Nvidia announced the RTX 3080 Ti during its Computex 2021 keynote, promising to deliver even higher gaming performance than its flagship RTX 3080. Looking at the spec sheet, the RTX 3080 Ti is an RTX 3090 in all but name while the RTX 3080 trails the pack. Out of the three, though, which should you pick up?
The RTX 3080 Ti, 3090, and 3080 all deliver top-notch gaming performance with the latest Nvidia features, including DLSS and ray tracing. But there are differences between them. To see how the three stack up, we threw the Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti, RTX 3090, and RTX 3080 into the ring.
Pricing and availability
Nvidia announced the RTX 3090 and RTX 3080 on September 1, 2020. Typical to Nvidia launches, the cards had staggered release dates, with the RTX 3080 arriving on September 17 for $699 and the RTX 3090 on September 24 for $1,499. Both cards sold out immediately at launch, and they’ve continued to stay out of stock since then.
The RTX 3080 Ti launched during Nvidia’s Computex 2021 keynote on May 31 for $1,199, with a street date of June 3. Like the cards before it, we expect the RTX 3080 Ti to sell out immediately and stay out of stock for a while.
Unfortunately, the prices and release dates don’t mean much. The GPU shortage is still in full swing, with the RTX 3080 often selling for $1,500 or more, and the RTX 3090 pushing well above $2,000. As for the RTX 3080 Ti, we don’t know yet. It will end up selling for well above its MSRP, though it’s not clear what the going price will be a month or two down the line.
Specs and performance
Looking at the specs of the RTX 3080 Ti, 3090, and 3080, two cards clearly beat out the other. The RTX 3080 Ti and 3090 are nearly identical, and in gaming, they should perform at the same level. The RTX 3080, although still very powerful, trails the other two.
RTX 3080 Ti
Starting with the RTX 3080 Ti and 3090, they have nearly the same number of CUDA cores, Tensor cores, and ray tracing cores. Clock speed, memory speed, and memory bandwidth are nearly identical, too. The big difference between the two cards is the video memory. The RTX 3090 comes with 24GB and the RTX 3080 Ti comes with 12GB.
The RTX 3090 is great for 3D modeling and rendering thanks to its massive amount of video memory, but it’s too much for gaming. By all other metrics, the RTX 3080 Ti is a reskinned RTX 3090 for gaming. There are differences — 30MHz on the clock speed, two RT cores, and 256 CUDA cores between them — but you’ll rarely feel that difference while gaming.
That becomes even more clear when you bring the RTX 3080 into the mix. It has 1,536 fewer CUDA cores than the RTX 3080 Ti and 1,782 fewer than the RTX 3090. Those disparities show up across the board, from the Tensor cores to the memory bandwidth. Specs-wise, the RTX 3080 is well behind the 3080 Ti and 3090, which are almost the same.
Real-world performance backs up the specs. On the Geekbench CUDA leaderboard, the RTX 3080 Ti trails the RTX 3090 by around 12,000 points (238,250 compared to 226,692). However, the RTX 3080 trails the 3080 Ti by over 22,000 points (226,692 compared to 204,205). This is only a single benchmark, but Geekbench takes an average of at least five user-submitted results that takes into account several different tasks, so it’s a decent representation of how the cards compare.
LHR and Resizable BAR
The GPU shortage was caused by several factors, but a big one was increased demand from cryptocurrency miners. Nvidia is combating this issue with Lite Hash Rate (LHR) graphics cards. Newly manufactured RTX 3080, 3070, and 3060 Ti graphics cards will feature a new GPU core that limits the Ethereum hash rate. These updated cards perform identically outside of mining Ethereum.
Additionally, the RTX 3080 Ti and 3070 Ti have the updated LHR core. The RTX 3090 does not. According to Nvidia, the RTX 3090 hasn’t seen the same demand from cryptocurrency miners as the rest of the range, so it doesn’t have any plans to release an updated LHR model.
The RTX 3090, 3080 Ti, and 3080 all support Resizable BAR. This is a PCIe 4.0 feature that marginally improves performance in games by offering the processor direct access to video memory. AMD has a similar feature called Smart Access Memory that works with all AMD components. Resizable BAR requires a 3000-series Nvidia GPU, but it works with Intel and AMD processors.
Additionally, all three cards come with hardware-accelerated ray tracing in supported games and Nvidia’s deep learning super sampling (DLSS) upscaling technique.
A wealth of options with no choice
Gamers looking for a high-end experience are spoiled with options. The RTX 3080 Ti and 3090 are the best the market currently has to offer, and although the RTX 3080 trails those two, it’s not by much. Unfortunately, many buyers won’t have a choice between them.
The GPU shortage isn’t letting up any time soon. Between the RTX 3090, 3080 Ti, and 3080, a lot of it is going to come down to the card you can find in stock at a reasonable price. The RTX 3080 Ti is the most recent, so that’s probably your best bet. That said, we can’t begin to talk about how the cards compare in terms of value with insanely high and constantly changing prices.
For gaming, the RTX 3080 Ti is the best option. It’s not only newer and more readily available, but it also performs much better than the base 3080. The 3090 is unnecessary for gaming, though the extra video memory is important if you do 3D modeling or rendering work.