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MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G - Review 2020


It’s been a wild last few weeks in the world of graphics cards, and with the release of the $759 MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G, the hits (mostly) keep on coming. This is MSI’s most extreme version of several RTX 3080 designs, and given the lineage of the Gaming X Trio with previous high-end GPUs, the expected superlatives pile on: The card is huge, it’s brawny, and it packs a hell of a lot of power under its gigantic shroud. While its value proposition may not look as crystal-clear when positioned next to less-expensive, faster (and arguably more elegant) options like the seminal Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition, it’s an irrepressible beast, and the story of this card is one that is common to every RTX 3080 card we’ve tested thus far: If you can actually one, that’s probably the RTX 3080 to buy, if you simply have to be an early RTX 3080 adopter.


Specs Compared: MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G vs. the World

To start, it’s only fair that we compare the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G against Nvidia’s Founders Edition RTX 3080, as well as the “Turing” cards it plans to succeed in the GeForce RTX 20-Series, the RTX 2080 and the RTX 2080 Super

On the specifications front, MSI hasn’t made a whole heap of changes to its Gaming X Trio 10G from the Founders Edition of the RTX 3080, instead opting just to jump the boost clock from 1,710MHz boost clock to 1,815MHz in the Gaming X Trio. We’d imagine this is just the first of many variants, though, with our first hint being the “10G” at the end of the name, which denotes the 10GB of onboard VRAM. It’s not out of left field to assume that at some point MSI might plan to launch cards that carry even more onboard VRAM.

The Gaming X Trio has a bit of OEM flair on its shroud, found on the front-facing side of the card in a single, customizable LED strip that runs almost the entire length of the card. And speaking of length, this card has gotten to spare at a whopping 12.3 inches from front to back. If you were planning on installing this card in anything but an ATX-size case or larger, you’ll either need to upgrade or get creative with how things are organized inside your build. You don’t need a ruler to measure the space you need, but an XXL Philadelphia hoagie.

MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G Top

Now, the tricky part to talk about with this and other third-party RTX 3080 cards. A minor kerfuffle arose in the first weeks of release of the RTX 3080, with reports of some third-party RTX 3080 cards seeing crashes in certain games when the GPU was engaged in boost. An Nvidia driver pushed shortly thereafter seems to have cleared up the issue.

MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G

For those out of the initial loop as that story developed, what looked like it might be a major issue died down with the driver release. Conjecture had it (based on a post from EVGA that detailed its history with one of its FTW-family card designs that was held back from release) that the issues were down to a certain kind of on-card capacitors known as “POSCAPs.”

Without getting too deep into that fast rising and deflating story, the rumors had it that certain RTX 3080 cards using a combination of POSCAPs and MLCC capacitors, or solely POSCAPs, had stability issues that needed to be addressed by the driver. Nvidia issued a statement noting that any given mix of capacitor types was an indication of quality or lack thereof, and that the OEMs collaborated closely with them on the designs. Indeed, while some vendors have made statements that they used all-MLCC designs in certain of their cards, the driver fix seems to have poured oil on the waters of the problem. It’s impossible, outside the realms of computer engineering expertise and very specialized equipment, to pinpoint any firm cause and effect in any of this. We’ll discuss the impact of those drivers in the performance section below, but we can say, they do keep things stable.

Continuing on the discussion of the design of the card, eagle-eyed shoppers are probably looking at the picture below with a bit of trepidation…

MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G Top 2

…as they perhaps should. No, you’re not seeing triple. The MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G requires a staggering eight-pin connectors to get all the juice it needs (it’s rated for a 340-watt TDP), though oddly it has the same TDP/power requirements as the dual-eight-pin Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3080 OC, which uses just two connectors.

MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G Ports

Unlike that card, though, the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G features the same port layout as the RTX 3080 Founders Edition: three DisplayPort 1.4b ports, and just one HDMI 2.1 output. (The Asus TUF card features a second HDMI 2.1 port.) One port from last-generation “Turing” days may be conspicuously absent: the USB-C-lookalike VirtualLink. No VirtualLink here, folks; Nvidia has ditched the port due to lack of adoption, and its board partners look to be following suit.


Let’s Get Testing! Time to Play the Gaming X Trio

So, back to the card on hand. PC Labs ran the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G through a series of DirectX 11- and 12-based synthetic and real-world benchmarks. Our spanking-new PC Labs test rig is Intel-based and employs a PCI Express 3.0, not 4.0, motherboard. It’s equipped with an Intel Core i9-10900K processor, 16GB of G.Skill DDR4 memory, a solid-state boot drive, and an Asus ROG Maximus XII Hero (Wi-Fi) motherboard. All cards below were retested on this rig. Given our tests with the Core i9-10900K and recent Ryzen 9 CPUs, this rig is the best reasonable configuration of the moment in 2020 to cut the CPU out of the equation for frame rates. (Read more about how we test graphics cards.)

For our testing, we focused some of the effort on the esports aspect of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 with games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and Rainbow Six: Siege. We also ran the card through the rest of our new standard benchmark regimen, which tests a card’s abilities to handle AAA games at the highest possible quality settings, as well as how it rides during synthetic benchmarks that stress the card in a variety of ways.

MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G Fans

Also remember that almost every test we run (aside from the esports titles) is done at the highest possible quality preset or settings. If you have a higher-hertz gaming monitor and you’re worried your card might not make the frame-rate grade, it could still be possible with the right card and a combination of lower settings. Not only that, but many of these titles (including Death Stranding, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and F1 2020) have both DLSS and FidelityFX CAS with Upscaling integrated directly into the game. This can mean boosts of up to 40 percent more performance on top, depending on the setting and the card you’re playing with.

And so, onward to our test results. Note: If you want to narrow down our results below to a specific resolution (say, the resolution of the monitor you plan to game on), click the other two resolution dots in the chart legends below to suppress them and see a single set of results. Our new list of AAA titles includes a mix of recent AAA titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 and F1 2020, as well as some older-but-still-reliable pillars of the benchmarker’s toolkit, like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Far Cry 5.

Testing Results: Synthetic Benchmarks

Synthetic benchmarks can be good predictors of real-world gaming performance. UL’s circa-2013 Fire Strike Ultra is still a go-to as an approximation of the load levied by mainstream 4K gaming. We’re looking only at the test’s Graphics Subscore, not the Overall Score, to isolate the card performance. Meanwhile, we also ran 3DMark’s Time Spy Extreme test, which is a good test of how well a card will do specifically in DirectX 12 games at 4K resolution. Finally there’s Port Royal, which is strictly a test for RTX cards right now, measuring how well they handle ray-tracing tasks. (Thus why blank results for the AMD cards on that one.) Also here are a handful of GPU-acceleration tests (Furmark, V-Ray, LuxMark); more details on those at the “how we test” link.

Right off the line, the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G tells a story…one where it’s almost always the winner versus the other third-party RTX 3080 we have tested (the Asus TUF). But, while it’s clearly the faster of the third-party RTX 3080 cards we’ve tested thus far (and to be fair to Asus, that number is now at a whopping ), it doesn’t as consistently beat the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition, or lies in a virtual margin-of-error tie with it, depending on the test. (Of note, the 3DMark tests show a slight loss to the Founders card.) Not by a perceptible enough amount that you’d be able to tell with the naked eye, mind you…just in bench-chart land.

Testing Results: Recent AAA and Multiplayer Games

Now on to the real-world stuff. The following benchmarks are games that you can play. We typically used in each case (for the AAA games) the highest in-game preset and, if available, DirectX 12. The multiplayer-focused and esports titles (such as CS:GO and Rainbow Six) were set slightly below top detail settings to maximize frame rates.

Here the story remained much the same. The MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G is a consistently faster third-party performer than the Asus TUF card, but it traded blows with the Founders Edition RTX 3080, sometimes winning by a few frames, sometimes tying, sometimes a couple behind. Again: Nothing you’d notice outside the granularity of bench charts like these.

Now, here’s the rub: We got in some early testing on this card with the original 456.55 driver that Nvidia pushed when these cards were first released, and on average between Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Far Cry 5 (the only two tests we got done before stability issues forced us to back off until the next driver version was sent out), the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G was performing a few frames faster at each resolution. Not enough to make a substantial amount of difference in your general play experience or be a deal maker, but enough to likely narrow some gaps.

Again, the new driver smoothed out the experience, and we mustn’t make a mountain out of these differences. Even with the new driver, any RTX 3080 level of performance we have seen so far, whether from the Founders card, this MSI, or the Asus TUF, is still revolutionary compared with earlier Nvidia Turing cards, or really, earlier .

Testing Results: How About Some Legacy AAA Titles?

We also ran some quick tests on some oldies-but-goodies that still offer the AAA gaming experience. These legacy tests include runs of Hitman: Absolution, Tomb Raider (2013), and Bioshock: Infinite, the last being a game that has no business still being as well optimized as it is here in 2020.

Though it’s rarely a surprise to see a modern card do so well on games as old as these four, we never get tired of seeing those numbers climb higher and higher every year. On all but Hitman, as you can see, you can do some serious high-refresh play at 1440p. And you’ll get 60fps at 4K, easy.


Overclocking and Thermals: The Beast Hits the Ceiling

We ran a 10-minute stress test in 3DMark Port Royal on the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G, and the card peaked at a temperature of 78 degrees C. That’s just one degree hotter than the ultra-engineered RTX 3080 Founders Edition hit in the same test, which goes to show that maybe the Nvidia card’s advanced cooling system can get matched by brute solutions like the MSI’s three fans when Port Royal is running the card as hot as it will go!

MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G FLIR

When it came time to overclock the card using EVGA’s Precision X1 utility, though, there was little joy in MSI-ville. Normally, our overclocking procedure is pretty straightforward: Start by boosting the core clocks by 100MHz, boost the memory clocks by 150MHz, tweak a little voltage here, a little temperature limit there, and usually, boom, we’re cooking with gas. If that doesn’t work, scale back and take smaller steps. But the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G was having none of it.

Despite our best efforts and the softest of touches, the card would not accept any overclocking profile that would actually affect real-world performance to a point where it could conclusively be attributed to the effect of the overclock, and not just to the general benchmark margin-of-error sway of 1 or 2 percent that you typically see from bench run to bench run. Bear in mind, of course, that the card comes overclocked aggressively out the box from the get-go.

One possibility comes down to the driver addressing the stability issues: Whatever Nvidia had to do in its new drivers to keep the cards stable, it may well be preventing the overclock profile from pushing the card any further than it’s safe to. Now to be clear, we could easily achieve an overclock that would return higher results in isolated tests, but the likelihood of the card enduring through any extended 4K-resolution benchmark quickly fell off as soon as even a 2 percent boost in core and memory clock was applied.

That said: Reality-check time. The card is fast enough on its own, and accelerated out of the box (that’s what the extra cost is for!), enough that the lack of overclocking headroom shouldn’t be a deal breaker. But it’s still something to keep in mind if you were hoping to buy the Gaming X Trio and boost it just a to 100 percent beat the Founders Edition. Tweaking may not deliver much joy. But what you get out of the box should.


Engage Beast Mode! (If You Can Find the Beast)

Got a huge PC case? Got a big budget and an even bigger urge to be an early adopter? Then go for it. The $759 MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G is a fine graphics card that, while slightly pricier than either the $699 RTX 3080 Founders Edition or the $729 Asus TUF Gaming RTX 3080 OC, brings the beast to 4K gaming or very-high-refresh 1440p play. The card is a brute on its own, scored a few outright frame-rate victories, tops the third-party cards we have seen so far, and (taken in a vacuum) is worth the price of entry.

MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio

The problem for the Gaming X Trio, though, is we live in a vacuum, and the $699 RTX 3080 Founders Edition exists…at least in theory. That card is quite a bit more compact, and the performance level is more or less identical. That said, the same thing we noted in the review of the Asus TUF Gaming RTX 3080 OC rings true here: In this market, the best RTX 3080 card is the RTX 3080 card you can actually find on sale. Founders Editions or OEM cards, the RTX 3080 is very hard to snag on real or virtual shelves right now, and that shortage of supply is rumored to continue until at Q1 of 2021, if not beyond that point.

If it turns out the Gaming X Trio 10G version is the only RTX 3080 you can find, you can rest assured that you’re leaving nothing on the table (except, presumably, another $60) by opting for it. Just check your power supply leads first for the three you’ll need, and perhaps be prepared to move your PC into a roomier chassis to make room for a monster.

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