An introduction to the RTX GPU family

After two years of waiting for NVIDIA to launch their next generation of GPUs, we finally got their newest GeForce 2000 series code-named “Turing” and, for the time being, we got three new graphics cards: The RTX 2080Ti, RTX 2080 and RTX 2070. The Turing GPUs were announced in August 2018 with the RTX 2080Ti, RTX 2080 released in September and the RTX 2070 coming one month later in October.  The most significant selling point of those cards is not the big performance jump from previous generations like the Pascal GPUs but rather the innovative RTX cores as well an anti-aliasing technique called deep learning supersampling, which we will cover later on. The Turing GPUs are also based on a 12nm microarchitecture compared to the 16nm of Pascal GPUs, featuring better thermals and better overclocking potential. Next-generation NVIDIA GPUs will be based on the 7nm architecture so we can expect even bigger improvements with future NVIDIA GPUs.  In this NVIDIA RTX review, we will include the most essential information regarding NVIDIA’s latest GPU offering and whether RTX cards are a worthy upgrade to the GeForce 1000 cards (Pascal) from 2016. Let us get right into the newest RTX GPUs, what they have to offer in comparison to the GTX GPUs and whether those new features bring anything innovative to the table.


Specifications: Turing Vs Pascal

GPU NameRTX 2080TiRTX 2080RTX 2070GTX 1080TiGTX 1080GTX 1070
ArchitectureTuringTuringTuringPascalPascalPascal
FoundryTSMCTSMCTSMCTSMCTSMCTSMC
Process size12nm12nm12nm16nm16nm16nm
GenerationGeForce 2000GeForce 2000GeForce 2000GeForce 1000GeForce 1000GeForce 1000
Release DateSeptember 20th, 2018September 20th, 2018October 17th, 2018March 10th, 2017May 27th, 2016June 10th, 2016
Die Size754 mm²545 mm²445 mm²471 mm²314 mm²314 mm²
Memory Size11 GB8 GB8 GB11 GB8 GB8 GB
Memory TypeGDDR6GDDR6GDDR6GDDR5XGDDR5XGDDR5
Memory Bus352 bit256 bit256 bit352 bit256 bit256 bit
Bandwidth616.0 GB/s448.0 GB/s448.0 GB/s484.4 GB/s320.3 GB/s256.3 GB/s
Transistors18,600 million13,600 million10,800 million11,800 million7,200 million7,200 million
Base Clock1350 MHz1515 MHz1410 MHz1481 MHz1607 MHz1506 MHz
Boost Clock1545 MHz1710 MHz1620 MHz1582 MHz1733 MHz1683 MHz
Memory Clock14000 MHz14000 MHz14000 MHz11008 MHz10008 MHz10008 MHz
Founder's Edition Launch Price 1,199 USD799 USD599 USD699 USD699 USD449 USD
Aftermarket GPU Launch Price (MSRP)999 USD699 USD499 USD699 USD549 USD449 USD

Advantages of RTX cores, ray-tracing, and DLSS

The RTX cores feature real-time ray tracing which improves in-game reflections and shadows essentially replacing rasterization found in all previous generations of graphics cards. What gamers get with ray tracing is a much more photorealistic experience with reflections of fire and objects looking much more realistic on and off camera. Another vital component of ray-tracing is that those reflections also happen off-camera meaning that reflections occur even on objects that you do not interact with at that given moment while gaming. JaysTwoCents has a great video showcasing how real-time reflections work in Battlefield V and what differences RTX cores make when compared to the standard rasterization method of previous generation GPUs (GTX cores). I highly suggest you check out the video below to see whether you can spot the differences yourself.

Ray-tracing is a technology that has only been used in movies, and those reflections were not displayed real-time. With in-game ray tracing, we get realistic reflections per second and the fact that NVIDIA managed to come up with something like this is impressive. It is no secret that they had been working on this technology for more than ten years and they finally decided to incorporate it into their newest Turing GPUs.

We do not know much about Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) at the moment besides the fact that it will be an improved Anti-aliasing technology just like SMAA, FXAA or TAA. The difference between DLSS and other anti-aliasing technologies is that besides smoothing out edges and providing a better visual experience in-game, NVIDIA claims that DLSS uses fewer resources and will not have an impact on fps but instead having DLSS enabled will improve fps while providing a better quality image, especially in 4K. Hardware Unboxed provides an excellent analysis of the potential of DLSS, analyzing the only source available for measuring DLSS, the Final Fantasy XV demo. You can check out the video below:

DLSS indeed provides the best AA method compared to the others and playing at 1440p with DLSS enabled will fake you into believing that you are playing at a 4K native resolution. Disappointingly, though, DLSS has an impact on performance and Hardware Unboxed concludes that you could get away with playing at 1800p instead of 2160p (native 4K) and get the same level of image quality as if you were playing at 1440p trying to upscale to 2160p with DLSS. The conclusion might sound confusing, that is why I recommend you check out the detailed breakdown on how DLSS performs at the video above.


 

Disadvantages of RTX cores, ray-tracing and DLSS

Unfortunately, the Turing GPUs look more like an “early adoption” product where you pay for future tech than a product that brings something new and exciting to the table. Let me explain: The RTX 2080Ti, RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 come with RTX cores and the ray tracing and DLSS characteristics embedded in their design. However, there is only one game that officially supports ray tracing (Battlefield V) at the moment, while Shadow Of The Tomb Raider is supposed to support ray tracing with a future patch and take advantage of the RTX cores. Windows 10 released an update over a month ago officially providing support for ray tracing, so if you were one of those “early adopters,” you could not take advantage of ray tracing until November 9th when Battlefield V was released.

Apart from that, ray tracing, although sounding amazing, has a huge impact on performance. The RTX 2080Ti, a $1000+ card ( do not expect to find any aftermarket RTX 2080Ti at MSRP) can barely run Battlefield V at 1080p 60fps. Let me rephrase that: The RTX 2080Ti, a card that is, on average, 30% faster than the GTX 1080Ti across all games cannot maintain a stable 60fps at 1080p with raytracing enabled. As amazing as real-time reflections might look, such an impact on performance is unjustifiable especially in a fast-paced first-person shooter game like Battlefield V where you are more focused on not getting killed than starring at your reflection in the mirror or water. Undeniably, NVIDIA will gradually improve and optimize the performance of real-time ray tracing, but, for the time being, with only one game supporting it, you are paying for a technology that is not even close to its full potential and DLSS which we have no idea how it performs in actual games as it is still in its developing stages.

From a buyer’s perspective, if you intend to buy a Turing card to see those features in action, you will be disappointed. There is no doubt that the potential is there but, for the time being, you are, mostly, sponsoring NVIDIA for the further development and optimization of ray tracing and DLSS.


 

RTX 2080Ti, RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 performance with ray-tracing turned off

What most gamers are curious about is seeing what the new RTX GPUs can do without ray tracing. What performance gains can we expect from these three GPUs and how do they compare against the Pascal competitors? It is no coincidence that I listed all six GPUs in the table a the beginning of this post. All three Turing GPUs make sense for specific types of gamers but before breaking down the performance between the two generation of cards, let me show you a few benchmarks showcasing what they can do in-game. TechYesCity uploaded a video comparing the RTX 2070 against the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 and Hardware Unboxed provided us again with one of those, exhausting for them but pleasing for us, 35 game benchmarks of the RTX 2080Ti and the RTX 2080 stacking them up against a plethora of older and newer cards. You can check out both videos below:

 

Performance breakdown 

For those of you who do not want to watch the videos, I will break down the performance of each GPU and tell you what you can expect from each card as well as who should consider buying each card:

  • The RTX 2080Ti is an absolute beast outperforming the previous generation flagship GTX 1080Ti by an average of 30%. If you want the absolute best GPU money can buy and do not care about the huge price tag, by any means, grab yourself an RTX 2080Ti. The frame output of this card at any resolution is insane. Apparently, the card is useless in 1080P, except for ray-tracing and shows its teeth at 4K. In some games, it will even reach 100 fps with a few tweaked graphics settings. For most gamers, however, not wanting to spend $1000+ on a GPU, the RTX 2080Ti makes little to no sense. If you can pay for it, though, you will not be disappointed.

 

  • The RTX 2080 is, ultimately, a GTX 1080Ti performance wise being only 1-3% faster across a multitude of games. Besides its $699 MSRP (good luck with finding one at MSRP), you can expect to see the RTX 2080 at around $800. A month back I would recommend picking up a used GTX 1080Ti instead, but because GTX 1080Ti’s are running out of stock due to NVIDIA focusing on producing more Turing cards, right now the RTX 2080 makes sense for those of you going to buy a GTX 1080Ti initially, willing to spend $800 on their GPU. The few 1080Ti’s left cost around the same, so getting an RTX 2080 instead is not a bad deal if you were going to spend that money anyway. You might only get the same performance for now, but driver optimization will furtherly improve the RTX 2080 and RTX cores, and DLSS will prove useful in a few years when more games will support those features. If you were considering spending the money for a new GTX 1080Ti, getting the RTX 2080 makes much more sense for the longevity of the card. On the other hand, if you can get your hands on a cheap, used GTX 1080Ti for less, besides the lack of availability, it would be a good idea and wait a few years until NVIDIA switches to the 7nm microarchitecture.

 

  • The RTX 2070 is the best value GPU out of the three. While you can not expect it to run ray tracing even close to 60fps at 1080p (not even the RTX 2080Ti can do that right now), once you turn raytracing off, the card shines. Should you be able to find the RTX 2070 at the $499 MSRP, the card swipes the floor with the GTX 1080 in every game while positioning itself between the GTX 1080 and GTX 1080Ti regarding performance. Again, if you have $500 to spend on a new GPU, the RTX 2070 is the best choice for giving you enough FPS power to run almost every game above 100fps in 1440p. The performance difference between the GTX 1080 and RTX 2070 is around 10%. At the same price point as a new GTX 1080, you are getting a nice performance increase, a more modern GPU that will mature with further driver optimizations by NVIDIA and the raytracing and DLSS features.  On the flip side, getting a used GTX 1080 for under $400 is a great deal should you be able to find one. Nonetheless, the RTX 2070 is a promising card and the one that makes the most sense out of the three for most gamers.


 

Are NVIDIA’s Turing graphics cards worth buying?

After mentioning the specifications and the gaming performances of each card, the time has come to evaluate whether these cards make sense for anyone who had been patiently waiting to buy a new NVIDIA GPU. Honestly, for anyone that is a PC enthusiast always wanting the best gaming performance, the RTX 2080Ti is the go-to choice,  to replace the GTX 1080Ti, no matter the cost. On the flip side, the Turing cards do not offer great value for anyone who already has a Pascal GPU and can not afford to spend $1000+ on a new GPU.  For any of the two remaining Turing GPUs, you will have to pay from $500 to $800 if you are lucky to get them at MSRP. The only way this purchase is justified is if you manage to sell the Pascal card beforehand, which can prove difficult.

For anyone who has an older GPU though and wants to experience a performance leap, the RTX cards are well worth it. If you have a GTX 970, GTX 980, GTX 980Ti or even an AMD R9 390, picking up a new Turing GPU makes absolute sense, considering you have the cash to spend. The performance difference is significant, and the price is justifiable. On the contrary, to make the jump from Pascal to Turing, you either have to be a PC enthusiast or manage to sell your old card. Ultimately, it all depends on your buying power, how much you are willing to spend and how satisfied you are with your current gaming experience. For example, for 1080p 60Hz, the new RX 590 from AMD makes much more sense than an RTX 2070, which is overkill for 1080p 60Hz. You can check out my review of the RX 590, at this link. Everybody’s situation is different, and the only thing I want to accomplish here is giving you some helpful guidelines and my own opinion on whether you should consider buying an RTX graphics card. To sum things up:

  • Pascal GPU owners should not look at Turing GPUs, the upgrade is not worth it apart from enthusiasts who will get the RTX 2080Ti regardless.
  • Owners of older generation GPUs could benefit from Turing cards as the price and performance increase on the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 are justifiable.
  • For anyone wanting the performance of an RTX 2070 or RTX 2080, but do not have the money to spend, looking around for deals on used GTX 1080s and GTX 1080Ti’s is a good idea although it will be hard to find them in December 2018.

 

Conclusion

NVIDIA’s latest Turing graphics cards do not nearly offer the performance increase we got with previous generation Pascal cards in 2016. NVIDIA knew that marketing the performance difference is useless and focused on technologies like real-time raytracing and DLSS for marketing their latest GPU lineup. The new features are impressive on paper but do not offer owners of RTX cards any real in-game benefits at the moment. At the time being, only Battlefield V supports raytracing with a massive impact on performance. DLSS is supposed to alleviate the performance loss and improve graphics by upscaling image quality with no performance cost, but even DLSS does not deliver what it initially promised given the fact that it is still in development. Since NVIDIA needs more time to optimize those features, spending money on an RTX card just for “futureproofing” is a lousy choice momentarily. While DLSS and raytracing keep improving, the next-gen NVIDIA GPUs might make up for the lack of usability of those features on Turing GPUs. Until then, it would be better not to join the hype train and pay for features you will not be able to use. Ultimately, though, the choice is yours.


You can check out the current prices of Turing and Pascal GPUs at the Amazon links below. Bear in mind that if you buy a card from one of those links, you help me keep this website up and running:


 

In case you liked my NVIDIA RTX review, make sure to leave a comment down below and tell me your opinion on the latest GPU lineup by NVIDIA. Would you buy an RTX card or are you waiting for NVIDIA to release their 7nm GPUs in a few years? What GPU do you have currently?