NVIDIA’s newest GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition graphic card has arrived, paving the way for the rest of the RTX 30 Series cards – the more budget-friendly RTX 3070 and the incredibly monstrous RTX 3090 NVIDIA is aptly nicknaming BFGPU – in the coming weeks, and we can finally talk about the card’s performance!
But let’s leave that aside for a moment and let me talk about the card itself. The RTX 20 Series, while great was not quite the big hitter over the GTX 10 Series that many envisioned it to be. With the RTX 30 Series, and in particular the RTX 3080, NVIDIA claims a generational leap in performance; more so when you consider that not only is the RTX 3080 Founders Edition more than twice as powerful on paper than the RTX 2080 Founders Edition, but has the same launch price of US$699.
NVIDIA has somewhat given an update to the card’s output as well. It now features a HDMI 2.1 connector, which allows support for 4K resolution at 120Hz, and three DisplayPort 1.4a ports. All four connectors can drive displays up to 8K resolution at 60Hz. What’s disappeared in the RTX 3080 and other Founders Edition and partners cards, however, is the USB-C port that supports VirtualLink to power VR headsets. The interface never really took off, and now it looks like it never will with NVIDIA all but killing it off.
NVIDIA has officially killed off USB-C ports for VirtualLink support for its RTX cards.
Another feature lacking is an NVLink interconnect. That means for the first time in a long while, a flagship GeForce card will not support SLI. I’m not sure if most gamers will miss this feature, as the performance gains even with two RTX 2080 Ti were marginal at best with many modern games. That said, the RTX 3090 Founders Edition will still retain the NVLink interconnect for SLI capability, perhaps for extreme server or complex AI applications – and you’ll need to dish out more than US$3,000 and sacrifice six bays in your casing.
At one point during NVIDIA’s CEO Jensen Huang’s RTX 30 Series keynote, he made the GeForce RTX 3080 pitch to existing GTX 10 Series card owners. And my benchmarks clearly show why. NVIDIA wasn’t kidding when they claimed the RTX 3080 to be twice as fast as the RTX 2080 (even if that is only with certain games, but we’ll give it to them).
With the RTX 3080, you also get a new 12-pin power connector.
My tests were quite brutal with 4K at maximum settings for ray tracing. So, while the RTX 3080 performs better than the RTX 20 Series with ray tracing, we can assume that modern games at 4K resolution with maximum settings is still going to crush it. Want to enjoy the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 with ray tracing switch on? You’re still going to have to either play at a lower resolution or tone down the graphical settings. Or...you can switch on DLSS.
With DLSS, framerates improved tremendously even with ray tracing. The RTX 3080 recorded a near 50% improvement in Metro: Exodus and more than 90% with Control.
The key question now is, should you upgrade? That really depends on your current setup.
The answer is a no brainer if you own any GTX 10-series and below (or even any AMD) graphic cards. Upgrading to an RTX 3080, or even the upcoming RTX 3070 will give you a huge performance boost and new gaming experiences - welcome to ray tracing and DLSS.
A close-up shot of the “flow through pull fan”. You can literally see through it.
My recommendation for GeForce RTX 2080 / RTX 2080 Super owners depends on the kind of games you play, the current framerates you’re getting at 1440p, and if there’s an intention to want ray tracing at higher resolutions. If upcoming releases like Cyberpunk 2077 and Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 are titles you want to play then things will get a little scratchy. For instance, it’s very likely that these games will run like Metro: Exodus or even Red Dead Redemption 2 in our benchmarks. That is, even at 1440p, you’re going to struggle at full graphics settings.
It’s only RTX 2080 Ti card owners that the consideration to upgrade gets a bit more painful. Especially if you’d just splashed more than $1,500 on an RTX 2080 Ti partners card before the RTX 30 Series announcement. My honest recommendation would still be to upgrade to an RTX 3080, but perhaps eventually rather than immediately. This is an assumption that RTX 2080 Ti card owners are likelier to want to play their PC games at 4K (I know, I do), and the RTX 3080 do outperform the RTX 2080 Ti cards resoundingly at 4K with ray tracing switched on.
So to close off my review, my view is that the RTX 3080 is a truly remarkable card. Despite what NVIDIA said two years ago, the RTX 2080 didn’t quite usher in 4K gaming. But the RTX 3080 definitely does, and at an even more reasonable price point.
THE 4K RAY TRACING MONSTER WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR.
AT A GLANCE
PROCESS 8nm (Samsung)
TRANSISTOR COUNT 28.3 billion
STREAM PROCESSORS 8,704 TMU / ROP 272 / 96
MEMORY 10GB GDDR6X, 320-bit, 760GB/s