Gigabyte's GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming is the first custom card of its ilk that we've tested. That's a tough mantle to carry, but Gigabyte's effort impressed us in almost every regard. The Premium Pack version of the card that we received comes with useful add-ins that make the card more friendly for PCs that will power VR headsets, as well as an HB SLI bridge that could be as much as $40 on its own. Those are compelling add-ins for a card that costs the same as the GTX 1080 Founders Edition.
Nothing in this world is perfect, and the Xtreme Gaming card exhibits some coil whine under load. That said, the coil whine should be mostly dampened by any good case, like the Cooler Master MasterCase Maker 5 I used for noise testing. The card's two-and-a-half-slot cooler could make it a tight fit in smaller cases, and running a pair of these babies in SLI could be a cooling and clearance challenge for the brave few who will try it. A motherboard with widely-spaced primary PCIe slots (plus an appropriate HB SLI bridge) seems like a must for that purpose.
By almost every other measure, however, this card is sublime. Despite the hot-clocked GP104 GPU underneath its hefty cooler, the Xtreme Gaming remains remarkably quiet under load. It's probably the quietest air-cooled graphics card I've ever used. The Xtreme Gaming cooler also keeps the GP104 GPU quite chilly—in my test system, the card didn't exceed 66° C under load despite its serene noise character.
This GTX 1080 unsurprisingly offers a considerable boost in performance over Gigabyte's GTX 980 Ti G1 Gaming, and its observed boost clock speeds are quite a bit higher than Nvidia's reference specs for the GTX 1080, too. During our overclocking attempts, the Xtreme Gaming's power-delivery subsystem and cooler didn't pose any obstacles in taking the GP104 silicon on board to its outer limits. We may not have hit the jackpot in the silicon lottery with this particular GP104 chip, but the Xtreme Gaming card and its accompanying software seem to offer all the knobs one might want for probing the limits of Pascal.
The styling of Gigabyte's top-end cooler will probably be the most divisive thing about this product. Honestly, if I were spending $700 on a graphics card, I would want it to make a statement like this one does. The Xtreme Gaming's extensive RGB LED lighting, large logos, and bold color scheme will all speak loudly and clearly to your card of choice through a case window, and it'll do so whether it's installed in a traditional case or in showier designs like Thermaltake's Core P3 or Core P5.
It's early in the life cycle of Pascal, but the GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming's superb performance, excellent noise character, high-value add-ins, and aggressive style make it an easy Editor's Choice. If you're going to drop $700 on a GTX 1080, this card should be high on your list.