Nvidia revealed its new GeForce RTX 3070, RTX 3080, and RTX 3090 graphics cards during its GeForce Special Event on Tuesday, with CEO Jensen Huang introducing each of the GPUs from his kitchen.
The RTX 30-series cards are the second generation of Nvidia GPUs with hardware-based support for real-time ray tracing. They’re the company’s new top-of-the-line graphics cards, following two years after the first-gen RTX 20-series GPUs, which debuted in the fall of 2018. The RTX 3070, RTX 3080, and RTX 3090 will be the first consumer-oriented gaming graphics cards featuring Nvidia’s new Ampere microarchitecture; the 20-series GPUs were based on the then-new Turing architecture.
“Ampere is the biggest generational leap we’ve ever had,” said Huang. The new cards deliver “up to 2x the performance and 1.9x the power efficiency over previous-generation GPUs,” according to Nvidia. Referring to the microarchitecture for Nvidia’s GTX 10-series cards, Huang said, “To all my Pascal gamer friends: It is safe to upgrade now.”
Nvidia appears to have heard the feedback on the RTX 20-series cards — that they were too expensive for the performance they delivered. For instance, the RTX 2070 and RTX 2080 each launched at a price $100 higher than their counterparts in the GTX 10-series, while the RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition cost $500 more than the GTX 1080 Ti. This time around, the RTX 30-series cards are still high-end GPUs with prices to match, but they seem to be priced somewhat more reasonably for the performance.
The RTX 3080 — which Huang described as the “flagship” card of the lineup — will be available starting at $699, delivering up to “twice the performance of [the RTX] 2080 at the same price” with 10 GB of GDDR6X video memory. It will be released Sept. 17.
Coming in October will be the RTX 3070 with 8 GB of GDDR6 VRAM (not the faster GDDR6X memory in the two other GPUs). Pricing will start at $499 for a “sweet spot” card that Huang said is faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, which debuted at $1,199. The RTX 2070 also launched at $499, and the RTX 3070 is 60% faster than the last-gen card, Nvidia said in a news release. The RTX 3070 is “designed for 4K gaming,” according to Nvidia.
Rounding out the lineup is the behemoth RTX 3090, which Nvidia has dubbed the “BFGPU” (“Big Ferocious GPU”) and says is “the world’s first 8K gaming GPU.” Nvidia invited people such as former G4 host Adam Sessler and Kinda Funny’s Tim Gettys to play Wolfenstein: Youngblood and Control in 8K resolution at 60 frames per second. The card — which is up to 50% faster than the Titan RTX, according to Nvidia — will feature a whopping 24 GB of GDDR6X VRAM, and will be available starting Sept. 24 at $1,499.
Nvidia is offering a promotion “for a limited time” on the purchase of any RTX 30-series GPU or computer containing one: a free copy of Watch Dogs: Legion (which will support Nvidia RTX ray-tracing features) and a one-year subscription to GeForce Now.
AMD, Nvidia’s chief competitor, has yet to announce any graphics cards with support for real-time ray tracing. But it is the manufacturer of the chips inside both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X — and both of those next-gen consoles will be capable of ray tracing.
Nvidia’s latest graphics cards aren’t just about the chips on the circuit board. The company said that the technology and components inside the RTX 3070, RTX 3080, and RTX 3090 required coming up with a new cooling solution for improved airflow and a new 12-pin power connector to make space for elements like that cooling shroud. (These cards will be compatible with traditional 8-pin PCIe power connectors thanks to an included adapter.)
Nvidia also touted the increased strength of the cards’ structure. This comes courtesy of a low-profile leaf spring design, which allows for fitting a back cover over the springs that hold the cooling solution to the board. Mechanical strength will be crucial for the new GPUs, which are massive, taking up three full slots inside a PC case.
All three of the RTX 30-series graphics cards will feature HDMI 2.1 ports. And they will utilize a new suite of technologies that Nvidia announced during Tuesday’s event: RTX IO, which will enable “rapid GPU-based loading and game asset decompression.” In conjunction with Microsoft’s DirectStorage API — a component of the Xbox Series X’s Xbox Velocity Architecture — RTX IO will offload asset loading and decompression work from the CPU to the GPU. (The PlayStation 5 is doing something similar with its Kraken compression unit.) This will allow for the same kinds of benefits that Microsoft and Sony have touted from their next-gen consoles’ NVMe SSDs: near-instant load times, asset streaming that supports expansive and highly detailed open worlds, and improved frame rates.
In addition, Nvidia announced Tuesday that RTX support is “coming soon” to Fortnite. The game will get ray-traced shadows, reflections, and ambient occlusion, along with DLSS 2.0