.
Ampere is the first GPU to support HDMI 2.1, which increases bandwidth to 48 Gbps to support higher resolutions, like 4K144 and 8K30, with a single cable. With DSC, this goes up to 4K240 and 8K120. NVIDIA's new NVENC/NVDEC video engine is optimized to handle video tasks with minimal CPU load. The highlight here is added support for AV1 decode. Just like on Turing, you may also decode MPEG-2, VC1, VP8, VP9, H.264, and H.265 natively, at up to 8K@12-bit.
The encoder is identical to Turing. It supports H.264, H.265 and lossless at up to 8K@10-bit.
Unlike the NVIDIA Founders Edition card that introduces the new 12-pin power input, MSI sticks to industry standard 8-pin PCIe power inputs, but there are three of them. Combined with PCIe slot power, this configuration is rated for 525 W. MSI's own typical board power number for this card is 340 W, or 20 W higher than reference.
The GeForce RTX 3080 does not support SLI. Its bigger brother, the RTX 3090, has SLI support. As both are based on the GA102 GPU, it's purely a segmentation choice. Multi-GPU really isn't supported widely anymore, so it's no big deal.
Disassembling the MSI Gaming X Trio is a breeze, no guitar picks needed. You simply undo a bunch of screws to remove the backplate, and then turn a second set of screws to pull out the cooling solution. The cooler comes out in one clean piece, leaving behind the PCB and a base plate.
A small base plate is used as a heat spreader for some of the VRM MOSFETs. This plate also counteracts PCB bending.
This isn't any other backplate, MSI markets this as a "graphene backplate" on its website, "A lightweight composite backplate" that "reinforces the length of the graphics card while providing thermal conduction properties." Before we had our hands on this card, we were frankly taken aback by this claim. Graphene remains an exotic and expensive new material. The card even felt different to the touch. It's only when we took the card apart that we noticed that the other side of this back-plate had many shapes and markings resembling normal ABS plastic backplates. So we took a sharp object and started scratching its surface.
There. The graphene composite sitting under a layer of plastic paint. I tested the electrical resistance, which is an excellent indicator of whether something is plastic or graphene/graphite. The paint is non-conductive, but the scratched part conducts electricity. I further tested heat transfer with a heat gun—it heats up slightly faster than a piece of plastic, but not as fast as metal, which is another indication that the material is not graphene. It seem to be graphite mixed with plastic, which is an industry standard method to construct carbon parts.