NVIDIA has released its latest high-end graphics cards, the RTX 4090 and the RTX 4080.
The RTX 4090 is a behemoth. However, most people will probably be gunning for the RTX 4080, as it’s probably the one that makes more sense for most people. The GPU has absolutely incredible performance and represents a massive upgrade from the RTX 3080, but it raises the question: Should you buy it?
As it turns out, the new generation of NVIDIA cards has a lot going for it, and that extends to the RTX 4080. Here’s why you might want to get NVIDIA’s new GPU.
1. DLSS 3 Is a Massive Improvement
The number one reason why GPUs using an Ada Lovelace architecture are worth buying is probably DLSS 3. NVIDIA’s DLSS technology was already making visual miracles for gamers worldwide. It helps you obtain increased frame rates in games thanks to rendering frames at lower resolutions and upscaling them to the desired ones. This process nets you great gains, but if you’re using an RTX 4000-Series GPU, the new DLSS 3 can bring things even further and make your games as fast and smooth as possible.
The newest version of DLSS not only upscales existing frames that are rendered at lower resolutions but also uses the magic of machine learning to generate intermediate frames between two actual frames. This process can result in even better frame rate increases while still keeping up its quality look that makes you feel like you’re using native rendering. With this approach, the GPU can process twice as many frames, and as a result, your games will look and feel twice as smooth.
We’ve explained how DLSS 3 works, but to sum it up, most of it is down to the new hardware included in the new NVIDIA cards. While previous-gen RTX 2000 and RTX 3000 support the normal version of DLSS, this new, frame-generating version is sadly exclusive to the new RTX 4000 cards since it depends on the fourth-generation Tensor cores we’re getting this time around. As such, if you want to use it, you’ll need one of the new cards, and the RTX 4080 is, as of the time of writing, the cheapest Ada Lovelace card on the market (though there is a rumored RTX 4070 Ti).
And it might not look like it now, but down the road, you’ll probably need it, even if you don’t right now—you just have to look at NVIDIA’s Portal RTX recommended specs to see just how demanding games are getting.
2. You Get Better Performance
This one is a no-brainer, but if you buy an RTX 4080, you’re in for a massive performance improvement. NVIDIA is known for its generational performance increases. The RTX 3080 was notably faster than the then-top card, the RTX 2080 Ti, and the RTX 3070 was roughly as fast as that card. With the RTX 4080, it’s no different. The card is roughly 60% faster than the RTX 3080 and 25% faster than the top Ampere card, the RTX 3090 Ti. That speaks a lot about NVIDIA’s quality.
Performance is, of course, not the full picture, and it’s probably not enough to make you switch from a current-gen card. But it’s still an important factor that can make or break your purchase.
3. Ray Tracing Is Better
One of the natural qualities of RTX cards is, of course, ray tracing. It gets better with every generation. And with the new RTX 4080, ray tracing is getting quite the bump. With the addition of improved third-generation RT cores as well as the addition of technologies such as SER, Displaced Micro-Meshes, and Opacity Micro-Mask, we’re getting a massive jump in ray tracing performance, and the card is capable of doing much more complex ray tracing operations and rendering in games.
To flex these cards’ newly-gained capabilities, Cyberpunk 2077 added a new “Overdrive” mode that can render much more realistic ray-tracing effects at a higher computational cost for the card. That was already a pretty demanding game when it came out, and it’s cool to see it’s managing to push the envelope even further. But it also shows how much better ray-tracing in games can get thanks to these new cards—and we don’t doubt that upcoming games will take advantage of those added capabilities in the near future.
4. They Age Like Fine Wine
Finally, but not least important, this is a card that’s managing amazing performance increases, but one that will surely get way better with time thanks to NVIDIA being really good when it comes to driver support. They’re already among the best-optimized cards, but subsequent driver updates often make them way better in this regard, achieving great performance increases.
An example of this is a recent driver release that NVIDIA launched right on time for the launch of the RTX 4090. Not only did that DirectX 12 driver add support for the new premium graphics card, but other older cards could also enjoy free performance boosts as a result of this new driver. For example, in some games, GPUs can see as much of a 24% jump in performance due to installing this new driver. And even going through older examples, the RTX 2060, thanks to driver updates, got from being a GTX 1070 competitor to beating out the GTX 1080 in many scenarios.
It serves as a testament to how committed NVIDIA is to keeping its cards updated and allowing users to squeeze as much juice as possible out of its hardware. And there’s no doubt the company will be similarly committed to supporting the RTX 4080, as well as any other RTX 4000 GPU, over the long term, or at least until the next generation of graphics cards comes out.
The RTX 4080 Is a Good Card—If You Can Afford It
The RTX 4080 isn’t a card for everyone. It’s steeply priced, and many argue that the price isn’t justified for most gamers. However, if you do buy an RTX 4080, you’ll have an amazing experience.