The new Nvidia RTX 4080 is another speedy graphics card—it bloody should be for $1,200—and when you take DLSS 3 into account you are getting on for twice the performance of the similarly priced RTX 3080 Ti from the last generation. Seriously, Frame Generation is black magic.
But reviewing the RTX 4080 is tougher than being Jen-Hsun's spatula wrangler. Though it's a lot more straightforward now there's only a 16GB version and it doesn't come with some additional 12GB half breed trailing it around. But while I feel that I've got all the data necessary to make a decision on how good a GPU the new Ada Lovelace card is right in this moment, I'm ultra-aware that moment isn't going to last long.
You could always argue the temporary nature of a GPU's initial success (or failure) is a regular issue with graphics card reviews; they can only ever exist as a snapshot in time in light of the inevitable changes that availability, pricing, and competition will wreak following any release.
But this generation feels different to any other, and the RTX 4080 release more so. The struggle I'm having, you see, is that AMD (likely deliberately) announced its Radeon RX 7900 XTX just ahead of this GeForce release. And that is AMD's top GPU from this new generation, which is specifically targeting the RTX 4080, and not the Nvidia RTX 4090.
Knowing that, it almost feels like I'm reviewing this card with just half the data I really need to be able to make a fully informed decision. As it is, I can probably extrapolate just enough from what little AMD has let slip officially to make a call. But it's still a bit of a stretch.
What's also a stretch is any form of justification for the pricing of modern graphics cards.
During a time of extreme economic difficulty and uncertainty across the globe, it's not a great look for both the main GPU makers to reveal their next generation graphics cards with the starting price being $900 at best. There will be arguments the $1,200 RTX 4080's performance over and above the RTX 3080 Ti renders it an unqualified success. But I have thoughts on that, too.
Nvidia RTX 4080 specs
What's inside the RTX 4080?
I guess the highlight here is the fact this is the RTX 4080 16GB card, not the 'unlaunched' RTX 4080 12GB. But the key to why Nvidia ended up having to kill (however temporarily) the 12GB card lies not just in the amount of memory it sported, but the actual GPU makeup of the chip itself.
This RTX 4080 16GB card is using the second-tier Ada Lovelace GPU, the AD103 chip. The 12GB card was set to use the AD104, which is a third-tier GPU, and realistically only suitable to go into an RTX 4070-series card, not some bastardised RTX 4080. Which I guess is where we're going to see it next pop up, either with or without the 'Ti' suffix.
However, the AD104 stuff shakes out in the final reckoning, the RTX 4080's AD103 GPU contains all the architectural goodness that made the RTX 4090 such a powerful new chip. That means you get the fourth gen Tensor Core and third-gen RT Core, as well as the frame generating magic of DLSS 3. Inevitably this far smaller slice of silicon cannot hope to contain the same level of individual componentry the top AD102 contains.