Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box Review – Tiny and Mightier

AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box

 

Introduction

Gigabyte pulled a Hulk move by shredding the clothes off a mini-ITX GTX 1080. If the plastic cooling shroud was on, the massive 130mm cooling fan would have chopped it into pieces. All this transformation was done to fit a beast of a graphics card into the smallest PCIe Thunderbolt 3 eGFX enclosure on the market. The result is the AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box.

 

Hardware Specifics

From the outside the Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box looks identical to its older and slightly less powerful brother, the AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box. Seven screws and one metal armor removed shows the major difference between these two – the graphics card itself. All other components are the same.

To handle the increased TDP, Gigabyte implemented a much bigger cooling fan for the GPU. While the AORUS 1070 Gaming Box uses an off-the-shelf GV-N1070IXOC-8GD which has a 90mm fan, the GTX 1080 in this Gaming Box is custom-built with a massive 130mm cooling fan. Due to spacial constraints, there’s no room for a typical shroud covering the GPU heat sink and other bits. In my opinion, it looks awesome naked.

AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box 130mm fan

 

Unlike the AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box at launch, the Thunderbolt firmware of this AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box does not suffer from H2D issue. When paired with a Thunderbolt 3 laptop that has full 4 PCI Express lanes for its Thunderbolt 3 port, Device-to-Host/Memory Read should show 2,6XX MB/s and Host-to-Device/Memory Write should show 2,2XX MB/s in either CUDA-Z (Nvidia GPUs only) or AIDA64 GPGPU benchmark. Keep in mind, macOS and Boot Camp Windows via apple_set_os.efi may show 1,6XX MB/s for Host-to-Device. This is a fairly recent observation by eGPU.io forum member lexine and confirmed by others. We’re still gathering more information to determine whether this is caused by the newer firmware of the Thunderbolt 3 MacBook Pro.

 

The remainder of the components are direct carryovers from the AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box. The PSU is an Enhance Flex ATX 450W unit that features a single rail 12V. Its wiring harness provides one 24-pin power cable for the Thunderbolt 3 board and one 6 + 2-pin PCIe power cable for the graphics card. There’s no power switch on the PSU. The AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box turns on when there’s communication with a Thunderbolt 3 host. The enclosure fans are two tiny 40mm units that omit a buzzing noise during use. For more details, please read my AORUS GTX 1070 Gaming Box review.

The main board contains all crucial components of a Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosure as well as rear expansion I/Os. On the top side I spotted a TI83 USB-C controller and DSL6450 Intel Thunderbolt 3 controller. The Winbond EEPROM is located on the bottom side. The RGB LED strip is on this same board and can only be controlled by AORUS Gaming Engine software in Windows.

 

Downsides are build quality and limited upgrade options. Gigabyte essentially built a metal enclosure to barely contain a small PSU, two tiny fans, and the naked mini-ITX GTX 1080. The benefits are a light and compact external graphics card that’s portable enough to be a regular travel companion. The sides of this Gaming Box are 90% mesh to allow sufficient airflow. This is essential to prevent thermal buildup and overheating given the tight space inside.

I’ve tried to swap a few AMD mini-ITX GPUs in this AORUS Gaming Box enclosure with mixed success. The only card I got to run was a Sapphire Radeon R9 285 Compact. This GPU has the same 8-pin power connector as the mini-ITX GTX 1080. My attempts with an HP OEM RX 580 mini-ITX have failed so far. While the GPU physically fits inside this enclosure nicely, the 6-pin power connector presents a challenge that I’ve yet to overcome. I remain hopeful that Gigabyte is working on an AORUS RX Vega Nano Gaming Box.

Power delivery and additional USB ports are nice features for Thunderbolt 3 ultrabooks. There are four standard USB ports in the rear of the box, one of which is orange and serves as a charging port for mobile phones. It has Quick Charge support (QC 3.0) but does not transmit data. The other three USB 3.0 ports can be used with peripheral devices. Power delivery (PD 3.0) is as promised at 100W when connecting with the supplied half-meter long Thunderbolt 3 cable. I tried a 2m Thunderbolt 3 cable, and PD drops to 60W.

 

Testings & Benchmarks

Of great interest is whether this new Gaming Box works in macOS High Sierra as an eGPU. When released on September 25th, only a select few AMD graphics cards were suitable for external use. Since then there have been positive developments to make use of Nvidia graphics cards as Thunderbolt 3 eGPU in macOS 10.13. One of the workarounds was discovered by a new eGPU.io member, yifanlu. He has created an installer package, NVIDIAEGPUSupport for ease of implementation. I followed his instructions to install this workaround and was able use AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box with my 2016 15″ MacBook Pro running 10.13 [17A405] as well as 10.13.1 [17B48].

Nvidia web drivers in macOS High Sierra are still very much a work in progress. To extract the most performance from an Nvidia eGPU, Windows 10 is the more appropriate operating system to conduct testing. The Thunderbolt 3 host I used for benchmarking this AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box is an Alienware 15 R3. It has a quad-core i7-7700HQ processor and an Nvidia GTX 1070 discrete graphics card. I know owners of a laptop with these specs are unlikely to need an eGPU. The reason I chose this laptop is to show the potential of eGPU were PC manufacturers to build more laptops catering specifically to external graphics use.

As discussed in my review of the Dell Precision 7520, the best Thunderbolt 3 eGPU host is one with a quad-core processor, integrated graphics only, and direct x4 PCIe lanes over Thunderbolt 3 connection to the CPU. There’s no such machine on the market that I’m aware of. This AW15R3 comes close in that it meets 2 of the 3 requirements. The discrete GTX 1070 can be disabled through Device Manager so that it works as an iGPU-only laptop.

 

One observation I had while benchmarking the discrete GTX 1070 graphics card is how loud the Alienware 15 R3’s cooling system was. The fans ran full speed for as long as the dGPU was taxed. I measured a range of 68-71 dB at the two rear exhaust vents of the laptop. Temperature wise, it was averaging 60˚C at these two vents. The Alienware 15 R3 ran much cooler and quieter with eGPU use. The only noticeable heat and noise were from the front of the Gaming Box where two tiny 40mm enclosure fans reside. Heat and noise generation from the AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box is considerably lower than the AW15R3 (around 57 dB and 38˚C).

 

In gaming laptops, the dGPU level of performance output based on power source is another concern. The discrete GTX 1070 performs best while plugged in and Energy preference set to Best Performance. During battery use, the system is optimized to preserve battery life rather than maximize performance. Nvidia Experience also caps the FPS at 30 by default. This gaming laptop is very much intended to be used stationary and plugged in.

So who needs this much graphics performance in such a small piece of equipment? The Gigabyte AORUS team would probably say that’s the wrong question to ask. The AORUS brand is operating with a pioneer spirit that’s all about speed. So let’s take a look at the performance differences between the GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1080 when used as external graphics cards.

 

I ran the same synthetic benchmarks at 1080 (FHD), 1440 (QHD), and 2160 (UHD 4K). Here are the specifications of the four graphics cards I used for this review. The benefits of higher performing graphics cards start to show at higher resolutions.

  • EVGA GTX 1060 3GB – 1,835 MHz – 1,152 cores – 9 CUs
  • Gigabyte GTX 1070 8GB – 1,721 MHz – 1,920 cores – 15 CUs
  • Dell GTX 1070 8GB – 1,695 MHz – 2,048 cores – 16 CUs
  • AORUS GTX 1080 8GB – 1,733 MHz – 2,560 cores – 20 CUs

 

AW15R3 @ 1920x1080GTX 1060 eGPUGTX 1070 eGPUGTX 1070 dGPUGTX 1080 eGPU
Unigine Valley2,2973,0453,2613,624
Unigine Heaven1,2841,8162,0172,273
Unigine Superposition7,54110,75511,41713,799
3DMark Time Spy5,4067,7308,8589,452
3DMark Fire Strike10,31314,14716,92816,669
Tomb Raider 201389.9 FPS120.6 FPS140.7 FPS141.8 FPS
Shadow of Mordor66.2 FPS87.3 FPS105.6 FPS112.6 FPS
Dirt Rally52.7 FPS79.0 FPS87.9 FPS88.7 FPS
Hitman47.6 FPS64.4 FPS65.5 FPS71.0 FPS
AW15R3 @ 2560x1440GTX 1060 eGPUGTX 1070 eGPUGTX 1070 dGPUGTX 1080 eGPU
Unigine Valley1,4562,1062,2112,346
Unigine Heaven7931,1961,3141,440
Unigine Superposition5,1387,7357,8859,468
3DMark Time Spy3,5175,4215,5566,498
3DMark Fire Strike6,2779,19610,95111,068
Tomb Raider 201361 FPS85.9 FPS91.6 FPS105.8 FPS
Shadow of Mordor36.4 FPS59.6 FPS74.8 FPS75.1 FPS
Dirt Rally42.1 FPS57.8 FPS68.6 FPS71.2 FPS
Hitman29.1 FPS43.3 FPS49.9 FPS51.3 FPS
AW15R3 @ 3840x2160GTX 1060 eGPUGTX 1070 eGPUGTX 1070 dGPUGTX 1080 eGPU
Unigine Valley5211,0411,0341,178
Unigine Heaven204572569629
Unigine Superposition2,6004,0453,9454,907
3DMark Time Spy1,7732,7562,7233,298
3DMark Fire Strike3,4455,1105,9196,189
Tomb Raider 201330.5 FPS44.5 FPS44.8 FPS55.9 FPS
Shadow of Mordor12.0 FPS34.2 FPS38.6 FPS42.3 FPS
Dirt Rally20.6 FPS36.1 FPS40.7 FPS43.2 FPS
Hitman11.1 FPS19.3 FPS22.9 FPS24.5 FPS

 

Conclusion

External graphics performance disparity is appreciable going from GTX 1060 to GTX 1070 and from GTX 1070 to GTX 1080. Gaming at higher resolutions reduces frame rates as well as Thunderbolt 3 performance loss. Unlike larger eGPU enclosures, the custom enclosure for the AORUS Gaming Box limits your options for future upgrades. Therefore, my recommendation is to get the best one you can afford.

The Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1070 is already the best value for a full feature ready-to-go eGPU ($570 in the US currently). The AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box kicks it up a notch, priced at $700 with the performance improvements to match. This eGPU is a portable powerhouse that truly shines in QHD and UHD gaming.

 

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24 Comments on "Gigabyte AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box Review – Tiny and Mightier"

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RimsOnAToaster
Member

“Gigabyte pulled a Hulk move by shredding the clothes off a mini-ITX GTX 1080.”

This is the best start to an article I have read in a long time.

dream3
Member

Excellent review man 🙂  Mine is on the way as well.
One thing that was sort of disappointing was the lack of solutions for the 2 tiny and noise fans. Are you aware if anyone has ever tried to replace them for 3rd party more silent/efficient ones? Is that something that personally bothers you?
eGPU community probably doesn’t care that much about noise but it would be a cool project. I might try doing it myself and open a thread about it if anyone is interested.

chaosmage
Member

Awesome review! Thanks!
Did you try running Windows via USB3.0 SSD on Aorus by any chance?

Splitframe
Member

I don’t see any mention of the problems some users face regarding the USB Hub and the PSU fans that won’t turn off when you power off the notebook, but doesn’t disconnect the Aorus, have you really not encountered these problems?

kier34rayde
Member

Thank you for the informative review. I just want to know if the rotation speed of the fan is manipulable through Aorus Engine? Or is it fixed? It could be noisy to me if it’s the latter case.
To be more precise, I am referring to the fan of the graphics card itself, not the two little fans.

aerolithium
Member
Nice box but 57 dB still seems very noisy! :-/ I know it’s hard to compare to other noises but it looks like this is almost as loud as a washing machine. And it’s standing on your desk… I think this can be a real issue for a lot of people. I’m looking into buying one of the available enclosure and this noise they make is worrying me. It looks like this is very different between each enclosure and hard to test properly (depending on the room, the sound of the laptop attached, the card, the load on the card… Read more »
RikF
Member

57db shouldn’t be anything like a washing machine.  Those measurements are very close to the box, and any distance/obstruction is going to drop the levels quickly.  60db is usually compared to an aircon unit 100 feet from the point of listening, and every 10db lower is 1/2 the perceived volume.

omegacyphor
Guest
I am going to be getting this enclosure ( Just the Enclosure) in the near future. Friend is reviewing then going to pull the card to use just for editing rig. Now i am Tech savvy but i am moving from PC world to the Mac side. I was wondering on how good the power delivery is for a 17″ MBP w/Touchbar the and what is a good GPU to toss in the enclosure. I can solder and crimp and change power connectors. I know AMD RX Vega 56 was a card i was looking at. Figure i would ask… Read more »
dream3
Member
Posted by: theitsage @dream3, there’s very little space where these two 40mm fans are mounted. The two fans are daisy-chained together and connect to the main board via one connector. It’s going to be a challenge to find a third party solution to make it quieter. I personally don’t mind the buzzy noise from them. Please keep us updated if you decide to tackle this project. Ok, I see what you mean. I think I’ll try to do this anyway but I just wanted to gather a bit more information before starting, since you are very familiar with the inside,… Read more »
remiadf
Member

1. The connector is a mini 2-pin.
2. Those 40mm fans are 10mm thick. I think 20mm would fit but it will be tight.

I am using two Noctua 40mm (10 mm) fans. My Aorus gaming box 1070 is much more silent now. Next up is to swap that noisy psu fan.

Pwin98
Member

Thank you for this helpful review. I’m now considering to get one. 
And I’m curious about the GTX 1080 mini inside the gaming box. Is it possible to take it out and install it on a motherboard for desktop PC ?
I mean whether the crazy 130mm cooling fan will be a problem when putting this GTX 1080 mini on a motherboard for desktop PC ?

papoose02
Member
Hello everyone. Just received the GTX 1080 mini from gigabyte . For those who were planning to replace the card on the Aorus box 1070 , well , it’s just working fine . After 7 screws , the card was replaced . Then a driver update , reinstall the Aorus Graphic Engine  and everything seems to be fine . The card itself is different from the one included in the Aorus Box 1080 : the fan is 90mm one like on the GV-N1070IXOC-8GD , but no sign of overheating. On a XPS 15 9550 the difference is really noticeable for… Read more »
dvogiatzis
Member
Thanks for the great review. If I read correctly you write that: One of the workarounds was discovered by a new eGPU.io member, yifanlu. He has created an installer package, NVIDIAEGPUSupport for ease of implementation. I followed his instructions to install this workaround and was able use AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box with my 2016 15″ MacBook Pro running 10.13 [17A405] as well as 10.13.1 [17B48].” So does this mean this external box run properly in High Sierra and what do you mean was able to use it? Can you run for ex. Final Cut Pro X, Da Vinci Resolve,… Read more »
dream3
Member
Posted by: dvogiatzis Thanks for the great review. If I read correctly you write that: One of the workarounds was discovered by a new eGPU.io member, yifanlu. He has created an installer package, NVIDIAEGPUSupport for ease of implementation. I followed his instructions to install this workaround and was able use AORUS GTX 1080 Gaming Box with my 2016 15″ MacBook Pro running 10.13 [17A405] as well as 10.13.1 [17B48].” So does this mean this external box run properly in High Sierra and what do you mean was able to use it? Can you run for ex. Final Cut Pro X,… Read more »
dvogiatzis
Member

I understand the box is more for people that want to run bootcamp and play some games but it would be very good if you could get that extra power for the apps you daily use in mac OS. The big question is: can you use it to drive an external display and switch to internal gpu when an app is not supported or you have to use the egpu if you have an external display?

natemac00
Member

Is there any test of this with the thunderbolt 2 adapter?
I’d love to purchase this for my 2014 MacBook Pro.
We use Octane rendering for 3D and currently a thunderbolt 2 box with a 980ti works great.

OOsemka
Member

Thanks for the excellent review. I’ve been using AGB GTX 1070 with great success, and I was waiting for newer version to come out. Now, it’s finally out and it looks to bump the performance quite a bit so I purchased it. I wished Gigabyte would come up with GTX 1080TI version,

dream3
Member

Posted by: remiadf
1. The connector is a mini 2-pin.
2. Those 40mm fans are 10mm thick. I think 20mm would fit but it will be tight.
I am using two Noctua 40mm (10 mm) fans. My Aorus gaming box 1070 is much more silent now. Next up is to swap that noisy psu fan.

Woowww that is great news! Can you share more about the specs of the fan and how you were able to connect them?
Is it this one? https://www.quietpc.com/nf-a4x10 
By looking at it inside I couldnt find a way to hook 2 fans into that single mini 2-pin header.
 

remiadf
Member
Yes, that’s the one. Noctua fans are not the best to use though. You can’t solder of (remove) wires. This fan do come with 3 wires so I just cut the yellow one which only control fan speed. Then I cut the red and black wires close to the connector. Then I stripped the red and black wires and used a terminal crimping plier to merge the red and black cables from both fans into two pins. I also isolated the yellow cable and put sleeves on the wires. Hope that make sense. 🙂 Btw you can just cut the… Read more »
dream3
Member
Posted by: remiadf Yes, that’s the one. Noctua fans are not the best to use though. You can’t solder of (remove) wires. This fan do come with 3 wires so I just cut the yellow one which only control fan speed. Then I cut the red and black wires close to the connector. Then I stripped the red and black wires and used a terminal crimping plier to merge the red and black cables from both fans into two pins. I also isolated the yellow cable and put sleeves on the wires. Hope that make sense. 🙂 Btw you can… Read more »
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