Since Nvidia unleashed the GTX 1080Ti on the world, two things have become clear. First, that the card is just incredibly powerful. It is arguably the first consumer grade graphics platform able to reliably pump out 60 frames a second at 4K resolutions. Second, it’s that the chip is hot. Open air cards are pushing into two and a half and three slot widths more than ever before. Enter MSI’s 1080 Ti DUKE OC. It’s a sleek, three-fan solution that not only runs cool and quiet, but does so in just two standard slots.
Like every 1080 Ti, the DUKE OC packs an expansive 11GB of 352-bit GDDR5X VRAM, which is more than enough for any game on the market currently. The RAM is dual channel, allowing it to hit an impressive 11016MHz frequency. 3584 CUDA underlie the card, and MSI ships the DUKE OC with a guaranteed core clock of 1531MHz, boosting to 1645MHz (and beyond). On the rear are two DisplayPort, two HDMI, and a single Dual Layer DVI connection, perfect for multi-display setups or virtual reality headsets.
Before we get into performance, I have to say that I love the aesthetic turn of this card after MSI’s ARMOR and Gaming X. Both cards looked great, but the sleek, dark, and angular aesthetic allows it to fit within any case or color scheme. With RGB permeating the PC hardware landscape, I look to long-term peripherals to blend in with whatever hue I’m in the mood for. The DUKE accomplishes that, and since the logo is also RGB enabled, it not only fits in but will enhances the overall look of my machine.
My test system features an i7-7700k running at 4.5GHz in an MSI Z270 Gaming M7 motherboard, 16GB of DDR4 3200MHz G.Skill RAM, a 500GB Samsung 960 EVO M.2 SSD, 2TB of internal storage, and a 1050-watt Corsair HX1050. And, of course, the DUKE OC.
The interesting thing about Pascal is that, allowing for some very modest differences, performance is largely the same from Ti to Ti. What we’re really looking for in our performance analysis is thermal and noise management and how well each card is able to hold its clock rates.
To do that, we run performance tests across a range of MMOs, RPGs, and out of genre titles. Our goal is to see how games perform at their most stunning - we’re PC gamers after all - so we chose the highest possible preset and manually changed each setting to its highest possible option; cutting edge visuals for a cutting edge card. At 4K resolutions we disabled anti-aliasing as it is largely unnecessary at such a high resolution. Turning down several setters results in noticeably higher frame rates, so consider our results in the range of “highest possible” for visual fidelity.
Let’s take a look.
As we expected, the DUKE performed very similarly to other 1080 Ti cards we’ve looked at while maintaining substantial improvements over the Founder’s Edition variant. When compared against ZOTAC’s 1080 Ti AMP edition, performance results largely fall within several frames - nearly all indistinguishable to the naked eye. The improvements over the Founder’s Edition, however, are notable.
In our testing the DUKE was able to hold a fairly consistent clock speed of around 1900MHz without any overclocking due to GPU Boost 3.0. The reference card, powerful in its own right, tended to peak around 1800MHz and routinely thermally throttle down to 1500-1600MHz. Since the DUKE doesn’t as many thermal challenges, its performance was more consistent in extended play sessions.
Our card was also easily overclocked to 2GHz and a 150MHz memory offset with no voltage bumps. Impressive!
The card runs a little on the warmer side, averaging right around 75C once it’s warmed up. It’s not the coolest card we know of, but it’s definitely an improvement over the Founder’s Edition and rarely ever throttles due to temperatures. MSI’s DUKE is also fairly quiet. Due to Zero Frozr technology, the fans won’t spin at all unless it holds a temperature above 60C. That seems a little warm, and I was concerned that the three fans would go from zero to blaring on a dime. When they do kick on, it’s audible but not unreasonably so and, in our experience, the game audio had already begun by that point which helps to masks the decibels produced by the card.
Like all 1080 Tis, this is a card targeting at 1440p and 4K resolutions. The DUKE easily sped through most games we threw at it in 4K and every game in 1440p. Priced at $749.99, it faces some steep competition, and I’d like to see that drop by ten or twenty dollars. In a way, the extra cost is really a matter of paying for modesty - it has a modest two slots, a modest, understated aesthetic to match any case, and chews through high resolution games with modest temperatures and noise. That out of the box boost to 1900Mhz really makes a difference, and the lack of thermal throttling means custom fan curves and even additional overclocking are really come down to preference. MSI has been on a roll with its 1080 Ti series and this is no exception. When it comes to power and performance, the DUKE OC delivers.