16 September 2020 18:36

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Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 review: 4K PC gaming finally makes sense

It's even supposed to surpass the RTX 2080 Ti, providing solid 4K gaming performance for much less than Nvidia's last-generation cards cost. This is all while taking advantage of ray tracing and Nvidia's special AI-powered DLSS tech that boosts frame rates while maintaining image quality. I've also performed average frame rate testing and used built-in benchmarks across a variety of games, including Fortnite, Control, Death Stranding, Metro Exodus, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Microsoft Flight Simulator. Both of these games are competitive shooters where you'd typically lower settings to hit these types of averages on other cards, but the RTX 3080 was able to deliver a smooth high frame rate experience consistently. Even when playing more demanding titles like Control or Metro Exodus, the RTX 3080 improved performance at 1440p by nearly 60 percent or more from the previous RTX 2080 card.

Gaming on the RTX 3080 at 1440p meant I could easily take advantage of the higher refresh rates on the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q monitor; if I was willing to drop image quality just a little, I could get the full 165Hz. The RTX 3080 feels like a very comfortable option for 1440p, even for some of the most demanding AAA titles. That's why I've focused the majority of my RTX 3080 testing on 4K, pairing the card with Acer's 27-inch Nitro XV273K, a 4K monitor that offers up to 144Hz refresh rates, G-Sync, and even HDR support. While Nvidia says the average game uses 4 to 6GB of memory at 4K at the moment, I do fear this will jump a lot closer to maxing out the RTX 3080 memory for future games if you want the very best settings. I might not normally have such a concern with a new card, but given the next-gen consoles are pushing 4K gaming, improved CPUs, and ray tracing, we're bound to see game developers push recommended specs even further in the years ahead. The RTX 3080 also doesn't allow me to take full advantage of the 144Hz refresh rates on Acer's XV273K at 4K, once again leaving the door open for a card with a little more performance to take us firmly into 4K gaming at even more impressive frame rates.

When I originally reviewed the RTX 2080 two years ago, I wasn't able to test ray tracing or DLSS, Nvidia's AI super sampling technology. Nvidia has also improved DLSS with a version 2.0, supported on its range of RTX cards, which makes it easier to train and should mean even more games support it in the future. Nvidia is also promising big jumps for performance with the RTX 3070 at just $499, so it certainly feels like 4K gaming on PC is about to be a lot more affordable even if the RTX 3070 means you need to lower some settings. They also feature a few never before seen technologies including new RT Cores, third-gen Tensor cores and Micron G6X video memory (VRAM) which promise to improve ray tracing performance, load times and general frame rate counts. The 3090's clear lead in memory and tensor cores is a key reason Nvidia claims it will be "the first 8K gaming-ready" graphics card ever made, while the 3080 is firmly designed for top end 4K play – despite also featuring an 8K ready HDMI 2.1 connection on its back.

During our RTX 3080 review, the card delivered on pretty much every one of Nvidia's promises, offering 4K ray tracing gameplay at over 60fps in nearly every test. To see how the RTX 3080's power usage and efficiency compares to other graphics cards, we measured their power draw and frame-rates in Doom Eternal, Death Stranding and Gears 5 at maximum settings. With a new generation of both GeForce and Radeon cards expected to launch over the next few months, we've opted to update our standardised GPU test bench for the first time in several years. With a slew of new software offerings juiced up by incredibly powerful hardware, the new RTX 3080 Founders' Edition is a triumph of graphics-card engineering and performance, earning our Editors' Choice as the new king of 4K gaming and the next great step in GPU evolution. The company also claims a boost of 1.9x in performance per watt (PPW) over the previous generation, a huge jump versus Turing's overall PPW gains over the generation before that, "Pascal." This represents a new paradigm for more-efficient GPUs that could, in theory at least, be scaled down to Nvidia's budget offerings to greater effect than what we're seeing at the top end of the stack in the RTX 3080.

The company also unveiled a host of new software features that will work in tandem with GeForce RTX cards to improve the performance of certain games, potentially increase the performance of gamers themselves, and help give everyone a bit more control over their WFH (or game-from-home) space, too. If in one fell swoop Nvidia could give all GeForce RTX card owners 40 percent more performance on lots of their favorite games with nothing more than a firmware update? Across every test we ran, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition proves itself as the premium GPU of a new 4K gaming era. The one narrative to take away from the RTX 3080 multiplayer testing is that if you're only going to play these games (or something like them in the realm of competitive esports titles), this card is mega-overkill, overshadowed of course only by whatever results we may see out of the upcoming Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition in the next few weeks. Though we can't get into specifics just yet, what we can say is that in looking at other all-in-board (AIB) cards that are due for their turn down the testing pipeline, Nvidia seems to be the only one approaching the problem of cooling the RTX 3080 differently this time around.

Now, however, RTX (and by extension, DLSS), are starting to come into their own, and the pricing of Nvidia's new line of cards is following suit.