There’s no denying that the top Nvidia RTX graphics cards are the most powerful consumer cards in the world right now, but it’s not quite so clear-cut further down the range. In many ways, the newly-launched RTX 2070 competes directly with the GTX 1080 from the last-generation Pascal line of GPUs. So, which is best?
To find out, we pitted the RTX 2070 vs. 1080 in a head to head on features, performance, and most importantly, price.
We’ve yet to get our hands on an RTX 2070 to do our own hands-on testing, but a look around at results elsewhere and a comparison of specifications gives us a good idea of what to expect. In short, the cards are pretty comparable, but the 2070 tends to perform slightly better in most scenarios.
|RTX 2070||GTX 1080|
|Render output units||64||64|
|Boost speed (FE model)||1,710MHz||1,800MHz|
|Memory||8GB GDDR6||8GB GDDR5X|
|Transistors||10.8 billion||7.2 billion|
By the numbers, both cards have a slight leg up over the other in certain specifications and the Founders Editions don’t do anything to close those gaps. The 1080 has 2,560 CUDA cores, while the 2070 has 2,304. The 1080 also has slightly higher clock speeds and a few more texture units. However, the 2070 sports GDDR6 memory giving it a near 50-percent greater memory bandwidth. It also has a larger die-size with 3.6 billion extra transistors.
This equates to a few frames per second advantage for the RTX 2070 in most games, with a more obvious disparity between the two at higher resolutions and detail levels. In some cases that difference extends to 10 percent, but it’s typically lower — and in some cases, within a margin of error.
Ray tracing and DLSS
Alongside a brand new Turing core architecture and a new generation of memory, Nvidia’s RTX-series graphics cards also sport some intriguing additional chips under their impressive coolers. The RT and Tensor cores enable features which other cards can’t really compete with. Ray tracing and deep learning supersampling (DLSS). Of these two cards, those features are only available on the 2070 at this time and there’s no indication that the 1080 will ever be able to perform such feats at comfortable frame rates, if at all.
Although Nvidia’s solution is somewhat of a workaround than true ray tracing, the effect is still rather impressive. Lighting looks more realistic than traditional rasterization, and it can react in real time to changes in a scene, enabling far more reflections and light scattering for an overall more believable looking digital environment.
There are some drawbacks though. The most notable at the moment is that there aren’t any supporting games yet available. Some games have yet to launch and others have yet to implement the feature, but you can’t really take advantage of it just yet. Worse still, there are concerns that ray tracing can dramatically reduce performance even on high-end solutions like the 2080 Ti.
DLSS is in a similar situation in that it isn’t available in any currently available games just yet. However, it does appear to have a very different effect on performance — it improves it when compared with more traditional anti-aliasing solutions. In early demos like Final Fantasy XV, it appears to make them look better too, but we don’t have much evidence to go on just yet.
In the case of both new RTX features, it’s not clear yet whether either is worth buying a 2070 over a 1080 for them alone. They do promise some benefits in the future, however.
The 2070 is the new 1080
The biggest difference between the 2070 and 1080 when the former first launched was price. There was more than $100 between them in some cases. At the time of writing, however, that’s quite different. If you ignore Nvidia’s more expensive Founders Edition of both cards, they are both available for around the $500 price point. And dollar for dollar, the 2070 offers more, even if it isn’t much more.
We would expect Nvidia to allow the 1080 stock to dissipate over the next few months, leaving the 2070 as the defacto replacement for the long-running Pascal GPU. The RTX 2070 isn’t a mind-blowing card in the way the 2080 Ti is, and we’re going to need to wait to see whether ray tracing and DLSS make upgrading from a 10-series card to the new-generation worth it. But even now, the RTX 2070 is a better buy than the GTX 1080.
- Nvidia GeForce RTX GPUs: Everything you need to know
- Nvidia Titan RTX: Everything you need to know
- Nvidia’s next midrange card might be a GTX 1660 Ti, rumors suggest
- Nvidia’s Titan RTX is the first full Turing GPU with 24GB of memory
- Nvidia launches the RTX 2060, lowering the price of ray tracing to $349