As with any graphics card generation, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 arrives along with a cavalcade of aftermarket graphics cards, led by this MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio, which should be one of the best models for serious enthusiasts that want to push the new GPU as far as it can go.
Retailing at $749, this is a graphics card with a hefty $50 premium over the Founders Edition, but what you're paying for is a completely new cooling solution, with three massive fans and a graphene backplate that will help wick away excess heat. You're also getting an extra 8-pin PCIe power connector, which will allow serious overclockers to bump up the voltage to unlock even more performance.
We tested the MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio at stock settings, not overclocking out of interest of time, but do stay tuned for a fully-featured RTX 3080 overclocking smackdown in the coming weeks. Even with the out-of-the-box settings and fan curve, MSI did beat out Nvidia's Founders Edition when it came to raw performance, though maybe not quite as much as some were hoping.
When it comes to 4K gaming performance, this MSI graphics card beat the Nvidia RTX 3080 Founders Edition by about 7% in most 4K game benchmarks, though the differences are much more minor in synthetic benchmarks like 3DMark Time Spy Extreme. In that test, MSI's beefy cooler and overclock only pushed its card to a 3.5% performance advantage. That's definitely an advantage, but not really a big one.
As far as how this card performs against its Turing equivalent, it's an absolute behemoth, beating the RTX 2080 Founders Edition by as much as 90% in Horizon Zero Dawn at 4K with the Ultimate Quality preset. We've already praised the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 for giving the biggest generational leap for graphics in years, but aftermarket cards like the MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio look like they're going to take that to the next level – and that's before we start tinkering around with overclocking.
This is the system we used to test the MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X (16-core, up to 4.7GHz)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Masterliquid 360P Silver Edition
RAM: 64GB Corsair Dominator Platinum @ 3,600MHz
Motherboard: X570 Aorus Master
SSD: ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro @ 1TB
Power Supply: Phanteks RevoltX 1200
Case: Praxis Wetbench
This is largely due to the architectural improvements that Nvidia made with Ampere. We've explored this way more in depth in our full RTX 3080 review, but the spark notes is that Nvidia made it so that both datapaths in the Ampere Streaming Multiprocessor (SM) can handle FP32 workloads, so the company was able to double the CUDA core count in each SM. On top of both doubling RT core count and speed and the faster GDDR6X memory, the RTX 3080, along with the rest of the Ampere lineup brings a truly new generation of GPU performance to the table.
This MSI card adds to that with more robust power delivery – right out of the box it consumes 341W to the Founders Edition's 321W – and one of the beefiest coolers you'll see in a modern graphics card. Measuring 12.71 inches long and 2.2 inches thick, this is a 2.5-slot monster that you will absolutely need to make sure your case can actually accomodate. Folks with more stylish small cases especially will have to make sure they can handle the sheer girth of this graphics card.
MSI does include a graphics card bracket, however, so if you're worried about GPU sag – and with this card you should be – you should install that. There are instructions included in the box.
Speaking of those instructions, rather than a boring little card with a URL leading to a "quickstart" PDF, MSI includes an adorable comic with Lucky the Dragon teaching would-be upgraders how to install a graphics card. It's likely that the people buying this behemoth of a graphics card would already know how to install a GPU, but this has to be the most user-friendly instruction booklet we've ever seen included with a graphics card, and for that we have to give credit where it's due.
The actual graphics card itself is decidedly not cute, however. The triple-fan shroud has a gunmetal gray color scheme to it, with one long RGB strip running along the PCB. This RGB probably would have looked a lot better if it was running along the entire fan shroud, and kind of looks like it was added on as an afterthought. The card looks a lot better when the lighting strip is disabled, which is good because the lighting just kind of shut itself off when we opened HWInfo for some reason.
This aesthetic does kind of fit the audience MSI is going for here, though: hardcore GPU enthusiasts that are looking to overclock their graphics card to get as much performance juice as they can out of it.
Buy it if...
You're going to overclock your graphics card
The MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio is more than equipped for overclocking, with a massive cooler and more robust power delivery than Nvidia's Founders Edition card. If you love tinkering with clock speeds, this is the card for you.
You want the best cooling solution
With a triple fan configuration, along with an absolutely massive heatsink with plenty of room for airflow, this is probably the best cooling solution you'll find in a 3080 until you start wandering into really high-end aftermarket cards.
Don't buy it if...
You're not going to overclock
While out of the box it delivers 7% added performance in some games, that's not really enough extra power to justify the added $50. Especially when the Founders Edition has such a good cooler this time around.
You have a small PC case
Because this card is so long and thick, many PC cases will simply be incompatible. Only people with full tower or larger mid-tower cases will be able to install this graphics card. Make sure to measure your case before you hit that buy button.