When Nvidia’s GeForce RTX graphics cards debuted in the form of the factory-overclocked RTX 2080 Founders Edition and RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition this fall, a host of aftermarket boards popped up from third-party manufacturers, too. Among them is PNY, a New Jersey-based tech company known best for storage hardware. PNY also makes graphics cards, however, under the label XLR8 (pronounced “accelerate”) Gaming. One of its latest is the PNY GeForce RTX 2080 XLR8 Gaming Overclocked Edition ($899), a GPU whose MSRP floats above that of Nvidia’s own Founders Edition hardware. Alas, that price difference is justified by little more than a strip of colorful LED illumination for cosmetic trimming. We’d opt for the Founders Edition instead, unless the PNY card’s price drops below it.
Stretch Your RTX
Measuring 11.5 by 4.4 inches, the PNY GeForce RTX 2080 XLR8 Gaming Overclocked Edition is longer than the Founders Edition card by a whole inch. This card will fit in most mid-tower and full-size tower PC cases, but the cooler does overhang the PCB a bit.
Like the RTX 2080 Founders Edition, the PNY XLR8 Gaming card uses a dual fan system for cooling. That differs from the blower-style cooler of the older Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition; air gets dispersed in a downward-facing direction, versus being blown out through the back of the chassis. Surrounding the fans is an all-black plastic enclosure, glossy in some areas, matte in others. In the center of both fans is the XLR8 logo, a forward-pointing red arrow accompanied by the letters “XLR8.”
In comparison, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition is a bit flashier, opting for a shiny metal shroud and a metal backplate versus the flimsier plastic shroud material and bare-backed PCB of the PNY card. The fans, as well as the region between them, are still plastic, but the Founders Edition card ultimately looks and feels like a much more premium product than PNY’s card from a design standpoint.
That said, this is a product that will live in the murky confines of a PC case. Unless you’re peering through your case’s side panel window all the time, the look may not matter. What’s more, the XLR8 2080’s black coating will blend in seamlessly with most motherboards, if that’s your preference. Conversely, PNY’s included strip of RGB lighting, located beneath the words “GeForce RTX,” is an added bonus, if bling’s more your thing.
The Core Connectivity and Specs
The PNY card has the same port loadout as all of the other RTX 2080 cards I’ve seen so far. On the far left is a USB Type-C port meant for the new VirtualLink connection mode. It’s designed for virtual-reality (VR) headsets to come. VirtualLink imagines a future in which head-mounted displays (HMDs) are bound by just a single USB Type-C cable, as opposed to the garden of connectors required for current-generation headsets. To the right of the USB-C port is an HDMI 2.0b port sandwiched between two DisplayPort 1.4 connections. Below those is a single DisplayPort 1.4 connection.
As for the core specs, the PNY XLR8 Gaming card is equipped with 2,944 CUDA cores and an effective base GPU clock of 1,515MHz, the same as the RTX 2080 Founders Edition. The main difference between the PNY card and the Founders Edition are the boost clock speeds of the two cards. The Founders Edition RTX 2080 card is overclocked with a boost clock speed of 1,800MHz, while PNY’s card ticks that up to 1,815MHz, indicating that it should be marginally faster. (More on that in the benchmarks.) Out of the box, this means that the PNY card should be capable of performing around 6 percent faster than a reference version of the RTX 2080 that is not overclocked at all. Furthermore, you can use Nvidia’s one-click Scanner utility to push clock speeds higher than the manufacturer claims.
Given its sprinkling of RGB flair, I assumed early on that I would be able to tweak the lighting on the PNY card in the company’s Velocity X software. Letting you monitor core clock speeds, fan speeds, power usage, and the like, this application also lets you customize the LEDs on “select” RGB-enabled 10-Series graphics cards, according to PNY. Unfortunately, for the time being, the program’s compatibility does not yet extend to PNY’s RTX cards. More concerning is that a company rep confirmed to me that PNY had “no ETA” for when an updated version of the Velocity X software will be available. Thus, early adopters of the PNY card may be stuck with the cycling rainbow of colors it exhibits by default. It looks fine, but take note if your aim is a color-coordinated PC build.
Testing: Orchestrated to the Tune of the Founders
Before I delve too deep into every benchmark I ran on the PNY card, a quick spoiler…er, summary: This card performed almost dead on with Nvidia’s Founders Edition RTX 2080 card.
My tests ranged from 3DMark (Fire Strike Ultra, Time Spy) to the benchmarking utilities tucked inside of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Far Cry 5, Tom Clancy’s The Division, and other demanding AAA games. Some of these are DirectX 12-based, while others are DirectX 11. Most of these tests are run at the highest possible presets. I compared it to other relevant, current GeForce GTX and RTX cards, as well as AMD’s only real competition at this point, the Radeon RX Vega 64.
3DMark Fire Strike Ultra
Described by its creator, UL Benchmarks, as a “showcase DirectX 11 benchmark for modern gaming PCs,” the 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra benchmark puts some major strain on your GPU considering that it renders highly detailed 3D animations at a resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels.
In this test, the PNY RTX 2080 scored lower than Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition, just shy of 3 percent. In comparison, the RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition garnered a score of 8,217, about a 30 percent boost over the RTX 2080 cards.
3DMark Time Spy and Time Spy Extreme
Another test in the 3DMark suite, Time Spy helped pioneer the DirectX 12 benchmark test for Windows 10 gaming PCs. While plain ol’ Time Spy runs at 1440p, the more demanding Time Spy Extreme runs at 4K and requires a GPU with at least 4GB of VRAM.
In vanilla Time Spy, PNY’s take on the RTX 2080 scored 10,346, 1 percent lower than Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Founders Edition. The RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition was about 20 to 22 percent higher than the RTX 2080 cards. PNY’s RTX 2080 beat out Nvidia’s last-generation GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition by around 13 percent. It will be interesting to see if that lead holds.
In Time Spy Extreme, the differences are even less noticeable, with the PNY card essentially tied with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition. The RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition was about 30 percent better, and the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition was roughly 14 percent behind.
Unigine’s Superposition takes place in a classroom belonging to a lone-wolf professor, in which the machinery goes haywire. We run it at the presets 1080p Extreme, 4K Optimized, and 8K Optimized. It requires at least 2GB of video memory.
The GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition delivered the same results as the PNY card at all threee resolutions, while the RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition saw averages of 85fps, 65fps, and 37fps, respectively, at the 4K Optimized, 1080p Extreme, and 8K Optimized presets. No surprises here.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The newest entry in the Tomb Raider-reboot franchise that started back in 2013, Shadow of the Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft as she battles the Trinity paramilitary organization, as well as thwart a Mayan-apocalypse scenario she carelessly ignited herself. The stealth and combat mechanics may be creaky, but Shadow of the Tomb Raider still delivers cutting-edge visuals (and a built-in tool) ideal for benchmarking graphics cards.
Once again, the PNY card’s results were very close to those of the RTX 2080 Founders Edition. At the resolutions you’ll most likely be running games at with this card (1440p and 4K), the PNY card managed 27 percent and 24 percent lower frame rates, respectively, than the RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition. Still, it squeezed out a few more frames per second at all three resolutions than the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Almost three years before Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider saw Lara Croft travel into Siberia, where Trinity sought out immortality in the mythical city of Kitezh. A graphical juggernaut in its time, Rise of the Tomb Raider was accompanied by a built-in benchmark just like its critically acclaimed predecessor.
The PNY card fared about as well as the RTX 2080 Founders Edition at all three test resolutions. Looking higher up the card stack, the RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition saw an 8 percent increase over the PNY RTX 2080 at 1080p, a 31 percent increase at 1440p, and a 28 percent increase at 4K. More startling, however, is that the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition scored higher than the GeForce RTX 2080 in Rise of the Tomb Raider at all three resolutions. That’s a bit concerning for a card that sells for a $200 premium over the GTX 1080 Ti, but let’s see if that is just an outlier.
Based around third-person, stealth-based takedowns, Hitman (2016) is the sixth entry in the Hitman franchise, centering around a series of assassination contracts that need to be carried out for the International Contract Agency (ICA). Though it originally launched as an episodic game, the game can now be purchased as a “Complete First Season” package. Hitman’s built-in benchmark opens from the game launcher that pops up when you start the game.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the PNY card again gave me similar results to those I saw with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition. The 1440p and 4K results were identical, and the difference was just 4fps at 1080p. That said, for $200 less than the PNY, you might buy a GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition card for strikingly similar frame rates in this game.
Far Cry 5 and Far Cry Primal
Every Far Cry game takes place in a unique open-world environment. Far Cry Primal, from 2016, takes players back to the Mesolithic Age; woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats are your nemeses. Far Cry 5’s threat matrix is more modern: the fictional burg of Hope County, Montana. Far Cry 5 and Far Cry Primal both use the Dunia Engine, and both have built-in benchmarking tools.
Seeing as both games use the same engine, the PNY RTX 2080’s results differed little between the two, and again didn’t vary much from the GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition. The GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition reported near-identical scores, too.
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition Benchmark
Taking us back to the world of Eos, the Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition benchmark tool is a separate download from the standalone game. In it, the characters Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto travel to Altissia for Noctis’ marriage to Lunafreya, the former princess of Tenebrae. As convoluted as the story may be, its benchmark test is easy to run. Note: Drop the last two digits from the FFXV score, and you’ll find the average frame rate the system was able to achieve in the test scene.
Again: The PNY card and the RTX 2080 Founders Edition scored about the same at all resolutions, as did the the last-generation GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition. As for the RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition, it scored roughly 25 percent better than the PNY RTX 2080.
World of Tanks Encore
Based on the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game World of Tanks, this benchmark test shows off high-stakes competitive tank-combat sequences at whatever frame rate your PC can handle. The benchmark number is a proprietary score that’s useful only for comparing graphics cards to one another. (There’s no decoder ring for the numbers like there is with FFXV.)
No outliers here: The PNY card, as well as the two competing Founders Edition cards (the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and the RTX 2080), scored in a tight spread. At 4K, the RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition came in about 30 percent higher.
Tom Clancy: The Division
Set in an alternate version of Manhattan overrun by a smallpox pandemic, The Division is an action role-playing game (RPG) from 2016. Remembered best for its destructible environments incorporated into an explorable open world, The Division was praised on its release for its online co-op features, as well as for its Destiny-inspired shared world and loot system.
At 4K, the PNY’s RTX 2080 card ran The Division at 3fps less than the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition and 1fps less than the RTX 2080 Founders Edition—minimal differences indeed. The edge for the RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition, meanwhile, was about 25 percent.
…and How About Some Legacy Games?
Last, I used the Adrenaline Action benchmarking tool to run a handful of older (pre-2014) games at their highest graphics presets and at the 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions…
You can parse the differences at your leisure; trust me, you won’t see any surprises. And as before, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition and RTX 2080 Founders Edition cards offered about the same frame rates across the board.
A Quick Touch of Overclocking
With real-time ray tracing and DLSS still unsupported by most games (read more about those features in our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition review), one of the main benefits of buying an RTX-series graphics card right now is its compatibility with Nvidia Scanner. Nvidia distributed this tech to its partners to provide graphics-card owners with a one-click solution for overclocking their GPUs.
To access and subsequently run Nvidia Scanner, I used MSI’s Afterburner (version 4.6 Beta 9) software. The process took about 10 minutes to complete, and it works by raising the GPU’s core clock speed while closely monitoring the voltage curve to detect instability along the way. Once an ideal clock speed (one that won’t cause the system to shut down during the scan process) was detected, I re-ran some of our tests to find out if any of them would see dramatic improvement.
The only one that did was 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra, in which the PNY card originally netted a score of 6,283. When overclocked, it earned a 6,613, about a 5 percent boost. Other tests showed dips, though. In 3DMark Time Spy, for instance, the new score of 9,967 was lower than its pre-OC 10,346. Time Spy Extreme also saw a drop. Throttling was likely occuring.
Considering the system crashed during a few of my Time Spy and Time Spy Extreme trials post-overclocking, the auto-suggest Scanner overclock was clearly not stable. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I saw lower frame rates post-OC, and my Far Cry 5 runs crashed a few times, too. Given that the PNY card comes overclocked out of the box, a further manual overclock more modest than the one suggested by Scanner would seem to be all you could expect.
Should You Stay Loyal to the Founders?
Although the PNY GeForce RTX 2080 XLR8 Gaming Overclocked Edition’s specs suggest a marginal performance advantage over Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition, that 15MHz difference didn’t amount to much real-world. And given that PNY’s card costs $100 more than the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition and $200 more than the similar GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition card, the value proposition here is a tough one. Plus, the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition looks like it could be going off the market, so this card’s primary competition is Nvidia’s own RTX 2080 Founders Edition.
Unless you’re sold on the strip of RGB glow, or the PNY card’s price drops below that of the RTX 2080 Founders Edition, I would look to a different member of Nvidia’s RTX 2080 family—notably the chip maker’s own—or if you can handle the size of it, a more aggressively overclocked model like the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio.