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Conclusions

Put it up against the GTX 1080, and the GeForce RTX 2080 crushes its Pascal predecessor. We never expected anything less. Despite its name, though, the RTX 2080 is priced in the same bracket that the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti presently occupies, and that means there is no world in which the GTX 1080 is a reasonable point of comparison for the Turing middle child.


Putting the 1080 Ti and 2080 head-to-head with our 99th-percentile-FPS-per-dollar and average-FPS-per-dollar value metrics, the RTX 2080 Founders Edition offers only small improvements over the GTX 1080 Ti FE in today's games. Our geometric means of all our results spit out about 9% better average-FPS and about 8% higher 99th-percentile-FPS for the RTX 2080 FE. Those improvements will run about 14% more money than the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition. Not a value proposition that's going to make anybody spit out their coffee, to be certain, but it's not bad.

You're getting a bit more polish on top of what was already peerless fluidity and smoothness in most titles today, and considering the uncompetitiveness of today's high-end graphics market in general, a 5% vigorish for the green team above linear price-performance gains seems positively restrained. In that light, TU104's tensor cores and RT cores really aren't that expensive to get into at all.

If you're focused on getting the most bang-for-your-buck right this second, it might be tempting to get a GTX 1080 Ti on discount as stocks of those cards dwindle, but I'm not entirely sure that's the best use of your cash for the long term. Pascal performance is as good as it's ever going to be, while Turing opens new avenues of performance and image quality improvements for tomorrow's games.

We've already been intrigued by what's possible from the demos we've seen of DLSS, and we expect developers will find all sorts of ways to play with even the sparse ray-tracing possible with Turing. Even if you discount the possibilities of tensor cores and RT cores entirely, titles that support half-precision math for some operations, like Wolfenstein II, perform startlingly better on Turing. That's yet another avenue that developers might run down more and more often in the future.

Yes, gamers are going to be waiting on those features to bear fruit, but the upside could be considerable, and it's not as though Nvidia isn't courting developers to use its features. There are plenty of games in the pipe with DLSS support at a minimum, and a handful of developers have already run up a flag for ray-traced effects in their games. Those are just the capabilities that Nvidia has put a bow on, too—Turing mesh shaders could change the way developers envision highly detailed scenes with complex geometry, and that stuff isn't ever coming to Pascal, either. With so many potential routes to better performance from this architecture, it seems unreasonably pessimistic to say that none of Nvidia's bets will pay off.

On the basis of a $100 difference, it could be smarter to get on the Turing curve and risk a bit of a wait than it is to tie your horse to an architecture that will never benefit from those future developments, especially given the lengthening useful life of computing hardware these days. That's especially true if you're a pixel freak, and if you're shopping for an $800 graphics card, how can you not be? If GTX 1080 Ti prices fall well below Nvidia's $700 sticker, we might be telling another story, but a look at e-tailer shelves right now doesn't suggest that's happening en masse yet.

Speaking of pixel freaking, if you're reading The Tech Report, you should already be keenly aware of differences in delivered smoothness among graphics cards. As useful as our 99th-percentile frame times are for determining those differences at a glance, our time-spent-beyond-X measurements help tell that tale in even more depth.

Here's a little thought experiment with today's games that might put a point on just how much smoother the RTX 2080 can be versus the GTX 1080 Ti. The 2080 spends far less time in aggregate than the GTX 1080 Ti does on frames that take longer than 16.7 ms to render—31% less—than the GTX 1080 Ti at 4K across all of our titles. We think that's a difference in performance that you'll notice.

To be fair, we don't experience games in aggregate, but it's still worth noting that the 2080 spends less time—often significantly less time—on tough frames by this measure than the 1080 Ti does in the majority of our titles. The performance of the RTX 2080 and GTX 1080 Ti may appear similar at a high level, but where the rubber meets the road in our advanced metrics, the 2080 easily matches the 1080 Ti and often delivers superior performance. I think that's a difference worth the 2080's extra cost.

In any case, two things are true as we wrap up our first week with Turing. One is that we'll frequently be revisiting these cards down the line as games that support their capabilities emerge. The other is that the RTX 2080 is an exceptionally fine graphics card today, and if you have the dosh to spend, it can be a better performer in noticeable ways versus the superficially-similar GTX 1080 Ti, even as prices for the Pascal card fall. You really can't lose either way. Whether Turing fully comes into its own with time remains to be seen, but I'm optimistic the wait will be worth it. Now, that wait begins.

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