With the hype surrounding ray tracing, artificial intelligence, and Nvidia’s claims of up to six times the performance improvement, the RTX 2080 is an enticing GPU. If you have an older GPU, the decision may be easier, but gamers who already have last generation’s GTX 1080 flagship will have to weigh any potential gains against the cost.
Even if you’re not looking at playing games with ray tracing, there’s still plenty of upside with the new RTX 2080 cards once developers add more support for the card. With the RTX chips, current titles will see modest performance gains, but if you’re upgrading your entire setup, complete with a 4K gaming monitor, you’ll also be able to benefit from smart features like upscaling and improved image quality. All that comes at a cost, and we’ll help you decide whether these gains are worth the $250 premium for the RTX 2080.
Nvidia claims that the RTX 2080 can deliver up to 50 percent performance improvement when compared to older GTX 1080 cards, but our results were mixed. Although the RTX 2080 easily beats the GTX 1080 in our benchmarks, it didn’t quite top the GTX 1080 Ti. The RTX 2080 fared better than the non-Ti GTX 1080 in our 3DMark Sky Diver and Time Spy tests, but results for the Fire Strike tests were within range. When compared to the GTX 1080 Ti, the results delivered by the RTX 2080 was within range. The higher Time Spy results achieved by the RTX card is significant, given that this particular benchmark evaluates DirectX 12 gaming.
When we compared the three cards using gaming tests, such as Civilization VI or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, we found similar results, with the RTX 2080 besting the GTX 1080, but performance was either slightly worse or on par with the GTX 1080 Ti. For example, in Deus Ex, the RTX 2080 scored 70, 66, and 38 FPS using the game’s Ultra settings on 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions. Meanwhile, the Ti variant of the GTX 1080 generated better scores of 98 and 70 FPS on lower resolutions, and it matches the RTX 2080’s score of 38 FPS on 4K.
The non-Ti variant performed slightly worse with scores of 26 and 58 FPS on the lower resolutions, but the GTX 1080 does better than the RTX 2080 with a score of 71 FPS at 4K, suggesting that the performance of the RTX 2080 in Deus Ex falls somewhere between the GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti. Results were also similar with our Civilization VI and Battlefield 1 tests.
Until we see more games developers take advantage of the RTX chip’s new capabilities, we can likely expect the RTX 2080 to perform somewhere between the base GTX 1080 and the higher end GTX 1080 Ti. Once games take advantage of features like ray tracing, deep learning super sampling (DLSS), and other AI-enabled improvements, then can we expect the RTX 2080 to show even better performance results. At launch, there won’t be any new games that take advantage of ray tracing, but 25 titles will come with DLSS. When DLSS is enabled, gamers should see smoother graphics.
|RTX 2080||GTX 1080|
|Boost speed (FE model)||1,635MHz||1,800MHz|
|Memory||8GB GDDR6||8GB GDDR5X|
With only modest real-world performance gains on current titles compared to the older GTX 1080 cards, early adopters of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 are essentially investing in Nvidia’s vision for the future of graphics. This vision is delivered by the new Turing architecture, which fuses next-generation shaders with real-time ray tracing and all-new AI capabilities. This should translate to greater details, more realistic scenes, and smoother rendering with the RTX chip.
For gamers who already own a high-end GTX 10-series card, ray tracing will be the biggest draw to Nvidia’s new cards. Ray tracing is a feature that Nvidia has been working on for ten years, and it allows game developers to render scenes with photorealism in real-time by showing how light is absorbed, refracted, or reflected off of objects. This cinematic effect is popular on computer-generated imagery in movies, and now it’s being done dynamically throughout a game thanks to the built-in RT Cores.
Because Nvidia packaged a dense number of cores on the RTX series — the RTX 2080 ships with 46 RT cores and 368 Tensor Cores — the die is also considerably larger than the GTX series, measuring 754mm compared to 471mm. With this much power, Nvidia had to add a second fan to the RTX cards to keep things running cool.
The RTX 2080 supports dual-8K 60 FPS HDR displays. While the resolution won’t be mainstream for some time to come, native HDR support is beneficial for gamers to spot more details in shadows. If you’re buying a VR headset for the first time, the RTX supports a single-cable VRLink connection, allowing video, data, and power to flow through a USB-C cable.
The GTX 1080 is far more practical
Nvidia’s RTX 2080 — along with the RTX 2080 Ti — represents Nvidia’s gaming flagship GPU at the moment, and the card’s pricing reflects its status in the lineup. The GeForce 2080 Founders Edition is currently priced at $800, with pricing for the RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition stretching to $1,200. That’s a lot, even for the top-of-the-line models. By comparison, the 1080 Ti debuted at just $700 at launch.
The GTX 1080 Founders Edition currently retails for $550, representing a $250 savings compared to its RTX counterpart. If you can wait, prices for the RTX series are bound to drop further once the RTX series ships.
If you don’t need the modest performance gains of the RTX 2080 or the future-ready ray tracing capabilities, then the GTX 1080 will be the way to go. At least at launch, ray tracing games won’t immediately be available, so you won’t be able to experience the full value of the RTX cards right away — Nvidia lists eleven titles that will be coming at some point in the future. However, even if you choose to play currently available titles, features like the built-in Tensor Core, AI-enabled scene rendering, and DLSS may still be useful, especially if the RTX 2080 can upscale your 1080p title into a 4K game, provided you have the budget to make the RTX jump.