We tested Nvidia’s RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti. Are they a worthy upgrade?

A new line of graphics cards only comes every couple of years. But cards as ambitious as Nvidia’s RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti? They’re a rare bird indeed.

After an entire year of anticipation, we finally have these two new, powerful GPUs loaded into our systems. But the first thing we wanted to test wasn’t the fancy, ray tracing abilities or AI-powered anti-aliasing. No, no. Here’s the question we sought to answer: Do they actually deliver a substantial improvement on performance worth their high price tag? The answer may surprise you. And disappoint you.

On your marks

For all of our initial testing, we wanted to use the same system we test every other graphics card on — and that’s our monster 12-core Threadripper 1920X system, which includes 32GB of RAM and an Asus 4K gaming monitor. We popped in the GeForce RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti, both Founders Edition straight from Nvidia, and got right to benchmarking.

We started our tests with 3DMark, again, to really get an apples-to-apples sense for how these graphics cards compare with others. The immediate results? Well, we can say with certainty these new cards are faster than the previous generation, and the RTX 2080 Ti is definitely the most powerful graphics card ever made. With a score of 20,210, that’s the highest score for a single GPU we’ve ever recorded.

But as the numbers poured in, we started to see what would be confirmed through game tests later: This just isn’t the performance spike Nvidia boasted of. 

If we take a look at the performance jump from the GTX 980 to the GTX 1080, it’s an impressive 33 percent increase in Fire Strike. Going from the 1080 to the 2080 we see only an 11 percent increase, which places it behind the 1080 Ti in terms of ranking. With the significant increase in CUDA cores, faster GDDR6 memory, redesigned cooling solution, increased price, and Nvidia’s hype machine at full tilt, we expected a bit more of a jump in performance over its predecessor.

That said, the CPU you twin with your RTX card can make a big difference. When we tested the 2080 with an Intel Core i9-9900K and an AMD Threadripper 1920X, we noted an eight percent improvement in 3DMark Fire Strike using the Intel CPU. If you’re going to spring for one of these new cards, it may make sense to upgrade your processor too, to make sure you’re getting the most from it.

Fortunately, the 2080 Ti fares a bit better. With a 23 percent increase over the GTX 1080 Ti in 3DMark, that’s closer to what we’d expect in a standard generational jump. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay up for that increase. The 2080 Ti carries a $400 premium at $1,200 over the 2080’s $800 price tag, and that’s $500 more at launch than the 1080 Ti cost when it was introduced. 

In-game testing

Our standard suite of test games includes Civilization VI, Battlefield 1, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided — and Fortnite, for kicks. 4K is still the holy grail when it comes to gaming, but we started out our testing in 1440p to see how the 2080 and 2080 Ti could handle lower resolutions.  If you’re playing games in 1080p or lower, no need to drop this much cash on a graphics card. A GTX 1060 or 1070 should do you just fine.

The framerates we got lined up well with the precedent set by the 3DMark scores. In terms of game performance, the RTX 2080 comes in above the GTX 1080 — and just behind the 1080 Ti. In 1440p, games like Battlefield 1 look beautiful and play smoothly on the RTX 2080, and it will even take full advantage of your high-end 144Hz panel. Same story for Fortnite, where we averaged 142 frames per second. That’s around a 20-25 percent increase over framerates delivered by the GTX 1080, but a bit behind what the GTX 1080 Ti can pump out. It’s not the massive leap forward we’d hoped for, but it’s on par for a new generation of GPUs. 

When jumping up to 4K, we are happy to report the RTX 2080 can handle almost every game this resolution with settings maxed. Civilization VI, Battlefield 1, and Fortnite easily cleared the 60 FPS hurdle, and that’ll be indicative of most modern games you currently play. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided presented a bit of a stumbling block in 4K, but it’s an outlier in terms of how it’s optimized.

Again, those are positive numbers. They just don’t quite match the hype of Nvidia’s CEO and marketing team — and thanks to the price of the card, certainly don’t bring 4K gaming access to the masses. 

In a second-round of testing we compared how the RTX 2080 performed when paired with different CPUs and although there was a difference between a system running an Intel Core i9-9900K  and an AMD Threadripper 1920X, the 2080 performed well in each case. It managed more than 60 FPS in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey at 1440p with Ultra detail settings, and even in the always-intensive Deus: Ex Mankind Divided, at 1440p with High settings, it could reach as much as 90 FPS on average.

The RTX 2080 Ti, on the other hand, has some raw power that we haven’t seen before. We’re seeing a similar 20 to 30 percent framerate increase in games like Deus Ex and Battlefield 1. It’s a bit more exciting when you’re stepping into uncharted territory.

Regardless of the resolution, the 2080 Ti has a ton of power at its disposal. Games like Battlefield 1 and Fortnite feel nearly wasted, tapping out over 150 FPS. When you see some of those beautiful environments in Battlefield 1 rendered in brilliant, smooth 4K, it’s hard to be disappointed.

If you’ve been waiting around for a graphics card to properly match that huge, 4K monitor sitting on your desk, the 2080 Ti is as close as you can get. It still sank under 60 FPS during Deus Ex with an average framerate of 49 FPS, but this chip makes nearly every game we tried look like a walk in the park. The same could be said of the 1080 Ti, which was already a very powerful chip, but the 2080 Ti takes it one step further.

But should you buy one?

There are still larger questions about how these cards will perform with RTX enabled. It’s hard to imagine you won’t see a somewhat significant dip, given the amount of extra processing that has to happen. 

In the meantime, the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti are a bit hard to make a conclusive call on. A lot of the potential that lays dormant in these GPUs can’t be fully taken advantage of yet. Nvidia isn’t the first tech company to ask its fans to buy into a dream before its time, but for a dramatic price increase over what its new GPUs have debuted at in the past, it’s asking a lot.

A lot of the potential that lays dormant in these GPUs can’t be fully taken advantage of yet.

The RTX 2080 Ti, in particular, had some noteworthy performance gains that make it a really solid upgrade. But the RTX 2080 is a bit harder to recommend, even if you pair it up with a solid new CPU to take full advantage of its performance. The 1080 Ti currently sells for the same or even as much as $100 less in some cases, making it an equally viable purchase.

In terms of ray tracing and new AI capabilities, these might be the most advanced graphics cards ever made. They might be the foundation for an entirely new era of game visuals. We’ve seen the demos, and there’s no debating it’s impressive. Who knows? Maybe every game in 2025 will be RTX-enabled, and you’ll be happy you sprung for the 2080 rather than the 1080 Ti — seven years later.

To sum it up: If you want the absolute best performance that can be had today and have bought into Nvidia’s vision of the future, the 2080 Ti is your best bet — although there are some concerns over its reliability. Otherwise, your gaming rig and the games you own now will be better served by an upgrade to a last-generation card like a 1080 or 1080 Ti. In fact, one of the best things about the introduction of this next generation might just be that last gen’s cards are more affordable than ever.

Computing

Nvidia’s flagship RTX 2080 Ti graphics cards are failing. Or are they?

Nvidia's RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition may be the main cause for the worst problems associated with the new-generation high-end cards. All evidence suggests that partner cards aren't experiencing any common issues.
Gaming

Tweak these ‘Fortnite’ game settings for a split-second edge

Fortnite is a very forgiving game, and it can run on just about any PC. How well it runs depends on your system, so we put Fortnite through its paces to see how you can get the most out of your machine.
Computing

Nvidia’s ‘binning’ practice could mean the best RTX 2070s are third-party cards

Nvidia's RTX 2070s are being binned, giving third-party manufacturers access to the better chips for increased clocks and overclocking potential. The binned GPUs even have their own serial number designation.
Computing

Want a GTX 1080 Ti? Buy one now before the stock runs out

Nvidia's GTX 1080 Ti might be a popular alternative to the more expensive, and only slightly-more-capable, RTX 2080, but following a halt in its production, stock around the world is starting to run low.
Computing

Cloudflare’s privacy-enhancing 1.1.1.1 DNS service comes to iOS and Android

Cloudflare's 1.1.1.1 DNS resolver service has been ported to mobile devices, and now anyone with an Android or iOS device can download it for free to take advantage of its speed and privacy-boosting features.
Gaming

The plug-and-play PC Classic joins the retro console bandwagon

Gaming company Unit-e is creating the PC Classic, a plug-and-play retro console that will come bundled with around 30 of the best DOS games. The system will support gamepads and keyboard setups.
Computing

Mozilla’s built-in price-tracking extension makes it easy to shop with Firefox

Mozilla has heard those worries about Black Friday shopping, and is now introducing a new set of experimental extensions which aim to make it easier to find the best deals online.
Computing

Is your PC slow? Here's how to restore Windows 10 to factory settings

Computers rarely work as well after they've accumulated files and misconfigured settings. Thankfully, with this guide, you'll be able to restore your PC to its original state by learning how to factory reset Windows.
Computing

Best Buy’s pre-Black Friday deal takes $330 off the 2017 Surface Pro bundle

If you don't need the latest Surface Pro, Best Buy has a heavily discounted rendition of the 2017 model available in its pre-Black Friday sale. For just $1,000, you can get the tablet with a Core i5 CPU.
Computing

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.
Computing

Buying a laptop on Black Friday? Don't make one of these rookie mistakes

Shopping for a laptop on Black Friday can win you some excellent deals, but you should also avoid making common mistakes. Check out what to avoid when buying a laptop for Black Friday and what danger signs to be wary of.
Computing

The Mac mini's price jump has crept into iMac territory. How do they compare?

Apple announced a long-awaited update to the Mac mini. Thanks to the updated specs and increase in price, it's begun to creep up to the base model iMac. In this guide, we now put up the specs on the newest refreshed Mac mini against the…
Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Computing

Ray tracing not an option until it comes to all graphics cards, says AMD

Although Nvidia already supports the ray tracing feature on its high-end new GeForce Turning series of chips, AMD seemingly hinted it doesn't feel like ray tracing is ready until it comes to all level of graphics cards.