The RTX 4080 is here, and you can grab a card now – if you’re fast enough, that is. While the RTX 4080 almost certainly sells like the RTX 4090, that doesn’t mean you should grab the first card you find in stock.
I tested three RTX 4080 models to see if there are any major differences in performance, power, and thermals: Nvidia’s Founder’s Edition design, PNY’s XLR8 Verto Epic-X, and MSI’s Suprim X . While there aren’t any big gaps in performance, more expensive models like the Suprim X can offer slight benefits outside of performance.
RTX 4080 models you can buy today
There are currently a handful of RTX 4080 models, but we might see more variations over time. Aside from EVGA, all the big names offer cards: Asus, MSI, PNY, Zotac, and Gigabyte, to name a few. There are also models from Galax, Colorful, Gainward and Inno3D, although they are not as common in the US.
Here are all the RTX 4080 models we spotted in stock on launch day:
- Zotac RTX 4080 Trinity – $1,200
- Asus RTX 4080 Tuf Gaming – $1,200
- PNY RTX 4080 XLR8 Verto Epic-X – $1,200
- Gigabyte RTX 4080 Eagle – $1,200
- Overclocked Gigabyte RTX 4080 Eagle – $1,240
- Overclocked Gigabyte RTX 4080 Gaming – $1,270
- MSI RTX 4080 Ventus 3X – $1,280
- Overclocked Gigabyte RTX 4080 Aero – $1,300
- MSI RTX 4080 Gaming X Trio – $1,325
- Gigabyte RTX 4080 Aorus Master – $1,350
- Zotac RTX 4080 Extreme AMP – $1,400
- MSI RTX 4080 Suprim X — $1,400
- Asus RTX 4080 ROG Strix — $1,550
While I couldn’t test all 15 models listed above (let alone the dozen or more from other card partners), I still got my hands on three RTX 4080s to compare: Founder’s design Nvidia’s edition, the PNY RTX 4080 XLR8 Verto Epic-X and the MSI RTX 4080 Suprim X. This gives us the reference design, a typical card partner card at list price, and an overclocked model to stack against each other.
Performance and overclocking
There aren’t big performance gaps between the RTX 4080 models, so you don’t have to worry too much about that when selecting a card. Even overclocked models will produce the same performance in most games, as you can see from the table above.
The most expensive card in the line, MSI’s Suprim X, produced half a frame more on average in its stock configuration. When I overclocked all three cards, I saw the same behavior. The PNY card got an extra frame, but it’s not a real lead.
Synthetic benchmarks show larger differences. In 3DMark Time Spy and Port Royal, the MSI Suprim X outperformed the other two models (but only by a maximum of 4%). What’s surprising is that PNY’s card takes last place, even when compared to the Founder’s Edition design.
When pushed with a slight overclock, the Founder’s Edition design actually outperforms the Suprim X, but only by a very slim margin. The PNY card didn’t take overclocking either, giving the Founder’s Edition design a 5% lead over Time Spy.
For my overclock, I pushed an additional 115 MHz to the cores, along with a 300 MHz boost in memory speed. Clock speed has translated, as I’ll explain in a later section, but it doesn’t always show up in actual performance.
While some beefy overclocked models like the Asus ROG Strix might be able to deliver slightly better performance, much of that extra performance comes from the backside of the cooler. In short, don’t be put off by the 5% discrepancy between the Founder’s Edition and the PNY card – it’s a slight difference that doesn’t show up in actual games.
Rather, cards that offer more efficient modes of operation are the way to go. The MSI Suprim X, for example, offers a BIOS toggle for silent and gaming modes depending on what you’re doing. The RTX 4080 rarely hits its 320 watts of power, and my data suggests it’s the slightly lower efficient one.
Power, clock speeds and thermals
The biggest differences between the RTX 4080 models come down to thermals and clock speed, but surprisingly not power. Nvidia has earned a reputation for messy power demands with its RTX 30-series GPUs, but the RTX 4080 is remarkably efficient. Even with a moderate overclock, the card hovers between 280 watts and 290 W, which seems like the sweet spot for efficiency.
Of the three I tested, the Suprim X actually kept the same power draw as stock and overclocked to Cyberpunk 2077, despite higher clock speeds. The PNY model was allowed to boost the most, although those few extra watts didn’t translate into performance.
For clock speed, all three models produced basically the same results. What’s interesting is that even the Founder’s Edition model soared somewhere around 200 MHz higher than the stated boost clock speed. This difference is usually what you’d see with the card’s partner cards, but Nvidia’s proprietary offerings have become more aggressive with factory overclocks in recent generations. MSI’s Suprim X was the outright winner in terms of clock speed, but it’s hard to call that a win considering how close my results were.
Where the Suprim X claims a dominant victory is thermals. Stock and overclocked, it maintained 58 degrees Celsius on my test rig. That’s a 5 degree advantage over the Founder’s Edition cooler design, and easily the biggest difference between the stock design and what you can get with a card partner board.
In generations past, it was worth spending a little extra cash on a factory-overclocked GPU for optimal performance. High-end models of recent generations don’t see a huge benefit from a clock speed boost though, largely due to the way the cards are allowed to boost themselves. For cards like the Gigabyte Eagle and Gigabyte Eagle Overclocked, spending the extra $40 won’t translate to extra performance, so it’s best to focus on the cooler design and clock speed.
Either way, you don’t get a huge increase in clock speed. The Eagle, for example, features a 15 MHz bump over stock. Even the Asus ROG Strix, which is the most expensive RTX 4080 I could find, only comes with a 30 MHz speed boost by default.
The RTX 4080 costs $1,200, and there are plenty of partner cards at that price. The Founder’s Edition design costs $1,200, as does the PNY XLR8 I tested. The MSI Suprim X, however, costs $1,400 and some models can go over $1,500.
For the price, the PNY XLR8 is a great option, assuming you prefer its design to the Founder’s Edition model. PNY offers its own overclocking utility where you can adjust the RGB lighting on the board, adding some flair to your machine.
Spending mostly buys you a nicer cooler. The Suprim X offers a slight performance advantage, and much of it is on the back of the massive cooler. It also comes with the dual BIOS toggle, a metal GPU support bracket, and a mouse pad. These are small additions, but they add up to justify a slightly higher price.
MSI isn’t alone either. The $1,400 Zotac AMP Extreme comes with GPU support, dual BIOS, and even a connector for an external RGB strip. Similarly, the $1,550 Asus ROG Strix comes with a stand, as well as two PWM fan headers, allowing you to set a custom fan curve on the case fans to match your GPU.
These extras are the reason to spend more on an RTX 4080, not extra performance. Unless you prefer extreme GPU overclocking, all RTX 4080 models should perform at the same level.
Which RTX 4080 should you buy?
Most people stick with one of the various $1200 RTX 4080 models available. I’m a fan of the Founder’s Edition design, but I also like the extra lighting on the PNY XLR8. It depends on your budget, however. At $1,200, spending even $50 or $100 more might be a hair’s breadth.
If you can stretch your budget a bit, the MSI Suprim X is a great card. The design is fantastic and it comes with the added benefits you would expect from a top model. The dual BIOS is what stands out for me, as the RTX 4080 rarely needs to run at full speed to achieve peak performance.
The most important thing is to spend more on add-ons from card partners like MSI, Asus, and Zotac, not on higher performance.
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