NVIDIA RTX 2080
A revolutionary ahead of its time?
Are you ready for the ray-tracing revolution?
THE FUTURE OF GRAPHICS CARDS and gaming is about to experience the next revolution; at least, that’s the marketing behind Nvidia’s GeForce RTX cards. When Nvidia demonstrated real-time ray tracing running at 24fps on a DGX Station earlier this year, it felt like a lot of hoopla over something more beneficial to Hollywood than PC gamers. Six months later, we’re looking at a single graphics card that can outperform the DGX Station, at just $799. Great news, at least for enthusiast gamers with deep pockets.
The technology crammed into Nvidia’s Turing architecture is certainly impressive. The CUDA cores have been enhanced, promising up to 50 percent higher performance than on Pascal, and there’s more of them. Next, add faster GDDR6 memory, improved caching, and memory subsystem tweaks that also provide up to 75 percent more effective memory bandwidth. Then toss in some RT cores to accelerate ray tracing, and Tensor cores for deep-learning applications.
Nvidia also makes some changes with the new Founders Editions. Gone is the old blower cooler, replaced by dual axial fans, dual vapor chambers, and a thick metal backplate. The 2080 FE is quieter than the 1080 FE, though the backplate does get hot to the touch. The 2080 FE also comes with a 90MHz factory overclock, with further manual overclocking an option. VR fans will like the new VirtualLink connector, which can provide power, data, and HBR3 video over a single cable (though you need a new headset that supports the standard).
All these improvements make the RTX 2080 FE a recipe for success; what could go wrong? There are several concerns. First, games will need to be coded to use raytracing and deep-learning enhancements. Those are coming, with 11 announced games featuring some form of ray tracing, and 25 that use Nvidia’s new DLSS (see Tech Talk, pg. 17). But at launch, none are available, and we haven’t had time to analyze the DLSS demos. But the bigger problems are price and performance.
Compared to the GTX 1080, the RTX 2080 registers a healthy 38 percent average improvement in gaming performance at 4K, and a 36 percent improvement at 1440p. There are a few games where it even comes close to a 50 percent jump. But we had similar performance from the GTX 1080 Ti, which is 34 percent faster than the 1080,
and we’re nowhere near the advertised 50 percent average improvement. With the cryptocurrency induced graphics card shortage behind us, and the next-gen cards arriving, 1080 Ti cards are selling for under $650 and dropping, making a $799 Founders Edition a question of faith.
Do you believe that enough games that leverage the new ray-tracing features will arrive in time to warrant jumping on the bandwagon? And will they run well enough on the RTX 2080, when even on the beefier RTX 2080 Ti many appear to struggle? Are you willing to pay more money for a card that’s only incrementally faster on existing games than the former champion? Good questions, but there’s no clear answer.
We’re optimistic about the Turing architecture, as it represents the biggest improvements to the graphics rendering pipeline we’ve seen since the first GeForce cards. In another year, or even six months, the RTX 2080 could be a kick-ass product. But right now, it carries a high price and lacks the raw performance to back it up. It’s not a revolution—yet.
$150 more than a 1080 Ti? How much is thatray tracing worth?