ASUS GTX 1080 & GTX 1070 STRIX OC Review
Believe it or not, NVIDIA’s GTX 1080 was announced more than a quarter year ago and since then we’ve seen a steady launch cycle of custom versions. The same can be said of the GTX 1070, a slightly lower end card the still provides an almighty performance per dollar uppercut. While actually finding these cards in stock has proven to be a lesson in futility –be it due to manufacturing constraints or popularity or a combination thereof- they remain two shining examples of what is being done to widen NVIDIA’s lead over an increasingly complacent AMD.
Within NVIDIA’s stable of board partners there’s a continual rush to capitalize upon the inherent popularity that comes alongside a virtual monopoly. This has led to a wide range of options for gamers to choose from but een amongst this cornucopia of choice, ASUS’ STRIX series has remained at the forefront among many potential buyers. Simply put, their cards are known for offering high performance and good overclocking headroom while remaining quiet and tastefully appointed. In this review I’m getting the two-for-one special: the ASUS ROG GTX 1080 STRIX OC and ROG GTX 1070 STRIX OC.
While I’ve reviewed quite a few GTX 1080’s the STRIX OC is actually the fastest I’ve come across, quicker even than the massively powerful MSI Gaming Z. Weighing in with a Boost speed of 1936MHz, it surpasses pretty much every competitor even though pricing remains quite fair at $719, just $20 more than the Founders Edition and $30 less than MSI’s competitor.
The GTX 1070 STRIX OC is very much in the same position as its big brother: it is among the highest-clocked GTX 1070’s on the market and yet holds a mere $10 premium over NVIDIA’s Founders Edition. It is also clocked higher than the ridiculously large Zotac AMP! Extreme I reviewed a few weeks ago and costs $10 less. ASUS’ pricing structure is very, very competitive this time around though their marketing slogan of “outshines the completion” really does make you wonder about these cards’ focus.
Now one thing to take into account here is the “OC” moniker on each of these cards since ASUS offers two versions of each: the slightly overclocked STRIX and the STRIX OC with the latter commanding a higher price but also utilizing increased speeds. Both also happen to include ASUS’ three-phase frequency control which can be done from within the GPU Tweak software; Silent Mode optimizes acoustics, Gaming mode blends overclocked speeds with still-quiet fan speeds and the OC Mode (which is being used for performance testing here) prioritizes performance over all else.
Now let me preface the rest of this review with a little caveat; I don’t typically roll two graphics cards into one review. With a yawning chasm of nearly $260 separating the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 STRIX OC, these GPUs aren’t even playing in the same league but there are also some striking similarities. They both use the same cooler, software, PCB and features with the only real differences being the PWM layout, memory choice (GDDR5X versus GDDR5) and core being used.
While similarities abound, there’s absolutely no corners being cut on either of these cards. Since they’re representative of “flagship” products within their respective ranges, the STRIX OC editions receive the latest and greatest of ASUS technology.
What’s first visible to anyone is the matte black, stealthy dual slot heatsink shroud that’s denude of any colored highlights. Rather than adding any preset color, ASUS has decided to utilize tastefully integrated LEDs which can be customized to the hue of your choice. However, don’t let looks deceive you; at 11.75” long these aren’t compact cards by any stretch of the imagination, though they are significantly smaller than options like Zotac’s AMP! Extreme.
That heatsink design is an interesting one sine it incorporates the third generation of ASUS’ DirectCU technology which allows the flattened heatpipes to make direct contact with the GPU core. Its use atop small, compact 16nm dies has proven to be a bit controversial since there’s a very good chance some of the heatpipes won’t completely touch the core itself. However, ASUS’ engineers have worked their magic and there shouldn’t be any cooling issues with this generation…..we hope.
Sitting atop the heatsink is a trio of 80mm fans with patented Triple Wing Blade designs that are supposed to increase static pressure, reduce noise and boost airflow.
In an effort to differentiate these from a long and quickly-expanding list of competitors the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 STRIX OC have something unique: a pair of 4-pin PWM fan headers. These are tucked away on the PCB’s back edge and are a bit tough to access but their role is an interesting one. The idea here is to plug in system fans so they can be controlled via the card’s built-in controller and run in parallel with the STRIX OC’s built-in cooling system. In theory this should allow for a more silent system since the primary fans (those on the GPU and case) will only need to spin up if the graphics core hits higher temperatures.
Around back, one of the major differences between the GTX 1080 STRIX OC and GTX 1070 STRIX OC can be seen. While both are assembled using an advanced fully automated fabrication process and use ASUS’ Super Alloy Power II components (long life capacitors, quiet chokes and other overclocking-friendly items), their actual PWMs don’t have much in the way of similarities. While the GTX 1080 has an 8+2 phase layout due to its more power hungry core and memory, the GTX 1070 on the other hand uses a slightly more simplified 6+1 phase layout.
The most apparent hint of those differences lie within the small cut-outs on each card’s backplate. This is where the POSCAPs are located and while the GTX 1080 receives a full twelve, the GTX 1070 only has three of them.
The other cutout on the backplates is the usual voltage readout area. We’ve been seeing these for some time on ROG cards but I really have to wonder what their actual usage statistics are. Other than some extreme overclockers, there’s just no way most gamers would carte about hardware-style voltage read points since much of this information is contained within ASUS’ own GPU Tweak software.
Power input is accomplished in different ways as well. Whereas the GTX 1080 STRIX OC receives a 6+8 pin layout, its little brother has a single 8-pin. Both are tucked far back under the heatsink which makes accessing them in cases with inverted ATX layouts a royal pain in the ass.
The main I/O plates actually don’t follow NVIDIA’s reference specification. Instead a single dual link DVI, three DisplayPort 1.4 and one HDMI 2.0, ASUS has removed a DP 1.4 output and replaced it with an extra HDMI 2.0.
The STRIX OC’s lighting zones are tastefully integrated into both the heatsink shroud and backplate. In the latter’s case, there’s an illuminated ROG logo and nothing else while the topside receives a few linear strips that act as highlights.
The lightshow is controlled with ASUS’ stand-alone ROG Aura utility which could –in theory at least- also handle the Aura lighting on supporting motherboards. However, seeing it as a stand-alone program is a bit disappointing since board partners like Zotac, EVGA and MSI have all integrated this functionality directly into their respective control software. ASUS on the other hand keeps this application separate from GPU Tweak.
The options here are quite straightforward with a simple on / off slider, different effects, a full RGB spectrum selector and a few additional features. The one thing missing are separate controls for the front shroud and backplate logo LEDs.
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