Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 Review: More Efficient, Still Expensive

Slimmed down Ada wearing the old Titan price

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

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As we did on the RTX 4090, we're providing a section on some of the forward-looking technologies like DLSS 3 with the RTX 4080. DLSS 3 Frame Generation requires (for now) an RTX 40-series graphics card, though games with DLSS 3 support are also backward compatible with DLSS 2. Several games with DLSS 3 are now publicly available, like A Plague Tale: Requiem and Microsoft Flight Simulator, and there are at least ten games with DLSS 3 support here or coming soon.

DLSS 3 can be the difference between minor performance increases and huge gains, but there's still plenty of debate about how much it improves the overall experience. Creating an intermediate frame adds latency and doesn't increase the user sampling rate, but games can look more fluid. Some people have found situations where the Frame Generation exhibits graphical glitches, so Nvidia and the game devs may still need to iron out a few kinks.

But if you just focus on the performance gains, some of the results are quite impressive. Four of the six DLSS 3-enabled benchmarks allowed us to enable Frame Generation while running at native resolution and improve performance by 50 to 75 percent. It's similar to DLSS 2 Quality mode, so you could potentially choose between Frame Generation or upscaling if you want.

Only two of the six tests failed to run at reasonably smooth (>50 fps) framerates at native resolution, so you could certainly argue that Frame Generation isn't even that critical in a lot of games. One of those two was the 3DMark DLSS feature test, so we can toss that out as well. That leaves just one game — Cyberpunk 2077 — where DLSS 3 might be truly necessary. DLSS Quality mode managed 50 fps at 4K on its own, while Quality upscaling plus Frame Generation allowed the 4080 to reach 75 fps, which was slightly higher than Performance mode's 4x upscaling.

But there's a potential downside with Frame Generation: latency. Nvidia recommends comparing Frame Generation with Reflex enabled to DLSS Super Sampling without Reflex. That does make DLSS 3 look… not as bad. But since games that support DLSS 3 will allow users to turn on Reflex, we feel most would appreciate lower latency gaming, whether or not they use Frame Generation.

We only collected latency data for Cyberpunk, but you can see the pattern, which should also hold in other games. Of course, latency largely depends on framerate, so higher FPS means lower latency gaming. But Reflex helps to eliminate extra frames of latency, dropping the 4080 from 70ms at native to 43ms with DLSS Quality mode, and 32ms with Performance mode — that's without Frame Generation.

With Frame Generation (DLSS 3), latency increases to 88ms at native, 58ms with DLSS Quality, and 45ms with DLSS Performance. Ultimately, you can choose between higher fps and lower latency with a larger upscaling factor, higher fps with more latency but with better upscaling quality, or a blend between the two. Most people likely wouldn't notice the slightly increased latency in a game like Cyberpunk, but competitive shooters like Fortnite favor lower latency gaming — without ray tracing enabled.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

And finally, here's a look at just pure ray tracing performance — or at least as close as we can reasonably get to isolating RT performance in a game engine. Here's another case where the gap between the 4080 and 4090 looks more like a massive gulf. The 4090 is 63% faster, and the paltry 6% improvement from overclocking the 4080 does little to mitigate that.

On the other hand, the RTX 4080 still easily outclasses any other graphics card currently available. It's 38% faster than the 3090 Ti, 57% faster than the 3080 Ti, and 79% faster than the 3080 it replaces in name if not price. The 4080 also demolishes AMD's current best card and delivers over three times the performance.

In our AMD RDNA 3 architecture deep dive, we note that AMD claims ray tracing performance on the RX 7900 XTX has increased by 80%. That's a big improvement, but that could still mean the 4080 is potentially 70% faster in ray tracing potential. We'll have to see how things stand when we get AMD's cards in December, but it looks like users will again need to choose between maximum ray tracing performance and DLSS support, or potentially better rasterization performance and universally supported FSR2 upscaling.

Jarred Walton

Jarred Walton is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on everything GPU. He has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.

  • btmedic04
    At $1200, this card should be DOA on the market. However people will still buy them all up because of mind share. Realistically, this should be an $800-$900 gpu.
  • Wisecracker
    Nvidia GPUs also tend to be heavily favored by professional users
    mmmmMehhhhh . . . .Vegas GPU compute on line one . . .
    AMD's new Radeon Pro driver makes Radeon Pro W6800 faster than Nvidia's RTX A5000.
    AMD Rearchitects OpenGL Driver for a 72% Performance Uplift : Read more
    My CAD does OpenGL, too
  • saunupe1911
    People flocked to the 4090 as it's a monster but it would be entirely stupid to grab this card while the high end 3000s series exist along with the 4090.

    A 3080 and up will run everything at 2K...and with high refresh rates with DLSS.

    Go big or go home and let this GPU sit! Force Nvidia's hand to lower prices.

    You can't have 2 halo products when there's no demand and the previous gen still exist.
  • Math Geek
    they'll cry foul, grumble about the price and even blame retailers for the high price. but only while sitting in line to buy one.......

    man how i wish folks could just get a grip on themselves and let these just sit on shelves for a couple months while Nvidia gets a much needed reality check. but alas they'll sell out in minutes just like always sigh
  • chalabam
    Unfortunately the new batch of games is so politized that it makes buying a GPU a bad investment.
    Even when they have the best graphics ever, the gameplay is not worth it.
  • gburke
    I am one who likes to have the best to push games to the limit. And I'm usually pretty good about staying on top of current hardware. I can definitely afford it. I "clamored" to get a 3080 at launch and was lucky enough to get one at market value beating out the dreadful scalpers. But makes no sense this time to upgrade over lest gen just for gaming. So I am sitting this one out. I would be curious to know how many others out there like me who doesn't see the real benefit to this new generation hardware for gaming. Honestly, 60fps at 4K on almost all my games is great for me. Not really interested in going above that.
  • PlaneInTheSky
    Seeing how much wattage these GPU use in a loop is interesting, but it still tells me nothing regarding real-life cost.

    Cloud gaming suddenly looks more attractive when I realize I won't need to pay to run a GPU at 300 watt.

    The running cost of GPU should now be part of reviews imo.

    Considering how much people in Europe, Japan, and South East Asia are now paying for electricity and how much these new GPU consume.

    Household appliances with similar power usage, usually have their running cost discussed in reviews.
  • BaRoMeTrIc
    Math Geek said:
    they'll cry foul, grumble about the price and even blame retailers for the high price. but only while sitting in line to buy one.......

    man how i wish folks could just get a grip on themselves and let these just sit on shelves for a couple months while Nvidia gets a much needed reality check. but alas they'll sell out in minutes just like always sigh
    High end RTX cards have become status symbols amongst gamers.
  • Tac 25
    none of my games need it, no reason to buy this thing. The Christmas money is safe.
  • sizzling
    I’d like to see a performance per £/€/$ comparison between generations. Normally you would expect this to improve from one generation to the next but I am not seeing it. I bought my mid range 3080 at launch for £754. Seeing these are going to cost £1100-£1200 the performance per £/€/$ seems about flat on last generation. Yeah great, I can get 40-60% more performance for 50% more cost. Fairly disappointing for a new generation card. Look back at how the 3070 & 3080 smashed the performance per £/€/$ compared to a 2080Ti.