Analysis of NVIDIA's GTX 10xx Series GPUs

by Ian Jung

Background and Specifications:


In May of 2016, NVIDIA released their first graphics card of the GTX 10xx series, the GTX 1080. The most apparent engineering difference in their new series is the brand new Pascal microarchitecture, which succeeds the previous Maxwell. Pascal features High Bandwidth Memory 2 that packs more efficient DRAM; NVLink, a high bandwidth connection between the GPU and the CPU, heavily increasing transfer speeds; and unified memory, which allows the CPU and GPU to access both main system memory and memory on the graphics card. The new series also packs twice as much VRAM as its 900 series predecessor; the GTX 1080 has 8 GB of VRAM compared to the GTX 980's 4 GB. NVIDIA definitely delivered on their 2014 promises in their official blog.

What does this mean for gamers?

GTX 1080

Gamers will be thrilled with the performance of these new cards. Compared to the 900 series, the higher clock speeds, increased CUDA cores, texture units, memory clock, VRAM, as well as the design and engineering features stated in the above paragraph, allow the new cards to push out more frames per second in the newest and most demanding PC games.

Game Performance:

Below is a frames per second comparison of the GTX 1080 vs. the GTX 980 on various games, courtesy of user benchmarks. All references are running at 1080p on max video settings. To see more benchmarks visit the offical UserBenchmark website.

Reference Cards Battlefield 1 Fallout 4 Grand Theft Auto V The Witcher 3
GTX 1080 110 fps 91.3 fps 97.6 fps 96.9 fps
GTX 980 87.3 fps 65.7 fps 74 fps 56.1 fps

As you can see, there is a drastic performance increase amongst a variety of the top games of today. The most notable is the performance gain in The Witcher 3: a game notorious for its intense graphical load on max settings. This proves that the new graphics cards are more than capable of handling current generation games.

Synthetic Benchmark Performance:

Now let's take a look at how these same cards do on a synthetic benchmark test. Analyzing professional benchmark tests will give us a better estimate of the pure processing power these cards are capable of, as game engine optimization may vary. These figures are courtesy of Trusted Reviews, visit the official website for more information.

Reference Cards 3D Mark Fire Strike Ultra (Benchmark Score) Maximum Power Consumption Maximum Temperature
GTX 1080 4884 points 286 watts 75°C
GTX 980 3286 points 270 watts 64°C

The synthetic benchmark tests are very indicative of the performance difference between these cards. The GTX 1080 blows the 980 out of the water in terms of overall processing power score. The card, however, does consume a little bit more power and runs about 11 degrees hotter under maximum load. However, the temperature is still in a reasonable range and does not at all indicate any cooling problems within the graphics processing unit. Furthermore, it is not clear whether or not the graphics cards were placed in the same rig and whether or not there was equal temperature control in the environment each were exposed to. Additionally, different manufacturers use different cooling units on their respective GPUs, so temperature is always difficult to equalize when benchmarking.

Is it worth upgrading?

The GTX 1000 series clearly has a significant performance edge over its 900 predecessor, but is it worth purchasing? I believe this depends on the user. For users on a budget, a high-end 1000 series card can be quite expensive. Opting for a budget card such as the GTX 1060 or 1050 is a great option for users looking to beef up their graphics power without breaking the bank. For users opting for a luxury build, a GTX 1080, or perhaps even several installed SLI linked, will be more than sufficient for 4K gaming. But what about users that already have a high-end 900 series card, such as the GTX 980 or 980 TI. Should they upgrade? I personally fall into this category, and will likely wait until the next series to upgrade, but this is truly an individual judgment call. If you're trying to push out as many frames as possible on 4K resolution, an upgrade will be more than worth it. For someone like me, sufficient with playing on 1080p or 1440p, you'll likely want to save up for the next series. Either way, the new GTX 1000 series cards are absolutely spectacular and exciting news for PC gamers around the world.

Works Cited

Gupta, Sumit. “NVIDIA Updates GPU Roadmap; Announces Pascal.” The Official NVIDIA Blog, 28 Mar. 2014, Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

Smith, Ryan. “NVIDIA Announces the GeForce GTX 1000 Series: GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 Arrive In May and June.” RSS, AnandTech, 7 May 2016, Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

NVIDIA. “Compare 10 Series Graphics Cards | NVIDIA GeForce.” NVIDIA, Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

Minasians, Christopher. “The Nvidia GTX 1080, GTX 1070 and GTX 1060 Go Head-to-Head in Our Comparison.” PC Advisor, 18 Oct. 2016, Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

From The Desk. “Everything You Need to Know about Nvidia GTX 1000 Series Graphics Cards.” The PGM, 18 Apr. 2016, Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

UserBenchmark. “UserBenchmark: Nvidia GTX 1080 vs 980.” UserBenchmark: Nvidia GTX 1080 vs 980, Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

Jennings, Mike. “Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 vs 980.” TrustedReviews, TrustedReviews, 16 Sept. 2016, Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.