NVIDIA revealed its GeForce Ampere architecture on Tuesday. This heralds the next generation of GeForce RTX gaming graphics cards—the GeForce 3000 Series. Ampere got its first commercial outing with the A100 Tensor Core scalar processor launched this Spring, and while we did get a technical brief about the processing muscle of the A100, the GeForce Ampere is a whole different beast. For starters, the A100 is a scalar processor lacking in much of the graphics processing machinery of a GPU. This also means that while the GeForce Ampere lineup features many of the SIMD innovations of the A100, it is essentially a different piece of silicon since its streaming multiprocessor—the smallest subunit of the GPU—has graphics-relevant hardware, such as RT cores, not found on the A100. Likewise, the A100 has compute-relevant hardware, such as FP64 cores, not found in GeForce Ampere.
NVIDIA shook the consumer graphics industry in 2018 with the introduction of the GeForce RTX 20 Series "Turing," which is the first consumer GPU series capable of hardware-accelerated real-time raytracing. With the GeForce RTX 30 Series "Ampere," expectations are running high. NVIDIA's design focus with Ampere is performance—not just raw raster performance that's improved over the previous generation, but also a vastly improved RTX hardware implementation that inflicts lesser performance costs while adding a host of new features. This is also NVIDIA's first sub-10 nanometer consumer GPU built on the 8 nm process by Samsung, giving NVIDIA's engineers a significantly newer canvas because of the node's vast transistor density increase and iso-power gains over TSMC N12.
NVIDIA does not think its responsibility toward gamers ends with selling them just a piece of hardware that renders pixels. Rather, the company seeks to provide an all-encompassing solution to enhance gaming on the PC platform. This includes a wealth of free software features for gamers to optimize their hardware better, stream and record, enhance image quality, and also attempt to address some fundamental problems with the modern PC, such as system latency and storage overhead—problems that should normally be addressed by platform providers, such as Intel and AMD.
NVIDIA also redefined "reference design" with its Founders Edition brand of graphics cards over the years. Reference-design cards were traditionally thought of as being "baseline" products for third-party graphics card makers to one-up with vastly superior coolers, product design, and more. Rather than being a baseline, NVIDIA wants its Founders Edition graphics cards to be the standard custom-design cards strive to match. With GeForce Ampere, the company looks to do just this and more, with an innovative new air-cooler design that more efficiently uses the airflow available in typical gaming PCs.
In this article, we will get you all the technical details by driving deep into the nuts and bolts of the GeForce RTX 3000 Ampere architecture to ensure you know what next-gen goodies are in store for you.
Our performance reviews of the GeForce RTX 3070, RTX 3080, and RTX 3090 graphics cards will be published at a later date—very soon.