For too long, the graphics card market has had a clear, clean split. For those wanting high-end technology, Nvidia havs been the way to go. For those wanting a GPU that could do roughly the same job on a lighter budget, AMD's Radeon series has been a great alternative. Nvidia's graphics cards prices have long been prohibitively high, with even the lower-end GeForce RTX 2060 Super coming in at $399.
There used to be a $250-300 sweet spot in video cards. For that price every few years, you could upgrade to a modern video card that was good enough. Not high-end, but a solid workhorse that could run modern games. We lost that a decade ago: take the GTX 970 from six years ago, which retailed for a slightly-higher $329. When Nvidia moved to the GTX 10 series, the 1070 was around $500+, putting the mid-range cards outside of the price range for some folks. And at the luxury top-end were the Ti and Titan cards, costing anywhere from $999 to $2,999. Nvidia didn't seem interested in the common PC gamer.
Today, Nvidia unveiled its RTX 30 Series video cards, based on its Ampere architecture. This set is a revision and upgrade of the Turing architecture that was the foundation for the RTX 20 Series cards, like the GeForce RTX 2080 Super. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang showed off three cards today: the GeForce RTX 3090, RTX 3080, and RTX 3070. The full specs for the new cards compared to their predecessors are below.
|Card Name||Price||Video Memory||Processing Cores||GPU Base/ Boost Clocks||Memory Bandwidth||Memory Interface||Power|
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090||$1,499||24GB||10496||1410/1695||935 GB/s||384-bit||350 W|
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080||$699||10GB||8704||1440/1710||760 GB/s||320-bit||320 W|
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070||$499||8GB||5888||1500/1730||512 GB/s||256-bit||220 W|
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti||$1,199||11GB||4352||1350/1545||616 GB/s||352-bit||250 W|
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super||$699||8GB||3072||1650/1815||496 GB/s||256-bit||250 W|
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super||$499||8GB||2560||1650/1770||448 GB/s||256-bit||215 W|
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super||$399||8GB||2176||1470/1650||448 GB/s||256-bit||175 W|
Power-wise, most of this was expected: the RTX 3090 and 3080 sit above the current RTX 2080 Ti, while the 3070 comes in right below it, but above the 2080 Super. Our fellows over at Digital Foundry found a 70 to 80% jump in straight performance from RTX 2080 to RTX 3080. That's a substantial generational leap in terms of power.
What's more interesting are the prices Nvidia gave for these cards. The RTX 3080 is vastly more powerful than the RTX 2080 Super, but comes in at the exact same price point. For the performance on display, we were expecting these cards to cost much more. Instead, the 30 Series directly replaces the 20 Super Series, like the Super cards replaced their non-Super counterparts.
Nvidia could've charged much more for these cards, putting them right above the 20 Super series. (And versions from other manufacturers can be more expensive.) Instead, they're offering an impressive performance boost for the same price. These are full replacements, and that's illustrated on Nvidia's own shop. If you select "RTX 2080 Ti" there, the featured result... is the RTX 3080.
Nvidia is still aiming for the high-end—a $1,500 video card shows that—but it also seems to be cognizant of the low-end once again. Assuming a future 3060, I could see that coming in at $399 like the 2060 Super, or even $349 if Nvidia is feeling frisky. And at that price point, you're looking at ray-tracing, DLSS 2.0, and 2070 Super performance with Ampere's power efficiency. Nvidia had left the door open for AMD, and the latter company used that space to grab market share. Now Nvidia is closing the door behind it.
There's still some room for AMD to compete on price with its Radeon RX 6000 series cards, based on its Big Navi architecture. The price gap isn't as big though, and AMD has ceded ground to Nvidia in terms of features. Nvidia got to ray tracing first with RTX, popularizing the RTX On/Off meme, while AMD is just getting into the space once the 6000 series lands. Nvidia also introduced DLSS 2.0, giving players vastly improved graphics with lower performance hits, and AMD's answer to the technology will happen, but it won't happen in the next year by my speculation. DLSS 2.0 alone is enough to kneecap AMD.
AMD's rumored play to compete seems to be in memory. While the RTX 3090 has 24 GB of GDDR6X memory, the 3080 drops down to 10 GB. AMD's Big Navi cards are rumored to come in at 16 and 12 GB GDDR6 variants. This means both cards should be able to hit 4K resolutions much easier, but Nvidia still holds the lead in power and features. Ultimately, AMD would have to have some vastly surprising offering to run toe-to-toe with what Nvidia showed today, and I honestly don't think they have it. The best they have is to try and bring a 3070 rival in at about $399, and perhaps offer a solid sub-$300 card. It's doable, but above $300 that $100 feels less meaningful.
Today's presentation was Nvidia looking back and finally deciding to do something about AMD's hold on the lower end of graphics cards. The latter company will stick around for sure, but with the price gap drying up, the only place left to maneuver is on features. And AMD looks like it'll continue to play catch up there.
I still can't afford the top-end of Nvidia's offerings, but I'm excited about what those 3080 and 3070 prices represent. Nvidia has realized that it is in competition with AMD, and it's now taking that competition seriously. Competition drives both innovation and pricing; I'm glad AMD is here to give Nvidia incentive to keep its prices more reasonable for the future. As for what's next, I hope AMD pulls a wild card to surprise me for this generation, but right now, it's looking like Nvidia has the winning hand.