Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti review: Basically a 3090, but for gamers

Say hello to Nvidia's "new gaming flagship."

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Should you buy the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti?

You probably shouldn’t buy any graphics card right now, as I said in our GeForce RTX 3060 and Radeon RX 6700 XT reviews. Prices are just plain ridonkulous. I’d recommend most people sit on the sidelines and stream their PC games via Nvidia’s GeForce Now service until the dust settles. While this card ostensibly costs $1,200, I’d expect the RTX 3080 Ti to go for two grand or more until the crippling GPU shortage ends.

dsc01617 Brad Chacos/IDG

It’s also worth mentioning that the price for Ti-grade cards continues creeping upward. Most RTX 2080 Ti offerings started at the same $1,200 as Nvidia’s Founders Edition model, sure, but that GPU actually carried a baseline retail price of $999—and yes, some custom cards actually cost that. Meanwhile the GTX 1080 Ti that Nvidia hopes you upgrade from launched at “just” $700 in 2017. If you do move from the 1080 Ti to the 3080 Ti, and you’re able to find one at its MSRP, you’re still spending $500 more out of the gate.

All that said, the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti is essentially a 3090 with half the VRAM for $300 less. That makes it much more compelling for gaming, as the 3090’s 24GB was overkill unless you’re performing content creation. The extra 2GB of capacity over the vanilla RTX 3080 makes this feel like a better option for long-term 4K gaming. AMD’s Radeon RX 6900 XT has 16GB, but of the slower (but still fine) GDDR6 variety.  

I’d personally prefer the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Founders Edition over the Radeon RX 6900 XT thanks to its faster 4K gaming performance overall. AMD earns a few additional victories at 1440p thanks to its Infinity Cache, and even the 3080 TI's deep arsenal of Nvidia features like DLSS, Broadcast, Reflex, Shadowplay, NVENC, and so on doesn’t render AMD’s Radeon flagship obsolete. If Nvidia priced it at $1,000 (which I think would be a much better MSRP), however, the Radeon rival would be a much harder sell. Pricing it at $1,200 leaves ample room for every high-end card released thus far. There are still reasons to go with the Radeon as well as the RTX 3080 and 3090.

dsc01604 Brad Chacos/IDG

Of course, this is all academic while graphics cards cost so much due to a mixture of sky-high demand and a crippling chip shortage. Hopefully the new “Lite Hash Rate” technology Nvidia is working into all newly built GPUs except the RTX 3090 will motivate professional cryptominers to skip over the high-priced RTX 3080 Ti. It’s a lot harder to justify such a large expense when you’re mining Ethereum at half the rate you should be.

Bottom line? The GeForce RTX 3080 Ti is a monster GPU worthy of being called a gaming flagship—something the 3090 couldn’t claim thanks to its massive memory buffer, high price, and content creation focus, and something the 3080 couldn’t claim thanks to its somewhat skimpy 10GB of VRAM. The dual-slot Founders Edition design isn’t as impressive as the FE coolers on those other cards, but it still does an admirable job. Unlike its other RTX 30-series cousins, the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti has no weak links (aside from the ugly 12-pin cable adapter and high price).

If you’re looking to drop four figures on a graphics card that can power no-compromises 4K experiences, Nvidia’s RTX 3080 Ti is well worth the money. But if money is an object, the $700 GeForce RTX 3080 and $650 Radeon RX 6800 XT also deliver very, very good 60-fps+ 4K gaming experiences for significantly less money...when you can find them. In today’s wild world, all of these GPUs will set you back four figures.

This story, "Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti review: Basically a 3090, but for gamers" was originally published by PCWorld.

At a Glance
  • Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3080 Ti is essentially an RTX 3090 in all but name (and memory capacity). It's an exceptional graphics card for 4K gaming with no major weak links, but the Founders Edition cooler isn't quite as impressive in this form and still needs an ugly power adapter. Actual price and availability remain a concern during the crippling worldwide GPU shortage.

    Pros

    • Excellent 4K and 1440p gaming
    • 12GB of high-speed GDDR6X memory
    • Best-in-class ray tracing, DLSS 2.0
    • Nvidia software: Reflex, G-Sync, Shadowplay, Broadcast, RTX IO, DLSS
    • Founders Edition design is gorgeous and effective
    • PCIe 4.0, Resizable BAR, and Nvidia Lite Hash Rate tech

    Cons

    • Big price increase vs. prior xx80 Ti models
    • Proprietary 12-pin power connector requires ugly adapter
    • Actual price, availability in doubt due to GPU shortage
    • Founders Edition design isn't as effective as on other RTX 30 models, and lacks extra features
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