With all of that background out of the way, let’s look at how they handle today’s games. For our testing, we chose to limit our comparisons to the original GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti to best illustrative the generation-over-generation gains. We also chose to limit our testing to 1440p and 4K resolutions as it goes without saying that these cards will far outperform any 1080p display on the market today.
When running our benchmarks, we use in-game tools whenever possible, recording the average and 1% lows using FRAPS. In games without a benchmark, we use a circuit of repeatable gameplay. In the case of World of Warcraft, this involves moving from a city-hub to the wilderness, engaging in combat with a particular mob spawn and skill rotation, and returning to the original location with the least amount of variance possible. Unless otherwise noted, all graphics settings are on turned to their maximum. The only exception is at 4K resolutions where we have disabled anti-aliasing which would provide a superfluous performance hit. At 1440p, NVIDIA TAA was used.
Do note that the GTX 1080 we were able to acquire for these benchmarks was a Gigabyte Gaming G1, which does carry with it a modest boost clock OC of 127MHz over the reference edition and an aftermarket cooler. A factory overclock at this level will provide an extremely small performance delta of approximately 1-3 FPS, but it’s worth bearing in mind nonetheless. Likewise, while we considered omitting the temperature data on this card entirely, we opted to leave it in as most users considering a GTX 1080 today will likely be looking at just such an aftermarket card. Just be aware that the reference design will run a bit hotter than the card we’re using here.
Test System: i7-8700K at 5GHz, ASUS Maximus X Hero Z470 Motherboard, 32GB ADATA XPG D41 DDR4-3200 DRAM, 1TB Samsung 970 PRO NVME SSD, 1TB WD Black NVME SSD, 1TB WD Blue 2.5” SATA SSD, 1TB Crucial MX500 2.5” SATA SSD, 10TB WD Gold HDD, Corsair HX-1050 1050-watt PSU, Fractal Define R6 Case (open top panel).
For our synthetic testing, we used PCMark 10 and 3DMark Time Spy Extreme. The first, if we’re being honest, was a point of curiosity. PCMark is clearly more of a whole system test, but how would adding such powerful video cards to the system effect things? Time Spy Extreme, on the other hand, is an intensive 4K DirectX 12 benchmark that puts a strain on even the best cards out there.
PCMark’s productivity test shows similar results for each card, with the 2080 Ti showing the most improvement with a score of 10248 over the 1080 Ti’s 9817. The 1080 and 2080 were much closer, with the 2080 coming in with only a 74 point advantage. This isn’t surprising since these tests rely more on the CPU than the GPU.
The Digital Content Creation tests expand those gaps substantially. Again, no surprise there, but this is the first instance of the 2080 performing higher than even the 1080 Ti and leaving the standard 1080 in its dust. The 2080 Ti, of course, leads the pack by a country mile.
Our 3DMark Time Spy Extreme tests give a clear advantage to the RTX 20-series. Compared to either, the GTX 1080 seems downright slow even though it’s anything but. Again, the 2080 tops the 1080 Ti and the 2080 Ti leads the way with a nearly 1400 point gap.
Frame Rate Testing
Beginning with 1440p testing between the GTX 1080 and the RTX 2080, the first thing we noticed is that the 2080 is an all around smoother card. Since the 1% lows are both higher and, for the most part, closer to the average frame rate, the 2080 renders with less overall stuttering. Performance gains at this resolution vary by title, as you would expect, and range from 2% improvement in the case of DOOM all the way to 26% in Battlefield 1 and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. WoW is an odd case, somehow losing frames on the more powerful card. We repeated the test multiple times with the same small FPS reduction. In terms of sheer FPS, improvements range from 2 - 37 FPS.
Making the jump to 4K, we can see that NVIDIA wasn’t blowing smoke: the RTX 2080 was able to achieve 4K60 with most games settings manually turned to their maximum. Only FFXV fell short; however, when turned to the standard preset clocked in at the mid-60s. Setting Shadow of the Tomb Raider to its Ultra preset does fall slightly short, benching in the mid-50s for average FPS.
Performance improvements here range from 14% in Grand Theft Auto to 27% in Shadow of the Tomb Raider (high) and 11-26 average FPS.
Looking now at the GTX 1080 Ti and the RTX 2080 Ti, both of these cards absolutely dominate 1440p. The 2080 consistently pushes frame rates into the triple digits with the continual exception of FFXV, which is likely to join the pack once DLSS is widely available in the game.
What I find especially remarkable is that the RTX 2080 performs close to or even exceeding the 1080 Ti in some cases. Battlefield 1, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, PUBG, and Final Fantasy 15 all perform better on the RTX 2080 than the 1080 Ti.
The performance improvements range from 7-25% and 8-42 average FPS.
Looking at 4K, the span of our gains from the 1080 Ti narrow a bit from 14-30% and 12-29 FPS. If you’re running a high refresh rate 4K monitor, the 2080 Ti will amply provide on those silky smooth frame rates. Without question, the 2080 Ti is the new king of the hill, even before we begin to see games designed to take advantage of Turing’s unique capabilities.
Again, we also see the RTX 2080 outperform the 1080 Ti, delivering faster frame rates in DOOM, Battlefield 1, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, PUBG, and tieing FFXV.
What about HDR? The intention when beginning this review was to test the performances differences with and without HDR using an LG 4K HDR TV and to show that on its own chart. After testing it with a gamut of games, the frame rates are so similar there’s really no point in charting it. If you’re concerned about taking a performance hit by enabling HDR, don’t be. The biggest gap we observed was 4 FPS while most games were two or less. Both the 2080 and 2080 Ti have enough headroom to deliver smooth 4K60+ with full HDR enabled.
Using the stock fan curves in my Fractal Define R6 case, both cards performed well compared to their last generation counterparts (again noting that the reference GTX 1080 with vapor chamber, blower-style cooling was warmer than our aftermarket-cooled version tested here). The 2080 Ti is notably cooler and quieter, showing that the new extended vapor chamber and two-fan solution is effective.
Due to the number of fans in our test system (10 in total), providing an accurate decibel reading would be difficult. Instead, suffice it to say this: When the 1080 Ti kicked on, it sounded like a jet engine. It was easily the loudest card I’d ever tested, at least for how frequently it would reach those levels. The 2080 and 2080 Ti are far more reasonable. When they crank to 100%, they’re audible but a dramatic improvement over the 1080 and 1080 Ti. Color me relieved.
Final Thoughts - Should you run out and pick one up?
This is where things get interesting. Without being able to test ray tracing for ourselves, there’s still a big unanswered question on how either of these cards will perform when using that key feature. We can guess that each card will take a hefty performance hit but how much can make a big impact into whether or not you might find it worth the extra cost. We’ll be revisiting these cards once we can see for ourselves but at the moment, we can’t say with certainty either way.
That said, these cards are in a unique position to only get better and more worth owning over time. Features like hybrid rendering and mesh shading are “game changers” for the games to come. Being able to render so many more objects on screen is something that extends beyond FPS and into a whole new realm of visual fidelity that past cards simply can’t do. Freeing up CPU resources and allowing parallel processing on Turing’s three cores means that developers will have more headroom to design with and opens the door to unique features and whole-system performance boosts specifically for 20-series owners.
And don’t forget about DLSS. Gamers have complained about the performance hit of anti-aliasing for years and these cards use AI to make it a much more appealing option, even at 4K.
Of course, there’s no denying that these are the best cards on the market and will be for the foreseeable future. If you want the highest frames with the best visuals, this is the way to go, full stop.
We add ray tracing on top of all that. It’s an open question, yes, but hardly the only reason to consider RTX card in the first place. Turing is a multi-faceted architecture with an incredible amount of potential.
So should you buy one? The price hike from last generation is surprising, but when you really consider how different Turing is and what’s going on inside of that awesome chassis, it all starts to make a bit more sense. Looking at the capabilities baked into the architecture, it’s hard not to be excited at what’s to come.
A purchase now is a step toward the future but it doesn’t feel like an unsafe one. These cards deliver 4K above 60 FPS with uncompressed HDR. They’re the hands-down best gaming GPUs money can buy. They’re opening doors never before possible. They’re going to have features in games you simply won’t find on another card. When ray tracing comes, that’s going to be a whole new arena for game visuals. The tech is amazing and hopefully the performance is too, but it’s not the only thing to hang your hat on this generation.
If you were on the fence for a full-priced 1080 Ti, your finger should already be on the Buy button - you’ll get equal or even better performance with all the benefits of Turing. For everyone else, it’s about two things: playing on the best and being in on the ground floor of the most exciting thing to happen in PC graphics in ages. If that excites you as much as it does me, then the answer is obvious. If you’d rather play it safe, RTX will be there waiting.
- Hybrid rendering, mesh shading, dynamic LOD change the game
- DLSS dramatically cuts down on AA performance hit without sacrificing quality
- Hands down best performance in gaming today
- 4K, 60+ FPS at high/max settings is here and glorious
- Cards run cooler and quieter than 10-series
- One-click overclocking
- Ray tracing, and games that fully take advantage of the potential of Turing, are yet to come
- More expensive than last gen
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.