While it was roughly 2 years from Maxwell 2 to Pascal, the journey to Turing has felt much longer despite a similar 2 year gap. There’s some truth to the feeling: looking at the past couple years, there’s been basically every other possible development in the GPU space except next-generation gaming video cards, like Intel’s planned return to discrete graphics, NVIDIA’s Volta, and cryptomining-specific cards. Finally, at Gamescom 2018, NVIDIA announced the GeForce RTX 20 series, built on TSMC’s 12nm “FFN” process and powered by the Turing GPU architecture. Launching today with full general availability is just the GeForce RTX 2080, as the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti was delayed a week to the 27th, while the GeForce RTX 2070 is due in October. So up for review today is the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and GeForce RTX 2080.

But a standard new generation of gaming GPUs this is not. The “GeForce RTX” brand, ousting the long-lived “GeForce GTX” moniker in favor of their announced “RTX technology” for real time ray tracing, aptly underlines NVIDIA’s new vision for the video card future. Like we saw last Friday, Turing and the GeForce RTX 20 series are designed around a set of specialized low-level hardware features and an intertwined ecosystem of supporting software currently in development. The central goal is a long-held dream of computer graphics researchers and engineers alike – real time ray tracing – and NVIDIA is aiming to bring that to gamers with their new cards, and willing to break some traditions on the way.

NVIDIA GeForce Specification Comparison
  RTX 2080 Ti RTX 2080 RTX 2070 GTX 1080
CUDA Cores 4352 2944 2304 2560
Core Clock 1350MHz 1515MHz 1410MHz 1607MHz
Boost Clock 1545MHz
FE: 1635MHz
1710MHz
FE: 1800MHz
1620MHz
FE: 1710MHz
1733MHz
Memory Clock 14Gbps GDDR6 14Gbps GDDR6 14Gbps GDDR6 10Gbps GDDR5X
Memory Bus Width 352-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
VRAM 11GB 8GB 8GB 8GB
Single Precision Perf. 13.4 TFLOPs 10.1 TFLOPs 7.5 TFLOPs 8.9 TFLOPs
Tensor Perf. (INT4) 430TOPs 322TOPs 238TOPs N/A
Ray Perf. 10 GRays/s 8 GRays/s 6 GRays/s N/A
"RTX-OPS" 78T 60T 45T N/A
TDP 250W
FE: 260W
215W
FE: 225W
175W
FE: 185W
180W
GPU TU102 TU104 TU106 GP104
Transistor Count 18.6B 13.6B 10.8B 7.2B
Architecture Turing Turing Turing Pascal
Manufacturing Process TSMC 12nm "FFN" TSMC 12nm "FFN" TSMC 12nm "FFN" TSMC 16nm
Launch Date 09/27/2018 09/20/2018 10/2018 05/27/2016
Launch Price MSRP: $999
Founders $1199
MSRP: $699
Founders $799
MSRP: $499
Founders $599
MSRP: $599
Founders $699

As we discussed at the announcement, one of the major breaks is that NVIDIA is introducing GeForce RTX as the full upper tier stack with x80 Ti/x80/x70 stack, where it has previously tended towards the x80/x70 products first, and the x80 Ti as a mid-cycle refresh or competitive response. More intriguingly, each GeForce card has their own distinct GPU (TU102, TU104, and TU106), with direct Quadro and now Tesla variants of TU102 and TU104. While we covered the Turing architecture in the preceding article, the takeaway is that each chip is proportionally cut-down, including the specialized RT Cores and Tensor Cores; with clockspeeds roughly the same as Pascal, architectural changes and efficiency enhancements will be largely responsible for performance gains, along with the greater bandwidth of 14Gbps GDDR6.

And as far as we know, Turing technically did not trickle down from a bigger compute chip a la GP100, though at the architectural level it is strikingly similar to Volta/GV100. Die size brings more color to the story, because with TU106 at 454mm2, the smallest of the bunch is frankly humungous for a FinFET die nominally dedicated for a x70 GeForce product, and comparable in size to the 471mm2 GP102 inside the GTX 1080 Ti and Pascal Titans. Even excluding the cost and size of enabled RT Cores and Tensor Cores, a slab of FinFET silicon that large is unlikely to be packaged and priced like the popular $330 GTX 970 and still provide the margins NVIDIA is pursuing.

These observations are not so much to be pedantic, but more so to sketch out GeForce Turing’s positioning in relation to Pascal. Having separate GPUs for each model is the most expensive approach in terms of research and development, testing, validation, extra needed fab tooling/capacity – the list goes on. And it raises interesting questions on the matter of binning, yields, and salvage parts. Though NVIDIA certainly has the spare funds to go this route, there’s surely a better explanation than Turing being primarily designed for a premium-priced consumer product that cannot command the margins of professional parts. These all point to the known Turing GPUs as oriented for lower-volume, and NVIDIA’s financial quarterly reports indicate that GeForce product volume is a significant factor, not just ASP.

And on that note, the ‘reference’ Founders Edition models are no longer reference; the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, 2080, and 2070 Founders Editions feature 90MHz factory overclocks and 10W higher TDP, and NVIDIA does not plan to productize a reference card themselves. But arguably the biggest change is the move from blower-style coolers with a radial fan to an open air cooler with dual axial fans. The switch in design improves cooling capacity and lowers noise, but with the drawback that the card can no longer guarantee that it can cool itself. Because the open air design re-circulates the hot air back into the chassis, it is ultimately up to the chassis to properly exhaust the heat. In contrast, a blower pushes all the hot air through the back of the card and directly out of the case, regardless of the chassis airflow or case fans.

All-in-all, NVIDIA is keeping the Founders Edition premium, which is now $200 over the baseline ‘reference.’ Though AIB partner cards are also launching today, in practice the Founders Edition pricing is effectively the retail price until the launch rush has subsided.

The GeForce RTX 20 Series Competition: The GeForce GTX 10 Series

In the end, the preceding GeForce GTX 10 series ended up occupying an odd spot in the competitive landscape. After its arrival in mid-2016, only the lower end of the stack had direct competition, due to AMD’s solely mainstream/entry Polaris-based Radeon RX 400 series. AMD’s RX 500 series refresh in April 2017 didn’t fundamentally change that, and it was only until August 2017 that the higher-end Pascal parts had direct competition with their generational equal in RX Vega. But by that time, the GTX 1080 Ti (not to mention the Pascal Titans) was unchallenged. And all the while, an Ethereum-led resurgence of mining cryptocurrency on video cards was wreaking havoc on GPU pricing and inventory, first on Polaris products, then general mainstream parts, and finally affecting any and all GPUs.

Not that NVIDIA sat on their laurels with Vega, releasing the GTX 1070 Ti anyhow. But what was constant was how the pricing models evolved with the Founders Editions schema, the $1200 Titan X (Pascal), and then $700 GTX 1080 Ti and $1200 Titan Xp. Even the $3000 Titan V maintained gaming cred despite diverging greatly from previous Titan cards as firmly on the professional side of prosumer, basically allowing the product to capture both prosumers and price-no-object enthusiasts. Ultimately, these instances coincided with the rampant cryptomining price inflation and was mostly subsumed by it.

So the higher end of gaming video cards has been Pascal competing with itself and moving up the price brackets. For Turing, the GTX 1080 Ti has become the closest competitor. RX Vega performance hasn’t fundamentally changed, and the fallout appears to have snuffed out any Vega 10 parts, as well as Vega 14nm+ (i.e. 12nm) refreshes. As a competitive response, AMD doesn’t have many cards up their sleeves except the ones already played – game bundles (such as the current “Raise the Game” promotion), FreeSync/FreeSync 2, other hardware (CPU, APU, motherboard) bundles. Other than that, there’s a DXR driver in the works and a machine learning 7nm Vega on the horizon, but not much else is known, such as mobile discrete Vega. For AMD graphics cards on shelves right now, RX Vega is still hampered by high prices and low inventory/selection, remnants of cryptomining.

For the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and 2080, NVIDIA would like to sell you the RTX cards as your next upgrade regardless of what card you may have now, essentially because no other card can do what Turing’s features enable: real time raytracing effects ((and applied deep learning) in games. And because real time ray tracing offers graphical realism beyond what rasterization can muster, it’s not comparable to an older but still performant card. Unfortunately, none of those games have support for Turing’s features today, and may not for some time. Of course, NVIDIA maintains that the cards will provide expected top-tier performance in traditional gaming. Either way, while Founders Editions are fixed at their premium MSRP, custom cards are unsurprisingly listed at those same Founders Edition price points or higher.

Fall 2018 GPU Pricing Comparison
AMD Price NVIDIA
  $1199 GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
  $799 GeForce RTX 2080
  $709 GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
Radeon RX Vega 64 $569  
Radeon RX Vega 56 $489 GeForce GTX 1080
  $449 GeForce GTX 1070 Ti
  $399 GeForce GTX 1070
Radeon RX 580 (8GB) $269/$279 GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
(1280 cores)
Meet The New Future of Gaming: Different Than The Old One
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  • AnnoyedGrunt - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    I think it was actually much less, judging by comments made in one of the reviews I linked. Maybe around $350 or so, which was very expensive at the time. It is true that it was a revolutionary card, but at the same time it was greeted with a lukewarm reception from the gaming community. Much like the 20XX series. I doubt that the 20XX will seem as revolutionary in hindsight as the GeForce256 did, but the initial reception does seem similar between the two. Will be interesting to see what the next year brings to the table.

    -AG
    Reply
  • eddman - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    Wow, that's just $525 now. I'm interested in old card prices because some people claim they have always been super expensive. It seems they have a selective memory. I'm yet to find a card more expensive than 2080 Ti from that time period.

    I'm not surprised that people still didn't buy many 256 cards. The previous cards were cheaper and performed close enough for the time.
    Reply
  • abufrejoval - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    I am pretty sure I'll get a 2080ti, simply because nothing else will run INT4 or INT8 based inference with similar performance and ease of availability and tools support. Sure, when you are BAIDU or Facebook, you can buy even faster inference hardware or if you are Google you can build your own. But if you are not, I don't know where you'll get something that comes close.

    As far as gaming is concerned, my 1080ti falls short on 4k with ARK, which is noticeable at 43". If the 2080ti can get me through the critical minimum of 30FPS, it will have been worth it.

    As far as ray tracing is concerned, I am less concerned about its support in games: Photo realism isn't an absolute necessity for game immersion.

    But I'd love to see hybrid render support in software like Blender: The ability to pimp up the quality for video content creation and replace CPU based rander farms with something that is visually "awsome enough" points towards the real "game changing" capacity of this generation.

    It pushes three distinct envelopes, raster, compute and render: If you only care about one, the value may not be there. In my case, I like the ability to explore all three, while getting an 2080ti for me allows me to push down an 1070 to one of my kids still running an R290X: Christmas for both of us!
    Reply
  • mapesdhs - Thursday, September 27, 2018 - link

    In the end though that's kinda the point, these are not gaming cards anymore and haven't been for some time. These are side spins from compute, where the real money & growth lie. We don't *need* raytracing for gaming, that glosses over so many other far more relevant issues about what makes for a good game. Reply
  • Pyrostemplar - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    High performance and (more than) matching price. nVidia seemingly put the card classification down one notch (x80 => x70; Ti => x80; Titan => Ti) while keeping the prices and overclocked then from day one so it looks like solid progress if one disregards the price.

    I think it will be a short lived (1 year or so) generation. A pricey stop gap with a few useless new features (because when devs catch up and actually deploy DXR enabled games, these cards will have been replaced by something faster).
    Reply
  • ballsystemlord - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    Spelling/grammar errors (Only 2!):
    Wrong word:
    "All-in-all, NVIDIA is keeping the Founders Edition premium, now increased to $100 to $200 over the baseline"
    Should be:
    "All-in-all, NVIDIA is keeping the Founders Edition premium, now increased from $100 to $200 over the baseline"
    Missing "s":
    "Of course, NVIDIA maintain that the cards will provide expected top-tier"
    Should be:
    "Of course, NVIDIA maintains that the cards will provide expected top-tier"
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    Thanks! Reply
  • ballsystemlord - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    Nate! Can you add DP folding @ home benchmark numbers? There were none in the Vega review and only SP in this Nvidia review. Reply
  • SanX - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    Author thinks that all gamers buy only fastest cards? May be. But I doubt all of them buy the new generestion card every year. In short, where are comparisons to 980/980Ti and even 780/780Ti? Owners of those cards are more interested to upgrade. Reply
  • milkod2001 - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    See from top menu on right, there is a bench where you can see results. I presume they add data to huge database soon. And yes,people are talking about high end GPU but most are spending $400 max. for it. Reply

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