How We Choose And Test Our GPUs
When it comes to finding the best GPUs, there are a lot of different variables to take into account.
Whether it’s vanilla cards straight from the manufacturers, we look into every single option when it comes to choosing the best release of any given GPU. Not only that, but we make sure you have a range of options from the highest-performing, highest-cost cards all the way down to the budget cards designed to be a little less taxing on the wallet.
We thoroughly test every card we recommend. Not only do we put these cards through rigorous benchmarking, but we also use the cards in our work machines and stress-test them to their limit. You can be sure that every card in this guide will not only perform for you but will last you a lifetime too.
Our top RTX 3080 Ti Picks
MSI just seems to know PC gaming incredibly well. From their gaming laptops to their aftermarket hardware, you can count on MSI to produce well-made hardware that has the key features a PC gamer expects. The Gaming X Trio is no exception to this rule.
The MSI RTX 3080 Ti Gaming X Trio 12G is one of the better-looking GPUs on the list, which is pretty common for MSI hardware. So if you’ve got a case with a nice clear glass panel on the side and your PC is conspicuous, then you’ll be able to display it without fear of it being an eyesore. As well as the typical MSI angular design, you get lighting elements in the form of logos to make the inside of your case look fantastic.
As you can probably expect from a card this powerful, it’s not exactly small. It’ll cover at least 3 of your PCI slots once installed and has some of the biggest dimensions amongst cards on this list. Part of the reason for that extra bulk is the monster of a cooling system that’s installed on the card to keep it running smoothly during high-intensity usage. You’ll need it too. With 3x 8-pin power connectors, you’ll be able to shove a lot of extra power through this in the future.
One of the most interesting elements of this card is just how quiet it is. While you’d expect the three fans and excessive power on display here to equal a lot of noise, the included TRI FROZR 2 cooling system and TORX FAN 4.0 help to keep the card as whisper quiet as you can get.
Talking raw specs, you can get 1770 MHz clock speed out of the card straight from the box, which is the highest boosted clock speed currently available on any 3080 Ti. That means that MSI’s card is literally the most powerful form of the card currently available. You also have the standard 12GB of DDR6 VRAM and 10,240 CUDA cores that you’ll also find on all of the other entries on the list as well.
So does it have any downsides? Well, one downside is the sheer size of the card. If you’re going for a compact build or already have a case with too much stuff inside, you may struggle to make this card fit properly. The biggest downside is the price. The 3080 Ti is already an expensive card to begin with, especially right now, and the MSI version is still more expensive. Good design and high power do come with a price, after all.
While the folks over at MSI have been using some form of black magic to coax extra clock speed out of their cards, the team at Gigabyte hasn’t done a bad job either. The founder’s edition features 1665 MHz, while the Gigabyte RTX 3080 Ti Gaming OC 12G has managed to boost that up to 1710 MHz out of the box.
While those gains might seem modest, it does reduce the overall cost of the card when compared to other aftermarket cards in the same area. Basically, you shouldn’t need to remortgage your home to afford one of these. Although you will probably have to sell your liver or something, it’s still a 3080 Ti after all.
On the cooling front Gigabyte’s custom Windforce cooling will help to maximize your heat efficiency while keeping fan noise to a minimum by switching the three fans between an active and passive mode depending on what you’re doing. You can also be pretty sure this isn’t going to break down on you anytime soon. Gigabyte has been going for 35 years so they clearly know what they’re doing at this point, plus they’re confident enough to offer a 4-year warranty. Just be aware that overclocking the card any further will void that warranty, so proceed at your own risk.
The card also has an angular aesthetic similar to the MSI card featured above, although it doesn’t feature any light-up logos to make the inside of your case glow. Then again, that’s what LED strips are for. One other feature that is much more important is the inclusion of two HDMI 2.1 ports rather than one. If you plan on running dual HDMI-based TVs or Monitors, then you’ll have a much easier time here than you would on most cards.
ZOTAC GAMING GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Trinity 12GB
If you’re hoping to not spend too much, then you’re probably looking at the wrong card, honestly. However, the ZOTAC Gaming RTX 3080 Ti is a solid option as it’s on the lower end of the price spectrum for aftermarket 3080 Ti cards. It starts at just over $100 more than the standard Founder’s Edition card straight from Nvidia themselves.
For the extra $100 you do get an improved cooling solution that should help you to get much more out of the card, and keep it running for a fair bit longer as well. The only major downside here is that the cooler isn’t all that quiet. If you plan on running this in an environment where silence is a must, then you should probably start considering a different option.
There’s also the fact that this card just isn’t that much more powerful than the Founder’s Edition. The boost clock is exactly the same as the vanilla version, coming in at 1665 MHz. While that’s not too much of a deal-breaker since it’s only $100 more expensive, it would have been nice to see them push the card a little more.
If you’re after a card that’ll last you longer than a founders edition thanks to improved cooling, then you should go for the Zotac card. It still has decent build quality, and as long as you don’t mind a slightly noisier card, it’ll also last you much longer than spending a similar amount on the Founder’s Edition card.
If you’re into a more minimalistic aesthetic or just want to spend as little as possible on your 3080 Ti, then the Founder’s Edition is the one you should be aiming for. It has the iconic bow-tie design that Nvidia favors in their vanilla cards, and honestly, sometimes having a simple aesthetic just looks better than the over-the-top look a lot of AIB cards go for instead.
It’s a lot more space-efficient than the after-market cards above, so if you’re aiming for a slightly tighter build, then you probably won’t find a better option, at least not yet. Of course, just because it’s the smallest version of the RTX 3080 Ti doesn’t mean that it’s that small compared to a real compact card. The smaller card also carries the issue of worse cooling too.
As you can expect, having one fewer fan than most AIB cards does mean that the Founder’s Edition doesn’t run as efficiently. This means that over an extended period of use you could find that the fine starts to increase in sound, and it probably won’t last you as long as one of the other cards on this list will.
When all is said and done, the RTX 3080 Ti Founder’s Edition is all about economy of size and cost. This card is perfect if you’re low on space or on funds and should just about squeeze into most builds no matter their size, as long as you’re not trying to create a mini-PC to sit nicely on your desktop or under your TV.
Things To Think About
When it comes to choosing a graphics card, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. It can be daunting to make a decision, especially with a card as new as this. With that in mind, we’ve listed some of the elements you might need to take time thinking about before sinking money on your next GPU upgrade.
When it comes to both aftermarket cards and vanilla versions, the cost is an important factor. Newer graphics cards can be horribly expensive, so you need to be sure that you’re comfortable sinking a lot of money into any card that you’re going after. By the same token, if you’re just looking for a card that’s close to vanilla in specs but will last a little longer or run a little harder, there’s not much point heading straight to the high-end of the price bracket.
Make sure that you know what to expect when it comes to the price of your desired card. Right now, the market is almost completely dry all over the world. As a result, card prices have soared, so even if a card has an RRP of $1400, you’ll be lucky to find it for even double that price.
Cooling & Performance
The two biggest areas that are open to change with aftermarket cards are cooling & performance. When a company creates their own version of a new graphics card, they tend to install extreme cooling solutions, as well as configuring the card to run a little quicker than the regular version typically can.
If you’re looking for the absolute best that you can, ensure that you’re looking at the aftermarket cards almost exclusively. The vanilla cards are often the cheapest option, but that’s because most AIBs will have better cooling, improving both efficiency and longevity, as well as better performance in most cases.
Another big factor in choosing your card is the size. Generally, the more powerful a card is, the more space it’s going to take up. With vanilla cards, you’ll usually find the smallest possible form-factor, and that can be important if you’re running out of space in your build before you start upgrading.
If you’re low on space, or funds for that matter, aiming for the vanilla edition of a card is your safest bet. Even if you think there’s enough space in your rig for a fancier AIB card, do the sensible thing and accurately measure the dimensions of the card and ensure you won’t struggle to fit it into your machine. There’s nothing more painful than sinking over $1000 on a new card, only to find it won’t even fit in your machine at all.
And There You Have It
Now that you’ve reached the end of this guide, you have all the knowledge you need to pick your RTX 3080 Ti card. Whether you go for the AIBs or the Founder’s Edition, you can be sure that the cards we’ve talked about will last you a long time and will look great doing it. Even a relative newcomer to PC building shouldn’t struggle too much to wrap their head around the different card options.
All of the cards we’ve put on this list have been extensively tested by our team, and you can be confident that you’re buying a top-quality product. Not only have we benchmarked the cards, but we’ve used them in our day-to-day machines, too, so you can be sure that they’ll survive no matter what you intend to put them through.
If you are looking for advice on your entire build, then you should check out our build guides. We’ve covered everything from the tip-top of the top-range as well as more budget build options than you can shake a stick at. No matter what you’re looking for, you should find a build that suits your exact needs and budgets, and all of our builds come with pre-built machine options too.