The Nvidia RTX 3080 has been out for a couple of days, and its already a hot topic for debate between enthusiasts and reviewers. Nvidia promised jaw-dropping performance, but it also baked a whole lot of features and a new design into its latest creation. Is the Nvidia RTX 3080 the solution to help us forgive the brand for the RTX 2080 Ti’s absurd price tag and if it’s your best bet for high-refresh, high-resolution gaming at $699.
Nvidia RTX 3080 Specifications
The Nvidia RTX 3080 features the new Ampere 7nm chip with twice the transistor count (28 million) as the outgoing RTX 2080 and RTX 2080S (13.6 million). You get a considerably higher CUDA core count of 8704 versus the 3072 on the previous-gen and the RTX 2080 Ti’s 4352. You get 58 RT cores and 272 Tensor cores with the RTX 3080 versus the 68 and 544 on the 2080 Ti and 48/384 on the RTX 2080S respectively.
The Nvidia RTX 3080 packs twice as much CUDA cores thanks to Samsung’s 8nm node, with a slightly lower Tensor core count. However, you have to remember that the Ampere cards use the third iteration of that which is, on paper, twice as powerful.
It’s also a notable fact that the Nvidia RTX 3080 is the first card from the brand to have a PCIe 4.0 x16 bus interface. Only AMD’s latest chipsets for its Ryzen processors support the standard, although there is no evidence that the card and its power already saturate PCIe 3.0. Some have reported a slight increase in FPS using a PCie 4.0 equipped motherboard, but the difference is still within margin of error or 5FPS.
Another increase the Nvidia RTX 3080 is in its faster and smarter memory which was boosted to 10GB of GDDR6X with a 320-bit interface and 760GBps bandwidth. Many are complaining that this was mostly a sidegrade, but you have to remember that the older RTX 2080S had to make do with 8GB GDDR6 at 256-bit and 491 GBps and the RTX 2080 Ti had 11GB GDDR6 at 352-bit and 616 GBps.
But perhaps the worse increase the Nvidia RTX 3080 presents is its power requirements which were raised to 320 Watts versus the 250 Watts for the RTX 2080S and RTX 2080 Ti. That means that the new chip will produce more heat while eating up more power at peak performance. Nvidia specified a 750-watt power supply for this model, which isn’t absurdly high but it might warrant an upgrade for some systems.
Nvidia RTX 3080 Design and Features
One of Nvidia’s most prominent changes on the Nvidia RTX 3080 is with the PCB itself and the newly designed cooler. The former is now made more or less 50% smaller than predecessors, with a denser layout and more layers that make it twice as strong. The brand mentioned that it also gives way to the newer cooler’s capabilities, which is a refreshed approach of the old blower-style designs.
The cooler on the reference design is a work of art, and we like that it’s more mature than previous offerings. The main chassis has a luxurious bronze finish that contrasts quite well with the exposed black fins of the heatsink. You’d normally think that it’s a card meant for workstations, but the level of edginess on the aesthetic is just enough to denote its gamer-focused nature.
But probably the most peculiar characteristic of the cooler’s design is its two fans at the bottom of the card towards the back and at the top towards the front. Nvidia explained that this improves on the blower style’s cooling capabilities by pulling air from the front of the case towards the heatsink and spewing it out at the top and towards the rear vents of the card. There is some merit to this new implementation alongside the aesthetic aspect, which is arguably, Nvidia’s current best attempt.
The only point we hate about the Nvidia RTX 3080 is its new 12-pin power adapter hidden in of the side vents. Its awkward placement at almost the middle of the card will surely wreak havoc with cable management, especially for those with custom-made wires. You also need a 12-in adapter or a new power supply if you want to utilize the 12-pin connector, which isn’t a bad idea anyway if you are running less than 750watt PSUs.
We also get a new connectivity spread with the Nvidia RTX 3080 and the rest of the Ampere GPU line up. You will find three DisplayPort 1.4b slots on the card along with the first HDMI 2.1 port that is capable of 4K at 120Hz. DP 1.4b will be useful for monitors, but HDMI 2.1 will allow owners to utilize a 4K 120Hz TV like the LG 48 CX.
Another change you will notice is the lack of a USB-C or VirtualLink port on the Nvidia RTX 3080, unlike the RTX 2080 Ti where it was first offered. Many believe that Nvidia omitted suddenly because it didn’t catch on because VR headsets aren’t designed to utilize it. The focus right now is on HDMI 2.1 since it is the rising standard for 4K 120Hz which many are dying to use for gaming PCs due to the lack of OLED options in the monitor market.
The Nvidia RTX 3080 uses the new GA102 chip, or more specifically the GA102-200-KD-A1 for the Nvidia reference model. It’s based on the new Ampere architecture made by Samsung with their 8nm process which has twice the number of transistors compared to the 14nm nodes of the previous generation. It carries 10GB of GDDR6 memory with a 320-bit interface and is compatible with PCIe 3.0 x16 and PCIe 4.0 x16 equipped motherboards.
We tested the Nvidia RTX 3080 with the same build as the EVGA RTX 2080 Ti Black Edition we reviewed earlier. The specs include an EVGA Z370 Classified K motherboard carrying a 5.0GHz-overclocked Intel Core I7 8700K and 32 GB of Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 3200 MHz RAM. However, we used newer titles this time such as Red Dead Redemption 2 which brought the previous-gen to its knees, and Control which is a poster child for Nvidia’s graphics tech.
In Control, the Nvidia RTX 3080 showed a tangible advantage in all resolutions versus our RTX 2080 Ti Black Edition. It gets 153 FPS at 1080p versus the 120 FPS from the 2080 Ti, 115FPS versus 87FPS at 1440p, and 65 FPS versus 47 FPS at 4K. You are getting around 20% to 30% increase at 1080p and 1440p, but 4K is the real sweet spot since the Nvidia RTX 3080 brings you above 60FPS, unlike many top-end cards before it.
Red Dead Redemption 2, however, is a different story, since the gains aren’t proportional with the results from Nvidia’s Ray Tracing and DLSS posterchild. The RTX 3080 gets 115 FPS versus 95 FPS in 1080p, 91 FPS versus 75 FPS at 1440p, and 65 FPS versus 50 FPS at 4K against the RTX 2080 Ti. Again, the gain is better felt at 4K since you can cleanly reach 60 FPS at max settings, although the FPS increase at the lower resolutions can also add to the smoothness of the game’s visuals.
These results aren’t on par with the hype the Nvidia RTX 3080 received prior to its launch which may have disappointed some gamers. However, even if the math for performance increase is off, you still get an appreciable boost from the card at a lower price against the $999 RTX 2080 Ti Black Edition. You are basically getting a true 4K gaming card without paying four digits, so that’s a huge advance in our books.
The second most important factor is temperature while running these games, but results can be skewed depending on numerous factors such as the case you use or your room temperature. The RTX 3080 peaked at 80C in our Cooler Master C700P while the RTX 2080 Ti Black Edition reached 83C in our testing. Some minor factors may have played into these results, but we can call it comparable since the variance between the two cards is within margin of error.
Thoughts on the Nvidia RTX 3080
The Nvidia RTX 3080 is a beast at $699, considering how it powered through high-resolution gaming with the most demanding titles. You can now own a 4K card without paying well over one grand while enjoying the benefits of Nvidia’s latest technologies such as its improved DLSS feature and optimized Ray Tracing. Power consumption is a mixed bag since the newer cards need more juice, but the watts per frame ratio is smaller compared to the older models.
The $699 price tag of the Nvidia RTX 3080 makes the bargain RTX 2080 Ti models like the Black Edition and the PNY RTX 2080 Ti Blower variant look impractical. However, they aren’t as badly handicapped in performance as many would think based on our results above. You can keep them and wait for further releases since Nvidia already teased a 20GB variant of the RTX 3080.
Another problem you will face if you jump the gun to upgrade is the short supply of the Nvidia RTX 3080 which created a vacuum that gave way to scalpers. Its nearly impossible to get a unit now at retail price, and we think the massive hype caught Nvidia with its pants down at release. Its an excellent card, but we’d wait for fresh stocks or the 20GB variant if you already have an RTX 2080S or RTX 2080 Ti.
- True 4K Gaming Below $1000
- Great Performance Increase over Previous Generation Cards
- More Attractive Price Point
- Attractive and Functional Design
- Lots of Innovative Features
- Low Availability
- Only 10GB VRAM (20GB Version in the Works)
- Performance Increase Better Appreciated in 4K
-About the Author:
Paolo is a gaming veteran since the golden days of Doom and Warcraft and has been building gaming systems for family, friends, and colleagues since his junior high years. High-performance monitors are one of his fixations and he believes that it’s every citizen’s right to enjoy one. He has gone through several pieces of hardware in pursuit of every bit of performance gain, much to the dismay of his wallet. He now works with Monitornerds to scrutinize the latest gear to create reviews that accentuate the seldom explained aspects of a PC monitor.