The GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card has been the go-to solution for gamers looking to play at the higher resolutions with eye candy turned on. Everyone who is anyone has had a go at producing a decent GTX 1080, so we've taken a closer look at the offerings from, amongst others, Asus, Inno3D, MSI, Gigabyte, EVGA, and Palit. Now, another contender steps up to the plate. Enter Aorus.
Aorus is a name more commonly associated with gaming laptops and, just recently, premium motherboards. If the look and feel of Aorus seems familiar, it's because the company is a subsidiary of Gigabyte, though there's more of an enthusiast vibe surrounding it. So an Aorus GTX 1080 Xtreme ought to be right up there with the fastest on the market.
And here is the beast. Notice anything familiar? You should, because it is based on a Gigabyte card of the same basic design. Both share massive cooling that takes up the best part of three slots.
Why so much on a GPU that isn't particularly power-thirsty, you might ask? Aorus clearly believes in the bigger-is-better philosophy for keeping the underlying Pascal chip and, just as importantly, the associated memory and VRMs cool.
This behemoth uses a trio of 100mm fans that, if you look closely, overlap each other, thus helping explain the taller-than-normal height. Such closeness is, according Aorus, there 'to concentrate and enlarge the airflow on the whole heatsink for the most efficient heat dissipation.' This stacking is made possible by having a steeper inside part of the fan and a shallower outer angle. Interestingly, the middle fan spins in the opposite (anti-clockwise) direction to the other two. Again, according to the company, this increases airflow by up to 23 per cent. Bracing the lot is a centralised section whose four strips light up in the RGB colour of your choice.
Underneath the fans is a complicated array of angular-fin heatsinks pierced by six thick heatpipes. The dense array meshes with a slab of copper that makes good contact with the GTX 1080 GPU, and though the heatsink design is such that the copper doesn't extend on out to the memory and VRMs, Aorus adds in heatsink-to-component pads for some heat transfer.
We'd want some tasty frequencies if there's cooling en masse. This Xtreme card chimes in at 1,759MHz and 1,898MHz base and boost, respectively. There's an OC mode available through the accompanying utility that pushes speeds up a notch, to 1,784/1,936MHz. If we look across all the air-cooled GTX 1080 cards reviewed to date, the Aorus is in the top three. And we like the fact that Aorus has increased the memory speed, too. As standard, it rises from 10,000MHz to 10,200MHz. The OC configuration increases this to 10,400MHz.
Additional power phases usually translate to stable performance when pushing the GPU. In a world where bigger is better, this Xtreme ships with a 12+2-phase arrangement, meaning the PCB is wholly custom. The card measures just under 12in and weighs well north of 1kg.
Four areas get the RGB LED treatment. We have already spoken about the brace. Add to that the big Aorus logo on the side, a small fan-stop section to the right - indicating, quite simply, that the trio of fans are switched off at low loads - and the large Aorus symbol on the back.
The reference card makes do with a single 8-pin power connector. That simply won't do for the Aorus, so it adds a second for good measure. And as a basic troubleshooting guide, a couple of white LEDs are visible when the power connectors are not present, blink if there's a problem with the power supply coming in, and remain off if everything is as it should be.
The card is big but reasonably standard thus far; a couple of factors do separate it from most we see. The first is a full-coverage metal backplate that has another copper block bolted through it. The premise here is that others ignore the fact the card becomes warm at the back. A combination of a full-contact metal plate (attached to the PCB by screws and thermal tape) and block is reckoned to reduce GPU temperature by a further 3°C.
The second point is expanded display possibilities. The rear is pretty standard, with a trio of DisplayPort alongside HDMI 2.0 and dual-link DVI. An additional two front-mounted HDMI ports are there to service the needs of VR, and if connected, automatically disable a couple of rear DisplayPorts. The idea is that, connected to an optional breakout box on the front of the PC, it becomes easier to hook-up a VR headset.
It's worth pointing out that this £680 ensemble is backed by a four-year warranty once you have registered on the site. Aorus has gone down the route of 'throw the kitchen sink' at the GTX 1080. Let's see how well that pans out in a slew of benchmarks.