When Nvidia released its RTX 3090, there was no question that it was the most powerful graphics card on the market. But, as time went on, it became clear that while it could deliver excellent frame rates, gaming was really a side-line to its prosumer and creation design leanings. So, it was only a matter of time before Nvidia unveiled its RTX 3080 Ti, a new card to become king of the PC gaming hill. The wait is finally over. I’ve spent the last week putting this exciting new GPU through its paces to see if it delivers on its promise of being the “new gaming flagship” PC gamers have been waiting for. Coming in at $1,199, it’s an expensive card, so let’s take a closer look and see how it stacks up.
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Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Founders Edition – Design and Features
The RTX 3080 Ti is a powerful GPU that gives the RTX 3090 a run for its money, but you wouldn’t know it based on its 11×4-inch size. Scrub the “Ti” from the logo, and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and the basic RTX 3080. That’s a very good thing, because with the exception of video memory, this card is much closer to the RTX 3090 in specs while having a footprint that is much more accommodating to compact PCs.
Inside that frame, the RTX 3080 Ti uses Nvidia’s GA102 chip – and it packs some impressive specifications. It features 10,240 CUDA cores, an 18% improvement from the RTX 3080, a whopping 2.4-times more than last generation’s RTX 2080 Ti, and only 2% less than the RTX 3090. The GPU features a rated boost clock of 1665 MHz but easily spins past thanks to Nvidia GPU Boost, which automatically overclocks the card based on the available power and thermal headroom. While gaming, my card peaked at 1935 MHz before any manual overclocking. It also features 12GB of GDDR6X memory, the same, ultra-fast memory type found on the RTX 3080 and 3090, but it still feels light compared to the 16GB shipping on AMD’s top-tier GPUs. 12GB is enough for most games today, but will that be the case in three years? Five?
The card is built on Nvidia’s Ampere architecture, which is the second major iteration of its RTX core system. RTX evolves that traditional GPU rendering paradigm by breaking it into three parts, the programmable shader, the ray-tracing core, and the tensor core. Together, these cores sub-divide processing duties into rasterization, ray tracing, and AI, allowing each to work more efficiently and deliver innovative technologies like DLSS or Nvidia Broadcast. The RTX 3080 Ti is a step forward in capability across the board. Here’s how it compares to the RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 3080, and the step-up that is the RTX 3090.
- 34 Shader-TFLOPS (+143% from RTX 2080 Ti, +13% from RTX 3080, -4.5% from RTX 3090)
- 67 RT-TFLOPS (+56% from RTX 2080 Ti, +16% from RTX 3080, -2.9% from RTX 3090)
- 273 Tensor TFLORS (+140% from RTX 2080 Ti, +15% from RTX 3080, -4.1% from RTX 3090)
- 10,240 CUDA Cores (+135% from RTX 2080 Ti, +18% from RTX 3080, -2% from RTX 3090)
Compared to the RTX 2080 Ti, these are drastic leaps such that Nvidia expects the RTX 3080 Ti to run 50% faster than the RTX 2080 Ti on average. Coming from the RTX 3080, they’re more iterative, as you would expect from a standard-to-Ti level jump. What’s most interesting here is just how close each of these figures are to the RTX 3090.
Like RTX 3080, the 3080 Ti features Nvidia’s dual-axial cooler design and it remains just as excellent here. Featuring one fan on each side and a shrunk-down PCB, the cooler is able to draw heat through the fin-stack and provide excellent cooling performance without generating excess noise. Even after a full afternoon of benchmark testing, the card peaked at 67C and blended in well enough with my case fans that it was never distracting. This is actually two degrees cooler than the RTX 3080 in the same scenario, which is impressive, though was ever-so-slightly louder.
The added performance does come at a cost of slightly higher power draw, however. While the RTX 3080 was rated for 320 watts of power draw, the RTX 3080 Ti ups the ante at 350 watts, though there is no mention of requiring a larger power supply as of this writing, so a 750-watt PSU should be sufficient. The card again makes use of Nvidia’s proprietary 12-pin adapter to connect two 8-pin leads from your PSU. It’s admittedly easier to connect, but if you’re using custom PSU cables, it’s an unsightly little pigtail.
Like all Nvidia RTX 30-Series GPUs, the RTX 3080 Ti comes with an array of additional features to benefit gamers. The biggest of these is DLSS, Nvidia’s intelligent upscaling technology which allows games to render at a lower resolution and thus run at a higher FPS without a major impact to visual quality. The RTX 3080 Ti is perfectly capable of running games at native 4K resolution above 60 FPS but DLSS can provide a major bump in the increasing number of games that feature it. If you’re running a high refresh rate monitor, this feature alone can make the difference between hitting triple digit frame rates or not and should be a key consideration for anyone buying a GPU today.
That’s not all, however. Competitive gamers will appreciate Nvidia Reflex, which can instantly cut input latency and increase responsiveness in first-person shooters. This isn’t a global toggle, which means games need to incorporate Reflex, but many esports titles like Rainbow Six: Siege, Fortnite, Valorant, and Overwatch already feature it and Nvidia promises more to come. Streamers will also be able to take advantage of Nvidia Broadcast for a virtual green screen, AI noise removal, and intelligent face tracking with your webcam. If you’re streaming in a noisy or space-constrained environment where setting up an actual green screen isn’t possible, these features can offer impressive improvements to the quality of your stream.
The RTX 3080 Ti also comes equipped for the highest end monitors with HDMI 2.1 support. Compared to HDMI 2.0b, HDMI 2.1 more than doubles the bandwidth from 18Gbps to 48Gbps with support for 4K120Hz and HDR. If you don’t have a monitor capable of those specs, it also supports 3 DisplayPort 1.4 connections for a total resolution output of 7680×4320 split across a maximum of four monitors. For content creation and consumption, it also supports AV1 decoding and Nvidia’s proprietary encoder for streaming and video work.
Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti Founders Edition – Performance
To assess video cards, we use a mix of synthetic and real-world gaming benchmarks. These tests mix traditional rasterization with games offering ray tracing capability. Games are set to Ultra settings unless otherwise noted and DLSS is enabled on the “Quality” preset where available.
One important thing to note is that the RTX 2080 Ti I had on-hand for testing is a factory overclocked model. On average it runs approximately 4-7% faster than an RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition. Comparing FE to FE, the RTX 3080 Ti would likely pull ahead several percentage points higher than what I found in my own testing.
Let’s begin with synthetic benchmarks.
When it comes to synthetic tests, the RTX 3080 Ti is out to impress. In Fire Strike Ultra, it outperformed the original RTX 3080 by 12% and even managed to eek out a win over the RTX 3090. The class leading card in our testing remained the RX 6800 XT for this test, however. In Unigine Heaven, the 3080 Ti topped the original 3080 by 17% but fell behind the 3090. Compared to last generation’s RTX 2080 Ti, it offered a substantial lead of 43% in Fire Strike and 38% in Heaven.
Looking at synthetics specific to ray tracing, we again see very impressive performance from the RTX 3080 Ti. In 3DMark Port Royal, it’s only a hair’s breadth away from the RTX 3090 and beats the RTX 3080 by 12%. Pitted against the RTX 2080 Ti, it scored 44% higher. In the FPS-based synthetic tests, the tale is much the same with RTX 3090 levels of performance.
But, synthetics are only one part of the equation. Let’s take a look at how it performed in our standard selection of five games and some expanding 4K gaming tests.
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Game tests are where we really get an eye on a card’s real world performance. Though this card is clearly overkill for 1080p, I’ve included those figures here for context. At 4K, the RTX 3080 Ti averaged 11% faster than the RTX 3080, 40% faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, and 15% faster than the RX 6800 XT with Metro Exodus excluded due to DLSS. At 1440p, it was 10% faster than the RTX 3080, 36% faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, and 8% faster than the RX 6800 XT. Finally, at 1080p it was 4% faster, 22% faster, and less than 1% faster respectively. Against the RTX 3090, the 3080 Ti was only slightly slower with 2% fewer FPS at 4K and 3% fewer at 1440p and 1080p.
As a 4K card, I performed some expanded testing specifically at that resolution. Here’s how it performed in a wider selection of ten games.
With this larger sample size, the results become even clearer. On average, the RTX 3080 Ti was 12% faster than the RTX 3080, 48% faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, and 16% faster than the RX 6800 XT in rasterization (56% overall when the 3080 Ti is given the benefit of DLSS). Across all of these titles, the RTX 3080 Ti averaged only 2% slower than the RTX 3090.
So what do we make of all this? First off, for gamers, there is little reason to consider the RTX 3090 anymore. While it might remain the “Ultimate Gaming GPU” its advantage over the RTX 3080 Ti is so narrow that the additional $300 on the asking price just doesn’t make sense on gaming alone. Second, it’s that the standard RTX 3080 is still going to be the best choice for most gamers – at least until we can see what the performance of the RTX 3070 Ti comes in at. While the 3080 Ti is indeed faster, whether it’s worth a $500 premium over the basic model will depend entirely on the user.
Which brings us to the question of availability. Though Nvidia plans to make this GPU available at more than just its own GeForce store, the ongoing GPU shortage is expected to continue into the second half of the year, making it likely this GPU and the third-party variants will sell out quickly only to be listed at higher prices than Nvidia suggests. To help counteract this, the RTX 3080 Ti will feature a limited hash rate on Ethereum mining in the hopes of discouraging cryptocurrency miners.