Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 16GB Founders Edition Review

After last month’s launch of the $1,599 Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090, a graphics card primarily intended for professional use, today the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 16GB Founders finally arrives the new generation of GPUs for the slightly less affluent crowd of PC gamers da edition launching tomorrow for $1,199. That means the entry point for the high performance claims of the RTX 40 series and the frame-generating DLSS 3 has at least dropped a little. We’re still at the beginning of this new generation of GPUs, but so far the RTX 4080 is showing strong performance.

What’s in a name

Before we get to the spec sheet and performance numbers, let’s address the RTX 4080 naming error and talk a bit about how Nvidia’s GPUs are typically positioned – and why this generation is a bit different than years past. Nvidia GPUs nicknamed “-80” are more than a decade old and are considered the flagship mainstream cards, priced between $500 and $700. Looking more closely at recent trends, the GTX 1080 started at $599 and both the RTX 2080 and 3080 started at $699.

You may be wondering why the RTX 4080 starts at almost twice the range. The answer lies in the naming fiasco mentioned above. Nvidia originally planned two variants of the RTX 4080 – a 16GB for $1,199 (the version we’re reviewing here) and a 12GB for $899. This wouldn’t have been the first time Nvidia has released cards with VRAM variants, but usually the only difference was the amount of VRAM, while in this case the two cards also had different core counts and clock speeds – differences that previously existed you’d come across a different tier (in this case, the RTX 4070).

People were rightly complaining about the confusion this was already starting to cause, and to Nvidia’s credit, Nvidia responded and opted to “unboot” the RTX 4080 12GB. It’s now rumored that these cards will be re-announced, dubbed the “RTX 4070 Ti,” although there’s nothing official just yet.

That’s all well and good, but it still leaves us with a “mainstream” card with the enthusiast prices that would previously have been reserved for a card with the “Ti” label – representing a mid-gen step up. In other words, typical generation comparisons are a bit skewed this time around, so we’re mainly comparing the RTX 4080 to the RTX 3080 Ti, which also launched in June 2021 for $1,199, versus the RTX 3080.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 Design and Features

If you read my review of the RTX 4090, you’ll recall that it’s an absolutely massive card, both in terms of size and performance. The RTX 4080, on the other hand, is… not smaller. It shares the same triple slot designation and is 11.9 inches (304mm) long, 5.4 inches (137mm) wide and 2.4 inches (61mm) thick – the exact same dimensions as the RTX 4090. This is a big Map. For comparison, the RTX 3080 was 285mm long, 112mm wide and 40mm thick, while the RTX 2080 and GTX 1080 were even smaller.

Most of that weight comes from the large, dual-axis, flow-through cooling solution required to keep temperatures under control. The cooler design is largely similar to the RTX 3090, but with larger fans and taller cooling fins to achieve 15% more airflow at the same noise level, according to Nvidia. In practice, the RTX 4080 remained whisper-quiet while temperatures fluctuated around 53-55C with a peak of 57C over a long stretch of benchmarking.

Compared to the RTX 3080 Ti, the RTX 4080 has 9,728 CUDA cores (vs. 10,240), 304 fourth-gen Tensor cores (vs. 320 of the third-gen), and 76 third-gen RT cores (vs. 80 of the second-gen). In other words, it has newer cores, but slightly fewer of them overall. The drop in numbers shouldn’t be alarming, however, as the 4080 packs a boost clock speed of 2,505MHz compared to the RTX 3080 Ti’s 1,665MHz clock, not to mention the 16GB of GDDR6X VRAM compared to the 12GB in the case the 30 series. Predecessor.”

Like the RTX 4090, the 4080 uses the somewhat controversial 16-pin 12VHPWR power connector that’s been in the news recently due to reports of overheating and melting. We didn’t have any issues with it in any of our tests, but we’ll definitely monitor the situation as this generation of graphics cards matures.

Speaking of performance, the RTX 4080 has a TDP of 320W, versus 350W for the RTX 3080 Ti. Nvidia recommends using a power supply with at least 750W. For people whose power supplies don’t have the new connector, there’s also a 3x 8-pin – Adapter in box.

The RTX 4080 has 3x DisplayPort 1.4a and 1x HDMI 2.1a connections. This is the typical layout for current-gen graphics cards, although AMD’s recently announced RX 7900 XT and XTX use the newer DisplayPort 2.1, which has more than triple the bandwidth and 4K resolution up to 480Hz or 8K up to 165Hz allows. versus 240Hz at 4K and 60Hz at 8K for DisplayPort 1.4. Most games and monitors aren’t going to be able to use that bandwidth, so it’s kind of a moot point, but AMD technically has the advantage.

Nvidia Geforce RTX 4080 – Performance

Starting with our synthetic benchmarks, the RTX 4080 comes in 3D Mark Fire Strike Ultra with a 17% improvement over the RTX 3090 Ti and 28% over AMD’s RX 3950 XT – the top two GPUs of the previous generation – and a 35% increase over the same-priced predecessor of the generation, the RTX 3080 Ti. However, as you’d expect, it falls well short of the RTX 4090 with a score of 16,255 compared to the RTX 4090’s 21,872, which, given the card’s $400 dollars more, makes perfect sense.

Moving on to Unigine Heaven, the RTX 4080 outperforms the RTX 3090 Ti and RX 6950 XT at 1080p and 1440p, but lags behind both cards at 4K. However, it consistently wins against the RTX 3080 Ti by a 13% lead at 1080p, 14% at 1440p, and a slight 4% at 4K.

The ray-traced plastics are more dramatic. The RTX 4080 offers an average 28% increase over the RTX 3090 Ti across our three tests, and of course demolishes the RX 6950 XT, which lacks the ray tracing capabilities of Nvidia’s hardware. A comparison with the 3080 Ti offers even more impressive results with an average improvement of 45% compared to this card.

Now we come to our gaming benchmarks: The RTX 4080 again shows a strong performance in all three tested resolutions. At this point, our benchmark tests are essentially CPU-locked at 1080p, with the RTX 4080 pinging the meter alongside the more powerful RTX 4090. 1440p is relatively similar, with the card showing big gains over the last generation in tests that aren’t CPU-bound, and of course matching the best tests out there.

However, given the high-end nature of this hardware, the real story lies with 4K. (Unless you’re gaming at 4K or higher resolutions, you probably shouldn’t be spending that much money on a GPU.) Expanding our test suite slightly, you can see that the RTX 4080 offers significant gains over the previous generation, on average, as an improvement 27% over the RTX 3090 Ti and 45% over the RTX 3080 Ti. Keep in mind that the latter of these cards launched at the same price of $1,199, while the former had an MSRP of $2,000 (although prices have now dropped to about what you should expect for a fresh RTX 4080 on the shelf).

Those are impressive gains, but not really exceptional considering it’s a new generation of graphics. If we look back at our RTX 3080 review, this card offered 50% to 70% improvements over its predecessor, the RTX 2080 Super. That’s not to be disregarded for the RTX 4080 – 4K framerates well in excess of 60fps in the most demanding games will raise eyebrows for years to come – I just think it’s important to remember that we’re talking about high- End if not enthusiast level speak prices here so my expectations are sky high.

Finally, I would like to talk about Nvidia’s new DLSS-3 frame generation technology. Check out my RTX 4090 review for a more detailed explanation, but in short the GPU looks at two consecutive frames, calculates the difference between them, and then uses AI to generate a frame in between. As with the RTX 4090, I tested DLSS 3 and frame generation in Cyberpunk 2077.

DLSS offered another stunning uplift, taking the RTX 4080’s frame rate to 73 with no frame generation and 108 with it. Those are fantastic numbers for one of the most technically demanding games available on PC today – and remember, this benchmark is run at 4K with maximum settings and ray tracing enabled. The 30-series RTX cards, on the other hand, both get less of a boost from DLSS and have no access to frame generation overall.

Of course, DLSS 3 is still a new technology, and game support is limited for now. However, it is steadily being introduced for more games, including Microsoft Flight Simulator, A Plague Tale: Requiem, and Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered. If support continues to grow as expected and the performance boost remains as impressive, DLSS 3 will be the killer feature that makes upgrading to a 40-series card truly worthwhile for high-resolution, high-framerate gaming.

Laurie

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