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

Big and badass

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Our test system

Our dedicated graphics card test system is a couple years old, but packed with some of the fastest complementary components available to put any potential performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves.

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($300 on Amazon) overclocked to 5GHz all cores
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($105 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($355 on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($352 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($70 each on Amazon)

The overclocked 5GHz Core i7-8700K performs as well as the stock Core i9-10900K in games. For more info on why we’re stick to a PCIe 3.0 system with an Intel chip rather than an AMD Ryzen system with PCIe 4.0 to take potential advantage of the RTX 3080’s PCIe 4.0 connector, read our GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition review. (In a nutshell, Nvidia says fast chips make a bigger difference than PCIe 4.0 in performance.)

We’re comparing the $750 MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G against Nvidia’s $700 GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition, of course. We’ve also included results for a bunch of prior-gen Founders Edition cards: Nvidia’s $800 GeForce RTX 2080, $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti, and the older $700 GTX 1080. (MSRP prices for the 1080 and 2080 started at $100 less, but Nvidia charged a premium for the FE models.) Because so many owners of the $700 GTX 1080 Ti decided to skip over the lackluster performance increase in the similarly priced RTX 2080, we’re also including the EVGA GTX 1080 Ti SC2 in our roundup. Our GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition died years ago, the only Nvidia GPU ever to expire in our hands. AMD has never offered a Radeon GPU that competes at this level, with the Radeon VII falling slightly behind the RTX 2080 and GTX 1080 Ti.

dsc01010 Brad Chacos/IDG

We test a variety of games spanning various engines, genres, and graphics APIs (DirectX 11, DX12, and Vulkan). Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets unless otherwise noted, with VSync, frame rate caps, real-time ray tracing or DLSS effects, and FreeSync/G-Sync disabled, along with any other vendor-specific technologies like FidelityFX. We’ve also enabled temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) to push these cards to their limits. We run each benchmark at least three times and list the average result for each test. We tested the older cards using Nvidia’s publicly available 452.06 Game Ready driver, and the RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio and Founders Edition models using a 452.16 driver provided early to reviewers.

MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio gaming benchmarks

With its mild overclock, the MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G comes out ahead of Nvidia’s Founders Edition, but just barely. As such, we’re simply going to present these graphs with minimal commentary until our final analysis at the end of this review. For more in-depth comparisons about how the RTX 3080 stacks up versus prior-gen graphics cards, or a deeper look into once again, check out our original Nvidia RTX 3080 FE review.

These RTX 3080 cards are monsters at 4K and 1440p, and they’re fast enough that you can enable ray tracing and DLSS while still playing at those lofty resolutions.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Yep, Sony exclusives are hitting the PC now. Horizon Zero Dawn hit Steam with some performance issues, but the most egregious ones have been mostly cleared up thanks to hard work from the developers, and the game topped the sales charts for weeks after its release. It also seems to respond somewhat to PCIe 4.0 scaling, which will make this an interesting inclusion when we shift to a PCIe 4.0-based system in the future.

Horizon Zero Dawn runs on Guerrilla Games’ Decima engine, the same engine that powers Death Stranding. Ambient Occlusion can still offer iffy results if set to Ultra, so we test with that setting at Medium. Every other visual option is maxed out.

hzd Brad Chacos/IDG

Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics puts it own brutal, fast-paced spin on the XCOM-like genre. This Unreal Engine 4-powered game was built from the ground up for DirectX 12, and we love being able to work a tactics-style game into our benchmarking suite. Better yet, the game comes with a plethora of graphics options for PC snobs. More games should devote such loving care to explaining what flipping all these visual knobs mean. You can’t use the presets to benchmark Gears Tactics, as it intelligently scales to work best on your installed hardware, meaning that “Ultra” on one graphics card can load different settings than “Ultra” on a weaker card. We manually set all options to their highest possible settings.

Fun fact: The GeForce RTX 3080 FE is the only graphics card that doesn’t generate a “Your GPU can’t handle this” warning when enabling Glossy Reflections, and only the 3080 and the RTX 2080 Ti lack that warning for Planar Reflections. Told you these cards are monsters.

gears tactics Brad Chacos/IDG

Metro Exodus

One of the best games of 2019, Metro Exodus is one of the best-looking games around, too. The latest version of the 4A Engine provides incredibly luscious, ultra-detailed visuals, with one of the most stunning real-time ray tracing implementations released yet. We test in DirectX 12 mode with ray tracing, Hairworks, and DLSS disabled for our basic benchmarks.

metro exodus Brad Chacos/IDG

Next page: Benchmarks continue

At a Glance
  • The MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G slaps a monstrous cooler on Nvidia's monstrous enthusiast-class GPU, with spectacular results. It's powerful, yet cooler and nearly silent.

    Pros

    • Staggering performance upgrade vs. last gen
    • Excellent 4K and 1440p gaming
    • Ray tracing at 4K and 1440p
    • Ultra-fast GDDR6X memory
    • Very effective, almost silent cooler
    • HDMI 2.1, AV1 encoding, PCIe 4.0, 8K/30 fps capture
    • Reasonable $50 premium over MSRP

    Cons

    • Utterly massive in every dimension
    • Very high power consumption
    • 10GB of VRAM capacity may not be enough for 4K long-term
    • Plastic shroud, few extra features
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