Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti review: Another powerful GPU at an ungodly price


Nvidia faces two primary challenges in 2021. First, thanks to the lack of a chip, anyone who really wants to play games on a GPU can’t buy one. Second, with the Radeon RX 6900 XT, AMD came a long way from Nvidia’s crown jewel, the RTX 3090. This should not have happened.

The RTX 3080 Ti is Nvidia’s solution to both of these problems. But does it solve them or can it just be further down the road? The $1,200 price alone is enough to make you double-take. I spent some time testing the new graphics card to find out if it was one of the best graphics cards you can buy.

design

my review unit was Founders Edition Model, which means it has been designed by Nvidia itself. It matches the design of the RTX 3080 that came before, sporting a premium look that has no equal. This is a gorgeous shroud.

Cooling is also better than the 20-series model, using the same “push-pull” fan system as the rest of the 30-series cards.

The system kept the card fairly cool in my testing, never violating the 83°C maximum temperature listed by Nvidia. It’s not a cool GPU though. It’ll spin fast, and when pushed to the max, as in a video export, it’ll sound like a rocket flying off your desk.

An Nvidia representative was quick to tell me that it should be only marginally louder than other RTX 30-series cards, which were already a good deal compared to the 20-series.

Of course, there will be plenty of third party designs that take a more brute force approach to cooling. As always, the Founders Edition version of the RTX 3080 Ti will have the prettiest design, but not the most powerful.

Its size makes the RTX 3080 Ti a more manageable upgrade than the RTX 3090.

The RTX 3080 Ti is the exact same size as the RTX 3080 at 11.2 by 1.4 inches. This is a standard two-slot card, but it is quite long. This can be a tight squeeze if your case has extra storage cages or are trying to fit it into a smaller prebuilt desktop. However, it will fit snugly enough in our 30-liter case, and it’s about a full inch smaller. This makes it a much more manageable upgrade than the RTX 3090.

A “much more manageable RTX 3090” is a good description of an RTX 3080 Ti in general. It has all the power of that top-end card without any unnecessary stuff.

Port selection on the back is the same as both the RTX 3090 and RTX 3080: three DisplayPort 1.4a ports and one HDMI 2.1. This also means that it still uses the proprietary 12-pin power connector, which requires a clumsy adapter. It’s provided in the box, but it doesn’t make the connection to your PC any less ugly or cumbersome.

specs

It is not just a combination of RTX 3080 Ti and RTX 3090. They are pretty much the same under the hood as well. A quick look at the spec sheet reveals just how much these two cards have in common.

rtx 3080 tyRTX 3090RTX 3080
GPUGA102-225GA102-300GA102-200
interfacePCI 4.0PCI 4.0PCI 4.0
CUDA Colors10,24010,4968,704
color tensor320328272
RT Core808268
base clock1,365 MHz1,395 MHz1,440 MHz
boost clock1,665 MHz1,695 MHz1,710 MHz
memory12GB GDDR6X24GB GDDR6X10GB GDDR6X
memory speed19 Gbps19.5 Gbps19 Gbps
bandwidth912GBps936GBpsGB760GBpsGB
memory bus384-bit384-bit320-bit
TDP320W350W320W

The primary difference is the memory amount. The RTX 3080 Ti has half that, from 24GB to 12GB. Games won’t know what to do with the 24GB of VRAM anyway, making the 12GB RTX 3080 Ti a more realistic amount. For the heaviest workloads like data science, 3D animation, and encoding high-resolution video, the RTX 3090 is still a better part.

You’ll also find eight fewer Tensor cores, two fewer RT cores, and 247 fewer CUDA cores. That’s not enough to make a PC gamer sweat—especially with the $300 price difference between the two.

The RTX 3080 Ti is still $200 more than the AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT.

Is it worth the extra $500 on the RTX 3080? At retail prices, the answer is probably no. This proposition obviously gets complicated with increased prices of another market, but more on that later. In terms of specs and performance, the RTX 3080 looks much closer to the 3090 than the Ti 3080. problem? In terms of raw game performance, the RTX 3090 was never a great value for gamers anyway. The 24GB of memory was a big selling point in use cases beyond gaming. Without it, selling the RTX 3080 Ti is more difficult.

And don’t forget – the RTX 3080 Ti is still $200 more expensive than the AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT, which was already slightly slower than the RTX 3090.

Regardless of where you get any of these three cards, Nvidia recommends at least a 750-watt power supply.

Of course, what makes the RTX 3080 Ti an antidote to the GPU supply problem is its light hash rate. I’m no Ethereum miner – so I wasn’t able to test it myself – but the idea is that the hash rate limiter should make the card less attractive for cryptocurrency mining.

Display

I tested the Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti on a system paired with an Intel Core i9-10900K and 32GB of RAM. All games were tested at 4K max settings, but not with ray tracing effects turned on. I also tested the RTX 3080 in the same system. The RX 6900 XT results shown in the chart below, however, were tested in a different system with the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X. It’s not ideal, but unfortunately it’s not a graphics card that I had in the same system to test again.

Keep this in mind—especially in more CPU-bound games like . for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Civilization VI.

nvidia rtx 3080 tyNvidia RTX 3080AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT
3DMark Time Detective176341610817340
3DMark Fire Strike309512846038911
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla565269
battlefield v104100106
fortnite959399
Civilization VI177158184

The RTX 3080 Ti is clearly more powerful than the RTX 3080 – but it’s not by much. The 9% difference in Time Spy scores is fairly uniform across all games, with the RTX 3080 Ti beating the RTX 3080 by a few frames per second. You can expect anywhere between 5-10% better frame rates than the RTX 3080. You’re unlikely to notice the difference visually, which is something to keep in mind when considering the RTX 3080 Ti’s $1,200 price point.

However, the comparison to the Radeon RX 6900 XT is attractive. The AMD card is $200 cheaper but wins most head-to-head gaming matchups. Even with the processor difference in my testing, you can expect the RX 6900 XT to top a few fps in most games. It was already neck and neck with the RTX 3090, giving it a narrow but absolute edge over the RTX 3080 Ti in this matchup. However, it is a more power hungry card at 300 watts.

Of course, ray tracing is the Radeon RX 6900 XT’s primary weakness. The company is just starting to make some progress on its answer to DLSS, which is known as FidelityFX Super Resolution. Nvidia has spent years of development on AMD in both ray tracing and AI, making the RTX 3080 Ti the obvious choice over the RX 6900 XT if you want to dip your toe into ray tracing.

I don’t have comparative data for this, but I’ve tested it too cyberpunk 2077. No other sport relies so heavily on ray tracing to produce its incredible visuals. At Ultra settings and with Ray Tracing cranked up, the frame rate slowed down significantly. As has been demonstrated several times, even the RTX 3090 can’t handle this game consistently at 60-plus fps—at least not without degrading image quality with DLSS’s higher settings.

Compared to an AMD graphics card, however, the RTX 3080 Ti is a ray tracing machine. It is also a more effective part for content creation and 3D modeling. The RTX 3080 was already a better option than AMD’s best, and the RTX 3080 Ti only elevates that lead. It was faster, sometimes up to 49%, in two out of three Blender benchmarks I ran.

It was also a more capable video editing card, delivering a 29% better GPU score in the Pugetbench Adobe Premiere benchmark. That means smooth playback and fast exports.

Should you buy one?

A $1,200 price tag for a graphics card is unjust. That’s a lot of money to spend on a single component in your system. And yet people continue to do it – and the RTX 3080 for the card is far less than in the Ti. With that in mind, the offer to buy a card as powerful as the RTX 3080 Ti doesn’t sound so crazy.

That doesn’t make Nvidia’s pricing any less questionable. It’s $500 more than the RTX 3080, but doesn’t offer anywhere near that much performance difference. At retail price, this makes the RTX 3080 the better choice for most gamers.

But we all know that practically, retail price doesn’t matter that much at present. Most gamers will be satisfied to buy what’s available – and pitting graphics cards stacked against each other on eBay isn’t an easy task.

Of course, someday, the GPU supply problem will end, and prices may return to normal. But based on the timelines provided by these companies, we may have moved on to the next generation of graphics cards by then.

Until then, it’s the Wild West. The RTX 3080 Ti doesn’t change that dire situation much, but having another fantastically powerful graphics card on the market can’t hurt.




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