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Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Hardware
Developer: nVidia
Release Date: Sept. 17, 2020

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Hardware Review - 'Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 4, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Nvidia unveiled its GeForce RTX 30 Series GPUs, powered by the NVIDIA Ampere architecture, which delivers the greatest-ever generational leap in GeForce history.

The online press conference for Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3000 series of cards promised quite a bit to get people hyped for the lineup. The 3080 card stood out as the one to get; it greatly outperforms the previous top-of-the-line non-Titan card, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, but at a more reasonable price point. Given the combination of the worldwide pandemic disrupting supply lines and quarantine orders forcing people to stay at home — and take up PC gaming — the demand has greatly outstripped supply to the point where pre-orders still haven't been fulfilled. The supply issue has also affected some reviewers, and we had the opportunity to check out the RTX 3080 Founders Edition.

The card specs are fairly well known. The card measures at around 285mm x 112mm and takes up two card slots. It's a little shorter than a typical triple-fan card but not by much, so it should fit in everything that isn't a super small form factor build. There are three DisplayPort 1.4 connections and one HDMI 2.1 connection, so it's perfectly made for 4K 120Hz gaming on both traditional monitors and TV sets. It has a two-fan configuration, with one dedicated to the card's board and the other fan cooling the card's heatsink and the rest of the system. Surprisingly, even though it is blowing hot air into the system, it doesn't adversely affect the overall system temperature. The whole thing is made of mostly metal, and you can immediately tell due to the weight of the card, which makes you either want to seat the card vertically or use an anti-sag mechanism. It's a nice-looking card, with its only blemish being the 12-pin power adapter seated in the middle of the card. It's fine if you're hiding away your build, but it's an eyesore if you worry about aesthetics and cable management.


Before going into the benchmarks, there are a few things to note. Compared to other tech reviewers, I'm not using the latest top-of-the-line equipment for our test bench. The PC is running on a Ryzen 5 2600 at stock clocks with the stock Wraith Stealth heatsink. Two 8GB PC 3200 modules are running for a total of 16GB of RAM on an ASRock B450M-HDV Micro ATX motherboard with a bevy of SSDs for storage. It was easily considered a good last-gen bang for your buck machine more than a year ago, and that's even more true now that the Ryzen 5000 series of processors are out. Also, while the machine previously had a 600w power supply in it, it was recently upgraded to a 750w unit per Nvidia's recommendation. There are anecdotal reports online from some lucky owners saying they got the card running on a 600w power supply, but we erred on the side of caution.

Because the machine was originally built with 1080p and 1440p gaming in mind, I only have one video card on hand for comparative testing: the RTX 2060. I typically use my PC when reviewing and playing games on a 55" LG TV at 1080p, but a Dell S2716DG 1440p 144Hz monitor is used for testing both 1080p and 1440p for all games. Since the 3080 is aimed at 4K gaming, the comparisons between this card and the 2060 are going to be unfair, but the data at 1080p and 1440p can still be useful. With no native 4K TV or monitor at hand, all 4K testing is going to be accomplished via supersampling from the Nvidia control panel, but that does mean some games will omit 4K data since they don't recognize super sampling.

Unless noted, all of the benchmark tests are taken with every option set to their max with V-Sync and G-Sync off. Each benchmark test is run three times, with the final number being the average of those runs. The system is sporting Windows 10 version 20H2 with Nvidia driver 457.30 being used. While the review text will mostly focus on the RTX 3080 results, both the RTX 2060 and RTX 3080 results will be present in the charts.

We'll start off with 3DMark, one of the most widely used synthetic benchmarks for rasterized graphics. The Fire Strike test, which was specifically designed for DirectX 11, produces numbers that place the RTX 3080-equipped machine in the upper percentile when compared to everyone who has submitted a score. At 1080p, the overall number is 24564, with a graphics score of 40067. At 1440p, you're looking at a score of 17013, with graphics hitting 20364, while 4K gives an overall score of 10246 and a graphics score of 10487. Meanwhile, the Time Spy test focuses on DirectX 12 with 1080p out of the picture. At 1440p, the overall score goes to 13407 with graphics hitting 17207, while 4K gets a score of 6535 overall and 8650 on graphics.


3D Mark - Fire Strike

Resolution1080p1440p2160p
RTX 2060 Overall1670986624411
RTX 2060 Graphics1943889694233
RTX 3080 Overall245641701310246
RTX 3080 Graphics400672036410487

3D Mark - Time Spy

Resolution1440p2160p
RTX 2060 Overall72383311
RTX 2060 Graphics75223503
RTX 3080 Overall134076535
RTX 3080 Graphics172078650

3D Mark - Port Royale

Resolution1440p
RTX 2060 Overall4089
RTX 3080 Overall11044

 

While we picked games that had specific benchmark modes, they represent a mix of older and newer titles. Middle-Earth: Shadow of War was no match for the RTX 3080, as all three resolutions produced frame rates of well over 100fps (133fps on 1080p, 126fps on 1440p, 102fps on 4K). Dragon Age: Inquisition had almost the same story, with 156fps at 1080p and 113 at 1440p while 4K curiously produced 58fps. Forza Motorsport 7 also hit triple digits at all resolutions (129fps for 1080p, 103fps for 1440p, 102fps for 4K), while its open-world counterpart Forza Horizon 4 hit only slightly lower with 119fps at 1080p, 117fps at 1440p, and 86fps at 4K. Gears Tactics hit 91fps at 1080p, mysteriously rose in 1440p at 95, and then dropped back down to more expected levels at 4K with 58fps. Serious Sam 4 got in 92fps at 1080p, 87fps at 1440p, and 79fps at 4K. Dirt 5, a title that barely hit 57fps at 1080p on the RTX 2060, got in a much smoother 98fps at 1080p and 88 fps at 1440p, while Zombie Army 4: Dead War produced some ridiculous numbers with 220fps at 1080p, 173fps at 1440p, and 97fps at 4K.

Even the more finicky titles or ones with specific Nvidia Gameworks features got more respectable framerates going thanks to the brute force power at work here. Batman: Arkham Knight with its specific smoke and reactive debris got in 120fps at 1080p, 105fps at 1440p, and 83 fps at 4K. Turning on hairworks for Rise of the Tomb Raider still produced 144fps at 1080p and 83fps at 1440p. The same can be said for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which saw a boost to 98fps at 1080p and 88fps at 1440p.

Those numbers help tell the story that you'll see with just about every game. To be fair, these tests show that the 2060 can certainly hold its own on both 1080p and 1440p gaming, but modern titles like Watch Dogs: Legion start to give it trouble when it comes to hitting 60fps on both resolutions unless you start tweaking some options. Other cards in the 2000 lineup can fare better with newer titles at 1080p and 1440p with everything turned up, and even the high-end stuff 2080Ti can handle 4K if you tweak some settings.


With the 3080, it handles both resolutions with ease to the point that you can turn up everything to max without thinking about it; if you're playing a game with high refresh rates, you can get to 60fps without breaking a sweat. With 4K 60fps gaming, the card really shines, as the same "set it and forget it" attitude can be applied without worrying about hitting 60fps. For those taking their PC games to modern TV sets, this is the card that can do it without compromise. What's more, it does so at a price that's much lower than either the 2080 or 2080 Ti, cards that made people's jaws drop when the price was much higher than anticipated. The $699.99 price tag still isn't cheap for a video card, but when you see that the 3080 outperforms cards that are well over $1,000 MSRP, it feels like a bargain.

These are RTX cards, though, and that means that Nvidia is putting some faith in hardware-based ray tracing being a thing, especially since that technology is being touted by both the Xbox Series X and PS5. While there aren't that many RTX titles, a few more are present now than when the RTX 2000 Super series launched. For synthetic benchmarks, we turn once again to 3DMark with its Port Royale benchmark producing a score of 11044, a huge jump from the 4089 that the RTX 2060 produced.

We're also throwing in two benchmarks from upcoming games that are made specifically with the full suite of RTX features in mind. Boundary is an upcoming multiplayer shooter that's been described as "Call of Duty in space." The GTX 2060 had a hard time with this one, as it produced 24fps on average for 1080p, 15fps for 1440p, and crashed out at 4K. The RTX 3080, on the other hand, threw up 58fps for 1080p, 41fps for 1440p, and 19fps for 4K. Bright Memory: Infinite is another first-person shooter that already has a prologue up on Steam, and game owners are still getting the full game once it's finished. Like Boundary, the game takes a beating on the RTX 2060 with 19fps at 1080p, 11fps at 1440p, and a crash on 4K. On the RTX 3080, that jumps greatly to 60fps at 1080p, 36fps at 1440p, and 15fps on 4K.


We checked out three titles to compare performance. Wolfenstein: Youngblood uses the full suite of RTX effects, but you'd never catch yourself using it with a RTX 2060; the penalty was too great with 24 frames at 1080p, 21 frames at 1440p, and an outright crash due to lack of video memory at 4K. On the RTX 3080, you're getting the classic high frame rate iD Engine magic as the game hits 141 frames at 1080p, 136 frames at 1440p, and 78 at 4K. Watch Dogs: Legion uses the full suite from reflections to shadows, and the RTX 2060 has it going at 30fps on 1080p, 20fps at 1440p, and 5fps at 4K. With the RTX 3080, the frame rate jumps to 65fps at 1080p, dropping only a bit to 52 at 1440p and hitting 29fps at 4K — the same as the new consoles but with full resolution and all of the bells and whistles maxed out. Shadow of the Tomb Raider only uses RTX for shadows, but that's enough to bring down the RTX 2060 to 37fps at 1080p, and it wouldn't run at 1440p. For the RTX 3080, that goes to 79fps at 1080p and 63fps at 1440p.

With a few exceptions, those numbers show that ray tracing is still too expensive for 1440p and especially 4K as far as native resolution goes, while 1080p is just fine. However, Nvidia has a trick up its sleeve in the form of DLSS, and while games need to be programmed to take advantage of that option, the results are greatly improved. We tested everything with DLSS set to Quality, and both the Boundary and Bright Memory: Infinite benchmarks saw the frame rates nearly double on all three resolutions. Watch Dogs: Legion saw no change on 1080p, but it saw a 12-point frame jump in 1440p from 52 to 64 and an even bigger jump from 29 to 47 in 4K. Shadow of the Tomb Raider experiences smaller but significant jumps; at 1080p, it sees an increase from 79 to 86, and 1440p goes from 63 to 82. Meanwhile, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is curious, as there aren't any changes with DLSS on until you hit 4K, where it goes from 78 to 106.


Aside from the aforementioned supply woes hurting the RTX series and other big-ticket electronics, the RTX 3080 has one thing working against it: the Radeon RX 6800 XT. While that card is also suffering from shortages at the moment and we don't have one in stock to start comparison tests, reviews from other outlets have shown it competing closely with the RTX 3080, trading wins in a variety of games on rasterized rendering while also coming in at roughly $80 cheaper in MSRP. To be fair, the Radeon's ray tracing solution doesn't perform as well as Nvidia's offering, and their version of DLSS isn't there yet, so you have to rely on the traditional tweaking techniques to get your games to run well compared to Nvidia's one-button solution. For those who aren't convinced of the benefits of ray tracing, AMD's offering becomes rather compelling for cost-conscious players.

There's no doubt that the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 is a fantastic graphics card, as it provides some serious rendering firepower at a cost that's significantly cheaper than the previous top-of-the-line card just mere months ago. Provided that the card is finally back in stock at normal levels, the question of whether you should pick up one will fall on a number of factors. If you're playing primarily on 1080p, you're getting this because you want to either ensure that the game you're running is doing so at frame rates that'll match your high refresh rate monitor or because you want to be able to see full ray tracing without a noticeable performance penalty. If you're a 1440p player, this provides enough grunt to ensure that everything you play is above 60fps while also giving you some ray tracing at good enough frame rates with the help of DLSS. For the 4K players, this is the card that'll get you to a solid 60fps 99% of the time with good ray tracing, provided you use DLSS and tweak some of the options. Whatever resolution you go for, the 3080 can do it all without much compromise and for an acceptable price.

Score: 9.0/10



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