NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition Review - Must-Have for 4K Gamers 344

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition Review - Must-Have for 4K Gamers

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Ampere is here! We have with us in this comprehensive performance review the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition graphics card. NVIDIA shook things up early this month by announcing not just the RTX 3080, but also the larger RTX 3090 and more affordable RTX 3070. Curiously, the GeForce RTX 3080 is being labeled as a "flagship product," while the RTX 3090 is being extensively compared to past-generation TITAN cards. With a starting price of $699, the RTX 3080 is designed to offer 4K UHD gameplay at frame-rates in excess of 60 FPS, 100+ FPS at 1440p, and extreme refresh-rate (360 Hz) gameplay.

The Ampere architecture, which we extensively detailed in our dedicated NVIDIA Ampere architecture article, heralds the 2nd generation of NVIDIA's path-breaking RTX real-time raytracing technology, with a design goal of making RTX go above and beyond the DirectX Raytracing feature set, and for raytracing to have as little impact on game playability as possible. With the new RTX 3080 and RTX 3090, NVIDIA is also introducing a new dual axial flow through cooling solution, which we detailed in our RTX 3080 Unboxing & Preview article from last week. To make this design work, NVIDIA also introduced an all new 12-pin power input, which we hope becomes a standard going forward.

The "Ampere" architecture itself debuted in Spring 2020 as part of the A100 Tensor Core scalar HPC processor targeted at AI DNN researchers. As a consumer graphics architecture, "Ampere" is debuting today, and our first coverage is this GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition review. The A100 Tensor Core processor has certain architectural bits that aren't relevant to the gaming segment, such as FP64 cores and HBM2E memory, and completely lacks all raster graphics machinery, which is required for gaming. The GeForce "Ampere" architecture does away with FP64 cores, has a supremely modernized raster hardware components, and new 2nd generation RT cores. What's common between the two are the awesome new 3rd generation Tensor cores that leverage sparsity to increase AI inference performance by an order of magnitude; and the new "Ampere" FP32 CUDA core with more efficient utilization of its number-crunching machinery.

NVIDIA has over the past decade perfected the art of presenting GeForce graphics cards as not just pieces of hardware, but complete consumer graphics solutions with software features that enhance the PC gaming experience. The company finds itself as a bulwark platform of PC gaming while the gaming experience on consoles is getting closer to the PC than ever. With new-generation Xbox and PlayStation consoles promising 4K UHD gaming, NVIDIA probably feels PC gaming can only survive if it maintains a vast technological superiority that translates into an experience that's proportionately superior. This appears to be the main reason behind the company's push toward real-time raytracing. While fully raytraced rendering continues to remain theoretical in consumer use cases, NVIDIA figured out a way to compose conventional raster 3D graphics with cleverly raytraced elements (such as lighting, shadows, reflections, and more). With the second generation of RTX, NVIDIA is adding more true-to-life effects, such as raytraced motion blur. The company even designed special hardware just for this effect!

NVIDIA is also sending the message that GeForce "Ampere" represents "the best of next-gen," and wants to show that merely being first to market with something doesn't automatically make the product superior. The "GA102" chip at the heart of the RTX 3080 Founders Edition is built on the new 8 nm silicon fabrication node by Samsung, offering comparable transistor densities and iso-power to TSMC 7 nm. It also implements PCI-Express Gen 4 for better IO connectivity with the latest desktop platforms, such as 3rd Gen Ryzen and the upcoming Intel Core processors. In the separate NVIDIA RTX 3080 PCI-Express Scaling article, we will take a closer look at the bus interface, and in yet another article, we compare the RTX 3080 on similarly priced premium processors by Intel and AMD, with the RTX 3080 benchmarked on the Core i9-10900K vs. the Ryzen 9 3900XT.

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition feels like a piece of jewelry in hand. That's because NVIDIA has for the past many generations stopped looking at its reference design products as baselines set for its board partners to improve upon, as they are, rather, high engineering standards their partners can aspire to meet or exceed with custom-design products. This is why NVIDIA refrains from using the term "reference design" when talking about Founders Edition products. Unlike the previous-generation RTX 2080 Founders Edition, which came at a premium price above the starting price, the new RTX 3080 Founders Edition will be launched at the $699 price. In this review, we take the GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition for a spin across our updated test suite of real world gaming benchmarks. We also explore the card's unique new design in detail by disassembling it, and test the card's new thermal and electrical features.

Our NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition launch-day coverage includes:We have several custom-design RTX 3080 graphics card reviews lined up for you in the days to come, from all the major vendors.

GeForce RTX 3080 Market Segment Analysis
GTX 1080 Ti$6503584881481 MHz1582 MHz1376 MHzGP10212000M11 GB, GDDR5X, 352-bit
RX 5700 XT$3702560641605 MHz1755 MHz1750 MHzNavi 1010300M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2070$3402304641410 MHz1620 MHz1750 MHzTU10610800M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2070 Super$4502560641605 MHz1770 MHz1750 MHzTU10413600M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
Radeon VII$6803840641802 MHzN/A1000 MHzVega 2013230M16 GB, HBM2, 4096-bit
RTX 2080$6002944641515 MHz1710 MHz1750 MHzTU10413600M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2080 Super$6903072641650 MHz1815 MHz1940 MHzTU10413600M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2080 Ti$10004352881350 MHz1545 MHz1750 MHzTU10218600M11 GB, GDDR6, 352-bit
RTX 3070$5005888641500 MHz1725 MHz1750 MHzGA10417400M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 3080$7008704961440 MHz1710 MHz1188 MHzGA10228000M10 GB, GDDR6X, 320-bit
RTX 3090$1500104961121395 MHz1695 MHz1219 MHzGA10228000M24 GB, GDDR6X, 384-bit
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