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MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC Review

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC Review

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review GeForce RTX 2080 review 04The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC is the first time we’ve seen a board partner version of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080. That’s a big deal – because it means that this card will serve up overclocks, exciting design and new features. However, the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC costs £800 in the UK and $799 in the US. Read our MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review to find out if it’s worth the investment.

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC Review – The Card

The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC looks the part. The heatsink on the front-facing part of the card is made from black and gunmetal plastic. At the rear the card is coated with a huge slab of metal decorated with the Duke and MSI Gaming logos.

More MSI branding fills the plastic on the narrower top edge of the card. Underneath all of the plastic and metal, the copper heatpipes and heatsink has been coated with nickel. That’s so they can match the colour scheme used elsewhere on the card.

While it’s a little disappointing that MSI uses some plastic in the Duke’s construction, build quality is excellent, with no give or flex in any of the materials.

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review GeForce RTX 2080 review 13There’s a potential downside to the Duke’s high-end design: size and weight. This card is 314mm long, weighs 1.1kg and is a little wider than a conventional two-slot design. That could cause issues: the card’s length may cause conflict with hard disk cages in smaller cases, and its wider construction could mean that other expansion cards are trickier to install.

The 1.1kg weight could also put unnecessary strain on PCI-Express slots. However, we’re glad that MSI has addressed this by including a bracket in the box. It installs easily, and takes the weight of the card – so your PCI slots won’t snap.

Three 90mm Torx 2.0 fans chill the Duke. MSI’s upgraded fans have alternate blade designs: one blade is apparently designed to accelerate airflow, while the next blades can allegedly do a better job of pushing that air downwards, to the heatsink.

As usual on Nvidia’s latest cards, the three fans don’t always run – they’re programmed to stop spinning if temperatures are low enough.

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review GeForce RTX 2080 review 02And, as usual on a modern graphics card, you get RGB LEDs. The Duke logo on the edge of the GPU can be illuminated along with a row of lighting just underneath. As usual, the lights can be programmed to use individual colours of any shade – or one of dozens of different lighting patterns. The MSI Mystic Light app controls the lights. The lights can also be synchronised with compatible products from other companies – including Corsair, SteelSeries, Razer and Cooler Master.

That’s not the only software that works with this card – there’s MSI Afterburner for clock tweaks. It’s a bit fiddly, but it’s still one of the better graphics card companion apps around.

At the rear of the card you get the usual eight- and six-pin power connectors – the same as the Founders Edition card. Those two connectors still provide enough power, even though the MSI version of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 has a 245W TDP that’s 20W higher than Nvidia’s reference version of the GPU.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti review Zotac GeForce RTX 2080 Ti review RTX 2080 Ti review GeForce RTX 2080 Ti review 08The extra electrical oomph is required because MSI has added an overclock to the Duke version of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080.

While the RTX 2080’s base clock of 1,515MHz remains the same on this card, MSI has taken the normal Boost clock of 1,710MHz and improved it to 1,845MHz.

Elsewhere, the RTX 2080’s specification remains the same. You get 8GB of GDDR6 memory clocked to an effective speed of 14Gbps. At the rear you get the same outputs as the Founders Edition – three DisplayPort 1.4a, 1 HDMI 2.0b, and one USB-C. The card has the same 8+2 phase power design as the Founders Edition unit.

You get the usual 2,944 stream processors and 13.6 billion transistors. And, of course, there’s the Turing architecture – with its various benefits to integer, floating point and shader operations. They’re all bread-and-butter aspects of gaming performance these days, so any boosts are welcome.

As usual, though, you also get the Turing architecture’s new features. On the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, that means 46 RT cores for Ray-Tracing and 368 Tensor cores for AI-powered super-sampling.

That’s great on paper but, by now, everyone knows the situation. Ray-tracing sounds great, but it relies on developers to actually support the technology in their games – and that’s the issue. That number of supported gamews does include Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assetto Corsa Competizione, and it’s coming in Battlefield V, Control and MechWarrior 5. However, more developers need to get on-board in order for this new technique to have an impact.

Similarly, AI-powered super-sampling is another exciting feature that isn’t ready for prime-time. It has even less game support than Ray-tracing right now because it needs to be coded by developers and by Nvidia engineers. It might improve performance dramatically – but it’s an unknown quantity right now. Around twenty-five developers have announced support for games including Shadow of the Tomb Raider, PUBG, FF XV and Hitman 2, but that’s it.

The warranty is more concrete. It’s a good deal, with three years of coverage. That’s better than the two years that you get with a lot of board partner cards. The three-year warranty also matches Nvidia’s Founders Edition card.

Interested in an AMD Ryzen build? Check out our in-depth guide to AMD AM4 motherboards – and our top recommendations for every budget and form factor!

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC Review – Pricing

The card in our MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review costs £800 in the UK and $799 in the US. That hefty chunk of change puts the Duke towards the top of the pile when it comes to board partner-based Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 cards.

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review GeForce RTX 2080 review 08More expensive Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 cards tend to be those with water-cooling hardware already attached, or a handful of units with even larger overclocks.

If the Duke’s high price is prohibitive, there are numerous alternatives available. A handful of basic RTX 2080 cards without overclocks can be found for under £700 or $700. Loads of models with overclocks are cheaper than the MSI GPU, too.

And then, of course, the GTX 1080 Ti continues to be a thorn in the RTX 2080’s side. That card doesn’t have new features, like ray-tracing or super-sampling, and it relies on an older architecture.

However, the GTX 1080 Ti and RTX 2080 offer comparable performance in plenty of games. And, if you’re lucky, you could still find one of those cards at a lower price even while Nvidia clears them out of the market.

More power required? Click here for our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti coverage!

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC Review – Performance

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review GeForce RTX 2080 review 01The RTX 2080 is an extremely quick graphics card, but the card in our MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review only delivers a small improvement when compared to the Founders Edition version of the card.

In our MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review we’ve tested the MSI-made RTX 2080 in eleven games. They all had their graphics settings at the maximum level, and all were tested at 1080p, 1440p and 4K.

At 4K the RTX 2080’s poorest minimum results came in Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Fallout 4 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. In those tests the RTX 2080 returned results in the low 30fps range. That’s nowhere near Nvidia’s claimed 60fps figures that it used with the RTX 2080 Ti, but those scores are all easily playable. You won’t experience slowdown in any of today’s top games.

The MSI-made Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 delivered excellent average framerates. Its weakest result here was a 36fps score in Total War: Warhammer II’s Battle benchmark. However, in ten tests the MSI card got past 40fps – and it beat the 60fps barrier in four different titles.

Those scores mean that you’re going to get playable 4K framerates in any current game. They also mean that the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Duke will handle VR headsets and screens with high refresh rates – in fact, any gaming task. Unsurprisingly, it swatted aside 1080p and 1440p tests without a second glance. The only issue when compared to the RTX 2080 Ti is that the RTX 2080 won’t offer quite as much headroom for 4K gaming in the future.

However, a closer look at the benchmarks does reveal that there’s little breathing room between MSI’s overclocked card and the Founders Edition version of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080.

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review GeForce RTX 2080 review 01Its biggest lead came in Battlefield 1, where MSI’s card averaged 91fps – four frames better than the stock card. It also opened a three-frame lead in the Warhammer II Battle test. However, in most benchmarks at 4K the MSI-made card was only a frame or two faster than the version that doesn’t have an overclock.

That is an important distinction if you’re keen on getting the fastest card available – if you want to push boundaries, overclock even more or run intensive benchmarks. However, if you just want to get great gaming performance then you’re not going to notice the difference between the two cards when it comes down to raw gameplay – the one or two frame advantage that the MSI brings into most games just will not be noticeable.

As expected, the RTX 2080 was still a long way behind the RTX 2080 Ti in our tests.

And, unsurprisingly, the GTX 1080 Ti offers comparable performance to the RTX 2080 in most games, with it hovering around the same level of performance in ten of the tests.

The MSI-made RTX 2080 reinforced these positions in theoretical tests. It was a little faster than the stock RTX 2080 in all of the 3D Mark Fire Strike and Time Spy tests, but far slower than the RTX 2080 Ti. The overclocked MSI card also opened a slim lead over the standard RTX 2080 in the three VR Mark benchmarks.

However, the GTX 1080 Ti continued to prove its worth here. It was faster in the older and less demanding 3D Mark Fire Strike tests. It offered comparable levels of performance in the newer and trickier Time Spy benchmarks. The older card fell behind significantly in the VR Mark Cyan Room and Blue Room tests.

Need more info? Here’s our in-depth Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review!

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC Review – Conclusion

The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review illustrates some key points when it comes to the performance of MSI’s expensive, overclocked card.

Firstly, and most importantly, the RTX 2080 is an excellent GPU. It’ll handle any current game at 4K, on a VR headset or on a high refresh-rate screen. Lower resolutions will be no problem.

MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review GeForce RTX 2080 review 06However, it’s only marginally faster than the Founders Edition version of the RTX 2080. If you’re just interested in playing games and aren’t fussed about framerates, then the minor performance tweak just won’t be noticeable. And the RTX 2080 often isn’t much quicker than the GTX 1080 Ti. While that card is disappearing from the market, it’s a compelling argument to buy one for less cash – or to hold onto an existing GTX 1080 Ti.

Look beyond the raw performance situation and there’s a lot to like. MSI’s design is great. It looks impressive, feels solid and has good features, from its redesigned fan to its RGB LEDs. The bracket is a welcome addition in the box, and you get all of the display outputs you need.

And, of course, the new card does get Nvidia’s new technology. While those theoretical tests do suggest that the Turing architecture is doing a good job with newer and more demanding technologies, Ray-Tracing and Super-Sampling remain a gamble that no-one is sure will pay off.

MSI’s card is an admittedly expensive way to get your hands on an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080. However, if you do have the money, it delivers excellent design and familiar, great levels of gaming speed. Just be aware that there are caveats when it comes to performance when stacked up against cheaper RTX 2080 cards – and the existing GTX 1080 Ti.

The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC costs £800 in the UK and $799 in the US.  Discuss our MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration after reading the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC review, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or go deep with our ultimate guide to 4K monitors – covering the technology, the terms and our top recommendations!

The GoodRecommended Award

  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Faster than Founders Edition card – but only just
  • Great design
  • RGB LEDs

The Bad

  • Expensive
  • Little performance gain over rivals
  • New Nvidia technology still unproven

The Specs

Stream processors: 2,944
Base clock: 1,515MHz
Boost clock: 1,845MHz
Memory: 8GB, 256-bit 7,000MHz GDDR6
Connectivity: PCI Express 3.0
Display Outputs: DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b
Max Resolution: 7,680 x 4,320
TDP: 245W
Power connections: 1 x 8-pin, 1 x 6-pin
Supported APIs: DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.6, OpenCL 2.2, Vulkan 1.1, CUDA 7.5

Review Date
Reviewed Item
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Duke 8G OC

About Author

Mike Jennings

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