The much-anticipated release of nVidia’s newest generation of GPUs left many hopeful PC builders a tad disappointed. By many metrics, the cards were overpriced, with huge price hikes over the previous generation’s cards. To make matters worse, reports came out that the 2080 Ti had overheating problems, and the disappointing release of the cards’ key feature, real-time ray tracing, caused many to write off the cards altogether.
By and large, those two key hardware problems have been resolved, but the higher prices still remain. So in what scenarios would an upgrade make sense? Here we’ll look at each new high-end card and point out some cases where upgrading might be in the cards.
What do the new cards bring to the table?
nVidia’s 2000-series cards feature new “Tensor” cores and dedicated ray tracing (RT) processors. The Tensor cores bring artificial intelligence to game world creation with something called “deep learning supersampling” (DLSS) which uses AI to decrease the processing power required to render images. This tech has yet to be proven in actual gameplay, but nVidia has listedover two dozen upcoming games that will support DLSS. Meanwhile, ray tracing cores simulate the behavior of light on reflective surfaces in real time (more info on this technology here). So far, just Battlefield V features ray tracing (at significant performance costs), with more games to come.
Improved components and clock speeds in the new cards also brings 4K resolution to the masses, as even the 2070 is capable of passable frame rates at 4K. If nVidia’s DLSS tech proves to be as good as advertised, the new cards will perform even better as more games are developed with DLSS in mind—although it’s advisable to remain skeptical of nVidia’s promises here.
With an MSRP of $1200 (and many retailers only having them available even higher than that, for the time being), nVidia’s flagship consumer card is clearly aimed at extreme enthusiasts. For many, the new pricing structure was a surprise. At its release in 2017, the GTX 1080 Ti was priced at $700, meaning the new card is a whopping 70% price increase over the previous generation (although if you ask nVidia, the RTX gen is an entirely new breed of card).
In addition to the features noted above, the RTX 2080 Ti packs 11GB of GDDR6 VRAM and is hands-down the world’s fastest gaming-focused GPU (note that there are two other next-gen cards, the Titan RTX and the Quadro RTX 6000, that are optimized for workstation users). The RTX 2080 Ti also features 4,352 CUDA cores, an increase of 768 cores over its predecessor. According to UserBenchmark, the new card is a 27% speed increase over the 1080 Ti.
So in what cases would it be worthy of an upgrade? At current prices, it’s difficult to recommend this card—except maybe if a strong wind happened to blow a few hundreds off the pile of money you were burning. Those who already own a 1080 Ti can let that ride for another year or so while prices come down, or at least until AMD releases its next generation of GPUs, which are rumored to match the 2070 at a fraction of the price. However, the 2080 Ti is the only card that can consistently manage 4K at frame rates over 60 FPS across almost all titles, so if you have a 144Hz 4K monitor, this is the card for you.
The RTX 2080 sits in a funny place at the moment. At an MSRP of $700 (and its own spate of post-release inflation), it’s comparable to the price that the 1080 Ti was at its release, continuing the trend of nVidia making their cards more expensive this generation. Compared to its predecessor, the 1080, the 2080 is a noticeable performance improvement, albeit at an ~5% worse price-to-performance ratio.
In addition to the new RT and AI cores, the 2080 has more CUDA cores, faster GDDR6 memory, and a higher clock speed. According to UserBenchmark, the updated tech represents around a 23% performance increase over the 1080. The new card can achieve playable frame rates at 4K, and it eats up everything at 1440p (for 1080p gaming, however, this card is almost definitely overkill—barring only the most extreme high-FPS addicts). Improvements in Battlefield V’s utilization of ray tracing bring this card into the 60 FPS range at 1440p on medium RT settings, versus 110 FPS with RT turned off.
Price-wise, the new card is an alright consideration. At $700 for the 2080 vs $550 1080, it’s a 27% price increase. If you find a good sale, then the calculations look a bit better. So, while you can find annoyance in the generally higher prices, the 2080 might look enticing to anyone who was planning on upgrading to the 1080 Ti, which have themselves all but vanished from store shelves. Add in the possibilities of the new AI tech, and the future for this card looks pretty enticing.
Occupying the “upper midrange” slot of the new generation of cards, the RTX 2070 still packs quite a punch, but again it has the higher price to match. The Founders Edition (FE) card is an eye-watering $600 (or more), while third-party cards are at a slightly more manageable $500 (but for now, you’ll get higher factory overclocks with the FE cards).
As with the 2080 over its predecessor, so too does the 2070 improve on the 1070—with the new card having higher clock speeds, improved VRAM, and more CUDA cores. This means the 2070 has an almost 40% performance improvement over the 1070, according to UserBenchmark. However, recent benchmarks for ray tracing in Battlefield V show that the card suffers a significant performance hit with ray tracing turned on. According to Techspot’s recent analysis, 2070 users have to turn resolution down to 1080p to hit 60 FPS on medium ray tracing settings. While that’s a significant performance improvement over the RT launch where the card was almost unplayable with the new tech turned on, it’s also quite a disappointment for a $500+ card.
How does the 2070 look as an upgrade? If you’re considering a jump from 1080p to 1440p gaming (where this card really shines), then this card might be the one for you. Performance-wise, the 2070 is roughly equal to the 1080 and only marginally better than the 1070 Ti, so anyone who already owns those cards or above can hold off. If you’re looking to upgrade to a GTX 1080, however, go with whichever is cheaper; if price is equal, pick the newer card.
Many in the PC building community were shocked at nVidia’s pricing structure when the new cards were announced back in August. Unfortunately, the Green Team has a virtual monopoly in the high-end graphics cards market, since AMD’s top-tier card (the Vega 64) is only competitive with the GTX 1080. That means nVidia can charge whatever they want for performance levels above that tier.
Still, the new generation has some significant improvements over the previous cards (and some considerable future optimizations if the promises of DLSS and ray tracing hold to be true), making the lower-tier 2080 and 2070 something to consider if you’re looking for an upgrade. (And that’s not to mention the newly announced RTX 2060—but more on that later this week).