Almost two years ago I did I wrote my review of the RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080. My takeaway was that Nvidia was pulling a “fake until you do” routine as part of an effort to focus gaming graphics on the future of real-time ray tracing. Now, with RTX 3080, that seems like the right move, because RTX is already completely here.
The The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card will be available this week for $ 700. It’s a high-end GPU focused on beam tracking, but it’s also the rhythm of traditional raster rendering techniques. More importantly, Nvidia has used increasing pain over the past two years to move to a new imaging technology. This makes the RTX 3080 – and probably the entire 30 Series – feel like it’s time to update everyone waiting.
RTX 3080 performance
A quick temporary note. My test data had several flaws that I fixed as I did more testing. But that means I didn’t have time to chart. I will finish them and them today.
Nvidia’s Thuringian architecture, used by the latest generation of cards, felt the result of compromises. Even the $ 1,200 RTX 2080 Ti was compromised. You can run 4K with that card, or you can do beam tracking, but if you want both, you’ll probably have to sacrifice frame rate. Even when you reduce, the 2080 Ti can still strive to reach 60 frames per second at 4K or with intense beam tracking effect.
The RTX 3080’s sense of compromise disappears. Modern graphic display cases such as Control operate on 4K60. It even works pretty well at 4K when RTX is on at max, which is definitely not possible with 2080 Ti or 2080 Super. But then the DLSS is better than ever.
Nvidia’s Deep Learning Supersampling (DLSS) is a machine learning video playback algorithm. Basically, it allows games to run faster without losing image quality. And that technology wasn’t fully functional when it debuted along with the 20th series, but now it’s the very best.
Enabling DLSS is no longer a discussion. If an opportunity exists, you should use it. It rarely looks worse than native resolution and often looks better. And when it works with the power of the RTX 3080, it feels like the future.
Mostly cool and usually quiet
The RTX 3080 has a new airflow design to keep its superpower components cool, and it works. The card is noticeably quieter than the RTX 2080 Ti, and I tried to find a torture test that would make the 3080 beat more than 80 degrees Celsius.
However, the 3080 uses more power. This is definitely more energy efficient per watt, Nvidia emphasizes. However, its total traction power is often 10% higher than the 2080 Ti under load.
Reason for upgrade
When Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang introduced the RTX 3080, he said something funny.
“It’s safe to upgrade for all my friends from Pascal now,” the CEO said.
Pascal means once just before Thuringia. This is the architecture on which Nvidia built the GTX 10 series cards. The Pascal is that it was so good that it almost looked like we had already reached the end of the graphics. And to some extent we had.
Pascal took advantage of 1080p games. After many years of trying to lock 1080p60, the GTX 1070 was more than enough. The GTX 1080 Ti had enough power to reach even 1440p144 and more.
The problem with Nvidia is that sales of those more powerful cards depended on people accepting the new screens. This may take some time. If you buy a monitor, you usually treat it as an oven or refrigerator and continue to use it for the better part of a decade or more.
So Nvidia has changed the clock with RTX cards in order to substantially restore performance. Real-time beam tracking is the future of computer graphics, but it is so expensive for computing that it makes 1080 Ti feel like 15 years.
And that was the point. Nvidia continued to search for rays as it continued its planned aging. If not, there would probably still be no reason to upgrade from 1080 Ti.
But two years later, ray tracing is up and running. And Nvidia has solved all the headaches. You also had a few extra years to upgrade your screen beyond 1080p60.
And if you’re sitting at home reading this on a 4K computer screen, at 1440p144Hz, or on one of these new 1080p360Hz monitors, it would hardly be a waste if you didn’t pair it with the RTX 3080.