Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080: What you need to know about the new superfast GPUs

The Turing GPU generation comes to market today, as the Nvidia RTX 2080 finally lands in stores. The rest of 20-Series lineup will follow, with the RTX 2080 Ti releasing on September 27 and the RTX 2070 expected in October.

Although these cards will be faster than their Pascal predecessors, Nvidia has placed much emphasis on their real-time ray tracing capabilities. This refers to a GPU’s ability to render light far more realistically than was previously possible.

Unfortunately, real-time ray tracing won’t be supported at launch, so owners will have to wait a few months to enjoy the revolutionary new tech. However, Nvidia has shown a few trailers for games including Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Metro Exodus, Assetto Corsa, and Battlefield V that show off the new real-time ray tracing tech – which certainly looks promising.

Until then, the RTX 2080 performance boost looks to potentially offer 4K gaming at 60fps, which will no doubt please gamers with an appetite for Ultra HD. Of course, you’ll have to wait until our full review before we confirm the RTX 2080’s 4K performance.

Read on for everything you need to know about the new Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics cards in lieu of our full reviews.

Related: Best graphics cards

Nvidia RTX 2080, 2080 Ti and 2070 GPUs – Prices and release dates

So far, the Turing lineup consists of three GPUs. The Nvidia RTX 2080 is on sale today, while the RTX 2080 will release on September 27. The RTX 2070, meanwhile, is expected to hit stores in October.

Numerous manufacturers will be selling these new graphics cards – each with their own strengths, weaknesses and price points – but for now we’ll focus on Nvidia’s own ‘Founders Edition’ cards.

The Founders Editions of the RTX 2070 retails for £569, the RTX 2080 for £749, and the most expensive RTX 2080 Ti costs a whopping £1099.

However, other manufacturers’ cards will start at lower price points; £715 for the RTX 2080, or £1050 for the RTX 2080 Ti.

Stay tuned for further announcements as other manufacturers follow Nvidia to market.

Nvidia RTX 2080

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Nvidia RTX 2080, 2080 Ti and 2070 GPUs features – Ray tracing

The big development with Nvidia’s Turing graphics cards is real-time ray tracing, which will massively increase the realism of how games handle lighting.

While real-time ray-tracing isn’t yet available to the public, we already have a decent idea of how games benefiting from the tech will look, thanks to a number of demos released by Nvidia over the past year. Some have shown ray-tracing in real-time on consumer GPUs.

Nvidia has already worked with Microsoft and Epic to get ray tracing integrated into DirectX and the Unreal Engine to produce a real-time demo that was shown off at GDC earlier this year.

However, powerful hardware is required to render these types of scenes, which has led Nvidia to develop its new Turing chip with a ray-tracing core, called the RT Core. This makes the chip specialised for running RTX content such as Nvidia’s short ‘Sol’, which the company claimed was running on just a single Turing GPU.

The chip will also be capable of running deep learning algorithms according to Nvidia, and will include AI image processing capabilities, too. The latter should be helpful when running high levels of anti-aliasing in games.

Of course, of utmost importance are the games, and Nvidia has already shown off the technology powering advanced lighting in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Metro Exodus, Assetto Corsa, and Battlefield V’s RTX integration in new demos and trailers.

In total, Nvidia has announced 11 games on its website that will offer real-time ray tracing:

  • Assetto Corsa Competizione
  • Atomic Heart
  • Battlefield V
  • Control
  • Enlisted
  • Justice
  • JX3
  • MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries
  • Metro Exodus
  • ProjectDH
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider

In addition to ray tracing, the Founders Editions of the Nvidia RTX 2080, 2080 Ti and 2070 cards will feature a redesigned cooling system that Nvidia claims is much quieter than previous iterations.

Related: Shadow of the Tomb Raider review

Nvidia RTX 2080, 2080 Ti and 2070 GPUs features – DLSS

Another new feature for the RTX 20 Series includes Deep Learning Super-Sampling (DLSS).

Enabled by the 114 TFLOP Tensor Cores, DLSS uses artificial intelligence to help the graphics card render an image. Nvidia claims that this technique ensures picture quality that’s of the same standard of traditionally rendered images, but with even better performance.

Unlike ray tracing, Nvidia suggests that DLSS is easy to integrate into video games, which could see the list of compatible games increase quickly. As of now, 25 games offer support. They include:

  • Ark: Survival Evolved  
  • Darksiders 3
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Hitman 2
  • Islands of Nyne: Battle Royale
  • Overkill’s The Walking Dead
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
  • SCUM
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Stormdivers
  • We Happy Few

Once we’ve finished our testing, we’ll be able to confirm whether or not DLSS makes a noticeable improvement.

Related: What is HDR gaming?

Nvidia RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti – Performance

While we’ve yet to get our hands on any Series-20 cards for testing (and we won’t attempt to pass our coverage off as a full ‘review’ until we’ve done so), Nvidia has shared some 4K (3840 x 2160), but not 1080p, frame rate benchmarking results of how both the GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti compare to the new RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti GPUs.

Note that the testing rig for both graphics cards was the same – Nvidia’s provided a short breakdown:

  • Processor: Intel Core i9-7900X 3.3GHz CPU
  • RAM: 16GB Corsair DDR4
  • Motherboard: Asus X299 Rampage VI Apex
  • OS: Windows 10 (v1803) 64-bit
  • Nvidia drivers: 411.38
GTX 1080 RTX 2080 RTX 2080 vs GTX 1080 GTX 1080 Ti RTX 2080 Ti RTX 2080 Ti vs GTX 1080 Ti
Battlefield 1 (SDR) 52.5 72.3 +37.7% 60.3 88.7 +47.1%
Battlefield 1 (HDR RGB444) 48.9 72.2 +47.8% 62.2 86.5 +39.1%
Battlefield 1 (HDR YUV422) 44.2 73.0 +65.4% 56.5 88.2 +56.2%
Call of Duty: WWII (SDR) 66.0 104.2 +57.8% 90.6 138.8 +53.2%
Call of Duty: WWII (HDR RGB444) 66.4 100.5 +51.3% 89.1 129.6 +45.4%
Call of Duty: WWII (HDR YUV422) 59.7 95.7 +60.3% 80.0 129.7 +62.0%
F1 2018 (SDR) 51.8 72.0 +39.1% 62.5 90.5 +44.7%
F1 2018 (HDR RGB444) 51.1 72.8 +42.4% 64.8 91.9 +41.7%
F1 2018 (HDR YUV 442) 46.5 72.8 +56.5% 59.7 91.2 +52.7%
PlayerUnknown’s Battleground 46.3 61.6 +33.0% 57.7 79.3 +37.4%
Shadow of the Tomb Raider 31.7 47.1 +48.6% 43.2 59.2 +36.9%
Witcher 3 43.3 61.5 +42.0% 57.0 78.1 +36.8%

We’ve no information on the PSU used, or the GPU cooler (of even if there was one).

The fps (frames per second) scores here were achieved using Nvidia’s own internal testing processes on a range of DirectX 11 (Call of Duty: WWII, F1 2018, PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, Witcher 3) and DirectX 12 games (Battlefield 1, Shadow of the Time), which we’ve partially reproduced above.

The benchmarking process is one devised by Nvidia itself, and it involves testing games at both standard dynamic range and HDR where possible. They use the Nvidia Control Panel to set monitor refresh rates to 98Hz (10-bits of colour) and 120Hz (8-bits of colour) on SDR and HDR tests using the RGB 4:4:4 colour format and 120Hz (10-bits of colour) and 144Hz (8/10-bits of colour).

If you’re looking to replicate these results, Nvidia recommends using an Acer Predator X27 and Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ gaming monitors, suggesting (but not confirming) that these were the monitors used in the testing process.

Regardless how accurate these findings are, we’re expecting a monster performance from the RTX 20-Series graphics cards. Nvidia boldly suggests that the GeForce RTX 2080 is so powerful that the CPU can act as the bottleneck. Fortunately, we’ll soon see Intel launch its 9th Gen CPUs as well as a slew of compatible motherboards arriving, which should both help to prevent future bottlenecks with the RTX 2080.

Related: Intel 9th Gen CPU

Nvidia RTX 2080, 2080 Ti and 2070 GPUs – Specs

Since the launch event, Nvidia has updated us with a fuller set of specs for both the reference and Founders Edition models:

Nvidia RTX 2070 (Ref spec) Nvidia RTX 2070 (Founders Ed) Nvidia RTX 2080 (Ref spec) Nvidia RTX 2080 (Founders Ed) Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti (Ref spec) Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti (Founders Ed)
Base Clock 1410 MHz 1410 MHz 1515 MHz 1515 MHz 1350 MHz 1350 MHz
Boost Clock 1620 MHz 1710 MHz (OC) 1710 MHz 1800 MHz (OC) 1545 MHz 1635 MHz (OC)
CUDA cores 2304 2304 2944 2944 4352 4352
Memory Speed 14Gbps 14Gbps 14Gbps 14Gbps 14Gbps 14Gbps
Standard Memory Config 8GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6 11GB GDDR6 11GB GDDR6
Memory Interface Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 352-bit 352-bit
Memory Bandwidth 448 GB/sec 448 GB/sec 448 GB/sec 448 GB/sec 616 GB/sec 616 GB/sec

All support a maximum 8K resolution (7680 x 4320) at 12 bits of HDR colour at 60Hz over a DisplayPort 1.4 connection. Dialling down to 4K – which, let’s be honest, most gamers will want to – sees all the 20-Series Nvidia GPUs supporting 12-bit HDR at 144Hz.

Seeing as more 4K gaming monitors are now supporting 144Hz rates, and UHD monitors are approaching sensible prices, we think that most gamers will be more than happy with this.

DisplayPort, HDMI and USB Type-C connections are supported across the range.

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Here’s a brief overview of each card’s physical characteristics and power requirements:

Nvidia RTX 2070

(Ref spec)

Nvidia RTX 2070 (Founders Ed) Nvidia RTX 2080

(Ref spec)

Nvidia RTX 2080 (Founders Ed) Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti (Ref spec) Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti (Founders Ed)
Height 112.6mm (4.435-inches) 112.6mm (4.435-inches) 115.7mm (4.556-inches) 115.7mm (4.556-inches) 115.7mm (4.556-inches) 115.7mm (4.556-inches)
Length 228.60mm (9-inches) 228.60mm (9-inches) 266.74mm (10.5-inches) 266.74mm (10.5-inches) 266.74mm (10.5-inches) 266.74mm (10.5-inches)
Width 2-slot 2-slot 2-slot 2-slot 2-slot 2-slot
Graphics Card Power 185W 175W 185W 225W 250W 260W
Recommended System Power 550W 550W 650W 650W 650W 650W
Maximum GPU Temperature 89ºC (192.2ºF) 89ºC (192.2ºF) 88ºC (190.4ºF) 88ºC (190.4ºF) 89ºC (192.2ºF) 89ºC (192.2ºF)

Support for Microsoft Direct X 12, Vulkan, OpenGL 4/5 are confirmed across the board. As are Nvidia proprietary standards such as G-Sync, GeForce Experience, GPU Boost and Ansel.

Furthermore, Nvidia says that all of the 20-Series GPUs support real-time ray tracing. In his presentation, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang was keen to drive home the importance of ray tracing, with the company hoping that Giga Rays – simulated rays of light –  will form part of GPU spec sheets in future years, alongside teraflops and frame buffers.

For reference, Huang said that around 5 Giga Rays/sec should be sufficient to fully illuminate a typical room in a video game, with virtual photos lighting up objects and that reflected light providing secondary and tertiary illumination of other objects.

If we’re to take that as a general rule of thumb, then the entry-level 20-Series RTX GPU, the 2070, provides the bare minimum, but with some extra headroom for all of your near-photorealistic virtual illumination needs.

Here’s how the three GPU types compare:

Nvidia RTX 2070 Nvidia RTX 2080 Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti
8GB frame buffer 8GB frame buffer 11GB frame buffer
6 GigaRays/second 8 GigaRays/second 10 Giga Rays/second

Frame buffers are portions of a GPU’s RAM that are generally reserved for storing information for a game’s colour palette. As you can see from the limited spec sheet above, the frame buffers of the Nvidia RTX 2080 and 2070 are of the same size.

Presumably, the 2080 with its higher Giga Rays per second count will be able to render an increased palette at any one time, which may be the reason Nvidia has bumped up the buffer on the 2080 Ti. The higher the resolution of a display, the more strain will be placed on the frame buffer. All of these cards support 4k at 60fps.

We’re not certain of what we can discern from the RTX-OPS spec, other than – obviously – the larger the number, the more operations the system can run at any one time.  Or, more simply, the prettier the lighting effect.

Portions of Nvidia’s demo focused on the graphical polish the RTX system can give to a game. Many ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ on seeing the shadows in Shadow of the Tomb Raider soften and lights throw layers of umbra and penumbra behind sprites instead of harsher, crisper shadows when the same game was played with RTX turned off.

Similarly, RTX meant that reflective surfaces such as glass and puddles in Battlefield V also looked more realistic, instead of a muddy pixellated mush.

But, what’s the difference between 45T RTX-OPS and 78T RTX-OPS? Nvidia itself admits that the term is rather vague. The RTX-OPS scores listed here are aggregates of the numbers of operations run by each GPU’s ray tracing (RT) cores, Tensor cores, shaders and CUDA cores. These are all components of the graphics card that will have to work together and individually to power the lustrous and dynamic lighting features promised.

Since they’re aggregates, and we don’t know how Nvidia has arrived at those figures, it’s currently impossible to determine which parts are doing the most heavy-lifting – and whether a more expensive 2080 Ti is demonstrably better than a 2080.

Nvidia also says that the RTX-OPS figures it has posted refer only to the Founders Editions versions of the 20-Series cards. ‘Founders Edition’ is basically Nvidia marketing spiel for ‘reference design’. It means that if you were to pick up an Asus ROG Strix version of the 2080 Ti, things might be a little different.

In addition, we’re yet to see the sort of impact this actually has on gaming, in terms of that last spec being a useful signpost for how a card will perform against others in its range. Given the proprietary nature of the RTX standard, it will be hard to compare side-by-side, and near-impossible to do so at a glance.

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