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Gigabyte GTX 1080 Mini: Great Things Do Come In Small Packages

Hardware Reviews By Joseph Bradford on November 06, 2017

Gigabyte GTX 1080 Mini: Great Things Do Come In Small Packages

When Gigabyte announced a smaller profiled GTX 1080 graphics card for smaller Pc builds, I got pretty excited. I love seeing smaller cards like this as they just allow for PC builders and modders to do more with the power available to the platform. But just how much power is Gigabyte able to pack into so small a package?

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Specifications

  • 8GB GDDR5X 256bit VRAM
  • 2560 CUDA Cores
  • 90mm Cooler Fan
  • 17cm compact card size
  • OpenGL 4.5

Clock Speeds

  • OC Mode: Boost: 1771 MHz/ Base: 1632 MHz
  • Gaming Boost: Boost: 1773 MHz/ Base: 1607 MHz
  • Reference Card Boost: 1733 MHz / Base: 1607 MHz
  • Memory Clock: 10010 MHz

The Gigabyte 1080 Mini sports Dual-Link DVI-D, a single HDMI port and three DisplayPort outputs and only requires a single 8 pin connector to power the small card.

But can it run Crysis?

The immortal question for PC gamers: can it run Crysis? Well, I didn’t actually test Crysis, but I have a feeling it would be fine. However, I did test the GTX 1080 up against some of the more popular MMOs and multiplayer games out there right now. Additionally, as someone who is upgrading from Maxwell architecture to Pascal, I thought it would be interesting to see just how much a performance leap going from a GTX 980 to the 1080, especially for those still on the fence about upgrading as I’ve been for so long.

Test System: Intel i7-6700K @ 4.0GHz, Viper 16GB GDDR4 DRAM @ 3200MHz,128GB SSD and 2 x 2TB HDD @ 7200rpm, Gigabyte GA-Z170-HD3 Motherboard, Corsair H60 Liquid CPU Cooler, Corsair TX750W PSU

I used the latest Nvidia Drivers at the time of writing across the board, even delaying the driver update that happened to prep for Call of Duty: WWII to keep results consistent with each other. First let’s look at the Benchmarks between the EVGA GTX 980 SC 2.0 and the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Mini.

You’ll notice on some of the older MMOs, the two cards are pretty consistent with each other. However, on games such as World of Warcraft the GTX 980 suffers the minute you up the resolution from 1080p to 1440p, while the GTX 1080 Mini stays at the max cap in Blizzard’s MMO. Additionally, GTA Online you see some great variance as well, with the 980 lagging behind the Mini 1080 all the way.

I personally felt the greatest difference while testing the card in PUBG, as my framerates no longer tanked indoors as they had a tendency to do on the GTX 980. However, it’s important to stress that PUBG isn’t optimized so those performance numbers on both cards may change once the game is officially “released.” FFXIV also sees some interesting results with an almost 40 frames per second difference at 1080p between the 980 and 1080, with the trend continuing once you hit 1440p.

Simply put, compared to the 980, which isn’t a slouch in terms of cards on the market today, the 1080 is simply an upgrade all around when you look at raw performance. But for many people, the GTX 1080 Mini represents not just a chance to play games at higher framerates, but also higher resolutions. While the GTX 980 can play some games in 1440p well (such as Overwatch as you see on the graph) and even 4K (again, Overwatch), the 1080 targets 1440p and 4K performance specifically. How does the GTX 1080 Mini hold up under the pressure?

Fairly well, actually.

Many of the games we tested are actually quite playable at 1440p and even 4K, such as The Elder Scrolls Online, Battlefield 1, Revelation Online, Overwatch and more. However, some interesting results started to crop up, which I found interesting. Star Wars The Old Republic see an incredibly drastic 100 frames per second drop the minute you go from 1440p to 4K. I noticed the same issue when benchmarking the GTX 980 as well -  the minute you went to 4K the game felt completely unplayable, even though the average FPS at 4K was still in the 60s for the 980.

The drastic drop in SWTOR can possibly be explained as an issue with the engine running the game itself. World of Warcraft looks stunning all these years later and while tracking framerate in some of the areas added by the Legion expansion, we see the framerate start to falter, if an 80fps average can be seen as faltering. Games like Battlefield 1 shine on this card, while titles such as Ubisoft’s open world multplayer game Ghost Recon: Wildlands show how even might cards can be brought to their knees by insane tech. However, the progression downward with Ghost Recon show an incredibly scaled engine, with this game even bringing GPUs such as the MSI GTX 1080 ti DUKE to its knees.

It’s not all rosy with the GTX 1080 Mini, however, as I noticed with each benchmark the temperature of the small card kept climbing.

It’s getting hot in here

I’m semi-neurotic when it comes to the temp of my hardware. I specifically bought a liquid cooler for my old AMD FX-8350 because I had a previous one overheat and die within a month before. I’m constantly checking temps and such as I play, making sure I’m not risking the same with my i7 or my GPU.

The GTX 1080 Mini sports a single 90mm fan to cool the card, along with three copper composite heat pipes to help dissipate the heat. Gigabyte’s site claims that their custom-designed cooling system should deliver an “effective heat dissipation capacity for higher performance at lower temperatures.”

However, each game that I ran on the GTX 1080 Mini I ran into concerns over the cooling.

More often than not the card was reaching 85-87 degrees celsius. In between each benchmark I let the card come back down to its ambient temp of around 43c, and each time before the benchmark ended the temperatures climbed back into the 80s.

Using both MSI Afterburner and Gigabyte’s own Auros Engine utility to set custom fan curves, I still was unable to get the temperature under load to settle in the high 70s - low 80s. By comparison, the EVGA 980 never reached over 75, but it should be noted it sports two fans to the Mini’s single fan.

For me, this is a cause for concern, especially as it pertains to overclocking. I was unable to keep a decent overclock with this card using MSI, though the One-Click utility in Gigabyte’s software did see some discernible results. However, with the temps high as they are, I didn’t feel it was there was enough thermal headroom keep the OC in place as I saw temps finally climb past 87C and almost hit 90c.

However, for those looking to get a great upgrade over their Maxwell generation card, or even entry level Pascal, the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Mini is a nice step. While in my experience it runs hot and can throttle once you hit those high temperatures, the upgrade in sheer performance provides a compelling reason to look at the Mini. At $539.99, it’s at a price where you may look towards spending the extra and getting the 1080 Ti, however, the Mini provides a great option for those whose budget can’t quite get up that high or those whose systems simply demand a smaller form factor card. Coming from a Maxwell, the 1080 Mini provides the performance I was hoping to see when making the jump to Pascal, proving the card doesn’t need to be huge to be a heavy hitter.

Pros

  • Small, quiet, compact
  • Great performance for such a small package
  • Provides a sizeable performance boost over Maxwell architecture

Cons

  • Runs hot, the 90mm fan just doesn’t seem like it’s enough to keep the card cool
  • Not sure if there is a thermal ceiling to warrant extreme overclocking

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.