Nearly two years after 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 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 increases the uncertainty. Absent an official announcement or guidance from Nvidia, industry observers speculate that the RTX 3000 cards could launch as early as fall 2020.
It’s been reported that the Ampere cards are currently undergoing a Design Validation Test, or DVT, and mass production could begin as early as August. If all goes well, an announcement could happen in September, according to TweakTown‘s revised launch timeline estimate.
Historically, Nvidia staggers the launch of a new consumer GPU family, and we expect this will be the case again. 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 stretch into early 2021.
This timeline would match what Nvidia used for the launch of the RTX 2080, which was announced in August two years ago.
Nvidia’s new RTX lineup represents the premium segment of gaming and workstation graphics cards, and the new RTX 3000 series are expected to command a hefty price. 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 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 with a smaller 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 midrange RTX 2070 is priced at $499.
These lower-priced cards will help Nvidia compete against AMD’s forthcoming lineup of RDNA 2 graphics. 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 such card 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 Ampere the largest 7nm chip ever built, saying 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.
YouTube channel Moore’s Law is Dead reported that the RTX 3080 should put Nvidia in the performance lead once again, as it’s 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 based on 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. In a recent tweet, @kkatcorgi suggested a 20% generational performance uplift, though it wasn’t clear which benchmarking method or utility was used to obtain this figure. This could in turn lead to the 3080 Ti gaining 40% better graphics performance than the 2080 Ti, according to Notebookcheck, which would allow the new card to render games in 4K at 60fps with ease.
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% to 15% better than Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Ti. If accurate, this would mean that the RTX 3080 Ti could outperform AMD’s next-gen graphics for serious gamers, and place Big Navi’s performance more in line with the non-Ti variant of the RTX 3080.
While the generational improvement in performance is expected for a new GPU family, the RTX 3080 Ti is also 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. The card is also expected to come with 108 ray tracing acceleration cores, more than double the 48 ray tracing acceleration cores supported by the RTX 2080 Super.
Along with the card’s new double-sided PC board design, Nvidia is rumored to use a new traversal coprocessor to help improve ray tracing performance. This coprocessor would be the GPU’s ray tracing chip, according to Tweak Town, and could serve to unite the RT cores under one silicon.
It’s unclear how this architecture will play out, and if Nvidia will offload all or some of the ray tracing demands to this traversal coprocessor, but gamers should be able to expect much better performance in games with ray tracing enabled, especially at enhanced game settings in high resolution.
Clock speeds are reported to be around 2.2GHz, and we’ve heard rumors that the card will come with 18GB of video memory. 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.
For gamers, though, the killer feature of Ampere-based GPUs will be support for next-generation deep learning super sampling DLSS 3.0 specifications for any game that is rendered using TAA, or temporal anti-aliasing, techniques. The implementation of DLSS 3.0 support still requires Game Ready drivers, but it will still be easier for developers to bring DLSS into their game with some code work involved. For gamers, this will result in increased performance in games, and Nvidia is rumored to enable DLSS 3.0 out of the box by default, according to the Moore’s Law is Dead YouTube channel.
In terms of the card’s overall package, the RTX 3080 could debut with a new and controversial design. Leaked images depict 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 serve to dissipate heat, online readers noted that this gives the RTX 3000 series a cooler-like appearance.
More recently leaked images reveal that Nvidia could be moving toward a new 12-pin PCIe power interface system for the high-end graphics card that’s capable of delivering up to 600 watts of power. Early rumors suggest that Nvidia’s flagship cards will require at least 400 watts of power. The new 12-pin interface would be used on Nvidia GPUs with PG142 board numbers, which is speculated for the higher-end 3000 series, including the RTX 3080 Ti/RTX 3090, RTX 3080, RTX 3070 Ti/RTX 3070, according to Wccftech.
A schematic on Chinese tech site FCPOWERUP shows the power interface, which looks like a single connector with two stacked six-pin connectors joined together. This leads some in the tech community to speculate that gamers who may not want to shell out extra for the 12-pin connector can still join two six-pin connectors together. However, this solution would require an extra cable, which would not only make the inside of your tower look cluttered but could present new thermal challenges where airflow is concerned, especially given the higher power requirements of the card.
The most optimal solution, it appears, would be for upgraders to also upgrade their power supplies to accommodate the new connector and satisfy the higher power requirements of Nvidia’s flagship cards. This, however, would add to the cost of upgrading an existing PC build. The publication also detailed a separate four-pin interface adjacent to the new 12-pin power connector, though the purpose of that connector is unknown at this time.
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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