Before you say it, yes, that’s an unnecessarily long name for a graphics card, or any component really. It’s necessary though, since ASUS has several of these graphics cards, all of which belong to the STRIX 1080 family.
The model we’re reviewing here is the highest-performing SKU with its 1,936MHz boost clock, compared to the others in the family which have a 1,863MHz and 1,771MHz clock respectively. That’s why this particular model sports a much higher price. It’s the fastest graphics card ASUS currently manufactures, barring any previous generation dual-GPU solutions.
If you’re looking at a GTX 1080, it might be tempting to buy the cheaper of the three models, and that would be a sound, plausible idea. Just be aware that the O8G model uses a higher-binned GPU (much like this one does), so while you’re almost certain to reach the same clock speeds and performance levels via overclocking, you’ll notice that the performance figures aren’t the same. That’s because the silicon quality isn’t identical, and while this model will maintain its 1,936MHz clock speed under load, the lesser models will down their clocks to more manageable frequencies to match their silicon’s constraints.
With that said, the actual cards themselves are identical. That’s an 8+2 phase design. That’s eight phases for the GPU (which is overkill, but appreciated), with the remaining two used for the GDDR5X memory. None of this is relevant for gaming, but it does serve to make sure that you have more than enough power for the GPU regardless of what you may need to do with it, including extreme overclocking. If you’re thinking of going that route, do keep in mind that even a standard Founders Edition GTX 1080 will reach about the same clock speeds. This isn’t because ASUS has failed to improve on what NVIDIA offers with the Founders Edition. To the contrary, the STRIX has one of the best VRM/PWM complexes of any GTX 1080 on the market. The core issue here is that the Pascal GPUs simply do not scale with temperature and voltage as well as we’re used to seeing. What that effectively means is that even under the most extreme conditions, you’re unlikely to hit a clock speed above 2,500MHz. This is despite the fact that using the standard cooler can net you frequencies as high as 2,036MHz.
That may be disappointing for extreme users, but for the overwhelming majority of enthusiasts and gamers not into fiddling with their R14,000 GPU, the STRIX GTX 1080 packs a wallop in performance – enough for you to not need any form of overclocking at all, no matter what game you’re playing. This is especially true if you play your games at 1920×1080, or even better, if you play them at 2560×1440. The STRIX GTX 1080 pumps out frame rates sometimes in the triple digits. As an example, in Grand Theft Auto V (with all the detail settings cranked up, save for MSAA) the STRIX GTX 1080 delivers an impressive 97 frames per second. To put this in context, a GTX 1070 Founders Edition, which is a fantastic card, only puts out 79 FPS. That’s 22% (nearly 20 FPS) faster than a card that already beats last year’s GTX 980 Ti. It’s impressive stuff by any measure.
If you want to try your luck at 4K gaming, you’ll not fare as well, but with some minor graphics tweaks, you can easily play at 60 FPS in modern titles. In fact, we were able to reach the magical 60 FPS mark with the STRIX after some overclocking. Of course, this additional performance isn’t a guarantee and it’s not something you should base your purchasing decision on. With that said, GDDR5X overclocking is predictable and all cards seem to overclock to similar limits. On the STRIX, we stabilised 11.2GHz which resulted in 358GB/s of memory throughput bandwidth, which is crucial for 4K and its massive requirements.
All this isn’t necessarily unique to the STRIX. The workmanship and engineering certainly help here, but the real difference with the STRIX card comes by way of the voltage measuring points on the card. That’s in addition to an on-board fan controller which allows you to plug in two additional four-pin PWM fans, and those will be adjusted to match your GPU temperatures accordingly. Now that ASUS has introduced this feature, it seems like something that should’ve been implemented years ago – especially because it not only benefits the graphics card, but your entire system will run cooler as well. It’s particularly useful if you have one of those boards that only features four or five fan headers (we’re looking at you, mid-range GIGABYTE boards).
With that, ASUS also gives you their AURA RGB lighting software for full control over the LED lighting on the GPU. It’s pretty much standard fare these days, but if you’ve got an ASUS motherboard to complement your STRIX you’re able to somewhat match the GPU and motherboard lighting using the AURA software. The downside here is that you need two separate programs to adjust the LEDs on each component (at least at the time of this writing). Here’s hoping that ASUS can sort that out and unify these applications so all their AURA-supporting components and devices can be controlled from one central location.
The one area where ASUS could improve with the STRIX is in the fan noise department. It isn’t clear what causes it, but the fans are rather loud and quite annoying at anything above 50% rotation speed. It’s the type of noise that, because of its pitch, is hard to ignore even within a chassis that already houses plenty of fans. With the automatic adjustment of the fan speed as well, it tends to be an intermittent noise which only makes it more agitating. It’s nothing you can’t minimise via setting a fixed fan speed, but it’s nonetheless annoying.
Overall, this is one of the fastest (if not the fastest) GTX 1080s on the market. It’d be difficult to find an overtly better solution than this one. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely well worth your time and consideration.