EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 FTW3 Ultra review: Built to push the bleeding edge of performance

EVGA's GeForce RTX 3080 FTW3 Ultra packs a fantastic custom cooling system and all sorts of extras designed to push clock speeds to 11.

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Should you buy the EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 FTW3 Ultra?

The $810 EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 FTW3 Ultra is a fantastic graphics cards for gaming enthusiasts, especially if you overclock.

evga rtx 3080 ftw3 ultra 3 Brad Chacos/IDG

Pulling back to higher-level first, any GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card will knock your socks off for gaming at 4K resolution, or keeping a high refresh rate 1440p monitor well fed. It rocks for 3440x1440 ultrawide gaming, too. Avoid it for 1080p gaming, though, as this card is so fast that most games become wholly CPU- or engine-bound at that resolution, negating its monstrous performance advantage.

Improvements to the Ampere GPU architecture inside the RTX 3080 also makes it possible to play ray-traced games at those lofty resolutions with Nvidia’s DLSS technology enabled. This is something you couldn’t say with previous-gen RTX 20-series cards. (Our original Nvidia RTX 3080 Founders Edition review goes much deeper into ray tracing performance, and comparisons against prior GeForce generations.)

The GeForce RTX 3080 is fast, and EVGA’s factory overclock puts the pedal even closer to the metal, delivering frames just as quickly as MSI’s rival $760 Gaming X Trio does, and it also boasts an 1800MHz boost clock speed. It’s not perceptibly faster than the Founders Edition’s reference clock speeds in most scenarios though, and overclocking the GA102 chip definitely comes at a power penalty.

Our test system draws around 500W in whole system power with any RTX 3080 installed, but only the EVGA FTW3 pushes it over that mark for our power consumption test—and even over the $1,500 RTX 3090 Founders Edition’s energy levels. Games that hit the CPU hard can send the power draw soaring higher, too. Make sure your power supply can handle the RTX 3080 before upgrading.

evga rtx 3080 ftw3 ultra 6 Brad Chacos/IDG

Fortunately, EVGA’s killer (and massive) iCX3 cooling solution is up to the task. Even with all that energy coursing through the graphics card, the FTW3 Ultra stays at a chilly 72 degrees Celsius and never makes a sound. It’s fantastic. Nvidia’s own RTX 3080 offering is significantly quieter than past Founders Edition models, while the MSI Gaming X Trio is just as cool and almost as quiet for $50 less, but the EVGA RTX 3080 FTW3 Ultra tops them all. You won’t hear it.

EVGA manages to justify the FTW3 Ultra’s premium $810 price thanks to its loaded feature set, however, especially if you enjoy tinkering with your pricey GPU purchase.

The MSI Gaming X Trio doesn’t offer many extras, and it packs a graphene-infused backplate that looks and feels like plastic. EVGA, on the other hand, equipped the FTW3 Ultra with an aluminum backplate, even more RGB, and headers on the end of the card that can connect a case fan’s performance to your GPU’s temperatures, and tie the card’s lighting into your motherboard’s own RGB capabilities. All of it can be managed via EVGA’s excellent Precision X1 management and overclocking software.

dsc01106 Brad Chacos/IDG

Yes, this card is built to overclock. In addition to its sublime custom cooler, the EVGA RTX 3080 FTW3 Ultra offers a dual-BIOS switch that helps overclockers recover from disaster with ease. It embeds a multitude of iCX sensors throughout that provide real-time temperatures for 10 different areas of your card’s GPU, memory, and voltage regulator modules (VRMs). A trio of 8-pin connectors help feed this power-hungry beast even more juice. To that end, EVGA also pushed the FTW3 Ultra’s power limit to a staggering 420 watts, significantly higher than the stock 350W specification, and bolstered the card’s custom PCB and VRM setup to handle it. Everything you could want as an overclocker is here—though your luck in the silicon lottery always determines how far a GPU can go. Gamers Nexus and Bearded Hardware recently used the EVGA FTW3 in their attempts to set RTX 3080 overclocking world records with liquid nitrogen. (Alas, I only have ice cubes here.)

EVGA is also renowned for its responsive customer service if you run into any issues. In fact, the company already responded to customer feedback about the ugly red accents on the end of the card, with plans to offer a multitude of replacement color options to existing owners at no extra cost.

evga rtx 3080 ftw3 ultra 7 Brad Chacos/IDG

Bottom line? If you like to tinker with your graphics card and push clocks speeds to the bleeding performance edge, the $810 EVGA RTX 3080 FTW3 is worth every penny. Just make sure your case can fit this triple-slot beast, and your power supply can feed it.

It’s not ideal for everyone though. MSI’s Gaming X Trio offers similar out-of-the-box gaming, thermal, and acoustic performance for $760, and the Nvidia Founders Edition is a very solid package for $699. If you just want to buy a high-end graphics card, toss it in your case, and happily start gaming, those are probably better options for most people. They lack the FTW3’s impressive feature set but are plenty fast and quiet in their own right for less money. It’s nice to have options!

This story, "EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 FTW3 Ultra review: Built to push the bleeding edge of performance" was originally published by PCWorld.

At a Glance
  • EVGA's GeForce RTX 3080 FTW3 Ultra packs a fantastic custom cooling system and all sorts of extras designed to push clock speeds to 11. Overclocking enthusiasts will love this, and overlook its high power draw and massive size.

    Pros

    • Excellent 4K and 1440p gaming
    • Cold, silent custom cooler
    • Loaded with overclocking-friendly features
    • Fan and RGB headers, striking RGB lights
    • Precision X1 software is superb
    • Ray tracing at 4K and 1440p
    • Ultra-fast GDDR6x memory

    Cons

    • Massive size
    • Very high power consumption
    • Steep premium for luxurious features
    • Ugly red plastic accent 'lips' on ends
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