Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition Review: A Titan V Killer

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In the days after its GeForce Gaming Celebration, Nvidia took a lot of heat for introducing an entire family of graphics cards loaded with features that aren’t available to enjoy, and then ignoring their performance in today's games. To make matters worse, enthusiasts comparing GeForce RTX 2080 Ti to GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and GeForce RTX 2080 to GeForce GTX 1080 focused intently on the generational mark-ups applied to Nvidia’s Founders Edition cards (70%+ in the case of RTX 2080 Ti).

But now that we’ve covered the Turing architecture in-depth and thrown our benchmark suite at every high-end board in the lab, it’s time to face some sobering truth. If you aspire to game at 4K and don’t want to choose between smooth frame rates and maxed-out graphics quality, GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is the card to own. There’s just no way around it. Demonstrating average performance beyond what a Titan V achieves in today’s games speaks volumes. In many of our tests, there was even room to enable anti-aliasing at 3840x2160.

Looking to the future, Microsoft will lay a foundation for real-time ray tracing and AI with its Windows 10 October Update, scheduled to include DirectX Raytracing and Windows ML. A month later, Battlefield V is expected to launch with hybrid rendering support. A post-launch patch will add ray tracing to Shadow of the Tomb Raider, though there’s no way to know exactly when that will happen. Through the end of 2018 and 2019, Nvidia says nine other games will make its vision a reality, “with more to come.” Slowly, the pieces are falling into place. We see the end-game and we’re excited about what ray tracing means to realism and immersive gaming experiences.

Do you need evidence before you put faith in this cause? Check out the Star Wars Reflections demo that we recorded at 2560x1440 and 3840x2160. With DLSS enabled, we saw ~50 FPS at QHD and ~30 FPS at 4K. Frame rates were predominantly in the 20s at 2560x1440 without DLSS. We also made a video running on GeForce GTX 1080 at QHD, but it only ran between 6 and 8 FPS. So, you can see how these technologies fit together, creating a truly cinematic scene rendered in real-time on Turing-based GPUs.

But we fancy ourselves advocates for enthusiasts, and we still can't recommend placing $1200 on the altar of progress to create an audience for game developers to target. If you choose to buy GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, do so for its performance today, not based on the potential of its halo feature.

Deep learning super-sampling may yield more immediate returns from the Turing architecture’s Tensor cores. Not only is there a longer list of titles with planned support, but we already have performance data to show the technology’s impact on frame rates in Final Fantasy XV. All of the DNN training work is handled on Nvidia’s side; the company just needs developers to integrate its API. The Tensor cores sit unused until that happens, so again, this is a feature to keep an eye on.

The Tom’s Hardware team is divided in its opinion of thermal solutions with axial fans. I personally prefer the elegance of a centrifugal cooler that exhausts waste heat, even if it means more noise and less overclocking headroom. However, Nvidia says its customers wanted lower temperatures and quieter-running Founders Edition cards. The company responded with a beefy vapor chamber-based design topped by two 13-blade fans that blow GeForce RTX 2080 Ti’s 260W back into your chassis. For all of our protestations, though, GeForce RTX 2080 Ti may ultimately owe its success to this cooler's technology. There's little doubt that Titan V strains against its industrial design. While the card is gorgeous, its 21.1 billion-transistor GPU cannot run cool enough under a centrifugal fan to hit big GPU Boost numbers. GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, on the other hand, leverages low temperatures and ample headroom to skate on by.

In the end, Nvidia built a big, beautiful flagship in its GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founder Edition. We’ve smothered CEO Jensen Huang’s favorite features with caveats just to cover our bases. And we commiserate with the gamers unable to justify spending $1200 on such a luxury. But there’s no way around the fact that, if you own a 4K monitor and tire of picking quality settings to dial back in exchange for playable performance, this card is unrivaled.

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