Team green has always feasted aplenty on the market share of graphics units and it will continue to do so with RTX 20-series leading its 2018 brigade.
That inevitably means that the prices will soar higher than a blind eagle. Will it touch the skyline and burn or will it become a star? Well, let’s just say the RTX 2080 Ti here, is the poster boy of Nvidia and that poster has all the bells and whistles to churn out the best 4K gaming experience.
We’ve reviewed the GTX 980Ti, the Titan X and the GTX 1080 in the past and so far the higher priced units by Nvidia were never really justified to the larger audience and that remains true with the 2080 Ti as well. But if you’ve got a 4K monitor and a bucketful of cash, by all means, read on.
Twice a fan
Much has changed over Nvidia’s previous gen behemoths. A shift to rename the series from GTX to RTX is the most obvious one on paper and that’s mostly because of Ray Tracing which we will get to in a bit.
Out of the box, the story is similar as well. The 2080 Ti gets two fans blowing air downwards into the PC cabinet unlike the GTX 1080 Ti’s one fan dissipating heat outwards from the port vents.
We’ve always liked the industrial look of the Founder’s Edition on the GTX 1080 Ti and Titan X but the RTX 2080 Ti looks less menacing. Yet you shouldn’t let its looks fool you.
A ray of hope
If you’re still scratching your head as to why RTX and not GTX, then let us enlighten you. Nvidia’s new GPU architecture is not an incremental upgrade over its previous gen. The Turing Architecture brings with it a new way to handle lights and shadows. Enter: Ray Tracing.
Ray Tracing lets developers push new graphical boundaries by creating real-time lighting effects and reflection. Yes, this is the kindergarten version of it but what you really care about is if your ₹1lac is worth all that new tech, right? Well, not when it comes to Ray Tracing. Wait, don’t shut the review and buy an Nvidia RTX 2070. Though that’s not a bad idea, but if you’re holding on to a ₹1lac then hear the end of it.
The only game that uses Ray Tracing at the time of writing this review is Battlefield V and the opinions in Stuff HQ are quite divided. When you turn on the setting in the game, after installing Windows 1809 update, the frame rate takes a massive hit. We were speed cruising on 4K at Ultra settings on Battlefield V with 60FPS without Ray Tracing enabled. That in itself is an impressive leap over the previous Pascal Architecture GPUs. However, on the same settings when DXR (Ray Tracing) is enabled, the 60FPS ‘speed cruise’ stumbles down to 45. Heck during massive explosions it dips even further.
So now that you have the numbers, what does Ray Tracing bring to the table? Well, the effects are as evident as the developers want them to be. In Battlefield V you can see explosion reflections in puddles and glass windows. In darker areas where the reflections from a light source bounce off your gun, it feels more nuanced and natural. Rather than plastering the entire gun with a single tone reflection, the metal on the gun bounces off light in different tones and angles in real time. Better shadow reproduction is quite astonishing when you realise it’s all happening in real time. Shadow of the Tomb Raider also uses Ray Tracing capabilities to produce lifelike shadows.
That said, you really won’t see a massive difference in the overall graphics unless you touch your nose to the screen. Finding reflections in puddles and on guns is something that requires you to stop and notice the pixel grandeur of a Battlefield game, which to be honest is not why you would play Battlefield V. Graphics, yes but being completely enthralled by reflections? Eh.
So now that you know what Ray Tracing is and if you’ve chosen to happily live without it like us, don’t worry, we’ll tell you what you need to live with.
Note: We consider 60 frames-per-second to be playable and the benchmark of this review is 60FPS on 4K while 2K and 1080p resolutions consequently lead to delivering higher frames.
The GTX 1080 Ti and the Titan X, both on Pascal Architecture, didn’t quite deliver 60FPS or above on 4K with Max settings with many of the latest triple-A games. The RTX 2080 Ti completely changes the 4K scenario. Not once did we experience a dip in frame rate while playing Battlefield V. This latest EA DICE title was running at 60FPS at 4K with ultra settings (with Ray Tracing off).
Shadow of the Tomb Raider was peaking at 60FPS with the highest settings on 4K but it would noticeably dip to 55FPS in render-heavy scenes. While in cities, it would cripple to 45FPS which was quite disappointing. Although we largely feel the dip in the frame rate was due to thermals, we lowered the graphic settings a bit to achieve better frame rate.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on the highest setting gave us an average of 50FPS on 4K and in places dipping even lower at times. It’s worth pointing out that both Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are very graphically demanding games, we’re hoping the Nvidia’s DLSS might solve this problem in the future. At the time of writing this review, this feature is not available.
DLSS (Deep Learning Super-Sampling) is a new way of doing anti-aliasing and according to Nvidia it uses deep learning and AI to combine information from multiple frames and construct a high-quality final image. Basically, this allows the Turing GPUs to use half the samples for rendering and use AI to fill in information to create the final image, leading to better performance.
Coming to some competitive shooting, PUBG ran on the highest settings on 4K delivering 60+ frame rate. If you have a 144Hz 4K monitor then firstly, we’re now open to donations and secondly, maximum frames on 4K with the highest setting is around 90FPS.
So even though it’s an absolute beast for 4K, Ray Tracing and DLSS have much to prove yet.
Give it space and it will bring the world
Okay, this is not new but you need to give this GPU some breathing room in your cabinet. One of the major drawbacks of computer technology is that thermal management plays a vital role in extremely high-end PC gaming components.
The two blowers on RTX 2080 Ti Founder’s Edition dissipate heat into the cabinet which means that you need to chart down a proper airflow circulation for your PC. It has relatively quiet fans but if you’re squeezing 4K at the highest setting on a triple A game then it can get hot. Really hot. I am talking 85℃ hot and even higher if the airflow is not in place.
Our test bench consisted of Ryzen Threadripper 1920X liquid cooled by the Thermaltake Floe Riing RGB 240 TT Premium Edition with 16GB of Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro RAM, all neatly mounted on the Asus Prime X399-A in the Corsair 570X case. Safe to say that there was no bottleneck in this system and plenty of RGB. Our processor never peaked past 55℃ even under the most intensive gaming load. This speaks volumes about the efficient AIO Thermaltake liquid cooler. However, if I was investing in true 4K with no holds barred, I’d probably liquid cool the GPU.
*Note: Image above is with DXR (Ray Tracing off)
There’s no point in telling you how much computing power and insane overclocking you can achieve with the RTX 2080 Ti because as a stock, out of the box GPU, Nvidia’s poster boy is looking great. Heck, it’s even posing smartly next to a 4K telly.
Performance-crunching Ray Tracing and the absent DLSS show that Nvidia tried something new and hasn’t yet delivered on that promise completely. Only time will tell the tale about this and we have a feeling Ray Tracing might fade off into the back like Nvidia HairWorks. It’s great but only when you look for it and the dip in performance is not something anyone spending upwards of ₹1lac is willing to compromise.
Lastly, the price. Is the price-performance ratio worth it? If you have a build ready for 4K gaming and only 4K gaming then it’s a fantastic GPU. It’s even the best GPU you can buy right now but if 4K isn’t your priority and you want something faster at 1080p or 2K? Then the cheaper RTX 2070 is not a bad choice either.