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GeForce RTX 3080 leak reveals Nvidia’s controversial design concept

The unannounced Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card is already generating a bit of buzz thanks to its controversial cooler design. Leaked images of the front and rear of the RTX 3080 published on Chiphell reveal striated lines, pentagonal heat sinks, and an unconventional dual-fan design.

Even if there is little doubt that the next-generation RTX 3080 card — based on the new Ampere architecture that will succeed Nvidia’s Turing design found on the RTX 2080 series — will bring significant performance uplift, the card’s design has attracted the ire of the internet. Tom’s Guide noted the “bad news” about the design, while Windows Central simply stated that the card is “not pretty.”

Regardless of how you feel about the overall aesthetics of the RTX 3080, there is utility to Nvidia’s design madness. The striated lines, for example, likely serve as fins — and there are lots of them on the front and rear of the card — to help dissipate heat. The use of metal or metallic paint — concealed under blue protective tape — also makes the card look more industrial.

Nvidia RTX 3080 Ampere leak

What’s unusual is that Nvidia is placing one fan on each side of the card, whereas multi-fan GPU designs traditionally have all the fans aligned on one side of the card. The rear fan is placed in proximity to the ports, while the fans on the front are distally positioned to the bracket.

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This new fan arrangement would allow the RTX 3080 to pull air from the bottom-front of the PC case, circulate it across the heat sink, and then release it out the rear. It’s unknown if this new air circulation design provides any additional cooling benefits over Nvidia’s current GPUs, where fans are arranged in a linear fashion on one surface of the card, but the new fan placement could complement how air traditionally flows through a PC case.

You wouldn’t know it just by looking at the RTX 3080’s external housing, but the PCB design is also unusual. A leaked sketch of the internals posted by Twitter user @Cloudol reveals that the PCB only occupies two-thirds of the length of the overall card while using a V-shape design to accommodate the fan. The design allows Nvidia to position the fan closer to the GPU. Tthe power connector isn’t visible in the leaked images, leading many to speculate that the connectors have been relocated to the side in a design similar to what Nvidia has been using on its Quadro cards.

Nvidia RTX 3080 leaked render
Image credit: @Cloudol Image used with permission by copyright holder

At this point, it’s unclear if the design is finalized. It still looks to be in the prototype stage, as the card lacks the polish and gaming-forward aesthetics that Nvidia is known for. The card lacks Nvidia’s company branding and is only marked by RTX 3080 in bold on one side and GeForce RTX on the top.

A separate leak obtained by Igor Wallosek from Igor’s Lab indicates that the RTX 3080 may not be the most premium cards for enthusiasts and gamers. In addition to an upgraded RTX 3080 Super or Ti model, Nvidia may also be planning an RTX 3090 Super or Ti variant.

The leak suggests that the standard RTX 3080 will come with 10GB GDDR6X RAM and support three DisplayPort connectors, as well as an HDMI port. The upgraded RTX 3080 Ti or Super card will support 11GB GDDR6X with the same number of ports, while the 3090 Super or Ti variant will make the jump to 24GB of double-sided GDDR6X memory and also add NVLink support. Nvidia could launch the 3090 Ti or Super under its Titan branding. All three cards will be based on the same PB132 board and GA102 chipset.

The support for more memory, if accurate, helps corroborate an earlier leak that Ampere graphics could deliver more than 21 TFLOPS of performance, besting the 12 TFLOPS expected on Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox Series X game console, which uses a GPU designed by AMD.

Nvidia has not announced a date when Ampere consumer GPUs will launch — the architecture debuted earlier this year at GTC in Nvidia’s supercomputer. Nvidia’s current RTX 2000-series graphics initially launched in fall 2018.

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Chuong Nguyen
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