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Nvidia's GeForce GTX 2080 Prototype Shows Up In The Wild

GeForce GTX 2080
GeForce GTX 2080 (Image credit: ascendance22/Reddit)

Reddit user (opens in new tab) ascendance22 has bought a prototype GeForce 20-series graphics card carrying the "GTX" branding on eBay. The GeForce GTX 2080 sample appears to be a GeForce RTX 2080 with the same Nvidia Founders Edition cooler and TU104 die, as shown in the GPU-Z image. But apparently, Nvidia disabled the RT cores on this prototype, with the GPU holding a GTX badge and lacking any "GeForce RTX 2080" badging on the front.

The Reddit user bought the GeForce GTX 2080 on eBay (opens in new tab) -- what it was doing on eBay in the first place is anyone's guess. But it's safe to say that seeing a prototype like this in the wild is incredibly rare and is usually kept under wraps by Nvidia at all times. The eBay merchant sells these GeForce GTX 2080 as engineering samples of the GeForce RTX 2080 for $359.95 each. There were early rumors that Nvidia was contemplating launching a GeForce GTX 1180, so this GeForce GTX 2080 could be the Turing graphics card that never made it to the market.

The mysterious GPU appears to be a GeForce RTX 2080 variant. The Redditor uploaded the firmware to TechPowerUp (opens in new tab) with the website detecting the graphics card as a GeForce RTX 2080. Furthermore, the Redditor's 3DMark TimeSpy results that closely match the performance of the standard RTX 2080 graphics cards. So there's no question it's a prototype RTX 2080 of some sort.

This prototype proves that Nvidia was thinking about launching a GTX lineup of Turing-based cards beyond the GTX 1660 Ti. It would certainly make sense from Nvidia's position. At the time of the RTX 20-series debut, Nvidia's Turing-based architecture with hardware accelerated ray tracing cores was a bleeding edge technology never seen before on the consumer market.

(Image credit: ascendance22/Reddit)

As a result, support for Nvidia's new tech was completely scarce, giving gamers little incentive to buy a technology they could only take advantage of for months or years. The same also applied to Nvidia's DLSS technology, which first came out with the RTX 20-series -- it had poor image quality at the time, with the same lack of game support as ray tracing on day one.

If Nvidia went through with a full GTX 16-series lineup extending to the xx80 series GPU, this strategy would allow gamers to choose whether or not they wanted ray tracing technology. In addition, this could have been a potential business opportunity for Nvidia, as the company could take defective Turing dies with rotten RT cores and disable them entirely for a GTX 20-series counterpart.

This way, consumers could get a Turing graphics card for a lower price and still retain all the architectural enhancements Turing offered over Pascal. Unfortunately, that never happened, to the dismay of many gamers. But this prototype does give us a clue that Nvidia was at least thinking about an entire "RTXless" lineup for the Turing generation.

Aaron Klotz
Freelance News Writer

Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.

  • hotaru251
    even a GTX 2000 series wouldnt of been successful.

    the performance gain from 1080 ti was just not worth it for cost of 2000 series.
    and w/o the RTX niche it would be an overpriced gpu and save $ and get a 1080 ti instead.

    they should have released RTX 2080 (due to bleeding edge niche with little usage at launch) & had the rest of lineup GTX. (as only 2080 had actual usable ray tracing performance) would of kept sales fine & of shown off ray tracing for the next generation of cards.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    hotaru251 said:
    even a GTX 2000 series wouldnt of been successful.

    the performance gain from 1080 ti was just not worth it for cost of 2000 series.
    and w/o the RTX niche it would be an overpriced gpu and save $ and get a 1080 ti instead.
    100% of GPU owners at the time didn't own a 1080Ti. The pool of new 1080Ti at reasonable prices dried up pretty quickly after Turing's launch. Also, the 2080 pulled away from the 1080Ti pretty decently as time went on.
    Reply
  • edzieba
    It's clear why Nvidia did not go down this route: the per-die cost would have been identical to the RTX 20xx series, so the only way to have been able to sell them for a lower cost would have been to harvest dies that only had defects within the RT core and tensor core area specifically. That's only a small proportion of total die area (IIRC under 20% total die area) so this would have been an exceptionally small supply of dies which could have been used for a notional 'GTX 20xx" card but not instead used for a RTX card lower down the scale (e.g. GTX2080 vs. RTX 2060).
    Offering a very short supply of cards that performed 'the same' in older games at a lower price point would have left Nvidia either facing the gibbering masses accusing them of deliberately manufacturing fewer of the 'better' cards - as if Nvidia had control over defect placement during fabbing - or selling the same die without defects as a fused-off GTX card rather than a full-featured RTX card, and losing money on it.
    In the end, demand for the RTX series proved not to be an issue, and DLSS and RT have been widely adopted.
    Reply
  • Krotow
    Another way how to sell binning leftovers with faulty RT cores. Actually why not if price is right.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Really it would depend on the prices. Going into the pandemic, gamers and people who keep up with tech news could feel something was coming, a GTX 2080 at RTX 2070 prices would have sold like hotcakes. Overall Turing didn't offer anything for current 1000 series users to upgrade from, but I came from a Radeon Fury Nano and the extra performance with the tradeoff of RTX features would have been a no brainer.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    This prototype proves that Nvidia was thinking about launching a GTX lineup of Turing-based cards beyond the GTX 1660 Ti.
    Or not. It could just be an engineering sample from before Nvidia revealed that the 20-series would have raytracing hardware, to help minimize potential leaks based on the name.

    Or perhaps more likely, the original plan may have been to continue the GTX branding, but then they decided later to use a name that would more clearly highlight the new headlining features, and help differentiate the cards from the lower-end models lacking them. The value of the 20-series was considered pretty bad at launch, with the cards showing little to no performance-per-dollar gain over the 10-series, and the only notable things the new series offered, RT and DLSS, were completely missing. So they undoubtedly wanted to emphasize that those features were coming.
    Reply