It’s been a while since we’ve visited the high-end of the graphics market, but it’s a good time to do so. Nvidia’s Turing has had a little more time to bake than the last time we checked in on these cards and AMD’s own Radeon VII has been in-market for quite some time as well.
Gigabyte’s Aorus GeForce RTX 2080 Xtreme 8G is a mouthful to say. At $879, it’s also significantly more expensive than even most of the standard RTX 2080 GPUs, which start around $700. In order to justify hitting this kind of premium, Gigabyte will need to bring an impressive product to market, over and above what Nvidia has offered with the RTX family. Let’s see what they’ve got.
Meet the Chonk Aorus RTX 2080 Xtreme 8G
Officially, this GPU is the Aorus GeForce RTX 2080 Xtreme 8G. Technically, it’s the N2080AORUS X-8GC, as opposed to the N2080AORUS-8GC. The “X” stands for a few additional MHz in default factory overclocking and some additional video outputs (more on that in a moment).
Unofficially, however, this GPU is a chonk. It’s a 2.5-slot cooler with a three-fan cooling solution. The central fan in the stack spins in the opposite direction as the left and right fans to smooth overall airflow and reduce turbulence. Gigabyte calls this its Windforce Stack 3x Cooling System and it seems to work quite well. Gigabyte also offers a semi-passive fan mode for gamers who prefer quiet and want to let their fans spin down entirely. Even under heavy load, the Gigabyte Aorus stays very quiet — this isn’t a GPU that’s going to bother you if you’re sensitive to noise.
There’s another feature on the Aorus worth mentioning — a four-year warranty if you register the card. Standard warranty length is three years, so Gigabyte is tacking on another year here.
The GPU cooler is large, but it isn’t as heavy as you might expect — the plastic frame doesn’t add much weight. That could be a good thing, as far as putting less weight on the PCIe slot. Triple-wide coolers don’t please gamers who want blowers, and blowers don’t please gamers who want in-case fans, but the RTX GPUs we’ve reviewed have no problems keeping themselves cool and the Aorus RTX 2080 follows in their footsteps. No issues to report here.
All the Video Output Options You Could Want
Most high-end cards typically offer an HDMI port and three DisplayPort engines, or sometimes (if you have an older GPU), HDMI, DisplayPort, and even an old DVI port. Newer cards also sometimes include a USB-C port, just in case the future sneaks up and catches us unawares or something. While Gigabyte hasn’t implemented any additional support for >4 monitors at once, it has implemented an additional two HDMI ports on the Xtreme 8G. The GPU can be configured to support up to four panels in two different modes:
Either all three HDMI ports can be used with a single DP, or three DP ports can be used with a single HDMI. Be advised, however, there are some limits on exactly which display ports can be active at any given time. You can use the two HDMI ports closest to the top of the GPU or the two DP ports just below them, but you can’t use both sets of ports at the same time. If you want to use two HDMI cards and one Display Port (or vice versa), you need to use the bottom port for whichever display is a singleton, and the top ports for whichever displays are twinned.
The additional flexibility is welcome, though it’d be even neater if Gigabyte enabled more than four video outputs off the card. That’s an Nvidia limitation, however, and fixing it could require significant additional silicon.
LEDs Galore, Included Software
At some point — I’m genuinely not sure when — it became extremely popular to build LEDs and LED support into various products. Gigabyte offers a huge array of modes and visual display options for tweaking the LEDs on this card, all of which can be accessed via its RGB Fusion software application. If you want to see the visual patterns available, Gigabyte’s website actually does a fairly good job of simulating the card.
Gigabyte’s overclocking and GPU utility, Aorus Engine, isn’t all that great of an experience. While it can check to see if there’s a firmware update available for your GPU, it can’t actually perform the update; you’ll need a separate utility for that. Turing GPUs from Nvidia are supposed to support a new one-click overclocking feature, but while the Aorus Engine claims to implement this capability, attempting to use it always resulted in a generic “Scan failed” message. This apparently isn’t uncommon based on the discussions we saw online, but the advice given in these conversations, like manually loading application defaults before beginning a scan, was not effective. Previous iterations of the utility used to offer more custom clock speeds and operating modes, like a “Silent Mode,” but these seem to have been removed in the latest version of the program available for download, 1.6.6.
The EVGA Precision X1 application was capable of running an automatic overclocking scan of the Gigabyte Aorus RTX 2080 Xtreme and identified another 49MHz of overclocking headroom, over and above the GPU’s nudge above existing Nvidia stock clocks. Allowing Precision X1 and Aorus Engine to run simultaneously (as happened at one point, following a reboot) didn’t crash our testbed, but slowed it to a virtual crawl until we killed one or both applications.
GPU vendors are not known for the brilliance of their value-added software, but the fact that the auto-tuning function doesn’t seem to work even after we updated our GPU’s BIOS to the latest F4 revision identified for it was a disappointment. Aorus Engine is capable of controlling multiple Aorus-branded products, but since our testbed uses an Asus motherboard, that degree of integration was not available. A separate utility, RGB Fusion 2.0, can be used to program the RGB lights in any fashion you wish.
A free copy of Wolfenstein: Youngblood, the next game in the rebooted, alt-history Wolfenstein series from id Software, is included with the Aorus GeForce RTX 2080 Xtreme 8G, though it’s packed-in with a number of cards right now.
Test Setup and Configuration
This review lands in the middle of a massive retesting session of pretty much everything. AMD is preparing to launch new CPUs and GPUs and we already know that there are performance improvements coming in Windows, thanks to scheduler changes baked into the 1903 Update. The performance impact of additional security changes to patch the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities on Intel systems also needed to be re-measured. While these changes are not generally thought to have impacted gaming (we saw only one test that appeared to be impacted), it is difficult to isolate the difference between driver changes (which typically introduce improvements) and security patches, which may harm performance.
All of the data in this review is new. All of these test results — and all of the test results you’ll see from us when AMD launches its new hardware next week — are fresh. All test results were run on an Intel Core i7-8086K and an Asus Z370-A. Performance-wise, this CPU is all but identical to the Core i7-8700K, with very slightly higher single-threaded performance in some CPU tests thanks to a higher boost clock. For gaming purposes, the two chips can be considered to be identical. We tested the Nvidia cards using Nvidia’s 430.86 Game Ready Driver, released on May 27, 2019. The AMD Radeon VII was rested using Adrenaline 2019 Edition 19.5.2, released on June 3, 2019. A 1TB Samsung 970 EVO was used for system storage. Windows 10 1903 (May 2019 Edition) was installed, with all security patches and additional updates included.
The benchmark results presented here don’t require tons of comment at this point, because the RTX 2080 is a fairly well-known GPU as far as its performance, and the clocks on the Gigabyte Aorus Xtreme are only a bit higher than Nvidia stock — enough to put an extra percent or three on the final results compared with a stock-clocked card, but not enough to fundamentally change the equation.
The slideshow below contains our test results. Let us know if you like the new graph design. The Ashes graph is still in our older style, but the rest of the graphs have been updated.
Is This the Right RTX 2080 for You?
I’ve written a number of articles about the relative state of the GPU market and the attractiveness of current products from Nvidia and AMD at the high-end. It’s been almost a year since Turing launched, and six months since AMD dropped the Radeon VII. In the past, I’ve written several strongly worded articles about the state of the market this cycle. I stand by them.
But while Nvidia’s RTX family and AMD’s Radeon VII may not have jointly delivered all of the improvements that gamers might have wanted at the top of the market this cycle, both companies have set the expectations they intended to set. The new Nvidia Super cards coming soon are expected to offer a slightly different price/performance ratio, which will need to be evaluated on its own terms, but expected pricing on the Super cards will be slightly higher than the existing models, at least at the RTX 2060 and RTX 2070 price points. We’ll revisit the pricing and availability solution in the not-too-distant future, but today, the GPU market is what it is. And while plenty of Pascal gamers may still prefer to hold on to older GTX cards, if you are in the market for an RTX 2080, is this the right one to buy?
I think that argument depends pretty strongly on how much you’re looking for the specific features Gigabyte offers here, honestly. This GPU sells for a fair premium over a “standard” RTX 2080, at $880 as opposed to ~$700, and the modest overclocking gains over a stock RTX 2080 don’t really compensate for the higher price. But if you’re designing a rig that can take advantage of the LED capabilities built into the GPU (and intend to do so), or you want a GPU with more port flexibility than your typical card, then the Gigabyte Aorus GeForce RTX 2080 Xtreme 8G makes a better argument for having some unique value. If you have a three-way display setup that requires 3x HDMI ports and you don’t already have HDMI-to-DisplayPort dongles, you can even argue that not having to buy the additional hardware offsets part of the card’s higher cost (and saves the annoyance of having one more connector to deal with). If these specific features are to your liking, Gigabyte’s N2080AORUS X-8GC is worth your consideration.