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

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Should you buy the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G?

The MSI Gaming X Trio is a terrific option if you’re looking for a high-end, heavily customized GeForce RTX 3080.

Better yet, the price isn’t outrageous, as MSI charges a mere $50 premium for its substantial cooling solution and customizable RGB lights. The company even tosses a free support bracket into the box to help keep it from sagging in your system. Custom cards with heavy-duty cooling solutions like this can sometimes cost $100 or more over GPU’s baseline price, though MSI’s card lacks luxurious extras such dual-BIOS switches or controllers for your case fans. The Gaming X Trio feels like a relative bargain. Well, as much as a $750 graphics card can feel like a bargain.

dsc01022 Brad Chacos/IDG

The MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G offers previously unheard-of levels of 4K and 1440p gaming performance, trouncing the previous-gen RTX 2080 by up to 80 percent in some games, and the previous-gen $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti flagship by 25 to 30 percent. It’s so fast, you can play ray traced games with DLSS enabled at 1440p and even 4K resolution, eradicating the resolution compromises required when activating the cutting-edge lighting effects on RTX 20-series cards. And it does so while running cool and effectively silent.

The Gaming X Trio rocks. It should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for a custom RTX 3080. However, don’t shop for any RTX 3080 if you’re gaming at 1080p with visual settings cranked. This card is so fast that most games become wholly CPU- or engine-bound at that resolution, negating its monstrous performance advantage.

MSI’s behemoth isn’t a slam-dunk over Nvidia’s own RTX 3080 Founders Edition, though, mostly on account of its size. Like we said in the beginning: This is a gargantuan graphics card in every possible dimension. You’ll need a lot of room in your case to squeeze it in, and a trio of 8-pin power connectors to run it. Nvidia’s Founders Edition manages to squeeze into a more standard two-slot design thanks to its short, custom PCB and unique “flow-through” cooling design. Nvidia also graced its Founders Edition with a more premium-looking wrap-around metal aesthetic, versus the Gaming X Trio’s aggressively “gamer” vibe and plastic shroud.

dsc01018 Brad Chacos/IDG

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition (left) next to MSI's Gaming X Trio (right)

Nvidia set a very high bar with the RTX 3080 Founders Edition. It’s not as cool nor as quiet as MSI’s offering, but it’s cool and quiet enough—and Nvidia priced its card at the RTX 3080’s $699 baseline MSRP. The Gaming X Trio’s extra girth didn’t translate into noticeably higher frame rates either. MSI’s card comes with a 900MHz overclock that doesn’t effectively move the needle versus the Founders Edition’s stock performance, and attempting to automatically overclock the GPU using MSI’s Afterburner software only eked out another 42MHz. The Gaming X Trio’s trio of power connectors offer more headroom if you do plan on overclocking your RTX 3080, though.

Bottom line: These are both remarkably designed, tremendously powerful graphics cards. You’d be happy with either one. Smaller size or better cooling? Pick your poison, and enjoy the blisteringly fast frame rates either way.

Like Nvidia’s Founders Edition, the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G easily earns our Editors’ Choice award. While complete pricing for RTX 3080 partner cards have yet to be revealed as I write this, I suspect few heavy-metal flagships will manage to match its $750 price point.   

This story, "MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio review: A silent, face-melting behemoth" was originally published by PCWorld.

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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