ASUS RTX 3080 OC Strix Review
Reviewing partner products is always a difficult proposition, especially in these modern times when so much of the meat of the package is kept within the chip and thus can't really be changed. Motherboards definitely suffer from this, and graphics cards certainly have the majority of their performance locked into the design with only the extra bits - roughly cooler and lighting - able to be adjusted. Whilst this can be great for consumers because you can purchase anything and be sure you're getting within the ballpark, it can be difficult for the manufacturers themselves to make their products stand out, and indeed it forces them to be super aggressive with their pricing knowing that their base model isn't all that removed from their top model.
With the ASUS ROG RTX 3080 OC Strix there is an extra pressure upon ASUS because the Strix range is such a monumental hit. It perfectly matches the needs of 95% of users, and drizzles the main event with just enough extras to have some pizazz without ramping the price through the roof. The X570 Crosshair VIII Formula is well over twice the price of the X570 Strix-E but only has a few bits for the hardcore and all that most people desire/need. In graphics card terms the Strix range has flown off the shelves with a blinding cooler, some RGB lighting and a nice boost to performance. With this new Ampere version ASUS have gone back to the drawing board and totally redesigned their cooler. The fan design has been greatly altered with more blades per fan on the outer two, whilst the middle fan is reaching the limit of the number of blades you can have in a fan whilst still having spaces between each of them. Beneath those outer fans there are spaces to help direct the air over the generously finned heatsink, whilst the central fan has all its pressure directed over the GPU itself. In other words, exactly how we want it to be.
The redesign has seen a big aesthetic change though. Whilst we agree the original Strix cooler design was getting a bit long in the tooth, we're not entirely sure that stripping all the RGB lighting off the fan surrounds and replacing the all-black design with a more girder-based look is the best way forwards. Additionally the sheer length of the card - over 12 inches long - and size of the triple slot cooler has meant that ASUS have dispensed with their RGB connectors that were found on the inside end of the PCB on the previous designs. Maybe their software phoned home with the data that nobody used it, or maybe it's a deep cut. We can live without it more than we can live without the "grown up" lack of glitzy lighting we've come to expect from a ROG Strix product. The fan headers are still there in the back plate vent but you'd probably never notice unless you were looking for them and we don't really like the idea of dangling fan cables out from that far inboard on the card, Asus can design better than this....
Where the Strix OC scores big points is where it really counts. The RTX 3080 has already dominated our charts and blown our minds, and if we did such pointless things as a price per FPS comparison it would rule the world as a God-Emporer. One of the biggest features is also, curiously, tucked away. The PCB has two settings via a switch and our testing showed that both Performance and Quiet modes give roughly the same FPS for roughly the same temperature and noise. If you delve a little deeper and download the ASUS software there is a third mode, OC, that pushes the card as hard as it can go and makes full use of it's 21 power phases and 3 (three!) 8pin PCIe power inputs to drag the Strix RTX 3080 dangerously close in performance to the RTX 3090 in all but the most extreme high resolution tests. Yes it's louder in this mode but insanely powerful too.
Whilst looks may be subjective, and you clearly need to measure your case to make sure that the 30cm length will squeeze in, the undeniable truth about the ASUS RTX 3080 OC Strix is that it is the fastest RTX 3080 we've tested so far, and very nearly beats out the RTX 3090 in some tests. Just remember to download the GPU Tweak II software to unlock its full potential.