Last week, NVIDIA finally released their GeForce RTX 20 series graphics cards. Taking a complete departure from traditional GPU design and creating a hybrid architecture that includes a range of new technologies to power the next-generation immersive gaming experiences. The key highlight of the GeForce RTX 20 series was the enablement of real-time raytracing which has been the holy grail of graphics and something NVIDIA spent 10 years to perfect. In addition to raytracing, NVIDIA also aims to place bets on AI which will play a key role in powering features such as DLSS or Deep Learning Super Sampling, a unique way of offering the same quality as the more taxing MSAA AA techniques at twice the performance.
We looked at the performance in detail of the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and GeForce RTX 2080 FE cards and thought them to be a good gain over their predecessors, the GTX 1080 Ti and GTX 1080. When it comes to pricing, the GeForce RTX 20 series are some of the most costly graphics cards NVIDIA has offered to consumers. The reference variants are great with their new cooling design and good looking shrouds but AIBs have also prepped up their own custom models which would rival the FE (reference) cards.
With just a few bucks of asking price over the reference models, the custom variants will offer a range of features such as triple fan coolers, bulky heatsinks, and custom PCBs allowing for better heat dissipation, higher air flow and more overclocking performance and clock stability at their respective boost clocks which will be higher compared to the reference variants.
One such custom model is the MSI DUKE, which comes in both RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080 flavors. Featuring an updated design over the previous DUKE variants which was available on the flagship GTX 1080 Ti last year, the new model supports even better specifications and a re-designed cooler which looks awesome. It’s worthy to note that the Tri-Frozr cooler that the DUKE OC is using is the refinement of their Twin Frozr VI cooler which was a dual fan design and has been replaced by the new Tri-Frozr in GeForce RTX 20 series on high-end graphics cards.
I already tested the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 TI Gaming X Trio and GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio yesterday and will be taking a look at the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC today in this review.
In case you want to read our full NVIDIA Turing GPU architecture deep dive and GeForce RTX 2080 & GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition review, head over to this link.
The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC is MSI’s reference PCB, custom cooler design. The extra cooling performance from the Tri-Frozr heatsink will deliver higher boost clocks on the card. Overclocking would see a benefit but you also get a slight factory-overclock out of the box that adds to the overall value of this graphics card which sticks close to the Founders Edition pricing. The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC will be selling at $829.99 US which is a $30 premium over Founders Edition variants.
In addition to the custom design, the RTX 2080 DUKE OC comes with a reference PCB, featuring an 8 phase iMON DrMOS power supply design that features higher quality components. Of particular note, there is a new ability to switch off phases, for drastically-reduced power consumption at low workloads, which greatly increases power efficiency.
NVIDIA states that their new reference PCB allows for more power headroom of around 55W. That is where the 280W figure is coming from. The new electrical components also ensure much cleaner power delivery, allowing for better overclocks without wasting excess of power.
In terms of clock speeds, the graphics card features the same base frequency of 1515 MHz but the boost clock is rated at 1845 MHz over the Founders boost of 1800 MHz.
Following are some of the features of the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC before we go in detail:
- Boost Clock / Base Clock / Memory Frequency
1845 MHz / 1515 MHz / 7000 MHz
- 8GB GDDR6
- DisplayPort x 3 / HDMI x 1 / USB Type-C x1
TRI-FROZR Thermal Design
- Using three of the award-winning TORX Fans 2.0 with Double Ball Bearings.
- Using groundbreaking aerodynamic techniques, the heatsink is optimized for efficient heat dissipation.
TORX FAN 2.0: Supremely silent
- Dispersion fan blade: Steeper curved blade accelerating the airflow.
- Traditional fan blade: Provides steady airflow to massive heatsink below.
- Double ball bearing: Strong and lasting core for years of smooth gaming.
The MSI DUKE OC Graphics Cards With Next-Gen Tri-Frozr Cooling
With the differences out of the way, now let’s talk about the similarities and the main highlights of the Duke OC design. The DUKE OC is a toned down variant of the much higher end card, the MSI Lightning. Both cards use advanced Tri-Frozr coolers which are the replacement of the MSI Twin Frozr series which have been widely used on current and last generation graphics cards from MSI.
The GeForce RTX 20 Series GAMING TRIO is the return of MSI’s beastly three-fan graphics card. Only reserved for the most powerful of GPU’s, the TRIO Series features a mix of black and gunmetal grey with elegant shapes and a classy brushed metal backplate that matches the front.
This looks great with the gorgeous RGB effects found on the front and the side of the card, which can be controlled using MSI’s Mystic Light software and made to synchronize with other RGB components.
MSI has incorporated and refined a couple of things in the new Tri-Frozr design for DUKE OC graphics cards. First is the TORX fan 2.0 which uses both traditional and dispersion fan blades to accelerate airflow and push it down in a steady stream. These fans are made up of a double ball bearing design which ensures silent functionality in heavy loads.
The fans are fully compliant with the Zero Frozr Technology and are actually comprised of two areas. The two fans on the front will stay in idle mode until the temps exceed 56C while the one at the rear would stay in idle mode until the temps exceed 60C. You can change that through the MSI configuration panel if you want more cooling performance over noise load but it’s a nifty feature which I do like.
Airflow Control Technology guides the airflow directly onto the heat pipes, while simultaneously creating more surface area for the air to absorb more heat before leaving the heatsink.
Talking about the heatsink, the massive block is comprised of smooth copper squared shaped heat pipes with a more concentrated design to transfer heat from the copper base to the heatsink more effectively. The base itself is a solid nickel-plated base plate, transferring heat to the heat pipes in a very effective manner. To top it all off, MSI uses their exclusive Thermal Compound X which is said to offer higher thermal interface and heat transfer compared to traditional TIM applications.
Rocking a premium designed backplate on the DUKE OC series provides a nice visual finish to the card. It also strengthens the card and thanks to some cleverly placed thermal pads even help to keep temperatures low.
The MSI GeForce RTX 20 DUKE OC series graphics cards come in a standard cardboard box package. The front of both packages has a large “GeForce RTX” brand logo along with the “MSI” logo on the top left corner and the “DUKE” series logo in the middle.
The packaging has put a large emphasis on the RTX side of things as the first feature enlisted by AIBs will be Ray Tracing, followed by GDDR6, DirectX 12 and Ansel support. NVIDIA has bet the future of their gaming GPUs on Ray Tracing support as these are the first cards to offer support for the new feature.
The back of the box is very typical, highlighting the main features and specifications of the cards. The three key aspects of MSI’s top tier custom cards are its blazing performance which is achieved by a fully custom design, the new Tri-Frozr cooling system with tripe TORX 2.0 fans plus a new heatsink which will offer better cooling performance compared to the traditional flat surfaced fin heatsinks.
There’s also a focus towards GeForce.com on each AIB card through which users can download the latest drivers and GeForce Experience application which are a must for gamers to access all feature set of the new cards.
The sides of the bx once again greet us with the large GeForce RTX branding. There’s also mention of the 8 GB GDDR6 (RTX 2080) memory available on the cards. The higher bandwidth delivered through the new GDDR6 interface would help improve performance in gaming titles at higher resolution over GDDR5 and GDDR5X based graphics cards.
Outside of the box, the graphics card and the accessory package are held firmly by foam packaging. The graphics card comes with a few accessories and manuals which might not be of much use for hardcore enthusiasts but can be useful for the mainstream gaming audience.
The cards are nicely wrapped within an anti-static cover which is useful to prevent any unwanted static discharges on various surfaces that might harm the graphics card. The card accessories include a Molex power connector which isn’t of much use in high-end systems since the PSUs already have the required cables.
The most interesting accessory that I found in the package was a graphics card support bracket. This bracket connects the graphics card to the casing, offering better durability and prevents any sort of bending that may occur due to the heavy weight of the DUKE OC series graphics cards.
Useful manuals and installation guides are packed within an MSI labeled letter case. There is an MSI Quick Users Guide, a Support bracket installation guide, a sticker letter, the MSI DIY comic, and a single drivers disk. It’s best to ignore the driver disk and install the latest software and graphics drivers directly from the NVIDIA and MSI official web pages as the ones shipped in the disks could be older versions and not deliver optimal performance for your graphics cards.
After the package taken care of, I can finally start talking about the card itself. This thing is a beast and I can’t wait to test it out to find what kind of performance improvement I get over current-gen cards.
MSI’s Tri Frozr heat sinks are some of the biggest heatsink cooling solutions that I have ever tested. The card measure in at 314 x 120 x 46 mm and weighs 1082g. The card takes up two slots inside a chassis so it’s easy to install compared to the much bulkier Gaming X Trio variants which I tested earlier.
You would have to keep in mind the height when going for a dual card solution as your case or motherboard PCIe slot combination may not allow such setup. The cooling shroud extends all the way to the back of the PCB and it requires a casing with good interior space for proper installation.
The back of the card features a solid backplate which looks stunning and offers a premium look. There’s a lot of nifty features about this backplate which I will come back to shortly as you continue reading this review.
In terms of design, we are looking at an updated version of the Tri Frozr “DUKE” series heatsink which is now in its fifth variation. The first variation started off with the GTX 780 Ti Lightning, the second was the 980 Ti Lightning, then came the 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio and soon the 1080 Ti Lightning and now we have the RTX 20 series Gaming X Trio models. There was also a variation of the Tri-Frozr that shipped last year under the DUKE GTX 1080 Ti brand but now the series has got more attention to detail.
The new heatsink looks like a more tamed down version of the Gaming X Trio with the main changes being the shroud and heatsink design that feature an aggressive shroud design on the front with metallic covers, absorbing the black and silver color platelets while featuring the RGB emitting accent points on the sides.
Coming to the fans, the card actually features two different fan designs based on the Torx 2.0 system. All three fans combine traditional and dispersion fan blade technology to offer better cooling performance.
The dispersion fan blade technology has a steeper curved blade that accelerates airflow and as such increases effectiveness in keeping the GPU cool. All fans deploy double ball bearing design and can last a long time while operating silently.
MSI also features their Zero Frozr technology on the Tri Frozr heatsink. This feature won’t spin the fans on the card unless they reach a certain threshold. In the case of the Tri Frozr heatsink, that limit is set to 60C. If the card is operating under 60C, the fans won’t spin which means no extra noise would be generated. Additionally, the fan next to the exhaust port has a different temp limit, set at 56C compared to the 60C limit for the other two fans.
I am back at talking about the full-coverage, full metal-based backplate which both card use. The whole plate is made of solid metal with rounded edges that add to the durability of this card. The brushed silver finish on the backplate gives a unique aesthetic.
There are cutouts in screw placements to easily reach the points on the graphics card. There are open vents for the hot air to move out from the back too. We can also see the MSI Dragon logo on the back which looks stunning. MSI is also using heat pads beneath the backplate which offer more cooling to the electrical circuitry on the PCB.
Gone is SLI and now we have the latest NVLINK gold finger connectors. The RTX 2080 comes with a single NVLINK connector which allows for 2-Way multi-GPU functionality. The RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080 are the only cards to support NVLINK connectivity so multi-GPU is only for the high-end spectrum of cards and for good reason. Only these cards have enough bandwidth that can drive another GPU of their tier as anything below wouldn’t have the power to interlink to the other card.
A single x8 NVLINK channel provides 25 GB/s peak bandwidth. There are two x8 links on the TU102 GPU and a single x8 link on the Turing TU104 GPU. The TU102 GPU features 50 GB/s of bandwidth in parallel and 100 GB/s bandwidth bi-directionally. Using NVLINK on high-end cards would be beneficial in high-resolution gaming but there’s a reason NVIDIA still restricts users from doing 3 and 4 way SLI.
Multi-GPU still isn’t optimized so you won’t see much benefits unless you are running the highest end graphics cards. That’s another reason why the RTX 2070 is deprived of NVLINK connectors. The NVLINK connectors cost $79 US each and are sold separately. Currently, only NVIDIA is selling them as the AIB cards don’t include any such connectors but that may change once the standard is adopted widely.
With the outsides of the card done, I will now start taking a glance at what’s beneath the hood of these monster graphics cards. The first thing to catch my eye is the huge fin stack that’s part of the beefy heatsink which the cards utilize.
The large fin stack runs all the way from the front and to the back of the PCB and is so thick that you can barely see through it. It also comes with the wave-curved fin stack design which I want to shed some light on as it is a turn away from traditional fin design and one that may actually offer better cooling on such power-hungry graphics cards such as the Turing based GeForce RTX 2080.
The heatsink has been designed to be denser by using an advanced airflow design. It allows more air to pass through the fins smoothly, without causing any turbulence that would result in unwanted noise. Airflow Control Technology guides the airflow directly onto the heat pipes, while simultaneously creating more surface area for the air to absorb more heat before leaving the heatsink.
The MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC comes with a factory overclock out of the box. Being so, it uses a dual 8 Pin connector configuration. The card is rated at a TDP of 245W officially by MSI.
I/O on the graphics card sticks with the reference scheme which includes three Display Port 1.4a, a single HDMI 2.0b and a single USB Type-C port for VirtualLink connectivity to high-end HMD (Head Mounted Displays).
MSI GeForce RTX 20 DUKE OC Series RGB Lighting Gallery:
MSI DUKE OC series cards utilize their Mystic Light RGB technology to offer you a visually pleasing lighting experience on your graphics cards. The entire side logo and the accent LED bar comes with MSI’s Mystic Light support. You can fully customize the RGB lights to your preference using the MSI Mystic Light application from MSI’s web page.
Following is what the graphics card looks like when lit up.
We used the following test system for comparison between the different graphics cards. Latest drivers that were available at the time of testing were used from AMD and NVIDIA on an updated version of Windows 10. All games that were tested were patched to the latest version for better performance optimization for NVIDIA and AMD GPUs.
GPU Test Bench 2018
|CPU||Intel Core i7-8700K @ 5.00 GHz|
|Motherboard||AORUS Z370 Gaming 7|
|Video Cards||MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming X Trio|
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Titanium
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Armor X OC
MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Lightning OC
Gigabyte Radeon RX Vega 64 (Reference Air)
XFX Radeon R9 Fury X Liquid Cooled
|Memory||G.SKILL Trident Z RGB Series 32GB (4 X 8GB) CL16 3600 MHz|
|Storage||Samsung SSD 960 EVO M.2 (512 GB)|
|Power Supply||Corsair AX1200i PSU|
|OS||Windows 10 64-bit|
- All games were tested on 2560×1440 (2K) and 3840×2160 (4K) resolutions.
- Image Quality and graphics configurations have been provided in the screenshots below.
- The “reference” cards are the stock configs while the “overclock” cards are factory overclocked configs provided to us by various AIB partners.
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC Overclocking
Since the card is clocked at overclocked specifications, we are kind of left with limited headroom to overclock. I pushed the core to +165 MHz beyond its overclock profile and +1050 MHz on the memory.
I had the power and temp target slider maxed out in EVGA Precision X1 so that meant that the GPU was under no restrictions or blocks when it came to overclocking. The clocks were stable after testing for an hour under stress load.
In 2016, Id finally released DOOM. My testing wouldn’t be complete without including this title. All cards were capable of delivering ample frame rates at the 1440p resolution using Nightmare settings, so my focus turned to 4K.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Wolfenstein is back in The New Colossus and features the most fast-paced, gory and brutal FPS action ever! The game once again puts us back in the Nazi-controlled world as BJ Blazkowicz. Set during an alternate future where Nazis won the World War, the game shows that it can be fun and can be brutal to the player and to the enemy too. Powering the new title is once again, id Tech 6 which is much acclaimed after the success that DOOM has become. In a way, ID has regained their glorious FPS roots and are slaying with every new title.
Ultra HQ-AF, Vulkan, Async Compute On *if available, Deferred Rendering and GPU culling off
We tested the game at Ultra settings under the Vulkan API which is standard. Async Compute was enabled for graphics cards that support it while deferred rendering and GPU culling were disabled.
Ashes of The Singularity: Escalation
NVIDIA and AMD have been tweaking the performance of their cards for Ashes of the Singularity since the title released. It was the first to make use of the DirectX 12 API and the first to leverage from the new Async compute technology that makes use of the DX12 renderer to improve performance.
Battlefield 1 takes us back to the great war that was meant to end all wars aka World War 1. Using the latest Frostbite tech, the game does a good job at looking gorgeous in all ways possible. From the open world environments to the intense and gun-blazing action, this multiplayer and single player FPS title is one of the best Battlefields to date.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Humanity is at war with itself and divided into factions. On one end, we have the pure and on the other, we have the augmented. That is the world where Adam Jensen lives in and this is the world of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The game uses the next generation Dawn Engine that was made by IO interactive on the foundation of their Glacier 2 engine. The game features support of DirectX 12 API and is one of the most visually intensive titles that taxes the GPU really hard.
With the latest drivers, NVIDIA has managed to up the performance of their Pascal and Maxwell parts in Hitman (2016). The game has been a major win for AMD graphics cards that still show a strong gain in performance when switching over from DX11 to DX12, but NVIDIA is slowly catching up with their drivers.
Shadow of The Tomb Raider
The Rise of The Tomb Raider
The rise of the Tomb Raider is one of the most beautiful games that I have played recently and was patched to the DX12 API. The game features a wide variety of settings and we chose Very High, HBAO+ without any AA.
Assassins Creed: Origins
Assassins Creed Origins is built by the same team that made Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag. They are known for reinventing the design and game philosophy of the Assassins Creed saga and their latest title shows that. Based in Egypt, the open-world action RPG shows its graphics strength in all corners. It uses the AnvilNext 2.0 engine which boosts the draw distance range and delivers a very impressive graphics display.
We tested the game at maxed settings with TAA enabled and 16x AF. Do note that the game is one of the most demanding titles out in the market and as such tweaks and performance issues are being patched out.
Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 is a standalone successor to its predecessor and takes place in Hope County, a fictional region of Montana. The main story revolves around doomsday cult the Project at Eden’s Gate and its charismatic leader Joseph Seed. It uses a beefed up Dunia Engine which itself is a modified version of CryEngine from Crytek.
Final Fantasy XV
Grand Theft Auto V
GTA V is the most optimized gaming title that has been made for the PC. It’s so optimized, it even runs on my crap GT 840M based laptop with a smooth FPS on a mix of medium/low settings. I mean what???
Aside from being optimized, GTA V is a great game. It was the Game of The Year for 2013. At 1440p Ultra quality, the game gave us smooth frames on all cards tested.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Using the new Anvil Next engine that was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, Ghost Recon: Wildlands goes wild and grand with an open-world setting entirely in Bolivia. This game is a tactical third-person shooter which does seem an awful lot similar to Tom Clancy’s: The Division. The game looks pretty and the wide-scale region of Bolivia looks lovely at all times (Day/Night Cycle).
The Witcher 3 Game of The Year Edition
Witcher 3 is the greatest fantasy RPG of our time. It has a great story, great gameplay mechanics and gorgeous graphics. This is the only game I actually wanted to get a stable FPS at 4K. With GameWorks disabled, I gave all high-end cards the ability to demonstrate their power.
Mass Effect Andromeda
Being a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, I was highly anticipating the arrival of Andromeda to store shelves. Now that it’s here, I put the fastest gaming card to the test. Using Frostbite, the latest Mass Effect title looks incredibly gorgeous and the open world settings on the different planets immerses you a lot.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War
The successor of 2014’s epic, Shadow of Mordor, Shadow of War continues the previous game’s narrative continuing the story of the ranger Talion and the spirit of the elf lord Celebrimbor, who shares Talion’s body, as they forge a new Ring of Power to amass an army to fight against Sauron. The game uses the latest Firebird Engine developed by Monolith Productions and is very intensive even for modern graphics cards.
Watch Dogs 2
Finally, we have Watch Dogs 2. Gone is Aiden Pearce as the new game takes us away from Chicago and puts us in the shoes of Marcus, a seasoned hacker in San Francisco. Running off the Disrupt engine, the game is based on the DirectX 11 API and is a graphics hungry monster. You can see the results for yourself below:
No graphics card review is complete without evaluating its temperatures and thermal load. The MSI GeForce GRTX 20 DUKE OC series is fitted with the most advanced version of the Tri-Frozr cooling design. The latest Tri-Frozr cooler features a massive heatsink with multiple heat pipes which extend beyond the aluminum fin-based design that lead towards the incredibly dense heatsink block. The card comes with PWM cooling and an anti-bending plate that keeps the card sturdy and durable in the harshest environments inside your PC.
The patented Torx fan 2.0 design and Zero Frozr technology featured on this card make sure that it delivers the best cooling performance and best acoustics while operating.
Note – We tested load with Kombuster which is known as ‘Power viruses’ and can permanently damage hardware. Use such software at your own risk!
I compiled the power consumption results by testing each card under idle and full stress when the card was running games. Each graphics card manufacturer sets a default TDP for the card which can vary from vendor to vendor depending on the extra clocks or board features they plug in on their custom cards. The default TDP for the RTX 2080 is 215W while the MSI custom model has a TDP of 245W.
Also, it’s worth noting that the 12nm FFN process from TSMC is a refinement of their 16nm FF node. NVIDIA is cramping even larger amount of transistors and more cores than their previous cards, making it one of the densest chip built to date. It’s likely to consume a lot of power and the results are reflective of that.
In the case of our MSI GeForce, RTX 2080 TI Gaming X Trio featured two 8 pins and a single 6 pin connector. The system power draw was 330W in stock loads but jumped over 370W when running at overclocked speeds. Same differences were spotted on the RTX 2080 which consumed around 270W (system load) in an overclocked environment. The DUKE OC is within the same range as the Founders Edition when it comes to power consumption numbers. This is a good thing considering the DUKE OC ships with a higher factory overclock. You’d see another 25-30W jump when manual overclocking is applied.
We already disclosed the performance numbers for the DUKE OC in the other review so here, I’ll talk about why you should be getting this variant over the Founders Edition if you’re planning to buy one.
First of all, the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC comes in at a $30 US premium over the Founders Edition with a price tag of $829.99 US. That isn’t much higher compared to NVIDIA’s own solution but the price is already too high, to begin with.
For an extra $30 US, you get slightly better performance, thanks to a +45 MHz out of the box boost overclock. The Founders Edition has a +90 MHz out of the box at 1800 MHz while the DUKE OC is rated at 1845 MHz out of the box. You get the same Founders Edition PCB which allows you great overclocking results considering it packs a 10+2 phase PCB design. It is a really good design but if you want a custom PCB like the ones on the Gaming X Trio, you have to pay $20 extra ($849.99 US).
In addition to the overclock, you get a nice triple fan Tri-Frozr cooler that offers better cooling than the Founders Edition dual axial fan design. It is also a dual slot design with the standard PCB length which makes it an easy fit inside any PC chassis. The cooler is fitted with a very bulky heatsink that offers larger contact surface and to top it off, the backplate, which is stunning, comes with extra thermal pads for good thermal transfer on the opposite side of the card.
Overall, the graphics card is a really good performer but with most of the features still not of much use to gamers at the moment like DLSS and RTX, we would have to wait and see whether the price would be justified over something like a GTX 1080 Ti which you can easily get for much lower at the moment.