The GeForce RTX 3080 12GB sits in a curious position. We heard various rumors about an updated RTX 3080 floating about before the official 'stealth' reveal, when Nvidia quietly updated its RTX 30-series specs page (opens in new tab). Will the RTX 3080 12GB manage to land a spot among the best graphics cards? Where does it fit into the GPU benchmarks hierarchy? What will supply look like, and how much will the cards cost? These are all important questions, and we received the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 12GB Suprim X that will provide at least some answers.
There were earlier suggestions that Nvidia would double down on the memory but keep the same RTX 3080 GPU configuration. Others promised a 12GB 3080 with regular GDDR6 memory, and the third and apparently correct variant was a slightly higher GPU core count with 12GB of GDDR6X memory. That description basically matches the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, however, which makes us wonder why this particular GPU was even needed.
Nvidia told us that the RTX 3080 12GB was a SKU requested by its add-in board (AIB) partners, so there won't be any Founders Edition of the card. That also means there's no reference price from Nvidia and the AIB partners can decide for themselves how much to charge. Given the similarity in specs to the RTX 3080 Ti, most AIBs appear to be charging $1,200 or more. Let's take a look at the specs for some competing graphics cards.
|Graphics Card||MSI RTX 3080 12GB Suprim X||RTX 3080 10GB||RTX 3080 Ti||RX 6900 XT|
|Process Technology||Samsung 8N||Samsung 8N||Samsung 8N||TSMC N7|
|Die size (mm^2)||628.4||628.4||628.4||519|
|SMs / CUs||70||68||80||80|
|Boost Clock (MHz)||1845||1710||1665||2250|
|VRAM Speed (Gbps)||19||19||19||16|
|VRAM Bus Width||384||320||384||256|
|TFLOPS FP32 (Boost)||33.1||29.8||34.1||23|
|TFLOPS FP16 (Tensor)||132 (264)||119 (238)||136 (273)||N/A|
|eBay Price (Early 2022)||$1,576||$1,523||$1,774||$1,510|
While the RTX 3080 Ti has quite a few more GPU cores, SMs, etc., the MSI 3080 12GB sports much higher boost clocks, negating most of the difference. Of course a factory overclocked 3080 Ti would widen the gap again, but either way we're looking at the same memory configuration and bandwidth, which should be a major factor in determining overall performance. Compared to the original 3080, the 12GB card adds just one more SM cluster (Nvidia can only disable SMs in groups of 2), but the 20% increase in memory and memory bandwidth should prove more useful.
Based on the specs, we suspect the real reason for the RTX 3080 12GB goes back to the GA102 chip yields. If Nvidia is getting a decent number of chips with all 12 memory controllers working, but with more than 4 SM clusters than are non-functional, it can't sell those chips for 3080 Ti cards. By dropping down to just 70 SMs, the GPUs can still be used in more expensive cards than the baseline RTX 3080 10GB.
We've included both the MSRPs as well as the typical GPU prices from eBay for the past month. The former is of course completely meaningless right now, but we're happy to see that the 12GB 3080 only costs a bit more than the regular 3080. Part of that comes from the fact that there are still non-LHR 3080 10GB cards in the wild, which tend to go for a premium, but all the 3080 Ti cards are LHR models, as are the 3080 12GB cards, so it looks like you can expect to save perhaps $200 right now by purchasing a 3080 12GB instead of the 3080 Ti.
Note also that the Radeon RX 6900 XT tends to go for a similar price to the RTX 3080, so that will be a good point of comparison. Nvidia theoretically delivers much higher compute performance and memory bandwidth, but AMD provides more memory, and the large 128MB Infinity Cache helps to keep things much closer than the above specs would suggest.