Info Verdict: Even the STRIX can only pull a ~10% increase in performance over the FE in games. Keep this in mind when buying.

Sep 12, 2022
Foreword: In the past 2 weeks or so, I've learned about VRM design, PCBs, how cooling impacts some series more than others (and why) and so on. I'm not a "GPU tech person", but my background is low-level programming and Data Science, I know numbers and, in the lack of any post like this, might as well post it. I've tried to be as unbiased as possible and collect as much data from all kinds of people, even asked some big channels directly. Anyways, my original goal was to discover whether or not there is a big difference between the FE and AIB cards (3080Ti/3090 specifically, so 3000-series). I am in the market for buying a new PC come the 4000 series, my budget being $5k and I thought - damn, that budget will get me top-of-the-line everything. Boy, was I wrong. A STRIX goes for ~30-35%+ over the FE, as well as other AIBs, especially in Europe (I am based in NA, but I looked at EU markets as well). So, with that in mind, you're looking to pay ~$1350 vs. $1000. In some countries, the price increase is as high as 50-60%, which is insane, and that's not a single event. The Strix is considered the top-of-the-top (besides the Galax HOF), but is the price worth it?

I'll start with the conclusion: If you don't care about a maximum increase of ~10%, objectively, absolutely not, if all you care about performance, however, some AIBs like Inno3D have low-quality everything - VRMs, power limits, etc.. Even with crazy OCs, assuming you can get to 2000Mhz+ the Strix gains ~9-10%, so, that 100FPS becomes 110FPS. We're talking Stock FE vs. crazy OC Strix. When we OC the FE, we get a closer ~5%. There's just simply no reason to buy an AIB over the FE for the performance alone(*). Now, here's where they differ - had to sit through a mountain of conflicting information:
  • Customer Support
  • Warranties
  • Community
  • Resale Value
  • Power Limits (and therefore thermals)
1) Customer Support - There's too much conflicting information about all AIBs and NVIDIA themselves. Simply too much to draw conclusions, but, my gut telling me that they're all the same, more or less. You just have to take a stance of "no <Mod Edit>, I know what I paid for and what the rules are" and hope for the best. Out of all the AIBs that I looked at, MSI seems to be the least painful one in this department (cue the "MSI sucks comments" - again, when we look at things quantitatively, esp. given the fact that we cannot know whose fault really was in these situations, MSI seems to be doing the best. You might've gotten scammed or whatever, but it just doesn't happen as often as you think it does, one/a few events out of millions of sales is not exactly a meaningful sample size), plus, they've got a lot of other products, strong business and so on. Overall, seems to be the least problematic, BUT not without problems.

2) Warranties - EVGA had the best warranty programs ever. I can't speak as to whether they were fulfilling them correctly or not, as I've heard stories of people sending cards for RMA during the pandemic and not hearing anything for close to 2 years. It's very hard to give some guidance here, given the pandemic. A very crappy situation all around, but understandable. Anyways, now that EVGA is gone, nearly all of the vendors offer at least a 3-year warranty. However, your mileage may vary and you'll probably have to go through painful processes with every AIB. Some of them will give you crap reasons for not RMA-ing a card, such as "wrong packaging" and what-not. Stupid stuff. At the end of the day, your card will get repaired if it's damaged and it's not your fault. It will most likely take a long time, however.

3) Community - EVGA (this might as well be the last one, they're very die-hard fans, but they'll help you) ?> ASUS > MSI

4) Resale Value - FE's prices drop somewhat heavily (esp. on used-cards markets), AIB's, especially Strix' don't. You can always sell the card at a very low loss. Of course, this depends on the region and other factors, but it seems to be the trend.

To note that, if the 4000 series FE have bad cooling, AIB cards' prices will be justified. The 1080Ti was a very hot card and the differences between the FE and a high-end AIB 1080Ti were very high. NVIDIA's been getting better at cooling, so, all of the above could just be garbage, depending on this one factor. As such, I highly advise waiting for reviews to come in. The cooling systems on the AIB cards always look awesome, but you never know if they're actually needed.

5) Power Limits - I wanted to have a small note before this point, so, if we look at Inno3D cards, you can see that their power limits, as well choice of VRM and so on, make it a clearly weaker card. If we compare the Inno3D and Strix, the differences are staggering, esp. in terms of cooling. The Inno3D 3080Ti iChill X4 seems to be a dumpster-fire when it comes to thermals, so, no OC there.
You have to look at these and...well...again, wait for the reviews! These cooling solutions all look very attractive to the untrained eye and, I guess, until you can actually run the benchmark, you just won't know, but who would've guessed that the Inno3D card would be so bad? Regardless, anyways, remember, even with the Power Limits lifted, leaving the Galaxy HOF out of this talk, you just simply won't get anything out of OC-ing and these thermals. You. Just. Won't. There's an argument to be making about the longevity of the card, but reading on sustained usage of cards at ~80C or so (hot-spot vs. the core itself and surrounding components) is absolutely not a problem...unless it is! This is a complicated one. Your card running at 80C is not an issue per-se (the Strix will run 30C cooler, so, of course, it's an amazing product in that sense, but, remember the price tag), it will not shorten the life-span by much, but all that air has to go somewhere. If it goes inside the CPU, well, you're gonna have bad temperatures. As such, many things need to be considered. The Strix runs way cooler than the FE, but the FE will fare just as well with a properly cooled system. I guess it's up to you if you wanna pay 30-35% (60%, depending on some markets) to fix this issue, or, if you'd rather take that money and get a proper case (Lian Li Mesh 2/3 are the best in terms of thermals, UNLESS you can get the "Fractal Torrent", they're also very cheap) and some proper fans to actually fix an issue that will be there no matter what.

A tip for the above point: I bought some Thermal Grizzly pads and paste and slapped it onto both my 3080Ti and 1080Ti. Temperature drops were ~15-20C degrees. Honestly, get a FE and just do it yourself. It's so, so easy. This is probably because the cards haven't had a "refresh" in quite a long time, I imagine that, with newer cards, you might drop way less, so, keep this in mind.

I hope this helps you make an informed decision. It took too much time and research to find what should be the #1 video on everyone's channel. It's also kinda suspicious that it isn't, come to think of it.

Some sources (but not all, way, way, way too much to fit in even two pages):



- I feel this video is completely, totally wrong. Yes, the Strix use premium components, but, please, take into account my above points.
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