Built on the brand new Ampere architecture, Nvidia’s popular RTX 3000 series is finally here and it seems like it has already surpassed the expectations.
As always, there are several versions of the card from different AIB partners and we’re going to see which one has the best RTX 3080 graphics card.
Despite the new naming convention, Nvidia is touting the RTX 3080 as its flagship, which puts the RTX 3090 in the ‘enthusiast’ category. Reviews have pretty much confirmed the rumors and leaks prior to the release, and we can say that the RTX 3080 is a perfect choice for a new graphics card.
Although the RTX 3090 is better performer, we consider that that rough 15% margin over RTX 3080 isn’t nowhere near acceptable when their enormous $800 price increase is taken into consideration.
We’re also happy to report that despite some availability issues upon launch, the RTX 3080 is much more readily available.
Furthermore, the driver problems have also been ironed out to an extent, and getting an RTX 3080 right now is probably the best gaming choice you can make. And yes, that does include getting a next-gen console.
Before we get started, it’s important to point out that Nvidia’s fan-on-each-side design will be exclusive to its Founders Edition cards. This means that the cards you read about today had to have an alternative design. In most cases, it’s been the 3-fan design, which is a tried and test method for GPU cooling.
Now that we got that out of the way, here is the guide for choosing the best RTX 3080 graphics card in 2021.
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- Low fan noise
- Temperature control
- Good performance per dollar
- Low clock speed
- Inferior quality to other third-party cards
About The Card
First up, we have an RTX 3080 GPU from Zotac. Unlike its edition of the RTX 2080, this one is almost identical to the Founders Edition version of the RTX 3080.
Size-wise, it is a little smaller than other AIB cards, but that’s not to say that it’s small. It’ll still have that now standard overhang in the ATX cases.
This is not the only way in which it’s different from the other RTX 3080 cards – it only has two 8-pin power connectors while the Founders Edition comes with Nvidia’s new 12-pin standard.
But, still, Trinity is indeed very similar to the Founders Edition, both in terms of price and power requirement.
Just like the FE (and a few other RTX 3080 cards), Trinity has three DisplayPorts 1.4a and one HDMI 2.1 slot. Some more expensive cards will have two HDMI 2.1 slots, but Trinity’s one will serve just fine at the MSRP.
Zotac used its IceStorm 2.0 cooler for this card and this is probably the reason why its version performs better in the cooling department. The 3-fan design along with a new heat pipe layout have outperformed the FE card. Given the way Nvidia touted its new fan design, this is a massive win for Zotac.
This is an MSRP card, which means that Nvidia’s suggested $699 price tag will be respected. It held Nvidia’s default clock so this card won’t outperform OC variations, but given the performance boost of those cards and their pricing, Trinity is more than a good solution at default price.
In large part due to the Zotac’s IceStorm 2.0 cooler, Trinity is among the top performers temperature-wise.
Remember when we said that Trinity is similar to Founders Edition? Well, for the most part, that is the truth, but where it counts the most, the performance, Trinity outperforms Nvidia’s card, albeit by a slight margin. Of course, it’s still a notch below some of the more expensive RTX 3080 cards but still a good card.
However, the results of benchmarks vary, not only from the other hardware components but also from the benchmarking tool, so take that with a grain of salt.
What is clear is the temperature benchmark. Trinity does outperform the FE, but both still significantly lack behind the cards like MSI’s Gaming X Trio or Asus’ TUF Gaming. Another way that Trinity impresses is the sound, or rather the lack of it. Compared to the FE or TUF, it’s noticeably quieter.
However, the really cool part of this card is its cooler. Zotac is boasting about the ability to individually control the three fans, but unless you’re really into controlling the airflow, this won’t do much for you. Still, it’s nice to have that possibility and you may find it useful when trying to overclock it.
- Superb performance
- Lots of room for overclocking
- Great cooling solution
- Fan noise
About The Card
As expected, Asus came out with its ROG Strix variant, as well as the OC version which we’ll discuss here. It’s been a staple of AIB cards for a while and for a good reason. The sheer clock performance is enough to make any would-be pro gamer salivate, but is it worth the additional cost?
The first thing you’ll notice about the RTX 3080 ROG Strix OC is the size. It’s absolutely massive and one could easily mistake it for an RTX 3090. The usual 3-fan design is present, as well as the actual physical BIOS switch on the card itself, with ‘Performance’ and ‘Quiet’ modes offered. It’s worth noting that there isn’t that much difference between these two modes as far as performance is concerned, but the sound levels will be much more noticeable.
The card has two HDMI 2.1 ports and three DisplayPorts, which was somewhat expected as well.
In comparison to the previous generation’s ROG Strix card, which was pretty big in its right, this model is significantly larger. This might’ve been expected by some, due to RTX 3080’s massive performance upgrade. It’s needless to say that it’s bigger than Founders Edition, but it’s worth pointing out that, although it technically only needs two slots, this is a 3-slot card.
As you could’ve assumed, this card also has three 8-pin power connectors which are necessary for the amount of power required to properly overclock this card.
If you’re looking for the best RTX 3080 graphics card, this is probably the card you should look at. Asus’ ROG Strix version always held a high place in the AIB rankings and this generation’s edition is no different. However, there are some drawbacks.
First and foremost, we need to talk about price. Seeing how there are not a lot of RTX 3080 cards in general at the moment, it’s a matter of time before the current course of over-inflated prices goes down. But, when that happens, ROG Strix OC will likely remain expensive with some speculating by as much as $150.
Of course, as far as performance is concerned, this is the best performing graphics card out there outside of the RTX 3090 space. The 1935 MHz clock is nearly 200 MHz more than the base RTX 3080 FE and other MSRP cards. That alone should be a good indication of its ability.
The great cooling solution leaves a lot of headroom for overclocking, which is strongly recommended if you’re looking to get the best for your money.
The drawback of this 4K 60FPS experience is the fan noise. When running overclocked, the fans can get really loud, but that is something that for the moment will have to be accepted as the price of performance.
- Excellent performance
- Nearly silent
- Graphene backplate
- No BIOS switch for different modes
- Graphene backplate
About The Card
Like any third-party RTX 3080 graphics card, MSI’s Gaming X Trio is a 3-slot card, so be prepared.
MSI made an interesting choice for the backplate as they went with graphene instead of the usual aluminum.
Although MSI does boast that this solution is “4 times stronger and 20 times more efficient in heat dissipation” than a plastic backplate, it’s important to point that this is a marketing trick, as it doesn’t mention aluminum backplates, which is the industry standard.
It seems like it is just a mixture of graphene and plastic. Nothing too impressive.
There is one single HDMI 2.1 port on this card with the standard three DisplayPort 1.4a ports. Although there are cards that offer two HDMI slots, we anticipate that this will not be an issue for most gamers.
According to the MSI’s website, this card is at 323 x 140 x 56mm (12.7 x 5.5 x 2.2 inches) and weighs 1565 g (3.45 lbs) and that puts it among the largest RTX 3080 cards.
We have to commend MSI for taking into consideration that their GPU weighs as much as a laptop, and including an additional support bracket so it wouldn’t sag inside case. On the down side, this does occupy an additional PCIe slot.
Unlike previously talked about ASUS RTX 3080 ROG Strix OC, this card doesn’t have a physical BIOS switch option. It might not be necessary, seeing how other cards with this option perform pretty much the same regardless of the switch.
The fan noise and heating department did show improvements, but that was about it. However, if you have proper case ventilation set up, you shouldn’t be too concerned about this.
First up, we have to talk about the quietness of this card. Among the third-party RTX 3080 cards which are by themselves pretty quiet, Gaming X Trio is very noticeably the quietest. It doesn’t increase RPM until it’s really necessary and, as a result, the fans are nearly silent and can only be heard when you press your ear to the case.
That additional 8-pin connector is able to provide Gaming X Trio a solid power boost which nicely translates into a performance boost. The 1815Mhz boost clock is a solid uptick away from MSRP cards and the numbers back this up.
Compared to the FE card, Gaming X Trio is able to provide anywhere between 2-4% more frames. Although this number may not seem big, when you take into consideration that, in theory, these are supposed to be two equally performing cards, you get a much clearer picture.
Although this is technically a factory-overclocked card, there still is some headroom for additional manual overclocking of both the GPU and the memory. However, this does not yield any particularly impressive results and we honestly wouldn’t recommend doing it.
Finally, this card is an extra $60 from the MSRP of $699 and that might be the biggest obstacle it needs to overcome. If you’re looking at the upper echelon of the RTX 3080 AIB cards, MSI’s Gaming X Trio is probably the card you should be looking at, as it has the best price-to-performance ratio in that range.
- Tremendous overclocking potential
- Excellent cooling solution
- Good clock out of the box
About The Card
The well-known Nvidia partner EVGA comes through with another unique variant of Nvidia’s flagship card. The EVGA RTX 3080 FTW3 ULTRA.
The first thing you’ll likely notice is the ‘wavy’ fan design that is a continuation of EVGA’s alternate fan design that we previously saw in the last generation of cards.
EVGA’s ICX technology has been its signature since the GTX 10 series and it’s been improved with each iteration. The three fans are able to automatically and individually adjust their RPM based on those ICX sensors and thus have better control over the heat.
Another big part of EVGA’s cooling solution is the large copper block that covers both the memory and the GPU and provides easier heat dissipation.
Like most third-party RTX 3080 cards, this one will also take up three slots in your case. If you’re worried about the sagging issues, EVGA was kind enough to provide us with a support bracket that is used to prevent those problems.
It also has three 8-pin power connectors which give this card a power limit of 420W. This is pretty good to know for any would-be overclockers.
With the factory clock already being upped to 1800 Mhz, we can see that there is room to overclock this card. In fact, we won’t even suggest running this card at stock settings but rather go straight-up for the overclocking. The capability is there.
There is also the price tag. At $810, FTW3 Ultra is one of the most expensive third-party RTX 3080 cards out there. Still, for the true enthusiasts who don’t want to pay twice that for the RTX 3090, this is a decent tradeoff.
Getting the EVGA’s FTW3 Ultra RTX 3080 graphics card is probably one of the better choices out there if you’re not looking to splash the cash for the RTX 3090.
Of course, when it comes to overclocking, this is really going to come in handy as temperature control is one of the key aspects of the process. And with EVGA’s Precision XOC, you can manually or asynchronously control the fan speed and easily fine-tune the overclocking.
Due to the newness of the RTX 3080 graphics card in general, it was rather tough to find precise benchmarking performances for all AIB cards, but when compared to the Asus’ ROG Strix OC we previously mentioned, FTW3 Ultra managed to even outperform it in some games.
- Great for overclocking
- Fan noise
About The Card
Gigabyte has come through with yet another stellar Nvidia card. Based on the looks alone, Eagle is surely among the most unorthodox-looking RTX 3080 cards, but that doesn’t stop it from being an excellent option.
The card does come overclocked out of the box, but there’s still room for more if that’s your cup of tea. Gigabyte used its Windforce 3X cooling system for this card and it works extremely well but, more importantly, offers great support for overclocking.
The same cooling system is responsible for good cooling numbers in benchmarks, but that performance comes at a price. The only thing that can be annoying when needing extra cooling is that dreaded fan noise, and Eagle has issues with that.
However, it’s worth pointing out that if you’re playing with headphones or if your case is a bit further from your sitting space, you likely won’t notice the noise.
The beauty of this card is not its looks, but rather the price. This is an MSRP card and with excellent overclocking capability, so it’s more than worth a pickup.
In terms of performance, for an MSRP card, it’s important to outperform the Founders Edition and this is exactly what Eagle does. It has managed to set itself apart from the Nvidia’s variant, in both in-game performance and temperature-wise. Additionally, Eagle manages to go blow-for-blow with some more expensive AIB cards and that is certainly a good sign.
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Which RTX 3080 Is For You?
The overall takeaway from this article is that most of these AIBs are a good choice for both beginners and enthusiasts. Whether you go for MSI, Gigabyte or Zotac, you won’t go wrong.
However if you want the best of the best, you should consider ASUS’ RTX 3080 STRIX. It does come with a premium price, but it is also the fastest and the quietest of the bunch.
For those looking for the best price-per-performance, ZOTAC RTX 3080 Trinity is definitely the way to go.
Keep in mind, MSI’s Gaming X Trio and Gigabyte’s Eagle are also great choices.