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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  • darkos - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    Please add flight simulation testing to your list of applications. eg: X-Plane, Prepar3d. Reply
  • Vinny DePaul - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    I am still rocking 980 with fps over 60 and everything turned up to max. I guess I will wait. Reply
  • mapesdhs - Thursday, September 27, 2018 - link

    That's a perfect summary of why tom's looney article was so bad. If your current hw is doing just fine for the games you're playing atm, then upgrading makes no sense. It's rather cynical of NVIDIA, and some tech sites, to basically create a need and then push people into thinking they're idiots if they don't upgrade, while hiding behind very poor price/performance dynamics. Reply
  • DARK_BG - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    As someone working in the game industry for already 8+ years I can tell you only one thing.No body will rush to implement proprietary features!
    The ones that have demos or are about soon to have the features implemented are the ones Nvidia reached to not vise versa.
    This days making a game is no different than making any other product on this planet.It is corporate bussines which means you want maximum profit which translates in maximum user coverage which translates in maximum platforfm coverage PC (Windows , Mac , Linux), Consoles and mobile.
    There is just no basis to anyhow compare Vulkan to anything proprietary.Vulkan is coming with the promise that what i make will look and feel the same way visually across multple platforms without requiring too much husstle on the development side.Even when you use a flexible engine as UE4 it is not that easy to have the same stuff working across multiple platforms and changes and further development for materials and meshes are required to have the stuff atleast to look indetical.
    So i can hardly imagine that while you are bogged down with tons of bugs and trying to deliver your product across multiple platforms you will add yourself one more pain in the ass as nVidia Ray Tracing that will have doubfull income effect on your title given the small user reach.
    I can give you Wargaming and Valve games as an example of old engines that are making tons of money.
    So while nVidia is trying to ripoff people with that amount of money I'm wondering how to optimise one level so it could run fast and look cool on 6 years old midrange hardware.
    Reply
  • eddman - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    *off-topic*

    Although it is true that proprietary features do not always take off in a meaningful way (the GPU-accelerated mode of physx as an example), it doesn't mean an open standard would always be the popular choice.

    Take big budget games from large publishers. These games, in the large majority of cases, are only available on three platforms, PS, xbox and windows, because these are the platforms that have the hardware to support such games and also have the largest audience.

    IINM, vulkan is not available on X1 and PS4. If a AAA game dev was to use vulkan on windows, they'd still need to code the game for directx on X1 and GNM or GNMX on PS4, meaning they'd have to support three APIs.

    If they go with directx on windows, then two platforms will already be covered and they'd only need to do additional coding for PS4 support.

    On the other hand, vulkan does make sense for devs of smaller games where they want to cover as many platforms as possible, specially for mobile games, where vulkan covers windows, linux, mac, android and I think ios and even switch.
    Reply
  • eva02langley - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    Yes and no, for example Freesync is finally getting support from TV makers. Finally, I can get a 4k big screeen with HDR and... freesync.

    Open source is the way to go over proprietary technology.
    Reply
  • eddman - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    That's why I wrote it's not always the case. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. It all has to do with the standard having industry support. Being open source does not automatically mean it'd catch on, unfortunately. Reply
  • noone2 - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    Someone will and it will be great and then it will catch on. Or maybe it won't, but that's how things happen. Someone takes a risk and it pans out. Either contribute to it or don't, play safe or take a chance.

    Nvidia has obviously been making some pretty good decisions over the years and has turned out some amazing products. Sometimes they've been wrong, but more often than not they are right. If they were wrong more than not, they'd be out of business, not a $150B company.

    If you don't ever take a risk doing something new or cutting edge, you'll disappear. This is true for all technology.
    Reply
  • noone2 - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    Oh, and remember, at some point you don't have to care about 6 year old hardware. Look at consoles. At some point the studio just stops making a game for the last-gen, even though the new gen doesn't have the same size install base yet. Or a non-franchise game just shows up for next-gen and that's it. They never even bother to attempt to make it on older stuff. Reply
  • eva02langley - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    Thanks for your comment, this was my argument all along.

    The only way to force a new feature is by shear numbers. Basically, if RTX was something available on new consoles, then that would make a business stand point sense, however AMD is owning consoles and might for a long term.

    AMD should force multi-GPU via Infinity Fabric through consoles. This would work because devs would have access to additional power on the die via proper coding... and this delivered to 100% of the user base.

    If this is only developed for less than 1% of the PC user base, this will fail miserably and nobody would add support unless sponsored by Nvidia themselves.

    Financial analysts are seeing it and downgrades are coming.
    Reply

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