The new GeForce RTX GPU series from Nvidia has come after a long drought in the high-end GPU market, caused by stagnation on Nvidia’s part, uncompetitive products from AMD, and enormous demand leading to supply shortages and high prices thanks to cryptocurrency mining. On the bright side, these new GPUs finally introduce brand new features and allow developers to do things that we’ve never seen before in games, in addition to raising the bar for performance. However, they’re unbelievably expensive, even by the standards of the inflated prices we’ve seen through the cryptocurrency boom.
Today, we’re reviewing the middle of three GeForce RTX GPUs that have so far been announced, the GeForce RTX 2080. Usually, Nvidia releases an xx80 model as its flagship, and then follows that up with an xx80 Ti model several months down the line. With this new naming scheme and a Ti model releasing at the outset, we can’t guess whether Nvidia will still release something more powerful later on or whether buyers who spend big bucks right now will have bragging rights for the rest of this generation. Also, despite its effective “demotion” in the current hierarchy, the GeForce RTX 2080 is priced higher than the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, creating a whole new product tier that the consumer market hasn’t seen before.
Zotac is one of the first Nvidia partners to launch GeForce RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti graphics cards in India. The range is small, though we can expect more variants to be released at different price points in the future. As of now, there’s one version of the GeForce RTX 2080 running at stock speed and outfitted with a blower-style cooler, priced at Rs. 70,990. We’re reviewing the more elaborate triple-fan version, called the GeForce RTX 2080 Amp Edition that is priced at Rs. 73,990. This version has a base clock of 1515MHz and a boost clock speed of 1830MHz as opposed to Nvidia’s reference spec of 1710MHz. It also has 8GB of GDDR6 memory on a 256-bit bus, for 448Gbps of total memory bandwidth.
The specific version of the Turing architecture used here is codenamed TU104, and it has 2,944 programmable CUDA cores, 368 Tensor cores and 46 RT cores. Ray tracing bandwidth is rated at 8 Gigarays per second, while peak bandwidth for FP32 operations is 10 Teraflops. This GPU is manufactured using a 12nm process and has a total of 13.6 billion transistors. For a full explanation of these terms, do check out our comprehensive guide to the Turing architecture and GeForce RTX GPU lineup.
Being an overclocked card, the Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 Amp (and all similar cards) has a rated TDP of 225W. This is a big increase over the 180W of the previous generation, and Nvidia recommends at least a 650W power supply. One 6-pin and one 8-pin PCIe power connector will be required. You’ll also need a huge PC cabinet, seeing as how this card extends to 308mm, way over the edge of any standard ATX motherboard. You’ll also want to plan your layout, because it is wide enough to block three expansion slots. Before buying one of these, do make sure your PC case fans, SATA cables, and other connectors aren’t in the way.
Each of the three fans measures 90mm, and while they are slow and quiet when the card is not stressed, they never spin down completely. Zotac says that its “multi-stage” fan blades have grooves and tips designed to maximise airflow and optimise direction. There’s a bright illumiated Zotac Gaming logo on the top, which will shine out the side of a windowed PC cabinet. You can set the colour using Zotac’s Firestorm utility, and surprisingly that’s the extent of the RGB LEDs on this high-end card. Zotac has also used a metal backplate for rigidity, which gives the back of this card a pretty slick look.
On the end of this card you’ll find three full-sized DisplayPort 1.4a outputs and one HDMI 2.0 port. More interestingly, there’s a USB Type-C port that can supply DisplayPort video, up to 27W of power and even USB 3.1 (Gen. 2, 10Gbps) data. This is in preparation for the emerging VirtualLink standard and is intended to let users plug VR headsets in using just one cable for display, power, and sensors. VirtualLink is implemented as a new USB Type-C alternate mode, and as such, your PC gets an extra fully functional Type-C port. It’s possible that single-wire monitors will be released in the future to take advantage of it as well. VirtualLink is an open standard and is backed by Nvidia, AMD, Microsoft, Valve and Oculus as of now.
Another thing to note is the new NVLink SLI connector on the top of this card. SLI was deprecated with the advent of the GeForce 10 series, having never really caught on outside a small niche of gamers. Now it’s back and even more powerful, using Nvidia’s NVLink interconnect, so far only used to achieve massive parallelism in data centres. It only works for up to two GeForce RTX cards, but enables a single unified memory pool and up to 100GBps of bidirectional bandwidth.
The Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 Amp is massive, and it’s easy to see how tempting it will be. Zotac competes with Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, Galax, Inno3D and others making cards with nearly identical specifications, so a buyer’s choice might just come down to personal style or individual pricing. With this generation, Nvidia is also jumping into the retail market with its Founders Edition cards. These are now not basic reference models, but highly optimised, overclocked, and very stylish themselves. Interestingly, Nvidia’s retail price for the GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition is Rs. 68,500, which undercuts its partners and could set up a very interesting market dynamic.
We chose a befittingly high-end set of components for our review, including the AMD Ryzen 2 2700X CPU, Gigabyte Aorus X470 Gaming 7 Wifi motherboard, 2x8GB of G.Skill F4-3400C16D-16GSXW DDR4 RAM, a 1TB Samsung 860 Evo SSD, and Corsair RM650 power supply. We used Windows 10 with the April 2018 Update and all current patches installed, and we used Nvidia’s publicly available Game Ready 411.63 driver. We ran all our tests with the Windows native refresh rate set to 144Hz, and HDR enabled, duplicating those settings in games when necessary.
For the purpose of this review, Asus loaned us an as-yet-unreleased ROG Swift PG27UQ gaming monitor. This 27-inch monitor has a 4K HDR quantum-dot IPS panel, 4ms response time, 144Hz refresh rate with G-sync, flicker-free backlight with local dimming, full DCI-P3 colour gamut support, and a laundry list of other features. It also looks impressive, with an RGB LED logo on the back and a versatile tilt-swivel-pivot stand. It can even project an Asus ROG logo onto the desk below it and wall behind it just for show. We aren’t giving it a full review today because it isn’t officially available in India.
Of course we started with 3DMark. The Time Spy test gave us 9,505 points, while the Fire Strike Ultra test returned a score of 6,498. For the sake of comparison, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti managed 8,829 and 6,814 points respectively. The GeForce GTX 1080 scored 5,200 in Fire Strike Ultra. We ran the Star Swarm stress test and got an average of 86.31fps. Unigine Valley gave us an average of 82.4fps, nearly equalling the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti’s 83.3fps, but with a minimum of 34.7fps exceeding the older flagship’s 20.2fps, indicating less severe dips and a smoother overall experience. As we can see, it isn’t a clear sweep for the GeForce RTX 2080 compared to the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, but it’s pretty close. This would have been cause for celebration if the new card was priced lower, in line with the GeForce GTX 1080, but it isn’t.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider was one of the three games that Nvidia used to show off its RTX features at the launch event, and it’s the only one to have actually released so far. However, neither ray tracing nor DLSS have been implemented yet. It’s also important to note that this game will use ray racing only for shadows; the actual scenery and characters on screen are rendered normally. According to Nvidia and developer Square Enix, we’ll be able to see incredibly realistic shadows that interact with and overlap each other, and account for multicoloured point or area light sources as well as diffused, reflected, and scattered light. As people and light sources move, shadow opacity, occlusion and intensity will change dynamically. This doesn’t really sound critical to gameplay, but from the demos available, it could make the game a lot more immersive. Fore more about ray tracing and DLSS, including test results using Nvidia's canned demos, check out our complete guide to the Turing architecture.
If you’re a fan of the rebooted Tomb Raider series, you’ll have to decide whether you want to wait an unspecified length of time for it to be enabled with a patch. As for DLSS, that’s coming in the future too. That means that our testing cannot leverage either of Nvidia’s two banner features for its GeForce RTX generation. We ran this game at 4K using the Highest quality profile, and got an average of 47fps in the built-in benchmark. We then ran the test again with HDR and G-Sync turned on, and the refresh rate set to 144Hz. We could clearly tell the difference that they make. Everything popped more and felt like it had real depth and movement. There was absolutely zero tearing despite the cinematic camera sweeps in the benchmark. However, the average frame rate fell to 44fps. In a manual run-through, we observed as much as 75fps when running through a dense jungle.
We also played the previous game in the series, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and saw an average of 56.86fps using the built-in benchmark, using the Very High profile at 4K. Moving on to Far Cry 5, we first ran the built-in benchmark running at 4K, Ultra quality, and 60Hz, and the average frame rate was 54fps. With HDR enabled and a 144Hz refresh rate, we did not see any drop at all.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is still a very challenging game for flagship-class hardware when using the Ultra quality preset at 4K. We managed only 32.4fps using the internal benchmark, though it looked very smooth. Metro: Last Light Redux is similarly unforgiving, and we managed an average framerate of 47.82fps when pushing this game to its limits, using the Very High preset at 4K. You will still need to step down to 2560x1440 or a lower quality preset if you want to bump up the frame rate, but the game should still be very enjoyable.
We had a better time with another demanding title, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, at 4K. With the graphics quality set to Ultra and postprocessing set to High, we were able to cruise through with an average of 56fps and no frame drops.
None of the games and benchmarks available right now take advantage of the Turing architecture’s new capabilities, and we’ll only see ray tracing and DLSS take off after a few months. Even then, the improvements will in most cases be to visual immersiveness and special effects, more than actual gameplay. If that doesn’t hold much appeal and you don’t think it will till your next upgrade, you’d be better off saving money and going with a previous-generation GPU.
Aggregate performance for the GeForce RTX 2080 more or less lines up with that of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, but it will cost you around Rs. 7,000-12,000 more. If we compare this new GPU to the GeForce GTX 1080 instead, it would be a performance winner, but completely not worth it at nearly a 40 percent price increase. Nvidia’s pricing and positioning strategy is really working against a clear recommendation for the GeForce RTX 2080.
The only real reason to buy a GeForce RTX series card right now is if you’re building a whole new PC with a very generous budget and really want it to last for the next several years. We do like the Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 Amp a lot, but while we have no complaints with this specific card, it’s hard to ignore Nvidia’s highly polished Founders Edition version of the same GPU that costs over Rs. 5,000 less. Given that price difference, we’d probably choose the latter and invest the difference in a monitor can take advantage of a high refresh rate, preferably with G-Sync and HDR.
Zotac GeForce RTX 2080 Amp
Price: Rs. 73,990
Future-ready for ray tracing
Great performance for 4K gaming
Powerful triple-fan cooler
No games use DLSS or ray tracing yet
Ratings (Out of 5)
Value for Money: 3.5