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.
If you’re not familiar with these kinds of guides, you may not know that MSI often ends up right at the top of the lists. Clearly, the company just gets how to make a really nice aftermarket graphics card. Ther MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G is without a doubt the finest take on Nvidias 3080 that we’ve ever seen.
One of the biggest added features is the out-of-the-box boosted clock. The Founder’s Edition of the 3080 came with a standard clock speed of around 1670MHz, but MSI has managed to boost that up to 1815MHz, a huge improvement over the base speeds. There’s also an extra 8-pin power connector to potentially add even more speed through overclocking in the future too.
To manage that extra glut of power, and therefore heat, the card is equipped with the FROZR2 cooling system, and TORX FAN 4.0. Not only does this heating system ensure cool running even under intense loads, but it’s also pretty quiet while it does it. This is the exact same system that’s used in the Ti version of the card as well, so you can be sure it’ll handle a lot of pressure.
The final important note here is simply how sturdy MSI’s card is. As well as the company’s general level of build quality, they’ve also added a metal bracing strap to prevent the card from bending or breaking while you’re installing. This means you don’t have to worry too much about being overly gentle during installation. If there was to be any complaint about this card, it’s that the already-expensive 3080 is taken to further extremes. More than any other card on this list you can expect to pay through the nose to get this GPU. Then again, you get what you pay for.
EVGA has also done an excellent job of optimizing the RTX 3080, adding their own updated cooling system, and squeezing at least a little extra out of the clock too. The most noticeable part of this card is probably the visual design though. As well as various RCB elements to brighten up your case, EVGA also avoided the angular design that is most common on cards these days. Instead, you end up with quite a smooth card that looks a bit more elegant than the majority of GPUs on the market.
Back to the cooling for a moment, the current design EVGA has used is a much-improved version of the cooling in their last-generation cards. Not only is there better coverage between the PCB itself and the heat sync, but the new thermal design has added several air pockets that promote even better thermal flow than previous cards.
Of course, we have to talk about the noise of the card, that’s sort of our entire thing here. Once again, a lot of effort seems to have gone into making this GPU as quiet as possible, even under a lot of stress. Not only does the card feature a 0DB mode for when you absolutely need the quietest environment possible, but you also have access to an asynchronous mode that’s still quieter than full blast, but reduces noise by a fair amount too.
The final important factor is how much of a clock speed boost you’re actually getting. As we mentioned above, the typical speed for a 3080 is around 1670MHz, but the EVGA GPU here gets you up to 1755MHz, which is a pretty respectable increase, even if it’s dwarfed by what MSI has achieved. The only other factor you need to be aware of is the size of this card. It’s the longest card on our list, so be sure to measure it if you want to make sure it’ll actually fit inside your rig before you buy it.
ASUS TUF Gaming Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 OC
ASUS TUF is a pretty recognizable name when it comes to PC components and peripherals, and their attempt at an RTX 3080 aftermarket card shows why so many people are familiar with the company. Not only does this GPU offer a comparable clock speed boost to the MSI card at the top of this list, but it also managed to do it without seeing an insane spike in price at the same time.
Just like the MSI card, the ASUS TUF Gaming Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 OC offers a boosted clock of 1815 MHz, giving you quite an increase in power over the vanilla card you can get from Nvidia. To match the power increase, you also get a powerful cooling system which is perfect for efficient dissipation of the excess heat your overpowered card will likely generate.
Once again, ASUS has managed to produce a card that is whisper quiet, possibly one of the quietest cards on this whole list at that. You can also expect some great quality, but then again it does have TUF right in the name of the brand.
The only real complaint here is that the card doesn’t look all that great. Not only is the design sort of lacking, but also not much has been done to disguise the inner workings, and there are only very minimal RGB elements. Of course, the most important aspects of the card are the cooling and the build quality, plus it’s possible that a better-looking card would probably have cost you more too. Either way, there’s no denying that ASUS focused on the right areas with this GPU, and delivered what a gamer truly needs for a price you’ll be hard-pressed to beat anywhere online.
Next on our list is the Gigabyte RTX 3080 Gaming OC, a great-looking GPU that has also seen a significant boost to its clock speed and cooling. The Gigabyte card looks pretty decent as well, albeit not as good as the more streamlined approach taken by EVGA. It’s very sleek and black and features a tasteful RGB element along the edge so you get the added bonus of looking like you’re into RGB, without coming across like you’re obsessed.
The clock has been boosted to 1800 Mhz, making this the second-fastest GPU on this list. The extra power is being served by the Windforce 3X cooling system, the same system that you’ll find in plenty of other cards by the company as well. Not only should this help to keep your card nice and cool, but with stop-start technology and various spin patterns for the blade, you can be sure that your machine will only ever be as noisy as it really needs to be.
There’s also been a fair amount of changes to the heat sync as well, bringing this card closer to a 3090 in terms of heat dissipation. 7 copper pipes help to reduce heat on the GPU along with a copper plate that is in direct contact. There are also several blades along the length of the device that help to guide the hot air away from the components. As if that wasn’t enough, the card comes with two different BIOS settings, OC and Silent. So if you plan on overclocking at some point you can be pretty sure the fans can keep up.
The final really important note is durability. A lot of work seems to have gone into making sure that the card will stand up to punishment. There’s an incredibly thick backplate, as well as a lot of reinforcement around the PCI slots. Of course, all of that extra armor has made the card more than a little bulky. Aside from the excessive length of the EVGA card, this is probably the largest card on this list, so bear that in mind when you’re planning out your future upgrades.
For the final entry on our list, we have a ZOTAC Gaming card, featuring some of the best value of any card that you’ll find on this list. Unfortunately, it also has the lowest upgrade to clock speed on the list, jumping up to only 1710 MHz, a full 45 Mhz behind the second-lowest card from EVGA. Even so, this card is a worthy addition to the list based on both the price and the build quality.
ZOTAC has also included two separate RGB lightning elements on the card as well. One is found on the back of the card, while the other running along the length and illuminated the ZOTAC Gaming logo. If you’re a fan of cards with plenty of RGB, then this might just be the choice for you.
Cooling-wise you’ll find the IceStorm 2.0 cooling system, featuring similar stop-start tech to the Gigabyte card above that will have the fans completely stop when your GPU temp goes low enough. This, combined with some great thermal design means that the card shouldn’t run hot pretty much ever. Having said that, you may find that the excellent cooling comes at a price, as we discovered the card can be quite noisy when working under heavy load for an extended period of time.
You should also find this card an upgrade to some of the older offerings from ZOTAC, as it actually features 3 DisplayPort 1.4a and 1 HDMI 2.1. So if you’re a fan of dual monitor setups then you’ll find plenty of ports to use. It also enables you to access true 4K gaming as well, which is a nice touch in this day and age.
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.
Whether you’re thinking about upgrading your card or starting a new build from scratch, the price of your GPU can be a huge 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. With the resulting increase in card prices, you’ll be lucky to find a card selling anywhere close to the retail 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 aiming for the best performance you can get, you may end up having to pay a fair bit more, but you may also have to deal with slightly more noise from the more advanced cooling. You should also familiarize yourself with any overclocking that you can do before you buy as well. For instance, the top card on this list would be the best option for someone looking at high-performance at any cost, thanks to the extra 8-pin power socket.
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, but that isn’t always the case. Various cards in the list above are either a lot longer, or a lot bulkier than cards that have seen bigger boosts to their clock speed.
If you’re low on space, make sure that you’re selecting a card that features a more slimline design, or you’re going to have a bad time when the time comes to actually fit your fancy card into your rig. Carefully measure your available space before buying your card, and take into account what ports and slots may be covered by your new card.
And There You Have It
By now, you should be more than ready to make a decent decision about your RTX 3080 card. Whether you’re looking for a card with great value or any card that’ll fit your rig, you should find what you’re looking for thanks to the information in this guide. You can be confident in the build quality of the cards we’ve selected, as well as the performance and cooling upgrades applied to them.
We’ve comprehensively benchmarked and stress tested every card that features on this list. No matter what you want to do with these cards, you can be sure that they’ll work as advertised, straight out of the box. We’ve even used these cards in our day-to-day machines, so you can be sure they’re trustworthy.
If you’re still not sure about your GPU decision, you should check out our other guides. Not only have we covered a variety of graphics cards, but we also provide information for various complete builds. From the lowest budget to the highest performance, you’ll find a guide that’ll help you when it comes to building your dream machine.