MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio review: A silent, face-melting behemoth

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MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio review: A silent, face-melting behemoth

The GeForce RTX 3080 hits the streets today. Fueled by Nvidia’s next-gen Ampere GPU architecture, it wields enough power to trample its predecessor, the GeForce RTX 2080, by up to 80 percent. Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition showed just how dominant this new GPU is—and how much juice it requires to push that many pixels. The spectacular Founders Edition deploys a new 12-pin connector and unique “flow-through” cooler design to tame the beastly RTX 3080.

But Nvidia’s $699 Founders Edition isn’t the only RTX 3080 in stores today. In an unusual move, a wide range of customized graphics cards by Nvidia partners will also be available on day one, including the $750 MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G on our test bench today. Where Nvidia turned to technical tricks with its Founders Edition, MSI cranks its overpowering card to 11. The MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G overclocks the GPU to 1800MHz, feeds it with a trio of 8-pin connectors, then cools it down with a massive three-slot, triple fan cooler loaded with new technologies and yes, RGB lights. It dwarfs Nvidia’s offering.

Does heavy metal push the custom card past the impressive precedent set by Nvidia’s Founders Edition? Let’s dig in.

MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G: Specs and features

msi rtx 3080 MSI

We won’t spend too much time talking about the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G’s underlying specifications, as they’re largely identical to those of the Nvidia Founders Edition. The special sauce in its custom design. Read our exhaustive GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition review for a deeper dive into what’s new in the next-gen Ampere GPU. You can also find more info about how the RTX 3080 stacks up against the previous generation in our GeForce RTX 30-series vs. RTX 20-series spec comparison.

Here’s a high-level look at what’s inside the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G, followed by some discussion on what’s unique to this particular card:

  • CUDA cores: 8,704
  • Boost clock: 1.8GHz
  • Memory: 10GB GDDR6X at 9500MHz
  • Memory bus: 320-bit
  • Memory bandwidth: 760GB/s
  • RT cores: 68 (2nd-gen)
  • Tensor cores: 384 (3rd-gen)
  • NVLink SLI: No
  • PCIe: Gen 4
  • HDMI: 2.1
  • HDCP: 2.3
  • Display connectors: 1x HDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4
  • Power: 3x 8-pin
  • Recommended power supply: 750W

The only major difference at the GPU level is the clock speed, and even that is minor. The MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G comes overclocked at 1,800MHz boost speeds, a mild bump from the RTX 3080’s stock 1,710MHz specification. The 10GB of cutting-edge GDDR6X memory comes clocked at reference speeds, but those are ultra-fast. The name of this card is interesting though: by slapping “10G” onto the end, MSI’s branding might be lending credence to rumors of a 20GB RTX 3080 waiting in the wings.

Another significant change comes in power delivery. Nvidia’s RTX 3080 FE needs a pair of 8-pin power connectors, which then slip into an adapter for the company’s proprietary 12-pin adapter. That leaves the Founders Edition card with scant leeway for its 320-watt total board power rating–the two 8-pin connectors can draw 150W, while the PCIe 4.0 slot itself supplies another 75W. MSI built more power overhead into the Gaming X Trio, outfitting it with a trio of standard 8-pin connections.

dsc01010 Brad Chacos/IDG

One, two, three 8-pin power connectors.

Unfortunately—and oddly—MSI’s card doesn’t let overclockers push as hard as Nvidia’s card at a software level. While the Founders Edition lets you increase its power limit by 15 percent in overclocking software (like MSI’s awesome Afterburner, which is being updated to support the RTX 30-series), the Gaming X Trio only lets you crank the knob up an extra five percent. We haven’t had much time to tinker with overclocking yet, as we focus on out-of-the-box performance at PCWorld. With the older RTX 20-series GPUs those power limits had a much bigger effect on overclocking performance than simply upping clock speeds.

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