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Palit GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GameRock Premium 11 GB Review

There’s no doubt the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is a killer card, capable of butter smooth 4k game play without having to turn the eye candy down. The Founders Edition was/is a very capable card, but we found the cooler to be its weakest link.  Partner cards such as the Palit GTX 1080 Ti GameRock Premium Edition that we are reviewing today go above and beyond in attempt to keep the beastly GP102 GPU at its heart running cool and quiet. Due to the characteristics of Nvidia’s GPU boost technology, keeping the card cool leads to higher, longer lasting boost clocks . This makes the cooling solution of GTX 1080 Ti cards even more critical than the usual temperature minimization and low noise levels: It directly impacts performance. Let’s see what this Palit weapon can do!

 

 

Firstly, lets take a look at the specifications of the card including what GPUZ has to say about it. The key technical features are the same as GTX 1080 ti with 3584 Cuda cores, 11Gb of GDDR5x memory with a 352bit interface and the same top spec video outputs. Of course there are some key improvements. The base clock has been improved from 1480Mhz to 1595Mhz and the boost clock is bumped up to 1709Mhz from 1582Mhz. (Though in reality Pascal cards are capable of boosting a lot more than this) Other key features include a RGB Palit logo that can be customized according to your taste, an improved custom PCB and of course a significantly improved cooler with 0db fans that don’t spin until the GPU hits 60c.

 

A look at Pascal

Before we get too much into the Palit GTX 1080 Ti GameRock Premium Edition, let’s take a brief look at some of the common Nvidia features found at its heart.

Below we have a block diagram of the GP102 die. The major things to take away from this are the 28 shader clusters with 128 CUDA cores per cluster. This give a total of 3584 CUDA cores, which compared to the 2560 featured in the GTX 1080, represents a substantial increase in shader power. Also note the 6 GPC blocks. 2 of them have a shader cluster missing. This is because the die in the 1080Ti and the Titan X (Pascal) is not the full GP102 die, which actually carries 3840 CUDA cores. Only the Quadro P6000 card and newer Titan Xp feature the full die. Of course these cards are much more expensive.

 

Being a Pascal generation GPU, of course you get some very nice features supported both by hardware and software. Significant under the hood effort has been made to improve bandwidth efficiency. The include new compression algorithms and tiled caching. Nvidia claims this can produce improvements amounting to an effective doubling of memory bandwidth in some games.

Of course you get Direct X 12 support and support for technologies such as async compute which is expected to become more prevalent in native DX12 games to come in the future. Then there are popular features such as Shadowplay. Many Twitch streamers swear by Shadowplay and the 1080 Ti will stream very well due to its grunt.

Nvidia’s Ansel technology is something that well worth taking a look at. It’s good for a laugh. This is essentially an in game camera that create images from any angle or position, even 360 for VR.

Being a Pascal card, The Palit GTX 1080 Ti GameRock comes with top class fixed function video capabilities. This means proper VP9 and HEVC Main 10 support, HDCP 2.2, HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.4. This means you’re (likely) set for years to come with 4K and 8K video support, 4K blu ray, UHD youtube and now Netflix 4K support. Now, where are all the 4k 120Hz OLED panels?

Overview

A big, heavy card needs a big, solid box, and the box the Palit GTX 1080 Ti GameRock comes in doesn’t disappoint. After you get your new toy back to your place, you’ll be pleased to see the card is well protected on the inside.  The card itself is well secured inside a foam shell that will protect the card from all but the most careless of couriers. Of course all the key information about the card is found on the box, with even more underneath a front flap.

 

 

This is about the most basic accessory bundle you’ll ever see, with just a driver CD, setup guide and a dual 6pin to 8 pin power adapter. Perhaps a second power adapter would be nice given the dual 8 pin inputs, but in truth we’re more likely to assume that anyone buying a card of this expense and capability should have a power supply with native 8 pin power cables. Do you really need anything else? Nvidia have AAA game bundles in different regions so you can consider those a good value addition.

 

And here we have the card itself. As you can see, the Palit GTX 1080 Ti GameRock adopts a fairly simple color scheme. Whether you like it is up to you. The cooler shroud is made of plastic that has a metallic finish. In reality the blue is a little darker than this and it will easily blend into a wide variety of color themes, be they RGB or not.

 

Being a powerful card with an estimated 270w TDP, Palit have equipped the card with twin 8pin PCIe power connectors. With 150w + 150w + 75w from the PCIe slot, we have up to 375w of power, leaving plenty of headroom for overclocking.

This is the view most folks will see when the card is installed inside a case. The Palit logo and white accents are lit by RGB LED. This means you can choose from millions of colors and allows you to customize your card and synchronize it to the rest of the system. You can use Palit’s Thunder Master app or use the improving RGB software that’s produced by a variety of motherboard manufacturers.

 

Moving on to the important video outputs, We have the full complement of current ports and corresponding video support. There’s three DisplayPort 1.4, a HDMI 2.0b port and a Dual Link DVI-D port. Note that this means there is no analogue capability, so you’ll need an active adapter if you want VGA. Really though, who wants to buy a card like this and use VGA? If you do, it’s time to upgrade that monitor!

 

Palit has included a RGB header which you can see towards the left of the picture below. You can add a RGB strip here and customize it to your liking. If RGB is your thing, this could be quite handy as the header is likely to be positioned closer to the front of your case compared to those found on motherboards. It’s just a useful little thing if you have a large case.

 

 

Palit’s thermal solution uses five heatpipes to keep the GPU cool. You’ll notice many thermal pads here, which provide cooling for the memory chips and mosfets and even the chokes. The heatsink itself has a large surface area to assist with dissipation.  This isn’t your standard GPU heatsink however. Palit have adopted a quad fan solution that they call Jet4. The two visible fans have another fan right underneath them that spins in the opposite direction. Palit claims this lowers noise levels and improves efficiency. While its not a bad solution by any means, we think there’s a bit of marketing going on here as if the solution was truly more efficient than orthodox fan/sink designs then we’re sure every manufacturer would be using them. Palit’s testing has obviously shown some benefit though. In our testing, the design sits largely in line with our testing of other GTX 1080 Ti cooling solutions.

 

 

Palit have not cheapened out when it comes to the PCB design. We have a 12+2 PWM system with DrMOS, which means the GPU will be supplied with good clean stable power even under extreme voltage and cooling. There’s also dual BIOS, RGB header support and dual 8 Pin power to feed it all. Nvidia’s GP102 graphics processor at the heart of the card is a beast with a die size of 471 mm2 and just a few transistors. 12 Billion of them!

 

Here is the rear of the card. Just to the right of the SLI connectors is a BIOS selector switch. This switch allows you to  choose between the default BIOS and a quieter optimized one with lower clocks and reduced fan noise. Also, just above the K in GameRock, you can see what appears to be a set of voltage read points, though they are not labeled and their position makes them very difficult to access unless you pre attach a set of wires to connect to a multi meter.

 

Lastly we have a look at Palit’s GPU control app which is called Thunder Master.

With Thunder Master, you can also overclock the card, set custom fan profiles, monitor and of course, control the RGB functionality of the card as shown below. The software performs well enough, but we think it’s a step behind some competing solutions such as MSI Afterburner or EVGA Precision. It’s good enough to do the job though, especially if you are the type of user who prefers to set and forget.

Test Setup & Benchmarks

Now we move onto the all important game benchmarks! We test at the 3 common resolutions, 1080p, 1440p and 4K. Some of these have internal benchmarks which are great for consistent results. The others, we used FRAPS to record in game FPS, which we test 3 times and average for consistency. Outlier results are discarded.

As we saw with the Founders Edition GTX 1080 Ti, gaming at 4K was already easy, but the Palit GameRock takes it up another level. Some of these games, such as Deus Ex are poorly coded and represent a worst case scenario. It’s simply glorious to see 60fps+ at 4k, though with a few games you might have to drop a notch of eye candy to get that 60fps.  A game like The Witcher looks really good at 4K. (Ignoring expensive Titans) If you want the best gaming experience with the highest FPS in 2017 for a single card, the 1080 Ti is it!

We know many of you swear that 120fps+ monitors are the way to go. With a 1440P monitor, we see the Palit GameRock is running well above 120fps at this res. We don’t have a Gsync equpped monitor, be we’re quite sure a 120fps capable Gsync monitor at 1440p will be about as good as it gets for a mid 2017 graphics card.

 

 

Temperatures & Noise Levels

We saw some really nice results from the Palit GameRock. While idling and during regular desktop usage, temperatures were hovering at 43c idle with a load temperature of 73c. At 73c, the fan was at 52% and the boost clock was managing to go above 1900Mhz. This compares to a Founders Edition card which was at 84c with 45% fan and a boost clock of 1747Mhz. Despite a seemingly high 52% level, the card remains quiet at this speed. It is just in the range of becoming audible. We also must note that the cooler dissipates heat in several directions, which may add to your case temperatures, but if you have decent airflow, this won’t be a problem. Overall the Palit GameRock cooler is an improvement on every aspect of the FE cooler. We aren’t really in a position to judge the effect of the quad fan design vs a dual fan version, but for the most part it works well, even if it may prove to be a bit gimmicky.

If you get a good sample, or are prepared to sacrifice a bit of noise for performance, if you can keep temps under 70c, then 1900Mhz+ stable boost clocks are possible with no clock adjustment.

As far as noise levels go, we tend not to place too much emphasis on the Db reading as these days, even a hard drive seeking tends to be noisier and more noticeable than a GPU cooler unless you manually crank it up. Temperatures and case designs and airflow in the different climates of the world make a Db reading pretty much irrelevant. Also our AiO cooler pump is not silent which can distort the reading. We did record a very quiet idle reading of 32Db with a load of 42Db, which was basically inaudible over the other parts of the system. It is a tiny bit louder than other GTX 1080 Ti’s we’ve tested though.

Overclocking

Most of Nvidia’s Pascal based cards are capable of hitting the magical 2Ghz, and sometimes a lot more. We’ve really been treated with the stunning clocks that Pascal is capable of. Now we aren’t that far away from what some CPUs are doing! On of the characteristics of Pascal is that voltage increases are not as useful as they once were. Hardcore overclockers may be disappointed with this, but regular users should consider this a very good thing. Most cards tend to settle in similar ranges and seem to respond as well to cooling more so than voltage. This means some of the previous halo models like MSI Lightnings or EVGA Classifieds may actually not be doing anything better than ‘lower’ spec cards. It seems the cooling is the more critical factor when considering which Pascal card to buy.

Note that with the Founders Edition card, We were able to push the base clock to 1635 Mhz with a boost clock of 1974Mhz, but this took quite an increase in fan speed to do to keep temperatures in check.

The Palit GameRock Premium was able to achieve a peak of 2063Mhz with fan speed set to auto. Notably this was cooler and much quieter than the reference card. We found 55% fan speed was perfectly usable and it’s only when you hit 60% and higher it becomes quite audible. This kept temperatures to a reasonable 75c maximum to keep the boost clock at a stable 2012Mhz. If you wish to crank the fan a bit and get the temperatures below 70c, you will find that you’ll be boosting closer to 2.1Ghz 😀

2Ghz+ on any GTX 1080 Ti is nice, but to do so while keeping temperatures and noise levels in check is very nice.

Of course overclocking involves a lot of trial and error and there can be significant differences in results between cards. As always, your mileage may vary.

Conclusion

Palit’s GTX 1080 Ti GameRock Premium improves on the Founders Edition in every way. It’s cooler, quieter and faster, with longer lasting boost clocks. This means there is no reason to buy a Founders Edition unless you specifically need a GPU with a blower style fan to exhaust all the hot air out the rear of the case.

Everything considered, GameRock is a very capable 1440p or 4K card. If you have Gsync equipped monitor, you’ll be getting about the best gaming performance you can get at this point in 2017. Lets ignore the GTX Titan XpXXP Black uber OMG edition. The words ‘future proofing’ in the PC world are a bit dirty, but if you have a card like the Palit GameRock GTX 1080 Ti, you will get several years of elite gaming goodness. Let’s not forget the class leading video capabilities which means you’ll be set for an 8K monitor should such a thing appear in a reasonable form in the next year or two.

The GameRock cooler is quiet and unless you have a particularly cramped case or live in a hot climate, it should remain pretty much unobtrusive in terms of noise unless really pushed hard. We think the card looks decent, with a very solid and heavy feel. It’s PCB is well designed, with plenty of headroom for OC without stressing the PWM, Of course you get the ability to customize the logo to your own choice of color thanks to RGB lighting.

Given what we’ve seen with most GTX 1080 Ti’s, your selection of card should come down to brand loyalty, thermals, acoustics and price. Pascal is not like previous GPUs where you can just pump the voltage and keep clocking it up. These days the OC is pretty much done for you in the form of Nvidia’s GPU boost.

While the Palit GameRock GTX 1080 Ti is not at all cheap at around $1230 SGD, it is only a few dollars more than the Founders Edition and we consider the extra well worth it. If you want the highest performing gaming graphics cards, you have to pay for them. While the Palit is a good solid card, there is some very stiff competition from other vendors. It probably doesn’t excel over the competition enough to take out top awards, but it’s still a very good, very capable card. You should be able to find it for a bit cheaper than the top models from the likes of ASUS and EVGA and if you can, you definitely won’t go wrong.

 

 

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