Graphics card cooling has long been an difficult issue to get right. More than your processor the graphics card generates enormous amounts of heat during lengthy gaming spells. Over the years many attempts to solve the heat problem have been tried and we’ve seen dozens of different solutions in terms of fan design, number of fans, heatsink size and everything related to such things.
Although they are much better than they used to be in the early days, GPU fans are still not as robust or quiet as the best case fans. We’ve often wondered why manufacturers haven’t partnered up with a dedicated fan manufacturer to bring their knowledge to this field. Perhaps even more importantly, when we think back upon the many cards we’ve owned over the years and have ‘died’, the reason they needed replacing was almost wholly because a fan had either given up the ghost or had become intolerably rattly. Why can’t we just buy a case fan and bolt it in instead of being forced to try and find a genuine OEM replacement, or Heath Robinson a new fan with cable ties and the like?
It seems that both ASUS and Noctua heard our whispered wishes and have released the ASUS X Noctua RTX 3080 OC Edition. This is a card with the thickest cooler we can ever recall seeing, and two Noctua NF-A12x25 120mm case fans. Now, you have to accept that the fans supplied are in the famous Noctua brown, rather than their other colourways, but if you’re commited to getting the coolest, quietest graphics card you can, and also with the potential to easily change a fan in the future should it ever unexpectedly give up the ghost, then we’re sure it’s a colour you can live with.
Being attached to a RTX 3080 and designed almost entirely about being cool and quiet rather than the ‘fastest at all costs’ approach, performance is something we’re going to give you a quick overview of and as long as it’s in the mid-pack and the temperature/noise is all that is promised, we are pretty sure this is going to find a very keen audience amongst those of you who have tired of noisy graphics cards whirring away.
The most notable elements of this specification table is down at the bottom with the dimensions and slot width. 4.3 slots. Not for the faint of heart or small of case.
The ASUS X Noctua RTX 3080 OC Edition has one of those boxes that gives you a clear product shot and no extraneous fluff. Our only area of query is the right hand side above the green Nvidia box that all packages must have looks a little empty, as if something else was meant to be there.
This is a very sneaky photograph that doesn’t really show off the true size of the ASUS X Noctua RTX 3080. You could be forgiven for thinking that it’s just a normal thickness. *evil laugh*.
As befits a product from ASUS that has been designed in conjunction with the cooling gurus at Noctua, the backplate is robust with a large hole that has become a familiar idea in recent months. Helping to move hot air up to your exhaust fan whilst also pushing some air to the top half of your case that normally doesn’t have as much cooling intake as the lower half in a lot of chassis designs.
When we first took the card out of the box the size is the first thing that hits you, but it’s worth noting that the build quality is excellent too. Visually the fan containing shroud looks a bit like it’s balanced precariously on the top, but it’s as solid as any design that uses the frameless fans more commonly found on a graphics card.
From the other side, the side that will be facing you, it’s remarkable how much extra shroud there is keep the fans in situ. No, we’re not a massive fan of the Noctua brown and we never have been, but we understand how vital it is to their branding. If you see a black fan it could be anyone, but a fan in that brown and beige combo can only be a Noctua.
We know it’s not really showing you anything new, but photographs do not remotely do justice to how beefy this card is.
The ASUS X Noctua offers both Performance and Quiet modes. We’ll be running in Performance mode for our testing, and as you’ll see later on the card isn’t hot or noisy in this mode either.
If a four slot card doesn’t sound much bigger than other thick cards we’ve seen, then perhaps this shot of it will give you a better idea of just how chunky the ASUS X Noctua is.
ASUS RTX 3080 X Noctua OC Edition
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X
ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Formula
Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB Series DDR4 3600MHz
Corsair RM1000i PSU
Corsair iCUE H150i RGB Pro XT AIO
Corsair MP600 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
Corsiar Obsidian 500D RGB SE
Windows 10 x64
The ASUS X Noctua card sits with the regular set of cards in our graph in terms of average and peak clock speed, rather than at the upper end with some of the flagship models. It might not have the ultimate peak boost speed, but the average is very impressive and consistent. Given *spoiler alert* that it’s massively cooler and quieter than any other, we’ll take it. If you already know how an RTX 3080 performs and want to enjoy the sunshine then at least check out the temperature page at the end. It is spectacular.
Borderlands 3 saw Gearbox Software return to developing their most famous IP following the somewhat dubious reception The Pre Sequel received. Borderlands has plenty of settings to tweak and, despite looking superficially similar to Borderlands 2, it’s significantly more demanding upon your hardware. At higher resolutions only the most performance rich need apply. Naturally we run with everything at the maximum possible settings. This probably is going to get more views now it’s currently free on the Epic Store.
Remedy Entertainment’s Control is one of those games that demonstrates everything available to you in modern engines and with modern hardware. Not only does it have destructible environments but it supports all the hardware tricks, including Ray Tracing and DLSS on hardware with either or both of those features. We’re testing in every possible combination to demonstrate how each can impact your frames per second. The first graph is all resolutions in ‘plain’ mode. The second graph with Ray Tracing on, and the third graph with Ray Tracing and DLSS on for performance impact demonstration purposes.
Despite being launched at a time when there wasn’t any motorsport – or any sport – in the world, F1 2020 is everything it could realistically be. No, the track list didn’t match the real 2020 F1 season, but the cars were close to their real-life counterparts and the graphics engine brings all the glorious imagery we’ve come to expect from Codemasters F1 titles. We’re running with it all to the stops, because of course we are.
Far Cry 6
Far Cry has gone through a fair number of ideas since it first appeared. Far Cry 2 was the last with something new to say thanks to the amazing fire spreading and malaria, Far Cry 3 perfected the formula even if it hid the best antagonist in gaming away for half the run time, whilst 4 was basically 3 transplanted elsewhere. Far Cry 5 took the bold step of giving you a downer ending and Far Cry 6 has launched reverting back to the Far Cry 4 formula, although ramping up the insanity so it more resembles GTA Online than anything else. This is also new enough to the OC3D test suite that we haven’t got a bunch of other RTX 3080s with which to compare it, so it’s against much of the competition for this one graph.
A game where we always mentally add “of War” to the title, the most recent addition to the Gears franchise saw The Coalition stick rigidly to the formula that has made this title a success on the Xbox. It’s more of a ‘best of’ than a new title, but still brings all the graphical glory to your screen as befits a game aimed at the console market. With everything turned up to ten the graphics can bring even beefy systems to their knees. The second graph is cranked up to 8K just to see how far we can push things.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Alongside God of War, Horizon is one of the best titles from this generation of games. A massive open world and story rich game with none of the ‘collect 500 tiny things’ that plagues many open world titles, the breath-taking vistas and gorgeous animation of Aloy’s adventures should be experienced by all gamers. The PC release required some fine tuning to be all it could be, but graphically it’s still jaw-dropping and with everything up to the hilt as we have here, few games look better. Zero Dawn West can’t get here soon enough.
Monster Hunter World
Capcom’s Monster Hunter World might be, compared to other titles in our test suite, getting a little long in the tooth but it’s still a gorgeous title with beautiful scenery punctuated by boss fights that wouldn’t look out of place in a From Software title. The introduction of the Iceborne expansion pack boosted the graphics a little further, and as always we’re running everything as high as we can push.
Resident Evil 3
Another Capcom title, the newest instalment of the remade Resident Evil franchise continues to up the ante in graphical glory. As someone old enough to have played the originals, seeing Jill Valentine in all her high definition glory never stops being impressive, and whilst the gameplay doesn’t quite shine as brightly as the two games that bracket this in the Res line-up, it’s still fun to turn everything up to max and murder some zombies.
Total Warhammer II
Creative Assembly rewrote the book for strategy games with their Total War series, and with Total Warhammer they brought fantasy into that sphere. Total Warhammer 2 took all that was great about the first entry and filled it so full of content that you can play the Mortal Empires campaign for literal years if you wish. The CPU does as much work as the GPU here, thanks to hundreds of units and vast draw distances.
Total War Saga: Troy
A game everyone probably owns thanks to the free 24 hours on the Epic Store, Troy might not have the breadth of some of the more fully-fledged entries in the long Total War series, but it’s still a good way of showing off the well-rounded nature of your system. You need every component to be finely tuned to really pump those frames out.
3DMARK: Port Royal
One of the first Ray Tracing benchmarks to appear, the value of Port Royal cannot be overstated. Games always take a while to adopt new technologies but benchmark/demos can get on board much faster and show off where your hard-earned is going. With the next generation of consoles supporting Ray Tracing too it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a bigger part of our lives.
3DMARK: Time Spy
If you’ve been using 3D Mark since the days when it was largely full of dragons and Matrix-esque FPS games, you’ll appreciate Time Spy taking you on a trip down memory lane whilst also showing the future too. It’s always a lovely thing to watch which, as people who’ve seen the Fire Strike benchmark a thousand times or more, is a feature we appreciate.
Just in case you fancy taking advantage of the quietness of the ASUS X Noctua to do some lengthy video encoding then, for reasons we don’t fully understand, it looks like it’s the absolute daddy in Davinci Resolve.
Temperatures and Power Draw
This is the graph that will make up the mind of anyone who has been itching to see whether that enormous heatsink and giant Noctua fan arrangement pays off in terms of lower temperatures. Not only is the ASUS X Noctua significantly cooler than any other RTX 3080 you could install in your system, but the famous Noctua quietness is so obvious that we don’t need any decibel meters to show microscopic changes. It’s seriously quiet. Perfect if you’re tired of loud graphics cards.
Although it is probably reductive to use the kind of generalisations that are found more often in politics than the real world, for our purposes you’ll excuse us if we resort to binary options. There are two types of people who purchase graphics cards. There are those who want the maximum performance at all costs. It could have a similar noise level to an Airbus A380 and the kind of temperatures usually reserved for the aforementioned politicians once they’re sent to where they belong in the afterlife. Then there are those who want a card which provides an amount of performance typical of the architecture, and does so without leaving them deaf in one ear.
Naturally we all actually find ourselves somewhere along that sliding scale between those two extremes, but as we have to sit next to our PC for usually over a dozen hours a day testing or writing or editing, then we want it to be primarily quiet, and performance is a nice bonus. After all, modern technology has evolved to the point that even a ‘bad’ take on a particular piece of hardware is still good, and we know that a big brand such as ASUS is even more likely to give us one that is better than most.
All of which brings us to the ASUS X Noctua RTX 3080 OC Edition.
Performance is very much on a par with the majority of RTX 3080 cards we’ve reviewed. We know that there are some flagship models available that lean more towards the performance end of the spectrum than the quiet end, and those tend to generally be a bit higher in the average frame rate scores than the ASUS X Noctua, but that isn’t to say it is disgraced in any way. Nicely mid-pack of a very very tightly grouped set of results.
The feather in the cap, the other string to its bow, is of course that enormous cooler containing two 25mm x 120mm Noctua NF-A12 fans. Noctua are legendary for managing to solve the problem of giving outstanding cooling ability at a low level of noise in a way that many other fan manufacturers claim to offer but so few actually deliver upon. The ASUS X Noctua RTX 3080 is no exception as you saw on our previous page. It’s significantly cooler than all that have come before, and much quieter too. If you have your PC in an environment where it whirring away can be a problem to those you live/work with, then it’s perfect. Heck if, like us, you have to sit next to your PC all day then you’ll delight in how much quieter it can be made just by delivering a design that we’ve all considered as a good solution to cooling a graphics card but nobody had actually done until now. Or at least not done in anything other than a Heath Robinson manner with a third party solution.
Rarely do you hear of a product and find that the reality of it is more than you expected, but the ASUS X Noctua RTX 3080 OC Edition is everything you would hope such a union would deliver. Your ears will thank you.