Zo­tac GeForce RTX 2080 AMP

Af­ter­mar­ket AIB meets RTX 2080

Maximum PC - - IN THE LAB - –ZAK STOREY

THIS IS GO­ING to be a tricky re­view. We looked at the Founders Edi­tion last is­sue, and found it want­ing, so far as gen­er­a­tional up­grades are con­cerned. It’s an odd propo­si­tion, and not some­thing we can whole­heart­edly rec­om­mend; its main sell­ing points—ray trac­ing and DLSS an­tialias­ing—are un­known quan­ti­ties at the time of writ­ing, and even once the fea­tures are sup­ported by Mi­crosoft, we’ll prob­a­bly still be wait­ing some time for more ti­tles to en­able them.

What you’re left with is a card that per­forms the same as a GTX 1080 Ti, but for $140 more. It’s a tough one to swal­low. That’s not to say DLSS and ray trac­ing aren’t in­ter­est­ing con­cepts, though. De­sign­ing ded­i­cated hard­ware on to which to off­load an­tialias­ing is a ge­nius idea, and ar­guably the fu­ture of com­put­ing, once we start hit­ting the true lim­its of physics. Ray trac­ing, too, will in­evitably be the next step in ren­der­ing high-fidelity ti­tles. But, right now, both fea­tures re­quire de­vel­op­ers to im­ple­ment them into their games ahead of time.

That’s a big prob­lem. Hy­po­thet­i­cally, let’s say the two cards (2080 and 2080 Ti) ac­count for 2 per­cent of the ded­i­cated GPU mar­ket af­ter six months. A new PConly AAA ti­tle is about to be re­leased. Of that 2 per­cent, only half likes the look of the game, and is in­ter­ested in buy­ing it. The de­vel­oper will be ask­ing, of that 1 per­cent, how many will buy it re­gard­less of whether it has ray trac­ing or DLSS? So, is it worth in­vest­ing time, ef­fort, and money to sup­port those two fea­tures, for a tiny per­cent­age of the to­tal sales? The an­swer: Prob­a­bly not. And that’s a best-case sce­nario. With most de­vel­op­ers work­ing on con­sole ti­tles first—a mar­ket dom­i­nated by AMD right now, as far as graph­ics are con­cerned— those per­cent­ages drop even fur­ther.

The prob­lem is ac­ces­si­bil­ity—be­cause the cards ca­pa­ble of ray trac­ing are so ex­pen­sive, and the uptick in per­for­mance so low com­pared to last gen’s leap, the like­li­hood of ei­ther ray trac­ing or DLSS mak­ing it into the main­stream is noth­ing short of a pipe dream. We need a $220 RTX 2060, ca­pa­ble of driv­ing ray-traced el­e­ments at 1080p, to make it a re­al­ity.

Enough about that—what about the card? What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Founders Edi­tion and the AIBs? Not a lot, out­side of the cooler. Zo­tac’s fan so­lu­tion is ex­em­plary, with in­di­vid­u­ally con­trol­lable fans, and the mid­dle fan spin­ning in re­verse to al­low for bet­ter air trans­fer. That said, the de­sign could use a lit­tle more pizazz, es­pe­cially as it costs $40 more than the Founders Edi­tion. Per­for­mance-wise, it falls ex­actly where we’d ex­pect, and we strug­gled to clock it any more than 40MHz higher on the core, even with the volt­age un­locked.

Over­all, Zo­tac’s RTX 2080 AMP is a bit dis­ap­point­ing. The cool­ing, al­though fan­tas­tic, isn’t enough to al­le­vi­ate the pain of an ad­di­tional $40 for some­thing that looks quite ba­sic in con­trast to the FE, or even the 1080 Ti AMP. And per­for­mance is only what you’d ex­pect. With the RTX se­ries likely to be fac­ing up­take prob­lems, you’d be bet­ter off in­vest­ing in a cheaper 1080 Ti. It per­forms the same, costs the same, and prob­a­bly looks a darn sight bet­ter, too.

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