Several weeks ago, NVIDIA launched the “crown jewel” of the GeForce line, GTX 1080 Ti(tanium) in the “Founders Edition” variant. As promised, custom boards were to follow over the “next couple of weeks”. MSI, known Taiwanese vendor of graphics cards unveiled custom versions of the 1080 Ti, featuring not just a custom heatsink option, but a custom PCB as such.
The line-up consists out of several cards, starting with the Aero card, which comes with a simpler heatsink and the PCB. The MSI 1080 Ti Aero card comes with a blower-style cooler to bring its price as close to MSRP as possible. Second one is known as 1080 Ti Armor, followed by Gaming X, Sea Hawk and Sea Hawk EK.
All boards above Aero feature MSI’s in-house designed board, equipped with a dual 8-pin PCIe power connectors and an 8+2 phase design. This design can take 375 Watts, 20% more than the “Founder’s Edition” cards from NVIDIA. On the downside, MSI board is very wide and it won’t fit in chassis with low horizontal clearance, so forget about super-powerful mini-ITX builds. This PCB powers Armor and GAMING X boards, featuring Twin Frozr VI cooler equipped with two Torx 2.0 fans.
MSI went away from NVIDIA’s reference design by increasing the number of outputs as well – there are two DisplayPorts and two HDMIs, and a DVI-D – which was thrown out from the Founders Edition. This means that Virtual Reality fans can directly plug their HMDs into the card.
If you are looking for silent but powerful PC build, MSI has two liquid cooled models; Sea Hawk and Sea Hawk EK. The first one is a result of partnership with Corsair, where a user purchases the complete AIO loop for the GPU using corsairs Liquid + blower fan design. Sea Hawk EK can be constituted as the one for DIY and System Integrators, as it brings a custom EK heatsink with a full warranty on the board. If you’re looking to build a custom loop system, MSI Sea Hawk EK just may be the safest way to keep the warranty on the board and enjoy in all the benefits that a custom loop design brings.
The only real negative about the Sea Hawk and Sea Hawk EK are that the designs are dual-slot due to the included DVI port. Going into the future, it would be really good to see single-slot design on such a powerful card, as this would liberate a PCIe x1/x4 slot that is typically hidden by a dual slot design. Compact 1080 Ti + PCIe SSD + 2nd 1080 Ti for an ultimate gaming or prosumer rig?
Last but not least, MSI’s Gaming App is now supporting the 1080 Ti line-up, enabling its users to unlock extra performance, or keep the card silent during light use in one click. Users also receive full LED control over all the RGB LED’s on the boards in question.