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Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Review

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Review

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 is the second of two new cards that have emerged from the Turing range. And, while the RTX 2080 Ti may have stolen the headlines thanks to its huge performance and stratospheric price, the RTX 2080 could actually be the card that people actually buy. Its costs start at £730 in the UK and $790 in the US, for starters, so it’s far more accessible. Is it any good? Read our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review to discover our verdict.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Review – The Turing Architecture

Nvidia’s latest architecture has two new features that could have a huge impact on how games look on-screen, and now they’re rendered behind-the-scenes.

The first is real-time ray-tracing. There’s a good reason why it hasn’t been included on a consumer graphics card before. It’s a very intensive process that is usually the preserve of server farms in the film industry, and it doesn’t usually take place in real-time.

However, Nvidia has managed it with Turing. This technique replaces traditional rasterization methods for creating lights, shadows and reflections. It’ll make those elements in games look far more realistic and detailed.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review GeForce RTX 2080 review RTX 2080 review GeForce RTX 2080 review Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review GeForce RTX 2080 review RTX 2080 review GeForce RTX 2080 reviewThis tough technique could have a huge impact on games, and Nvidia’s new card does it by using dedicated RT Cores. That means the workload is handled independently, so the rest of the GPU is free for other tasks. The RTX 2080 has 46 of these cores, though, which is 24 fewer than Nvidia included in the flagship RTX 2080 Ti. That does raise a slight question mark over how well the RTX 2080 will be able to handle more intensive deployments of ray-tracing techniques, especially when compared to the pricier RTX 2080 Ti.

Deep Learning Super-Sampling, or DLSS, is the other big new feature. This technique replaces conventional anti-aliasing, which makes textures in games crisper and cleaner. Traditionally, it’s very intensive and can have a huge detrimental impact on the sort of framerates that games achieve.

However, DLSS splits the workload in two: half of the work is done conventionally, while the other half is done using artificial intelligence to fill in the gaps. That latter half is handled by Nvidia’s dedicated Tensor Cores, and it means that gaps deliver crisp visuals while also cutting down the workload that has to be handled by the main GPU. Like ray-tracing, the RTX 2080 is a little cut back when compared to the RTX 2080 Ti – this more affordable card has 368 Tensor Cores, compared to 544 on the flagship.

At first glance, these new features are exciting – but, look closer, and the situation becomes murky.

Ray-tracing isn’t yet available to use on new cards. Nvidia is ready to roll, but the green team is waiting for a Microsoft update – because Nvidia’s ray-tracing is built on top of Microsoft’s own ray-tracing API.

And, besides that, ray-tracing is only currently supported by eleven released or upcoming games. That number does include Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assetto Corsa Competizione, and it’s coming in Battlefield V, Control and MechWarrior 5. However, more developers need to get on-board in order for this new technique to have an impact.

The situation is similar with DLSS. Nvidia and developers need to patch games individually before this AI-powered feature will work. Around twenty-five developers have announced support for games including Shadow of the Tomb Raider, PUBG, FF XV and Hitman 2, but no games use this technique right now.

Outside of these new techniques, Turing’s upgrades when compared to Pascal are more conventional. There are improvements to integer and floating-point operations, and more efficient shader performance. The move from GDDR5X to GDDR6 memory brings 27% more bandwidth to the table.

Turing continues to support APIs like DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.6, Vulkan 1.1 and CUDA 7.5. It also adds support for VirtualLink, which streamlines connectivity with VR headsets.

On the software front, you get GPU Boost 4.0. This revision of existing technology allows users to fine-tweak the algorithms that Turing cards use to dynamically overclock, so this app will allow tweakers to extract a little more performance from the GPU. If that sounds complicated, Nvidia Scanner is a new app that allows for one-click overclocking.

Thinking of a new system? Here’s our in-depth guide to AMD’s AM4 platform – and the best motherboards

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Review – The Card

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 06 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 reviewThe RTX 2080 is an enormously powerful GPU. However, it is also cut back in most major departments when compared to the flagship RTX 2080 Ti.

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 uses a GPU called TU104. It’s got 13.6 billion transistors, which is around 5 billion fewer than the RTX 2080 Ti. That figure is also far closer to the GTX 1080 Ti, which used 12 billion transistors.

The RTX 2080 has 2,944 stream processors and 8GB of GDDR6 memory compared to the 4,352 and 11GB included on the RTX 2080 Ti.

One area where the RTX 2080 does improve on the RTX 2080 Ti is clock speed. The RTX 2080 has a base clock of 1,515MHz and 1,710MHz. Those are both better than the 1,350MHz and 1,545MHz figures found on the standard RTX 2080 Ti design. The RTX 2080’s clocks are also better than the GTX 1080 Ti.

Remember, though, that clock speeds aren’t hugely important. Speeds bounce all over the place because of boosting. Also, the Founders Edition of the RTX 2080 comes with a 90MHz overclock – just like Nvidia’s own RTX 2080 Ti – and most board partner cards will arrive with a tweak, too.

We’ve used a Palit GamingPro OC model for our RTX 2080 review. It’s overclocked by 105MHz, and it’s a dual-slot design with a smart aluminium heatsink and some customisable RGB LEDs.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Review – Pricing

The Founders Edition version of the RTX 2080 costs £750 in the UK and $800 in the US. Board partner cards start at £730 or $790 for more conventional products and rise to £900 or $870 for models with beefier overclocks and extra cooling. The Palit GamingPro OC costs £800, with US pricing still to be announced.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 02 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 reviewThose prices mean that the RTX 2080 occupies an interesting and unexpected part of the market. Those prices aren’t far removed from the older GTX 1080 Ti, which now costs between £630/$690 and £900/$1,000.

The RTX 2080’s prices are also far higher than the GTX 1080 – the card that it’s allegedly replacing, if you believe Nvidia’s naming strategy. That part now costs between £500/$490 and £550/$600.

Take a look at Nvidia’s wider range, though, and it makes more sense that the RTX 2080 will replace the GTX 1080 Ti. After all, the RTX 2080 Ti launched at £1,099 in the UK and $1,199 in the US, with board partner prices going even higher. Those prices are closer to the Titan Xp, which has now been discontinued. Going by this, we’d expect the RTX 2070 to be the card that challenges the GTX 1080.

Nvidia has moved its cards up a spot in their product stack, but has tried to keep its naming strategy intact. Can the RTX 2080 deliver enough performance to justify the price increase?

Need more news on the latest kit? Click here to check out the latest headlines.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Review – Performance

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 02 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 02 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 reviewBenchmarks are the crux of our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review. They show that the RTX 2080 is an extremely capable card that delivered playable 4K framerates in every game – but, in most of these tests, it traded blows with the GTX 1080 Ti. That’s the last-generation GPU that has a similar cost to the new RTX 2080.

In Middle Earth: Shadow of War, for instance, the RTX 2080 delivered minimum and average framerates of 31fps and 59fps with that game played at 4K with maximum settings. Those scores are three and six frames better than the GTX 1080 Ti respectively. The RTX 2080 opened up a similarly slim lead over the GTX 1080 Ti in Battlefield 1, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of Mordor.

In several games there was nothing to choose between the newer and older hardware. Both cards achieved an average of 39fps in Ghost Recon: Wildlands run at 4K. Both hit 62fps in Witcher 3.

In some games, though, the RTX 2080 actually fell slightly behind the older card. The RTX 2080 was a frame or two back in Crysis 3, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Fallout 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Total War: Warhammer II.

It’s a close-run thing. It’s also worth remembering that many of these scores are within a margin of error. It’s also worth remembering that the RTX 2080 will benefit from driver updates that the GTX 1080 Ti won’t get. And, finally, it’s impossible for us to say how well the RTX 2080 will handle ray-tracing and DLSS. Games will look better than the GTX 1080 Ti, of course, but those new features may prove too intensive for this cut-down GPU to run smoothly in some particularly tough games.

Still, while the RTX 2080 can’t always outpace the GTX 1080 Ti, its performance figures are still encouraging. It’ll play any current game at 4K even if it can’t quite match the frequent 60fps averages of the RTX 2080 Ti. Those figures also mean that the RTX 2080 will handle VR headsets and high refresh-rate screens without trouble. It also comfortably beats the cheaper GTX 1080.

Our graphs illustrate how the RTX 2080 trades blows with the GTX 1080 Ti. It beats the GTX 1080 and falls behind the RTX 2080 Ti. We’ve included graphs that show 4K minimum and average framerates, alongside 1080p and 1440p averages.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 02 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 02 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 02 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 reviewThe Palit card in our review is represented by the green bars. The rival GTX 1080 Ti is yellow, the range-topping RTX 2080 Ti is in red, and the sluggish GTX 1080 is in blue.

We’ve also tested these cards in theoretical benchmarks. Interestingly, the RTX 2080 fell a little behind the GTX 1080 in the older 3D Mark Fire Strike benchmarks. However, in the newer Time Spy test – which uses DirectX 12 and other, newer rendering techniques – the RTX 2080 was quicker than the GTX 1080 Ti.

VRMark tests repeated the pattern. In the VRMark Orange room test, which is designed for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, the RTX 2080 was slower than the GTX 1080 Ti. However, the Cyan Room benchmark is a DirectX 12 test. The Blue Room benchmark is the most demanding VR benchmark available. In these tests the RTX 2080 is faster.

Our benchmarks, whether they be in real-world games or theoretical tests, point to the RTX 2080 being stronger in tests that rely on newer and more demanding workloads. While the RTX 2080 doesn’t outpace the GTX 1080 Ti right now, that does bode well for future gaming. With ray-tracing, DLSS and driver updates on the way, it all points towards the RTX 2080 accelerating away from the GTX 1080 Ti.

Here’s Our Guide to the Best PCs for Work, Play and Everything In Between

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Review – Conclusion

Our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review illustrates that this card’s future potential is a double-edged sword. The RTX 2080 will play any game at 4K or on VR headsets today. Benchmarks and future features do promise better performance down the road. We’re confident that, given a few months, the RTX 2080 will outpace the GTX 1080 Ti.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 01 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 reviewRight now, though, there’s little to choose between the two cards. Anyone who buys an RTX 2080 today will have to wait for the card to achieve its full potential.

And, with the new features not yet properly supported, buying a Turing card right now does carry an element of risk.

The cheaper price does mean that the RTX 2080 is better value than the RTX 2080 Ti, but you’ll also get less graphical headroom.

The bottom line, though, is that this is a very fast card. Its future potential makes it a better high-end option than the GTX 1080 Ti. Just remember that a Turing purchase is based partly on its ability right now – and partly on features that may yet go unfulfilled.

The card in our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review costs $800 in the US and £750 in the UK – and here’s its official site for US and UK Founders Edition orders.  Discuss our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration after reading the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 review, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or go deep with our ultimate guide to 4K monitors – covering the technology, the terms and our top recommendations!

The Good

  • Excellent, consistent performance
  • New technology on-board
  • Cheaper than RTX 2080 Ti

The Bad

  • New technology not yet working
  • Only matches GTX 1080 Ti in benchmarks

The Specs

Stream processors: 2,944
Base clock: 1,515MHz
Boost clock: 1,710MHz
Memory: 8GB, 256-bit 7,000MHz GDDR6
Connectivity: PCI Express 3.0
Display Outputs: DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b
Max Resolution: 7,680 x 4,320
TDP: 225W
Power connections: 1 x 8-pin, 1 x 6-pin
Supported APIs: DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.6, OpenCL 2.2, Vulkan 1.1, CUDA 7.5

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080

About Author

William Copus

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