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Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition Review: Faster, More Expensive Than GeForce GTX 1080 Ti


Nvidia made it easy for us to fall in love with GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, the Turing-based flagship. The company started with a sophisticated TU102 processor architected to run faster, yet more efficiently than the generation prior. It flanked that chip with 11GB of GDDR6, giving us a first taste of memory bandwidth numbers above 600 GB/s on the desktop. A big vapor chamber was dropped on top, dissipating the board’s 260W as quietly as possible.

Then, Nvidia put rubber to the road with unprecedented performance in today’s games. GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is fast enough for smooth frame rates at 4K using the highest quality presets available. Only one other graphics card comes close to rivaling it: the mighty Titan V. Of course, $1200 is a lot of money. But $1200 to do something that wasn’t possible before makes the pill a little easier to swallow.  

Now, the problem with GeForce RTX 2080, Nvidia’s second-fastest Turing card, is that it’s only marginally faster than GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. Moreover, Nvidia’s Pascal-based flagship is currently available for about $100 less than the RTX 2080 Founders Edition. Neither card allows you enjoy 4K gaming unconditionally. If you want to crank up the detail settings, they both necessitate dropping to 2560x1440 occasionally. In fact, it’s easier to think of them as ideal companions for high-refresh QHD monitors.

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Nvidia does try for a more favorable comparison by pitting the 2080 against GeForce GTX 1080. But there’s no way to reconcile a greater-than $300 difference between the cheapest 1080s and GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition’s asking price. It’d be like comparing GeForce GTX 1080 Ti to GTX 980 a year ago; they’re simply in different classes.

Notice that we’re not talking about ray tracing as a reason to buy GeForce RTX 2080 instead of GTX 1080 Ti. Without question, the technology packed into Turing has us captivated. And if the first game to launch with real-time hybrid rendering support bowls us over, we’ll change our tune. However, we’re not going to recommend paying a premium today for hardware that can’t be fully utilized yet based solely on what it should be able to do in the future. This is doubly true since we don't yet know how RTX 2080 fares with two-thirds of RTX 2080 Ti's RT core count.

There will come a time when the availability of Pascal-based GeForce cards tapers off, removing the choice between GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and RTX 2080. By then we hope to see 2080s that start in the $700 range, replacing GTX 1080 Ti with a more capable successor. For now, though, GeForce RTX 2080 feels like a side-grade to GTX 1080 Ti. It's faster and more expensive, with a lot more potential, but not something we'd rush to jump into right now.

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Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.