MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio review: a silent, lavishly expensive powerhouse

MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio

MSI aim for unsurpassed performance with their top-tier GPUs. That’s why news of a new graphics card having just joined those elusive ranks alongside the peerless Lightning Z is worth paying attention to. It’s the GTX 1080 Ti-based Gaming X Trio – a phenomenal card, but one few will ever need.

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It’s no surprise this bulky behemoth, packed with Nvidia’s top GPU tech, easily wipes the floor with every game we throw at it. Thanks to the adroit Tri-Frozr design, it barely breaks a sweat as it sprints past the competition.

At 4K, the Gaming X Trio scores around one to six fps higher than its reference design sibling. At 1440p, this increases to a five to ten frames-per-second lead. The trouncing continues in the TimeSpy benchmark, where the Trio breezes to a score of 9,852 compared to the reference designs 9,378. All this while maintaining its cool and comfortable composure.

Although Nvidia’s own GPU Boost 3.0 tech carries out a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to clockspeeds, this card also features three different predefined clockspeed profiles, selectable within MSI’s own Gaming App. The standard gaming mode runs at 1,657 MHz boost clock and 1,544 MHz base clock, while the OC mode bumps these up to 1,683 MHz and 1,569 MHz, respectively. With the OC mode active, the Trio nearly breaks the lofty 10k mark in TimeSpy, posting a score of 9,920. In gaming benchmarks, the OC mode allows for slight, yet consistent, bumps in frame rates, around one to four frames at 4K and 1440p.

MSI’s Gaming X Trio also features a silent mode, which, as you might imagine, drops the clocks to their lowest predefined level, in order to reduce noise pollution from your rig. Even operating in OC mode, the incredibly competent cooler keeps the GPU to a frosty peak temperature (for GPUs, at least) of 69°C even under heavy load, with almost inaudible fan use. You have to wonder who in their right mind would bother toggling silent mode.

Speaking of cooler design, MSI have spared no expense in that department for the Gaming X Trio. The gargantuan Tri-Frozr design features three double ball-bearing fans, six square heatpipes connected to a solid nickel-plated copper baseplate on the GPU, wave-curved fins, and a mosfet heatsink for maximum cooling and overclocking potential. The aptly-named Trio’s fans won’t even move a muscle until the GPU hits temperatures over 60°C, allowing for total GPU silence on idle, and even under load in less graphically intensive applications.

But the Tri-Frozr cooler feels nearly over-designed for the job. And, in many ways, this is where my overarching issue lies with the Gaming X as a complete package. Eventually all graphics cards enhancements reach a point of diminishing returns, and the Gaming X Trio is leaping head-first over that dividing line.

It’s not that the card is a failure in any way, shape, or form – it’s remarkably capable. It is a GTX 1080 Ti after all, you get what you pay for – the best consumer graphics anyone can offer. Sure, it can run 4K at exceptional frame rates, and yes, it runs almost silently even under heavy load – thanks to MSI’s latest, and possibly greatest (bar the Lightning), cooler – but so can scores of other third party GTX 1080 Ti cards, albeit to very slightly varying degrees of success.

If you require complete silence while gaming at the topmost graphic fidelity settings, or you downright refuse to cope without all your RGB components syncing up in MSI’s Mystic Light application, then you won’t go amiss with the Gaming X Trio. If you just have money to burn, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any air-cooler that offers greater GPU-chilling potential than an extravagant custom liquid-cooled rig, in which case you can forego the whole fan/heatsink rigmarole altogether.

MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio

If you aren’t one of these very particular users, however, you can save a bunch of your hard-earned cash on any one of a multitude of cards that are similarly priced to Nvidia’s own reference design. An ample number of graphics cards offer vastly improved thermals, with drastically reduced whirring, compared to the reference fare. Only once you are facing that Amazon checkout, credit card in hand, can you decide how much those few extra frames, or few less decibels, are worth to you.

The Gaming X excels at what it aims to do. And that’s mightily impressive. But in the end, this is an extreme card, only necessary for users with bat-like hearing, a hole in their pocket, and very particular needs. For those of us with less restrictive GPU requirements, any half-decent GTX 1080 Ti should be just aboutbearable.