What is a Z card? If you missed the memo MSI has updated the model nomenclature of its GPUs. Gaming GPUs without a X or Z have no backplate and use basic clock frequencies. The X adds in a backplate, better clocks and an RGB lighting system. The Z has all of this plus a heftier clock. So without further ado, meet MSI’s GTX 1080 Gaming Z graphics card.
It all starts with 3D Mark’s Fire Strike. This GPU manages a score of 15,500 which is a pretty hefty number. It runs graphics test 1 at an impressive. What isn’t so impressive is looking back to a test of MSI’s GTX 1070 Gaming X. Running on an older GPU too. 500 points higher in Fire Strike for that price?
It doesn’t end there though. In benchmarks of Ashes of the Singularity (image in the gallery below), the average frame rate across all batches in 76.2 FPS, compared to the 1070’s 71.4 FPS. It is a tough sell, yet again. A sizeable difference finally appears in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor’s benchmarks, where the average FPS 119.84 (1070) and 163.29 (1080) when running at 2,520 x 1,080. Now that is a much more impressive divide between the two. The max FPS is also much higher, so if you are gaming on screens with crazy refresh rates, this GPU is a match for you.
Light me up
On the outside the card looks very similar to other MSI 10-series cards, thanks to the same dual Torx-fan layout. From behind though, the card looks pretty different. The MSI logo on the backplate can be illuminated, shining out from the inside of your chassis. If you like lighting the 1080 Z has it in abundance, with an illuminated logo on the top of the card, its back and lights around the fans allow you to customise the luminescence of your rig.
Sadly, after seeing the performance that the GTX 1070 offers at around R5,000 cheaper, the GTX 1080 is a hard sell, especially when looking at the gains on the minimum FPS of games like Shadow of Mordor, where a paltry 2 FPS separate the two cards. Unless you have a screen that can showcase a game running at 240 FPS at max, it feels too much like this GPU is a trophy to show off to friends right now, compared to the other options available. The bright lit-up logos on the back and top of the GPU add to this idea that this card is made for someone that needs something to show off, or someone running a sponsored rig for gaming-related activities.
That won’t stop anyone from really, really wanting one though. Maybe when games really take advantage of DX12 we will see games that need high end cards with 8GB memory buffers. Until then, though…