Today NVIDIA has launched the new GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition video card for $699. This new video card supersedes the GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition launched back in 2018 at the $699 price point. It also supersedes the GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER Founders Edition video card launched in 2019 also at $699. Basically, the $699 price segment just got a whole lot more interesting for gamers.
For testing, we included 9 games this round and tested both with and without Ray Tracing and DLSS where applicable. This provides a wide gamut of comparisons you can make, to compare without Ray Tracing and DLSS, and then compare to see what happens when Ray Tracing is turned on and then on top of that DLSS.
Game rasterization performance still matters. We are not at the point of games being able to be purely rendered via ray tracing or path tracing, far from it still. NVIDIA is pushing hard for the future of ray tracing and path tracing games, to move forward beyond rasterization. This is a great goal and one that will eventually take hold. However, in the here and now there is no doubt that rasterization performance is important and games today benefit most from this.
There has been concern and debate lately about the importance of, or focus on, good ole rasterization performance. This is because the Ampere architecture focuses a lot on floating-point, Ray Tracing, and machine learning performance. There are concerns that the Ampere architecture has side-swiped rasterization performance and is not strong in this area. Well, our results today speak volumes. We tested every single game here without Ray Tracing and DLSS at 1440p and 4K to see how well the GeForce RTX 3080 FE video card is at good ole rasterization. The results are as follows.
|GeForce RTX 3080 FE Performance Increase||1440p|
RTX 2080 Ti
RTX 2080 Ti
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider||60%||72%||23%||28%|
|Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020||9%||62%||2%||2%|
|Horizon Zero Dawn||56%||69%||24%||29%|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||60%||69%||25%||27%|
|Ghost Recon Breakpoint||55%||86%||23%||32%|
|Far Cry 5||21%||59%||5%||20%|
Remember, all these results above are without Ray Tracing or DLSS. This table shows that the average increase in performance at 1440p for the GeForce RTX 3080 FE compared to the GeForce RTX 2080 FE is 51%. The low Flight Sim result really brings the average down here, without FS in the mix the average is 56% performance increase. At 4K the average increase in performance is 70%. Considering the GeForce RTX 3080 FE is $699, same as the GeForce RTX 2080 FE, and a replacement for it, you are getting a very big bump in performance, without Ray Tracing and DLSS.
Compared to the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti at 1440p the GeForce RTX 3080 FE averages an increase in performance of 20% over the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE. The Far Cry 5 and FS 2020 numbers bring that average down a lot, if we remove those two then the average is 24%. At 4K the GeForce RTX 3080 FE averages 25% faster than the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE. The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE video card was a $1200 video card, now for $500 less at $699 you can have performance that is 20-25% faster than the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE, for less money. That is advancement, again, all without including Ray Tracing or DLSS into the mix, pure rasterization.
Point being? Rasterization Performance improvement is there on the GeForce RTX 3080 FE, the facts speak the truth.
NVIDIA RTX Ray Tracing
Ray Tracing performance, and machine learning performance, also matter. While Rasterization Performance is important today, more and more Ray Tracing types of workloads are going to be increasing and increasingly important. Now that both console platforms support Ray Tracing, and NVIDIA having supported Ray Tracing for years now, it is only going to become more important. The facts are, NVIDIA has a big leg up on Ray Tracing. The Ampere architecture improves upon the technology and makes it actually useful and playable now. Ray Tracing performance is an important aspect of a GPU and the gameplay experience.
We tested all the games that support Ray Tracing and DLSS today with and without Ray Tracing and DLSS so you can see the performance differences. It’s safe to say, the GeForce RTX 3080 FE has improved upon Ray Tracing performance over the last generation quite a bit. Once again the numbers speak the truth. In the table below we are going to compare performance with Ray Tracing enabled (no DLSS) between the GeForce RTX 3080 FE and GeForce RTX 2080 FE and GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE at 1440p and 4K. You will be able to directly see the percentage advantage in performance with Ray Tracing the RTX 3080 FE has.
|GeForce RTX 3080 FE Performance Increase with Ray Tracing Enabled on Each Video Card||1440p|
RTX 2080 Ti
RTX 2080 Ti
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider||68%||89%||25%||24%|
As you can see, with Ray Tracing Enabled the performance advantages with GeForce RTX 3080 FE are even higher than without Ray Tracing. The average performance increase at 1440p compared to the RTX 2080 FE is 77%. The average performance increase at 4K compared to the RTX 2080 FE is 84%. The GeForce RTX 3080 FE has a very large leap over the GeForce RTX 2080 FE with Ray Tracing turned on. Compared to the RTX 2080 Ti FE the RTX 3080 FE at 1440p averages 33% faster and at 4K it is 32% faster. This proves that Ray Tracing performance is vastly improved.
NVIDIA RTX DLSS
DLSS is the magic sauce that makes Ray Tracing playable at high resolutions, like 4K, and performance overall playable at higher resolutions like 8K. Ok, it isn’t magic, it’s actually machine learning accelerated through Tensor Cores in the Ampere architecture. It is important though, DLSS is the means by which NVIDIA can claim playable Ray Tracing performance at high resolutions in graphically intense games, and game performance at 8K.
Without DLSS the new GeForce RTX 3080 FE is fast enough finally to make Ray Tracing useful at 1440p in most games. However, when it comes to 4K, it’s generally still not fast enough in graphically intense games. This is where DLSS steps in, with DLSS enabled that performance is vastly improved, and this is where we get playable performance at 4K with Ray Tracing. DLSS is very important for NVIDIA because this is the sauce that makes the goose fly. Our results today showed that using DLSS in combination with Ray Tracing gave us playable performance at 4K.
In Control at 4K with Ray Tracing and DLSS we saw 65 FPS average, the game was very smooth. Without DLSS it was 36 FPS. In Wolfenstein: Youngblood at 4K with Ray Tracing and DLSS performance was at 134 FPS. Without DLSS it was 91 FPS. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 4K with Ray Tracing and DLSS performance was at 70 FPS. Without DLSS performance was at 36 FPS. DLSS was required to make 4K playable in that game with Ray Tracing. In Metro Exodus at 4K with Ray Tracing and DLSS performance was at 49 FPS. Without DLSS it was 34 FPS.
This proves that DLSS can make a big difference and will be the deciding factor whether something is playable or not especially when Ray Tracing is used. DLSS being enabled allows us to enjoy games with Ray Tracing enabled at a much higher performance at 1440p and makes 4K + Ray Tracing a possible thing. DLSS might deserve an article on its own right, as image quality is an important factor in regards to that.
We should note that all the games we used DLSS in today looked better to us with DLSS on at 4K than without. We saw no immediate blurring or lower quality images with DLSS enabled. DLSS 2.0 is a huge improvement over the first generation, though a more in-depth look is warranted.
It is true that with the GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition performance is so good that CPU limitations are going to arise in certain situations. If you have an older CPU, it could affect the overall performance advantage you receive with the GeForce RTX 3080 FE. If you are running a game that has extreme CPU limitations, or at a low resolution where it is CPU dependent, it could affect the overall performance advantage you receive with the GeForce RTX 3080 FE. You need to be aware of this.
The performance advantages you gain with a GeForce RTX 3080 FE are going to depend on these things. We’ve seen games like Far Cry 5 and Flight Sim 2020 now where CPU limitations are affecting the performance advantages. Older games are going to be affected in this way more than newer games. When games do not utilize newer APIs and forward-looking graphics features, they cannot reveal the most out of the architecture of the GPU.
If you are held back by bottlenecks elsewhere in the system, it affects GPU performance as well and keeps the RTX 30 series from utilizing its full potential. This is now increasingly true with the GeForce RTX 3080 FE, and also will be with the GeForce RTX 3090 FE. If you have a much older CPU, consider a CPU upgrade before a GPU. With Zen 3 around the corner, it might not be a bad time for an upgrade, and that might really help improve GeForce RTX 3080 FE performance.
The VRAM Debate
Around the Internet, on the forums, in the places where things such as this are debated, we have heard the concerns from gamers about the 10GB of VRAM capacity on the GeForce RTX 3080. The debate starts with the fact that the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti has 11GB, and therefore naturally 10GB is a downgrade. With new games on the horizon with system recomendations pushing VRAM capacity, and fears of 10GB bottlenecking game performance it is a worthy topic.
I’d like to offer an alternative angle on the issue. At the $699 price point, you are actually getting an upgrade in VRAM capacity. It’s important to keep in mind that the GeForce RTX 3080 is the replacement for the GeForce RTX 2080 and 2080 SUPER, not the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. The GeForce RTX 2080 and GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER have only offered 8GB of VRAM for two years now at $699. The GeForce RTX 3080 replaces those video cards and now offers 10GB of VRAM at $699. In that respect, in this price segment, you are actually getting a VRAM upgrade this generation, 10GB vs. 8GB.
The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is a $1200 video card, and while it has 11GB of VRAM, it’s the price that sets it far apart from where the GeForce RTX 3080 occupies. If you want to look at what will be replacing the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti in that price segment then you have to look toward the GeForce RTX 3090 to fill that role, or perhaps even an unannounced video card. The GeForce RTX 3090 has 24GB of VRAM, so that very much upgrades the VRAM capacity beyond the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, and its price point of $1500 is closer to the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti’s price point.
Yes, VRAM capacity matters moving forward. We always welcome more. Though features like DLSS can alleviate this pressure on the VRAM capacity. Plus, there are rumors that some custom cards could indeed slap more VRAM onboard, up to 20GB. So that solves that anyway. But when it comes down to it, at the $699 price point you are technically getting a VRAM capacity upgrade, not a downgrade.
We want to briefly talk about some other aspects of the GeForce RTX 3080 FE and the architecture in general. Firstly, to the Samsung 8nm manufacturing node discussion. No doubt this one will be talked about for a long while among tech enthusiasts. It is likely that Samsung’s 8nm custom node has held back the potential of GPU clock frequency compared to the better TSMC 7nm or Samsung 7nm EUV process. However, it is done and done, and that’s just how it is.
The facts are that this means the GPUs require a lot of power to achieve the performance goals, and they need more robust cooling to dissipate the thermals. NVIDIA doubled down on the cores to offset the frequency problem. If the GeForce RTX 30 Series was on a better node the frequencies would sore, but then we’d also probably be talking about higher prices. There is some good from Samsung 8nm, it saves NVIDIA cost, and that cost has been trickled down to us. In the end, it’s the performance that matters.
Our caution for everyone right now is, make sure you have a solid power supply if you plan on going forward with the GeForce RTX 3080 or GeForce RTX 3090. Our personal recommendations are nothing lower than 850W for the GeForce RTX 3080 and nothing less than 1000W potentially for the GeForce RTX 3090. If you plan on overclocking, this is very important as well as we saw power utilization spike very high just from modest overclocking.
We also suggest the power supply not be aged, power supply components can degrade over time by components and in their ability to regulate voltage and lose efficiency. This can be detrimental to the fast load-changes of these video cards. If you have to include the cost of a new PSU with the video card, then that does increase the total cost of ownership, and that is something to consider. Now more than ever good cable quality is important and the cable’s amperage and ability to handle the load. If you ever experience any instability with your new RTX 3080 or RTX 3090, the first component I’d look at is your power supply.
The Founders Edition design remained remarkably quiet, so we have no issues with sound here. It does get very hot though, and we recommend good case cooling and airflow, do not starve these video cards from airflow. We would have concerns in very tight and small cases, but that would have to be tested in each case individually. We will have to test add-in-board partner video card designs of course, but most seem to be looking very robust in the cooling department, which is good.
At the end of the day, the NVIDIA Ampere architecture is superior to last generation’s Pascal architecture. The node has improved from the last generation, and the architecture is now keyed more specifically to floating-point performance, Ray Tracing performance, and machine learning/AI performance via Tensor Cores. The architecture also supports some interesting new technologies we are looking forward to such as RTX I/O. It has future bandwidth support in mind with PCI-Express 4.0.
Rasterization, Ray Tracing, and Machine Learning are all aspects of modern-day GPUs, and they all matter moving forward for gaming. In traditional gaming (rasterized performance) the GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition gives us a big upgrade in performance compared to the GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition it is replacing. We see benefits depend on the game, with some as high as 80+% and most averaging around 50-60% advantage, depending on the resolution. In addition, the GeForce RTX 3080 FE also provides 20-25% faster performance than the previous fastest video card, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. When you apply Ray Tracing, the advantages in performance grow even more. Apply DLSS on top of that and Ray Tracing is playable in games at 4K now, and most definitely 1440p.
The GeForce RTX 2080 FE had a lot of trouble when it debuted giving us playable performance with Ray Tracing in games. Some games even struggled at 1080p with Ray Tracing with that card. The GeForce RTX 3080 FE finally gives us usable and playable Ray Tracing performance at 1440p, and with DLSS up to 4K. Finally, Ray Tracing is a playable game feature. But, if Ray Tracing isn’t your thing, and you don’t care about it and will never turn on Ray Tracing or DLSS you can still rest in comfort knowing that the GeForce RTX 3080 FE is faster than the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. If you are looking for a performance that is faster than the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, here it is, and it’s now $500 less than the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE was.
At $699 the GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition video card offers gamers a lot of gaming performance and features that will improve the gameplay experience. At the end of the day the gameplay experience is most important, and the GeForce RTX 3080 FE has the ability to transform that gameplay experience with features like Ray Tracing and DLSS. With the performance it brings, those features are playable. It also offers the fastest performance around, and even provides better performance than the fastest video card of the last generation. Whether you play games without Ray Tracing and DLSS, or you play games with, this video card will provide the best gameplay experience.
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