Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition review: Staggeringly powerful

Worth the wait (and a new power supply)

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Total War: Troy

The latest game in the popular Total War saga, Troy was given away free for its first 24 hours on the Epic Games Store, moving over 7.5 million copies before it went on proper sale. Total War: Troy is built using a modified version of the Total War: Warhammer 2 engine, and this DX11 title looks stunning for a turn-based strategy game.

tw troy Brad Chacos/IDG

Like Metro Exodus (which supports DX12, but was built for DX11) the RTX 3080 is 63 percent faster than the RTX 2080 at 4K here, and 25 percent faster than the RTX 2080 Ti. The biggest leads for Nvidia’s Ampere GPU look like they come in games running more modern graphics APIs. It’s over twice as fast as the GTX 1080 non-Ti at 4K, and nearly 50 percent faster than the GeForce RTX 2080 at 1440p.

F1 2020

The latest in a long line of successful racing games, F1 2020 is a gem to test, supplying a wide array of both graphical and benchmarking options, making it a much more reliable (and fun) option than the Forza series. It’s built on the latest version of Codemasters’ buttery-smooth Ego game engine, complete with support for DX12 and Nvidia’s DLSS technology. We test two laps on the Australia course, with clear skies on and DLSS off.

f1 2020 Brad Chacos/IDG

You know how this goes by now. At 4K, the new card is a nice 69 percent faster than the RTX 2080, 27 percent faster than the 2080 Ti, and a whopping 135 percent faster than the GTX 1080. The beat-down continues at lower resolutions, where the RTX 3080 clocks in at 57 percent faster than its predecessor, 25 percent faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, and over twice as fast as the GTX 1080.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider concludes the reboot trilogy, and it’s utterly gorgeous. Square Enix optimized this game for DX12, and recommends DX11 only if you’re using older hardware or Windows 7. We test with DX12. Shadow of the Tomb Raider uses an enhanced version of the Foundation engine that also powered Rise of the Tomb Raider and includes optional real-time ray tracing and DLSS features.

sotr Brad Chacos/IDG

The GeForce RTX 3080 is so fast, this game struggles to keep up at 1440p, where SOTR was CPU-bound almost half the time—hence the bunched-up results among the top-end cards at 1440p and 1080p. Nvidia’s new GPU shines at 4K however, where it’s 70 percent faster than the RTX 2080, 30 percent faster than the 2080 Ti, and 159 percent faster than the GTX 1080.

GTA V

This DX11 game isn’t a visual barn-burner like the (somewhat wonky) Red Dead Redemption 2, but it still tops the Steam charts day in and day out, so we deem it more worthy of testing. RDR2 will melt your graphics card, sure, but GTA V remains so popular years after launch that upgraded versions of it will be available on the next-generation consoles. That’s staying power.

gtav Brad Chacos/IDG

We test Grand Theft Auto V with all options turned to Very High, all Advanced Graphics options except extended shadows enabled, and FXAA. GTA V runs on the RAGE engine and has received substantial updates since its initial launch.

Here, the game is entirely CPU-bound with all the graphics cards (except the GTX 1080) at both 1080p and 1440p. Moving to 4K reveals differences, though Nvidia’s latest monster is straining the game engine’s capabilities even at this pixel-packed resolution. The GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition is 47 percent faster than the RTX 2080 (and nearing the upper limits of this game’s frame rate), 18 percent faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, and 83 percent faster than the GTX 1080.

Rainbow Six Siege

Like GTA V, Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege still dominates the Steam charts years after its launch, and it’ll be getting a visual upgrade for the next-gen consoles. The developers have poured a ton of work into the game’s AnvilNext engine over the years, eventually rolling out a Vulkan version of the game that we use to test. By default, the game lowers the render scaling to increase frame rates, but we set it to 100 percent to benchmark native rendering performance on graphics cards. Even still, frame rates soar.

rb6 Brad Chacos/IDG

There are no surprises in our final game. The RTX 3080 Founders Edition is 70 percent faster than the RTX 2080, 30 percent faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, and a flat-out stupid 165 percent faster than the GTX 1080 at 4K. The 3080’s lead over its predecessor drops to a “mere” 60 percent at 1440p.

Next page: Ray tracing and DLSS performance

At a Glance
  • The GeForce RTX 3080 delivers a staggering performance upgrade over its predecessor. It lets you play at 1440p and 4K resolution without compromises, even with ray tracing and DLSS enabled. It takes a lot of power, though. Nvidia's Founders Edition model looks sleek and has a radical cooler, but it offers limited repairability and puts its 12-pin power adapter in an ugly place.

    Pros

    • Staggering performance upgrade vs. last gen
    • Excellent 4K and 1440p gaming
    • Ray tracing at 4K and 1440p
    • Gorgeous, innovative cooler design
    • HDMI 2.1, AV1 encoding, PCIe 4.0, 8K/30fps capture
    • Priced at RTX 3080 MSRP
    • Ultra-fast GDDR6X memory

    Cons

    • 12-pin power adapter is ugly
    • Very power-hungry
    • 10GB of VRAM capacity may not be enough for 4K long-term
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