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Aorus' GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Edition 8G graphics card reviewed

Flying high

If you've followed Intel's Kaby Lake launch, you'll already be familiar with Gigabyte's Aorus sub-brand. Much as Asus' Republic of Gamers products are meant to put a more gamer-friendly face on products like motherboards, laptops, peripherals, and more, Aorus is where builders will find Gigabyte's flashiest and highest-performance products. The Aorus eagle already appears on laptops, motherboards, and peripherals, and now Aorus is adding a graphics card to its lineup: the GTX 1080 Xtreme Edition 8G.

Readers feeling déjà vu on first sight of the XE 8G (as we'll call it from here on out) are justified, since most of the underpinnings of this card come from the already-superb Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming we reviewed last year. The card's cooler and the fans that move air through it are unchanged from the Xtreme Gaming card. That's a good thing, since Gigabyte's trio of 100-mm overlapping fans is both quiet and effective. Like any respectable modern graphics card, the XE 8G stops its fans at idle for silent running.

At least from the fan side, the differences of the XE 8G are all skin-deep: an RGB-LED-backlit Aorus logo on the side of the card, a cooler shroud that's a couple centimeters deeper than the XG card, a restyled quartet of light pipes above the central fan, and subtle gunmetal-and-orange accents. The taller cooler shroud means the XE 8G is a true triple-slot affair, but its 11.5" (293 mm) length should be plenty ingestable by most modern cases. Builders looking to double up on these cards will want plenty of expansion slots at the ready, though.

Flip this beast over, and the two biggest changes to the XE 8G become obvious. Aorus' engineers weren't content just to cool the GPU from the die side. Instead, the XE 8G comes with what may be a first: a copper heatsink coupled to the back of the card's PCB using a thermal pad. Aorus claims this copper plate can reduce GPU temperatures by 3° C.

Since this is the age of the RGB LED, Aorus also embedded a Technicolor-backlit version of its logo on the XE 8G's backplate.

The XE 8G keeps its forebear's twin HDMI outputs on its front edge for use with Gigabyte's front-panel breakout box for VR headsets. Around back, it offers three DisplayPort 1.4-ready outputs, one HDMI 2.0b output, and one DVI-D output. Pair it with the $30 VR Extended Front Panel (not included with this card), and the XE 8G will end up with three DisplayPort 1.4-ready outputs and three HDMI outputs.

Stripping the XE 8G to its bones reveals the same PCB design as the Xtreme Gaming before it. Gigabyte kept that card's glorious 12+2 power phase design, and it continues to be fed by two eight-pin PCIe auxiliary connectors. Each power plug has an LED above it that'll light up in solid white if a PCIe power connector isn't plugged in. They'll also blink if the card detects a problem with the quality of the power source it's hooked up to. In regular operation, these LEDs stay off.

To carry heat away from the GP104 GPU, the XE 8G's heatsink uses the same large slab of copper from the Xtreme Gaming. This plate makes full contact with the graphics chip and its surrounding GDDR5X memory. This plate doesn't extend to the power-delivery circuitry, but a group of thermal pads ensure those components are still transferring heat to the aluminum fins of the heatsink. Instead of the straight, uniformly tall fin design of many graphics card coolers, the Xtreme Edition's fins have a zig-zaggy shape that's claimed to increase the surface area and potential heat-transfer ability of the heatsink.

Remove a few more screws, and the XE 8G's backplate lifts away to reveal more thermal pads for the power-delivery hardware on the back of the card and the RGB LED hardware for the backlit logo. The copper cooling plate behind the GPU remains attached by way of a beefy thermal pad, and a gentle prying motion is all that's needed to lay the PCB fully bare.

Strangely enough, the thermal pad makes contact with everything but the most prominent circuitry behind the GPU, so far as we can tell. The plate itself is milled thinner in areas where it would otherwise seem to make contact with that circuitry. We'll have to see whether this plate makes any difference to GPU temps during our thermal tests.

  GPU base
core clock
GPU boost
GTX 1080 Founders Edition 1607 1733 2500 8192
Aorus GTX 1080 Xtreme Edition 8G (gaming mode) 1759 1898 2551.5
Aorus GTX 1080 Xtreme Edition 8G (OC mode) 1784 1936 2600
Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming (gaming mode) 1759 1898 2553
Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming (OC mode) 1784 1936 2600

Given how many similarities we've just observed between the GTX 1080 Xtreme Edition 8G and the GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming, it's no shock that the clock speeds of these cards are nearly identical, as well. We wouldn't put too much stock in these numbers, though, since our experience with GPU Boost 3.0 on Nvidia's Pascal chips has shown that the chip will more or less do what it wants with regard to actual clock speed, given enough cooling hardware strapped on top. We'll observe GPU Boost 3.0's actual clock speeds in a moment.

The Aorus GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Edition 8G will sell for $679.99, and it's already listed at Newegg as of this writing. Let's see if its performance is a dead ringer for its Gigabyte sibling's.