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GeForce RTX 2080/ RTX 2080 Ti: the Digital Foundry verdict

Should you buy one?

Nvidia's Turing offers represent the biggest shift in PC graphics technology we've seen for a long time, possible even stretching back to the arrival of GeForce 3 architecture back in the day. There is much in common here - specifically more of a focus on introducing new features, dedicating precious silicon die space to real time ray tracing acceleration and deep learning, as opposed to piling on more CUDA cores. This was always an option for Nvidia of course, and it would undoubtedly have led to bigger performance increases in standard 3D, and possibly lower prices.

But fundamentally, it would be more of the same - another product defined by how much faster it is than its predecessor as opposed to delivering something genuinely new and forward-looking. Turing represents a new vision for gaming - one that allies closely with Nvidia's aspirations in datacentre processing and the automotive markets. On the face of it, there's little need for Turing's deep learning tensor cores to be a part of a GeForce product - but they're essential for Nvidia's aspirations for its hardware in other markets. Thankfully, the arrival of DLSS seems to address the relevancy of that hardware by providing what looks like a killer feature. We're still waiting for actual games to test, but based on the two demos we've tried, Nvidia's take on reprojection is delivering 35 to 40 per cent of additional performance - and that's a crucial component in setting apart the RTX 2080 from the GTX 1080 Ti, which still holds up remarkably well in standard 3D gaming.

DLSS also serves an additional purpose in that the DF team and I strongly suspect that being able to run ray tracing at a lower resolution (before being scaled up to your display's native resolution) is the key to making the technology more performant: Nvidia's very own Star Wars Reflection demo - heavily reliant on DLSS for its 1440p and 4K support - proves the point. We'll be taking a closer look at DLSS very shortly, and we'll provide screenshot comparisons and a deeper look at performance, where one or two surprises are thrown up through more granular frame-rate testing.

Metro Exodus is another RTX ray tracing showcase. John and Alex sit down to discuss their impressions of the title based on the Gamescom build. Expect lots of RTX trivia and great information direct from the game's developer.

Based on the feedback we've had from developers on ray tracing, not to mention the impressive list of DLSS-supported titles, it seems clear that there will be significant take-up for Turing's new features, but there is perhaps concern that some of the hardware's other features may be overlooked. For example, the Maxwell cards had their own take on variable rate shading - developers could assign different resolutions to different parts of the display. It was a cool feature that offered a good performance boost, but Shadow Warrior 2 was the only game that really impressed and few developers took advantage of a cool feature. The VRS features in Turing are on a whole new level, and we hope to see them utilised on a wider scale. Hopefully the Wolfenstein 2 optimisations will ship soon and that will demonstrate the effectiveness of the tech.

But in the here and now, there is the sense that a lot of what Turing offers will only manifest in the future. There'll be no ray traced games available at the RTX launch and even DLSS gaming may take a little time to arrive. So in that sense, it's perfectly understandable if you decide to hold back on a purchase. That said, we fully understand that this may prove challenging when GTX 1080 Ti remains competitive in traditional 3D rendering, and when prices on that card may well tumble. When RTX pricing already looks extreme, a cut-price 1080 Ti could just prove too tempting.

And pricing clearly is a genuine issue here. We've called the RTX 2080 a notional successor to the GTX 1080 in this review because while there is an architectural lineage there (it's the tier-two processor, it has a 256-bit bus etc), pricing essentially makes it even more expensive than the last-gen GTX 1080 Ti. And certainly in the modern era, that's unprecedented. But equally, the cost of making the product has clearly risen significantly - just in terms of die size alone, before we factor in GDDR6 memory and the much higher quality chassis and thermal solution. And this takes place in an era where flagship phones routinely see price increases - and even Xbox One X pushed the envelope uncomfortably in terms of its price-point. The pace of technological evolution is slowing, and prices are rising.

Deciding whether to invest so much money in a high-end GPU requires careful thought then - particularly when the new Ti product is priced at what used to be Titan money. What I can say is this: in the short term, Pascal products are still superb and the potential of Turing is only just beginning to be tapped into. Questions remain over the take-up of key features, but I suspect we'll be a lot more knowledgeable about ray tracing and DLSS support within the next few months. In the here and now, the pricing is clearly going to be a sticking point for many, but the fact is that Nvidia is the first firm to step up with a vision for the future of games technology, providing hardware that hands in results that nothing else on the market can produce - and I can't wait to see what kind of results we get in the coming months and years.

GeForce RTX 2080/ RTX 2080 Ti Analysis

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About the Author
Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

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.