AMD and Nvidia knows most users tend to upgrade every second generation of cards- or, to put it another way – owners of Pascal are currently deciding if they should jump-ship to the latest and greatest video cards.
While Nvidia’s Ampere architecture, and AMD’s RDNA 2 based video cards bring with them big leaps in performance, we also see support for both Ray Tracing and Mesh Shaders, and also VRS – and Variable Rate Shading is being used to great effect in titles such as Gears 5.
Another big deal is the inclusion for support of tech such as sampler feedback and DirectStorage, which again, will be critical for games in the future. Of course, in the here and now, titles are thin on the ground which supports VRS, and Ray Tracing titles are only now becoming common place – but even so, it’s nice to have a card capable of this tech.
Given the GTX 1080 was so popular, I wanted to discuss how well it holds up in 2021, and comparing it directly against Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080. This article will focus mostly on traditional raster performance, but also throw in DLSS results too. I’ll be covering both DLSS and Ray Tracing a lot more extensively in the future, but DLSS is piece of tech, and realistically if you buy an Nvidia card and the title supports DLSS, you’ll probably want to enable it (unless its DLSS 1.0, in which case results can be rather mixed).
Turning our attentions to the GeForce GTX 1080 though; If you were to argue that Pascal is one of the best graphics architectures Nvidia has ever released, I think you’d get very few who’d say you didn’t have a good point. Sure, cards such as the original GeForce and 8800 GTX, and even the RTX 20 series were arguably more important in that they bought in very new and important technology, but in terms of a very easy to see performance leap – Pascal was a winrar.
In a nutshell, Nvidia used a custom 16nm process to create Pascal, and with the GTX 1080 loaded it with 2560 CUDA cores and 8GB of GDDR5X memory. Nvidia boasted at the time that this card was not just “crafted for speed” but was almost “irresponsibly fast”. A good argument can be had that the GTX 1080 (and for that matter, the 1080 Ti and 1070) were perhaps a ‘bit too good’, and very hard for Nvidia to really follow up with in terms of such an obvious performance leap.
It really was one of those architectures where everything lined up – a major improvement in almost every way, new memory tech (GDDR5X), a vastly improved process node and big strides in architecture. Maxwell was a good architecture, but Pascal just destroyed it in all metrics.
Nvidia’s Ampere then is certainly a great architecture in its own right – with the RTX 3080 doubling down on hardware based ray tracing and offering significant performance upticks compared to Turing. The number of CUDA cores with Ampere increases massively too, although of course, the number of CUDA cores and clock frequency isn’t necessarily as important as scheduling work across these cores and keeping them busy and fed.
The specs tell the story here though – the RTX 3080 really just is a big leap over Pascal in raw compute performance, but a noticeable disappointment with Ampere is the RAM. Whilst the bandwidth has been supercharged, the amount of RAM has only increased by 2GB, from 8GB of the GTX 1080 to 10GB for the RTX 3080. 10GB should be fine for 4K in the short to medium term, but in my opinion anyway, it’s a big shame we didn’t see the RTX 3080 outfitted with the same 12GB residing on the RTX 3080 Ti. With ‘stuff’ incoming like sampler feedback and DirectStorage its hard to know what will happen with VRAM requirements going forward, but let’s be honest, more is always better, and AMD’s RX 6800 XT certainly finds a great way to market itself here.
By the way, whilst I do have an RTX 3080 Ti for testing, I’m not including those numbers here because I wanted it to be an xx80 vs xx80 shootout, and the MSRP of the 3080 Ti is so much more than the 3080. But you can of course argue that MSRP for the 3080 is not exactly being stuck to anyways.
For AMD fans, I’m sorry but the RX 6800 XT is also sitting out of these tests too – because I’m currently working on a few other projects, and didn’t have time to retest the 6800XT in its newest drivers on this new rig. But don’t worry – one of those projects is AMD related so AMD owners get their turn in the limelight.
Anyways, on with the tests then. I’m running a plethora of games at 1080P, 1440P and 4K with the CPU in question an overclocked Intel 10900K with 32GB of RAM and all games installed on SSDs. The GTX 1080 is one I purchased just after it launched, and is a basic MSI Aero Blower variant. It’s still been going rock solid, despite it undergoing a bit of abuse from being moved from rig to rig, and half the time not being kept in a box as I managed to lose the box during a move. The RTX 3080 is a FE variant, provided by Nvidia from our reviews.
Enough talk, let’s move onto the performance numbers!
It’s really hard to believe that the GeForce GTX 1080 is now about 5 years old, but yet still is putting out these performance numbers. If you’re running a 1440P display, games are still pretty damn playable – Gears, Forza, even Red Dead Redemption are all running pretty darn good. Remember too – these settings are maxed, and you can easily tinker and lower the more demanding settings a few notches to claw back performance as necessary.
The GTX 1080 is definitely starting to feel longer in the tooth, and clearly the RTX 3080 is a league ahead of what its capable of, especially when you take ray tracing and Nvidia’s DLSS technology into account. AMD’s FSR does work on GTX 1080 cards though, as you can see in our Godfall results here.
Of course, both of AMD’s FSR and Nvidia’s DLSS techs require implementation. Again, I don’t want to spend too much time on these things in this article, as I’ll have dedicated videos on the channel examining them soon.
So to round things off, the RTX 3080 is a huge leap over the GTX 1080, as you can expect from a card which is two generations newer. Is it worth upgrading? Well, we know shortages are starting to get better as I’ve reported exclusively recently, and other reports that the push for LHR is helping.
As with any review though, I can’t predict the future and prices, but we’ll be assuming you can get a 3080 (or a similar product for MSRP). In that case, the answer is definitely, if you’ve the rig to drive it. Ultimately, if you’re trying to run the 3080 on an older CPU such as a i7 6700 then you’ll definitely hit CPU bottlenecks. But if you’re the proud owner of a newer Zen processor, or something like an Intel I9 9700K, and want to push frame rates at 1440P or – even better, 4K then an upgrade would be great.
The GTX 1080 is very capable given its age, and if you’re happy to drop the settings a little, it’s still more than capable at 1440P.