After nearly two years of bringing ray tracing to the mainstream with its Turing cards, Nvidia has been hard at work preparing for the successor to its popular RTX 2080 flagship.
The RTX 3000-series will use a brand new Ampere architecture that debuted on Nvidia’s DGX A100 supercomputers, marking the first time that the company will use a 7nm manufacturing process for its GPU.
Like Turing before it, the Ampere-powered RTX 3000 card is expected to bring even better graphics performance to gamers and workstations, but the most notable upgrade for PC enthusiasts will be bottleneck-free ray tracing capabilities. Here’s everything we know about it so far.
Nvidia has been tight-lipped about the launch of its RTX 3080 graphics cards, and the ongoing global health pandemic is adding additional uncertainty. Without an official announcement or guidance from Nvidia, industry observers speculate that the RTX 3000 cards could launch as early as fall 2020.
Historically, Nvidia staggers the launch of a new consumer GPU family, and we expect this to be the case again this time. This means that the flagship and top-tier cards — such as the RTX 3080 and RTX 3080 Ti, the latter of which potentially could be renamed under the RTX Titan branding — could debut first, with more budget-friendly options, including the RTX 3070 and 3060, arriving at a later date that could span into early 2021. TweakTown reported that the RTX 3080 has entered production and an announcement could occur as early as August, with the card likely to be available for purchase in September.
This timeline would match what Nvidia used for the launch of the RTX 2080, which was announced in August two years prior.
Nvidia’s new RTX lineup represents the premium segment of gaming and workstation graphics cards, and the new RTX 3000 series are expected to come in at a premium. For reference, Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti retails for $1,199 and the RTX 2080 Super costs $699. The RTX 3080 likely will be priced in that range at the premium end of the spectrum.
In the past, there was a big price jump moving between Nvidia graphics generations — the Turing cards were more expensive than the Pascal cards that they replaced — and this could again be the case. However, there are rumors that Nvidia may be moving manufacturing from TSMC to Samsung. This move could give Nvidia access to Samsung’s 7nm extreme ultraviolet, or EUV, process, which could reduce manufacturing costs. The accuracy of that rumor is unclear, however.
Gamers without that big of a budget for an upgrade shouldn’t be discouraged. The RTX 2060 currently starts at $299, and the upgraded RTX 3060 likely will be similarly priced. The mid-range RTX 2070 is priced at $499.
These lower-priced cards will help Nvidia compete against AMD’s forthcoming lineup of RDNA 2 graphic. Additionally, a leaked benchmark from earlier this year showed an unknown Radeon GPU outperforming Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti by 17%. More competitive performance from its rival may force Nvidia to engage in a price war with the release of the RTX 3080.
Nvidia’s Ampere architecture will appear in multiple varieties of graphics cards. The first card to debut was unveiled in May at Nvidia’s online Graphics Technology Conference in the form of the A100 for data centers and the DGX A100 supercomputer. The company called Ampere as the largest 7nm chip ever built, and it was designed for better A.I. performance.
The RTX 3000 series will likely use the same 7nm architecture that debuted on the data center version, which would bring better power efficiency. An earlier Taipei Times report suggested that this new architecture could result in up to a 50% uplift in GPU performance while at the same time reducing power consumption by one-half compared to Turing.
And YouTube channel Moore’s Law is Dead reported that the RTX 3080 should put Nvidia in the performance lead once again, capable of 21 teraflops of performance, or nine more teraflops than what is possible on the Xbox Series X. When it comes to gaming, Nvidia’s RTX 3000 series cards will show that PC gaming still commands a performance lead over consoles.
Several variants of consumer Ampere are expected, though there are some conflicts in their numbering scheme from early leaks. The GA102 is widely believed to be the version used for the RTX 3090, which could debut under the RTX Titan branding, the RTX 3080 Ti or Super variant, and the standard RTX 3080. The Titan version could get up to 24GB of memory, while the enhanced Ti or Super branded card will come with 12GB of memory, and the standard 3080 will ship with 10GB of VRAM.
A separate leak from Twitter user KittyCorgi, however, shows the 3080 series bearing the GA103 model number. Regardless of how they’re labeled, the performance of these cards isn’t contested.
Hardwareleaks posted a leaked 3DMark Time Spy score of what is believed to have been obtained with the RTX 3080 Ti. The score of 18,257 points represents a 30% performance improvement over the RTX 2080 Ti. For comparison, earlier leaked benchmarks for AMD’s Big Navi GPU, which uses the company’s RDNA 2 architecture, suggested that the card performs just 10-15% better than Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti.
While the generational improvement in performance is expected for a new GPU family, the RTX 3080 Ti is expected to perform significantly better at ray tracing, the hallmark feature of the RTX family, and an area of struggle for the current RTX 2000 series.
Ampere’s improvements with artificial intelligence and DLSS should help improve ray tracing performance, especially when games are rendered at higher resolutions. Additionally, the card is expected to come with 108 ray tracing acceleration cores, more than double the 48 ray tracing acceleration cores supported by the RTX 2080 Super.
Clock speeds are reported to be around 2.2GHz, and we’ve heard rumors stating that the card will come with 18GB of video memory in the past. A recent leak suggested a boost clock speed of only 1,935MHz, and it’s unclear at this time if this will change or if Nvidia has made enough improvements in efficiency that a higher speed isn’t required.
A leaked specs sheet for the RTX 3080 Ti posted by Twitter user CyberCatPunk revealed that the card will come with 5,376 CUDA cores and support 12GB GDDR6 memory running at 18 bps. The TDP for the card is stated as 320 watts.
The card is said to be PCIe 4.0-complaint and will feature three DisplayPort 2.0 ports, one HDMI 2.1, and one USB-C port.
In terms of the card’s overall package, the RTX 3080 could debut with a new and controversial design. Leaked images depicted a new cooling system for the dual-fan design on the card. Rather than having both fans on the same side, the fans are placed on opposite sides. Although the fins that envelope the card likely serves to dissipate heat, online readers noted that this gives the RTX 3000 series a cooler-like appearance.
Hopefully, if rumors of a fall launch pan out, we won’t have too much longer to learn more about Nvidia’s next big thing.
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