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Zotac GeForce GTX 1080 Ti AMP! Edition review

We’ve really been looking forward to reviewing partner GTX 1080 Ti cards. There’s no doubt the Founders Edition is a very capable card, but we found the cooler to be its weakest link. Partner cards such as the Zotac GTX 1080 Ti AMP that we are reviewing today address that weakness. This means we’re expecting better performance, with higher, longer lasting boost clocks, better temperatures and less noise. Let’s see what this Zotac beast can do!

 

 

Specifications

Firstly, lets take a look at the specifications of the card. They are quite similar to the reference GTX 1080 ti, but there are some key improvements. The base clock has been improved from 1480Mhz to 1569Mhz and the boost clock is bumped up to 1683Mhz from 1582Mhz. (The card will boost a lot more than this as we’ll see) Other key features include a RGB logo for color customization, a very powerful custom PCB and a significantly improved cooler with 0db fans that don’t spin until the GPU hits 60c.

 

Here is what GPUz has to say about the system. Look at that bandwidth! Who needs HBM!

A look at Pascal

Before we get too much into the Zotac GTX 1080 Ti AMP!, 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 newly announced 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.

One of the things we don’t see talked about much is Nvidia’s Ansel technology. This is essentially an in game camera that create images from any angle or position, even 360 for VR.

Being a Pascal card, The Zotac GTX 1080 Ti AMP 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.

 

Overview

If a courier drops off your your new 1080Ti AMP! you might be surprised how big the box is, that’s because the box of the card itself is really quite large, among the largest we’ve seen for a graphics card. Of course all the key information about the card is found on the box, and the card itself is well secured inside a foam outer shell with the card itself sheathed inside a bubble wrap anti static bag for an extra layer of physical protection.

 

 

The accessories list is fairly short, with just a driver CD, setup guide, brochures and 6pin to 8pin power adapters. This is all you need really.

 

 

 

And here we have the card itself. As you can see, the Zotac GTX 1080 Ti AMP! takes a no fuss approach. Personally, we are fans of the subtle approach. Excessive bling on this part of the card just tends to get hidden in most chassis anyway. The card will blend in nicely.

 

Flipping the card over reveals a very solid backplate. It really lends the card a solid construction feel and helps with heat dissipation when the fans are idle. It adds rigidity to the card. something that should not be overlooked with modern very heavy cards.

 

Moving on to the video outputs, We have the full complement of ports you’d expect to see on a 2017 high end graphics card. 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 for a monitor upgrade.

Now, pay attention to the left hand side of the card. We’re told this is a micro USB port and switch used for debugging only.

 

This is the view most folks will see when the card is installed inside a case. The Zotac logo is 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.

 

Being a powerful card with an estimated 270w TDP, Zotac 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.

 

 

Here is the rear of the card. These headers are for the RGB functions of the card. In the case of the AMP edition, only one of these headers are used. The other is likely to be used on the Extreme edition of this card, which has additional RGB lighting as well as the logo on the side like our regular AMP card has.

 

Wow, there’s a PCB! Zotac has has not cheapened out at all here, with a 16+2 phase PWM and GDDR5X memory. Note there are voltage read points at the top of the PCB, but these are covered over but the cooler and shroud. Lets be honest though, voltage read points are mainly for extreme overclockers who will remove the cooler and attach a pot anyway.

 

Zotac have provided an additional heatsink to help dissipate heat from the MOSFETs, which can get quite hot on higher powered GPU’s especially when overvolted.

 

Here’s a look at the GPU die, the GP102 is of course the same GPU that powers the Titan X (Pascal) and Titan Xp. (What’s up with that naming scheme?) This chip has 12 billion transistors packed into it. Quite the engineering feat!

 

Several of Zotac’s recent high end cards have used these large Power Boost Capacitors. These are designed to smooth out power delivery for stability and efficiency purposes. Overall, this is a really strong PCB and its clear Zotac has improved on the Founders Edition in every way.

 

The cooling solution is simple and effective.  We have a nice copper base plate and heatpipes to effectively dissipate heat to the fins. We’re happy to see all the memory chips are cooled as well as the additional memory PWM MOSFETS. The base plate is a touch rough in finish. Maybe a degree or 2 could be saved with a finer finish on the base.

 

 

Firestorm is Zotac’s GPU control app. There are two main tabs, once of which is the Advanced tab and the other is the Spectra tab that we see below. The Spectra tab controls the RGB functionality of the card.

You can also overclock the card, set custom fan profiles and even play around with some advanced settings like display refresh rates and temperature and power targets.

 

Test Setup & Benchmarks

 

Moving 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.

The graphs speak for themselves . The Founders Edition GTX 1080 Ti was already a beast, but the Zotac AMP takes it up a notch again. We think some of these games are worst case, or most difficult scenarios with high res texture packs or just poor coding in the case of Deus Ex. Running a 2017 era game at 60fps+ at 4k is really something, though with a few games you might have to drop a notch of eye candy to get that 60fps. We know many of you swear that 120fps+ monitors are the way to go. A game like The Witcher looks really good at 1440p at high fps. If you want the best gaming experience with the highest FPS in 2017 for a single card, the 1080 Ti is it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temperatures & Noise Levels

Lets take a look at the graph below. The yellow dotted line shows the cards’ characteristics under load when everything is left at auto. The maximum temperature is 75c. At this temp, the fan is at 54%  and the boost clock is 1886Mhz. This compares to a Founders Edition card which was at 84c with 45% fan and a boost clock of 1747Mhz. Despite a seemingly high 54% level, the card remains quiet at this speed. In fact it was still inaudible compared to our CPU cooling radiator. We also must note that the IceStorm 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. We’re confident in saying that the IceStorm cooler improves on every aspect of the FE cooler. Overall the cooler works well, with low noise levels being the more highly weighted characteristic at the expense of temperatures and maximum boost clock.

We’ll add a caveat to that. While the IceStorm cooler performed well. We really would like to have just a couple of degrees cooler temps overall to maintain those maximum boost clocks. If temps can be kept under 70c, we think 1900Mhz+ stable boost clocks are possible. We’ll see how we go once we get other cards in the lab to test. Perhaps we are being harsh.

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 is not silent which can distort the reading. We did record a very quiet idle reading of 30Db with a load of 40Db, which was basically inaudible over the other parts of the system.

 

Overclocking

Most of Nvidia’s Pascal based cards are known to hit 2Ghz, and sometimes a lot more. We’ve really been treated with the stunning clocks that Pascal is capable of. Just a generation or two ago, 2Ghz on air cooling was unheard of, and a pipe dream really. Pascal also has a characteristic where voltage increases are not as useful as they once were. Most cards tend to settle in similar ranges and seem to respond as well to cooling more so than voltage.

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 Zotac GTX 1080 Ti AMP! was able to achieve a peak of 2088Mhz with 65% fan speed which was cooler and much quieter than the reference card. We found 65% fan speed was about the limit for regular usability. Above this speed it becomes quite audible, so we set this as our limit. This kept temperatures to a reasonable 72c maximum. The card did come back from its maximum boost of 2088Mhz once temps rise to about 65c and settled into a reading of 2038Mhz long term above 70c. Ideally we’d like temps to be kept under 70c to keep the boost clock at 2050Mhz and higher, but it wasn’t to be.

Not that we can complain with a fully stable 2038Mhz boost clock, not to mention a nice 10% OC on the memory. 528GB/s!

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

Zotac have taken the already beastly GTX 1080 Ti and made it better in every way. It’s cooler, quieter and faster, with longer lasting boost clocks. What’s not to like? There’s pretty much no reason to buy a Founders Edition card unless you want to fit a water block to it, which will probably be easier to find.

Everything considered, the Zotac GTX 1080 TI AMP Edition is a total beast. 4k or 120hz 1440p? No problem! There’s no such thing as future proofing in the PC world, but we’re quite sure the GTX 1080 Ti AMP will give you several years of elite gaming goodness as well as class leading video capabilities.

This is the first partner card we’ve had in the labs, so we’ll have to wait a bit to see how it compares to the likes of the MSI Twin Frozr, ASUS Strix, Aorus Windforce etc, but we’re pretty confident the Zotac will acquit itself well in the thermal and noise stakes. The cooler is quiet and unless you have a particularly hot environment, it should remain pretty much unobtrusive unless really pushed hard. We think the card looks good, with a touch of subtlety, yet still with the ability to customize the logo to your own choice of color thanks to RGB lighting.

Given what we’re seeing in terms of overclocking on all GTX 1080 Ti’s, it will primarily come down to the acoustics and price. Pascal is not like previous GPU’s where you can just pump the voltage and keep clocking it up. These day’s the OC is pretty much done for you in the form of Nvidia’s GPU boost.

While the GTX 1080 Ti is not at all cheap at around $1239 SGD (cheaper than some of the competitors though),it is not too much 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. The Zotac GTX 1080 Ti AMP Its the fastest card we’ve ever tested. We recommend it.

 

Pros:

It’s a FPS monster

Superb build quality

Top shelf PCB

Video outputs

Good acoustics

 

Cons:

At around $1239 SGD, it is expensive

Can get a bit toasty

 

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