Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti review: Basically a 3090, but for gamers

After months of endless leaks and rumors—many inaccurate—Nvidia’s $1,200 GeForce RTX 3080 Ti is finally here, and it’s an absolute monster. GeForce’s new “gaming flagship,” as Nvidia calls it, blazes through games almost as quickly as the ferocious GeForce RTX 3090. By halving the amount of ultra-fast GDDR6X memory to 12GB, this graphics card still packs more than enough VRAM to game at 4K resolution while clocking in at $300 less (though you’ll no doubt wind up paying more on the street, because graphics card pricing is insane right now).

It’s not all addition through subtraction, though. The GeForce RTX 3080 Ti weaves in performance-boosting PCIe Resizable BAR support in select titles, which Nvidia debuted after the launch of the original RTX 3080 in response to AMD’s rival Smart Access Memory. You’ll find Nvidia’s new “Lite Hash Rate” technology enabled as well, which cripples the card’s cryptocurrency mining performance. The RTX 3080 Ti also leverages Nvidia’s suite of truly killer software features, such as DLSS 2.0, the latency-reducing Nvidia Reflex API for esports games, Nvidia Broadcast’s AI-powered tools for streamers and video producers, the always-excellent NVENC encoder, and more.

This is the GeForce card that deep-pocketed gamers should buy, not the RTX 3090. But does Nvidia’s latest and (almost) greatest GPU pack enough of a punch to render AMD’s $1,000 Radeon RX 6900 XT obsolete? Let’s take Nvidia’s own GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Founders Edition to the test bench.

GeForce RTX 3080 Ti specs, features, and design

When you take a peek at the spec sheet it’s easy to see why the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti hits so hard. Under the hood, this GPU has much more in common with Nvidia’s work-hard, play-hard 3090 than the $700 RTX 3080 that shares its name. Nvidia says it’s also up to 1.5X faster than the RTX 2080 Ti that this card replaces. 

specs Nvidia

That’s a massive leap in power draw (TGP), though.

Because this “Ti” refresh builds upon the Nvidia Ampere GPUs that came before it in the RTX 30-series lineup, we won’t wade too deeply into details here, sticking largely to major differences. Our GeForce RTX 3080 review gets into Ampere’s nitty-gritty enhancements and tweaks.

The most important thing to look at is the CUDA core count, as that’s a key indicator of performance for Nvidia’s graphics cards. With a whopping 10,240 cores, the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti isn’t much of a cut-down GPU—the RTX 3090 has 10,496. By contrast, the RTX 3080 wields 8,704 CUDA cores. That alone should clue you in to how powerful the new 3080 Ti is. Our benchmarks will show it leaving the vanilla 3080 in the dust and landing right next to the 3090 in raw gaming performance.

And make no mistake: This is a proper gaming card, not a work/play hybrid like the RTX 3090. While that beast comes outfitted with a gargantuan 24GB of cutting-edge GDDR6X memory, the RTX 3080 Ti comes with a more gaming-appropriate 12GB over the same wide 384-bit bus. That gives the GPU a blistering 912GB/s of memory bandwidth, just behind the 3090’s 936GBps pace—more than enough for high-resolution gaming, especially when paired with so much memory capacity. The vanilla RTX 3080 offers a much lower (but fine!) 760GBps with its 10GB of GDDR6X and 320-bit bus.

dsc01604 Brad Chacos/IDG

AMD’s rival Radeon RX 6900 XT, on the other hand, packs in more raw capacity—16GB—but of the slower GDDR6 variety across a smaller 256-bit bus, so it only has an effectively memory bandwidth of 512GBps. That’s a bit deceiving though, as AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture includes a very high bandwidth “Infinity Cache” right on the GPU die itself that can handle many frame buffer tasks without needing to access the graphics card’s memory. Nvidia’s cards lack a similar feature and rely on the raw power of GDDR6X over a wider bus. In practice, however, all of these high-end GeForce and Radeon cards deliver plenty of bandwidth and performance for 4K gaming.

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