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Out-of-the-box performance
If you're looking for an in-depth idea of how the GTX 1080 performs in our "Inside the Second" testing, be sure to head over to our original GTX 1080 review. We won't be repeating that in-depth testing here. Instead, we'll be relying on the built-in benchmarks in Rise of the Tomb Raider and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The average-FPS numbers these simple tests produce are more than sufficient for revealing any performance differences between these custom cards.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
To put Shadow of Mordor to the test, we used the game's Ultra preset at a variety of resolutions. Click on the buttons beneath the plot to see how our test stable fared at each one.

Well, no great surprises in this older (but still demanding) title. The Aorus card comes out on top, but the differences between these stock-clocked GTX 1080s are only a few frames per second.

Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the
Tomb Raider is a recent, quite demanding title from our current graphics testing suite. We ran the game's built-in benchmark on our test suite of cards with the following settings:

Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn't do much to set our test suite apart, either. Let's see if some non-gaming performance measures can put some light between them.

Noise levels
Now that we've seen how each of the GTX 1080s in the TR labs performs, let's take a look at how loud they get while doing it. Since all of the cards we have on hand (even the Founders Edition) are semi-passive, we're only reporting load numbers. The noise floor in my testing area is about 31 dBA.

The GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming was already one of the quietest graphics cards we've ever tested in the TR labs, but the Aorus Xtreme Edition turns in an even better result. One of the reasons for that roughly two-dBA decrease is that the Xtreme Gaming card has a prominent coil whine, while the Aorus only has a mild hint of high-frequency power-switching hardware doing its thing. That buzz was my only complaint about the GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming's noise signature, and it's nice that the company was able to dampen it this time around. As expected, the Asus card is slightly louder than both the Gigabyte and the Aorus, and the Founders Edition card is the loudest of them all.

Thanks to its reduced coil whine, the XE 8G only emits a hint of fan noise even on a test bench. We may have gotten an especially good sample in this regard, but it's still quite impressive to get as much gaming power as the XE 8G offers with as little noise as it produces. The Xtreme Gaming card doesn't exhibit much fan noise, either, but its coil whine mars an otherwise fine performance. The Asus Strix cooler produces a buffety, moving-air noise character, while the GTX 1080 FE emits a noticeable hiss. If you want quiet, the Aorus card is the way to go in this group.

Power consumption

At idle, our X99 platform is responsible for the vast majority of the power draw we measured, and there are only small differences between the custom graphics cards we have on hand. Fire up the Unigine Heaven benchmark, however, and clear differences emerge between the custom cards we have on hand. The Founders Edition card draws the least power of our stable, but the difference between it and the power-hungry Xtreme Gaming card is still just over 30W. Given the slightly greater performance the custom cards offer, we think that's a fair enough trade.

GPU temps and observed clock speeds
As I noted in the intro of this review, Nvidia's GPU Boost 3.0 feature makes the back-of-the-box clock speeds on these cards somewhat misleading. The latest gen of Nvidia's dynamic-voltage-and-frequency-scaling tech will happily push clocks nearly to the limits of what can be achieved with a given chip and cooler, even approaching the limits of what's possible through manual overclocking.

The GPU Boost 3.0 algorithm tends to push clocks to an extreme peak speed before settling on a lower frequency after sustained use, so we ran the Unigine Heaven benchmark for 10 minutes before observing clock speeds and taking temperature measurements.

Since the Aorus and the Gigabyte cards share essentially the same cooler, it's no surprise that they settled on the same clock speed under sustained load: a solid 1987 MHz. The Asus Strix settled at 1974 MHz. Thanks to its 82° C thermal limit, the Founders Edition card cycled between an 1885 MHz low and a 1923 MHz high, with occasional short bursts to 1949 MHz. All of these speeds are far in excess of their manufacturers' specifications, but the custom cards have an easier time of sustaining their boost speeds compared to the Founders Edition.

Surprisingly, though, the Aorus card runs a few degrees hotter than its Gigabyte Xtreme Gaming counterpart. The Gigabyte card is the unquestioned leader of the pack, while the Aorus and the Asus cards are trading blows. Given Aorus' claims about the spiffy copper backplate on the Xtreme Edition 8G, we were expecting better cooling performance than the card delivered here. The XE 8G's clock speeds don't seem to suffer for the extra heat, though.

Now that we've seen how each of these cards performs at stock settings, let's see how much performance remains to be tapped from each one through manual overclocking.