Almost two years ago I wrote my review for the RTX 2080 Ti and the RTX 2080. My tip was that Nvidia ran the “Fake it ’til you make it” routine to move game graphics in real time, ray tracing future. With the RTX 3080, this seems like the right move as RTX has fully arrived.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card launches this week for $ 700. It’s a high-end GPU with an emphasis on ray tracing, but also a punch for traditional rasterized rendering techniques. More importantly, Nvidia has used the past two years to overcome the growing pain of moving to a new rendering technology. This makes the RTX 3080 – and likely the entire 30 series – seem like the right time to upgrade for everyone who has been waiting for it.
RTX 3080 performance
A quick, temporary note. My test data had a few bugs that I fixed through further testing. But that means I didn̵
Nvidia’s Turing architecture, on which the cards of the last generation ran, appeared to be the result of compromises. Even the $ 1,200 RTX 2080 Ti came with compromises. You can run 4K or ray-traced on this card, but if you want both, you’ll likely have to sacrifice the frame rate. And even if you cut back, the 2080 Ti may struggle to reach 60 frames per second at 4K or with intense ray tracing effects. This feeling of compromise disappears with the RTX 3080. Modern graphic showcases such as Control run smoothly with 4K60. It even runs relatively well at 4K with RTX set to maximum, which isn’t a really playable option on the 2080 Ti or 2080 Super. But then DLSS is better than ever.
Nvidia’s Deep Learning Supersampling (DLSS) is a machine learning image reconstruction algorithm. This will essentially make games run faster without sacrificing image quality. And that technology was something that didn’t fully work when it debuted alongside the 20s series, but it’s in its prime now.
Turning on DLSS is no longer a debate. If the option is there, you should use it. It rarely looks worse than native resolutions, and it often looks better. And when it works with the performance of the RTX 3080, it feels like the future.
Mostly cool and mostly calm
The RTX 3080 has a new design for through-flow air to keep its powerful components cool, and it works. The card is noticeably quieter than the RTX 2080 Ti, and I struggled to find a torture test that would drive the 3080 above 80 degrees Celsius.
However, the 3080 consumes more electricity. It’s definitely more energy efficient when it comes to performance per watt – something Nvidia emphasizes. However, the total pulling force is often 10% more than that of the 2080 Ti under load.
One reason to upgrade
When Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, introduced the RTX 3080, he said something funny.
“Upgrading is now safe for all of my Pascal friends out there,” said the CEO.
Pascal refers to the generation shortly before Turing. It is the architecture on which Nvidia built the GTX 10 series cards. And what’s special about Pascal is that it was so good it almost felt like we had reached the end of the graph. And to a certain extent we had.
Pascal pulled out 1080p games. After years of trying to include 1080p60, a GTX 1070 was more than enough. And a GTX 1080 Ti was enough power to even get you up to 1440p144 and beyond.
The problem with this for Nvidia is that selling these higher performing cards depends on people introducing new displays. And that can take some time. When you buy a monitor, you usually treat it like an oven or refrigerator and keep using it for almost a decade or more.
That’s why Nvidia changed its pace with the RTX cards to essentially reset performance. Real-time ray tracing is the future of computer graphics, but it’s so computationally intensive that a 1080 Ti feels 15 years old.
And that was the point. Nvidia followed the ray tracing method in order to drive the planned obsolescence further. If it weren’t for the case, there would probably still be no need to upgrade from the 1080 Ti.
But two years later, ray tracing is here and it works. And Nvidia resolved all of his headaches. You also had a few extra years to upgrade your display beyond 1080p60.
And if you’re at home reading this on a 4K PC display or a 1440p144Hz or one of those new 1080p360Hz monitors, it would be almost a waste not to pair it with an RTX 3080.