Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti review: Nvidia faces two major problems in 2021. First, no one who wants to actually play games on a GPU can buy one. Second, with the Radeon RX 6900 XT, AMD has come within striking distance of Nvidia’s crown jewel, the RTX 3090. That wasn’t supposed to happen.
The RTX 3080 Ti is Nvidia’s solution to both of these problems. But does it solve them or is it just putting it off? I spent some time testing the new graphics card to see if it is among the best graphics cards you can buy.
My video card to review was a Founders Edition model, which means that it is designed by Nvidia itself. It matches the design of the previous RTX 3080 model and has a premium look that is second to none. It’s a great shell.
Cooling is also better than the 20-series model, it uses the same “push-pull” fan system as the rest of the 30-series cards.
During my tests, the system provided sufficient cooling of the card, never once exceeding the maximum temperature of 83 degrees Celsius specified by Nvidia. However, this GPU cannot be called quiet. It spins up quickly, and when it’s squeezed to the max, such as when exporting video, it sounds like a rocket taking off from your desk.
An Nvidia rep was quick to tell me that it should be only slightly louder than the other RTX 30-series cards, which were already much quieter than the 20-series.
Of course, there will be plenty of third-party designs that take a rougher approach to cooling. As always, the Founders Edition version of the RTX 3080 Ti is likely to be the prettiest, but not the most powerful.
The RTX 3080 Ti is exactly the same size as the RTX 3080, 11.2 by 1.4 inches. It is a standard card with two slots, but it is quite long. It may be cramped if you have extra storage compartments in your case or are trying to fit it into a small finished desktop. However, it will fit quite nicely in our 30-liter case, which is almost a full inch shorter. That makes it much more manageable than the RTX 3090.
“A much more manageable RTX 3090.” – is a good description of the RTX 3080 Ti as a whole. It has all the power of this top-of-the-line card without all the extra baggage.
The port selection on the back is the same as the RTX 3090 and RTX 3080: three DisplayPort 1.4a ports and one HDMI 2.1 port.
The RTX 3080 Ti and the RTX 3090 are not only the same in design. They are also very similar under the hood. A quick look at the spec sheet shows how much these two cards have in common.
The main difference is in the amount of memory. The RTX 3080 Ti has half as much, from 24GB to 12GB. Games won’t know what to do with 24 GB of VRAM anyway, so 12 GB on the RTX 3080 Ti is a more realistic volume. The RTX 3090 is still better suited for the heaviest workloads like data science, 3D animation and high-resolution video encoding.
You also get eight fewer Tensor cores, two fewer RT cores and 247 fewer CUDA cores. That’s not enough to make a PC gaming enthusiast sweat – especially with the $300 price difference between the two.
But is it worth the extra $500 compared to the RTX 3080? That’s a tough question – but in terms of specs and performance, the RTX 3080 Ti is much closer to the 3090 than the 3080.
Importantly, the RTX 3080 Ti is still $200 more expensive than the AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT, which is only slightly behind the RTX 3090.
Regardless of which of these three cards you buy, Nvidia recommends a power supply of at least 750 watts.
Of course, what makes the RTX 3080 Ti an antidote to the GPU power problem is its Lite Hash Rate. I’m not an Ethereum miner, so I couldn’t test this myself, but the idea is that the hash rate limitation should make the cards less attractive for cryptocurrency mining.
I tested the Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti on a system paired with an Intel Core i9-10900K and 32GB of RAM. All games were tested at maximum 4K settings, but without ray tracing effects enabled. I also tested the RTX 3080 on the same system. However, the RX 6900 XT results shown in the chart below were tested on another system with an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X. It’s not ideal, but unfortunately I didn’t have a graphics card on hand to retest in the same system.
Keep that in mind – especially for more processor-intensive games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Civilization VI.
RTX 3080 Ti is clearly more powerful than RTX 3080 – but not by much. The 9% difference in Time Spy results is fairly evenly distributed across games as well: the RTX 3080 Ti is ahead of the RTX 3080 by several frames per second. Compared to the RTX 3080 Ti, you can expect a 5-10% improvement in frame rate. Visually, you’re unlikely to notice the difference, something to keep in mind given the $1,200 price tag of the RTX 3080 Ti.
However, the comparison with the Radeon RX 6900 XT is staggering. AMD’s card is $200 cheaper, but wins in most gaming matches. Even with the CPU difference in my testing, you can expect the RX 6900 XT to be a few frames per second higher in most games. It was already on par with the RTX 3090, which gives it a small but complete advantage over the RTX 3080 Ti in this match. However, this card is more demanding in terms of power consumption – 300W.
Of course, ray tracing is a major weakness of the Radeon RX 6900 XT. The company is just now starting to move forward with its answer to DLSS, known as FidelityFX Super Resolution. Nvidia is several years ahead of AMD in ray tracing and A.I., making the RTX 3080 Ti an obvious choice over the RX 6900 XT if you wanted to try your hand at ray tracing.
I don’t have comparative data, but I also tested Cyberpunk 2077. No other game uses ray tracing so much to create incredible visual effects. On Ultra settings and with ray tracing on, the frame rate slowed down significantly. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, even the RTX 3090 can’t always consistently run this game at 60+ fps – at least not without a decrease in image quality at higher DLSS settings.
However, compared to AMD graphics cards, the RTX 3080 Ti is a ray tracing machine. It’s the more efficient part for content creation and 3D modeling. The RTX 3080 was already a better option than AMD’s best graphics card, and the RTX 3080 Ti only increases that advantage. It was faster in two of the three Blender benchmarks I ran, sometimes by as much as 49%.
This card was also much more capable for video editing, showing a 29% better GPU score in the PugetBench Adobe Premiere benchmark. That means smoother playback and faster exports.
Is it worth buying?
The $1,200 price tag for a graphics card is ungodly. It’s too much money to spend on one component in a system. And yet people keep doing it — and for cards much more modest than the RTX 3080 Ti. With that in mind, the suggestion of buying a card as powerful as the RTX 3080 Ti no longer seems so crazy.
Someday the GPU supply problem will recede and prices will normalize – but by then we may have moved on to the next generation of graphics cards.
For now, it’s the Wild West. The RTX 3080 Ti won’t change that gloomy situation much, but having another fantastically powerful graphics card on the market doesn’t hurt.