MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio Review 44

MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio Review


Value and Conclusion

  • The MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio will retail for $760.
  • Huge performance increase over RTX 2080/2080 Ti
  • 60 FPS 4K gaming a reality now
  • Overclocked out of the box
  • Very good noise levels
  • Fantastic memory overclocking potential
  • Idle fan stop
  • Matches Founders Edition power consumption almost exactly
  • Adjustable RGB lighting
  • Power limit increased
  • 2nd generation hardware-accelerated raytracing
  • Support for HDMI 2.1, AV1 decode
  • DLSS improved
  • PCI-Express 4.0
  • New GeForce Features: Reflex, Broadcast, G-SYNC 360, and RTX-IO
  • 8 nanometer production process
  • Makes little sense for gamers without a 4K or 1440p high refresh-rate monitor
  • Runs into power limit all the time
  • Memory not overclocked
  • Overclocking more complicated due to power limit
  • Manual power limit adjustment range smaller than Founders Edition
  • "Graphene" backplate doesn't check out
Yesterday was an exciting day for gamers—NVIDIA lifted the embargo on GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition reviews. General sentiment so far is that this has been an excellent launch, albeit some discussions in our forums are still ongoing. Today is the NDA lift for custom-design cards from NVIDIA's board partners, and we have the following reviews for you: ASUS RTX 3080 TUF Gaming OC, MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio, Palit RTX 3080 Gaming Pro OC, and ZOTAC RTX 3080 Trinity. If you haven't, check out yesterday's RTX 3080 Founders Edition Review for some background on what we'll be talking about.

The MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio is the company's flagship RTX 3080. It comes with a large triple-slot, triple-fan cooler. Unlike the NVIDIA Founders Edition, it is a classic graphics card design and doesn't use any fancy airflow techniques. MSI has overclocked their card to a rated boost of 1815 MHz out of the box, which is a 105 MHz increase over the Founders Edition's 1710 MHz, or 6.1%—the largest of all the cards we're testing today. As you know, NVIDIA's Boost rating is just a theoretical value that gives a rough indication of what to expect in real life. We measured actual GPU clocks using our whole benchmarking suite and got 2018 MHz, which is 4.5% higher than the 1931 MHz on the Founders Edition.

Looking at the actual performance gains at 4K resolution in all our games, the MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio is 4% faster than the Founders Edition—not a whole lot, and that's the highest gain out of all reviews today. It seems the GeForce RTX 3080 is limited by how far board partners can increase the board power limit. In the case of the Gaming X Trio, the power limit is set to 340 W (vs. 320 W on FE). The GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio achieves very impressive FPS numbers in games—nearly all games in our test suite run at well over 60 FPS. The only exception is Control, which is kinda close at 53.2 FPS. Compared to the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, that's a 38% performance uplift. Compared to the RTX 2080, which the RTX 3080 is replacing, the performance increase is a staggering 75%. AMD's fastest, the Radeon RX 5700 XT, will give you less than half (!) the FPS.

If you are looking for fluid 4K gaming, then the RTX 3080 is the card you want. At lower resolutions many games are CPU bottlenecked though, so the card won't be able to play out its full potential. The RTX 3080 is also a good option for 1440p high refresh-rate gaming, but I definitely wouldn't spend that much money just for Full HD 1080p gaming.

MSI has a long history of pairing excellent cooling solutions with their graphics cards, and the RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio is no exception. The triple-slot, triple-fan heatsink works very well and achieves good temperatures of 76°C, which is slightly better than the Founders Edition. The noise levels make the real difference, though. With 32 dBA, the Gaming X Trio is noticeably quieter than the FE, it's actually the quietest RTX 3080 we've reviewed today, and the fastest at the same time—other cards come with smaller factory overclocks, but are not as quiet. NVIDIA has introduced fan stop on their Founders Edition with Ampere, which means all board partners are expected to adopt this crucial feature, too. When not gaming, the fans on the Gaming X Trio will shut off completely for the perfect noise-free experience. If you prefer lower temperatures and are willing to accept higher noise levels, then you can download the "low temperature" BIOS from MSI's website. It is identical to the default BIOS and just runs a more aggressive fan curve.

MSI is marketing their backplate as being made of "graphene", which has amazing thermal properties, making it a great, but expensive choice for a backplate material. I tested this claim, and it turns out the backplate is actually plastic with coated graphite. While it transfers heat just fine, it's not nearly as efficient as graphene for that task. Making a graphene backplate on a consumer product would be too expensive anyway. In my opinion, this isn't a big deal as the backplate mostly serves to protect components and improve product looks—cooling is the job of the main heatsink, not the backplate. Generally, a backplate brings down temperatures by maybe a degree or two, nothing worth worrying about.

Power consumption of the Gaming X might look scary at first: triple 8-pin power inputs, up to 425 W in Furmark, and 315 W in typical gaming. Actually, if we take the performance gain over FE into account, there's no loss in power efficiency—4% faster, 4% more power. Good. Custom designs usually compromise on some efficiency to achieve higher performance. While three 8-pins are a little bit more complicated to use than dual 8-pins, it's a reasonable choice, as it gave MSI enough power headroom to achieve meaningful performance gains. That's why I find it surprising that MSI has set the manual power limit adjustment range for overclocking to just 350 W, which is lower than the 370 W on the Founders Edition. Also, considering 3x 8-pin + slot power = 525 W power capability, a 350 W limit seems like a waste of that third power connector.

Overclocking still worked fine. We achieved a 2.8% real-life performance gain. GPU overclocking was definitely held back a bit by the board power limit, just like on all other Ampere cards. I had hoped that triple-8-pin power configuration would be the magic bullet for overclockers—turns out it is not. Just like on Turing, the power limiter complicates overclocking. Since you can no longer dial in an exact frequency, you'll spend a bit more time working on getting your OC stable.

MSI is asking $760 for their Gaming X Trio, which is a 8.5% price increase. The performance increase of 4% alone doesn't justify that. The larger cooler with its low noise levels has me convinced, though. I'd be willing to take that extra cost because noise matters to me. Adjustable RGB lighting might be the feature that will make others pick the MSI card because the Founders Edition just has fixed white lighting. On the other hand, the clean, understated looks of the Founders Edition will appeal to many, and it also comes at highly competitive pricing.
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