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Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 review: a big boost to ray tracing power

Control, Metro Exodus, Battlefield 5, Quake 2 RTX

Despite a slow start, the raft of ray tracing enabled titles has grown steadily over the past few years. With both next-gen consoles due to support the technology - to say nothing of AMD's next Radeon graphics cards - it's important to check in and see whether the RTX 3080 delivers on Nvidia's promise of doubled RT performance.

To do that, we tested RTX performance in three recent blockbuster games: Control, Metro Exodus and Battlefield 5. We also spent some time in Quake 2 RTX, a path-traced remake of a classic PC title that is essentially ray tracing in its purest form. We tested each game at 1440p, which we think provides the best trade-off between fidelity and frame-rates for ray tracing with current generation hardware. Note that we have DLSS disabled for each test, so there's extra performance to be gained in the titles that support it (Metro, Battlefield and Control) though image quality varies according to implementation.

Control

Alex's second love after Crysis is our first test: Control. The game includes every element of RTX - reflections, shadows and global illumination - and our benchmark enables all of them. You can see the RTX 3080 represents a lofty improvement over its predecessors, averaging more than 60fps with DLSS disabled - impressive. In terms of the percentages, the RTX 3080 leads the 2080 Ti by 43 per cent and the 2080 by 87 per cent.

Control: DX12, High, High RT, TAA

  • RTX 2080
  • RTX 2080 Ti
  • RTX 3080

Metro Exodus

We return to the Metro Exodus once again, but this time with ray tracing set to its ultra preset and the integrated benchmark used in favour of the train ride we saw earlier. This game uses the global illumination and emissive features of RTX. Again, the 3080 is the first to break out of the 60fps box, although the RTX 2080 Ti is super close too. Ultimately, the new GeForce card is able to achieve 75fps, good for a 29 per cent delta over the 2080 Ti and a healthy 74 per cent margin over the first RTX flagship, the 2080.

Metro Exodus: DX12, Ultra, Ultra RT, TAA

  • RTX 2080
  • RTX 2080 Ti
  • RTX 3080

Battlefield 5

Battlefield 5's RTX implementation is all about reflections, so we've opted for the start of the Tirailleur campaign which features puddles, vehicles and explosives - a perfect demonstration. The RTX 3080 manages an even 100fps here, 26 per cent faster than the RTX 2080 Ti and 57 per cent faster than the RTX 2080. That's on the low side of the performance gains we've seen with RTX workloads so far, but still an appreciable increase in frame-rate given that the 3080 costs significantly less than the 2080 Ti!

Battlefield 5: DX12, Ultra, Ultra RT, TAA

  • RTX 2080
  • RTX 2080 Ti
  • RTX 3080

Quake 2 RTX

We conclude our ray tracing performance analysis with one of the only fully path-traced games on the market: Quake 2 RTX. Path tracing is RT in its purest form, so it's no surprise to learn that it's more computationally expensive than supplementing traditional rasterised rendering with effects like ray traced shadows, reflections or global illumination. So while Quake 2 was released back in 1997, the path-traced version of the game is one of the hardest games on the market to run, even with dedicated RT hardware.

So how does the new card do? Well, the RTX 3080 manages just 65fps at 1440p, but the RTX 2080 Ti and 2080 fare even worse - with average frame-rates of 34 and 44fps, respectively. That means we're looking at a performance advantage of 47 per cent for the 3080 over the 2080 Ti, which shoots up to 94 per cent when we compare the 3080 against the 2080. That's pretty close to the generation-on-generation doubling of RT performance that Nvidia promised, so we'll call that claim fulfilled.

Quake 2 RTX, Vulkan, Max Settings

  • RTX 2080
  • RTX 2080 Ti
  • RTX 3080

Impressive stuff all around. We plan to cover RT performance in greater detail in an upcoming Alex Battaglia special, so do stay tuned. For now, let's wrap things up with our closing thoughts on the RTX 3080 and the new Ampere architecture as a whole...

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Analysis

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry  |  digitalfoundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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