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Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 review: a powerful GPU with a big pricing problem

Ray tracing plus image reconstruction: Nvidia DLSS vs AMD FSR2

We've delivered a big bunch of metrics revealing the ray tracing power of the RTX 4080 stacked up against the best that AMD and Nvidia has to offer, but let's be honest - engaging RT is typically accompanied by the use of second generation upscalers like DLSS, FSR2 and XeSS. This page seeks to show how these GPUs compare with both technologies in play, with the same (or very close) base resolutions engaged. It's not factoring in image quality - where Nvidia enjoys a noticeable advantage - just raw performance. We choose titles here that only support both DLSS and FSR2, though in terms of competitive analysis, there are many more DLSS games than there are FSR2 titles.

Once again, if you're jumping straight to this page without looking at prior results, we should stress that our benchmarking system offers a number of ways to get to the data you want, the presentation varying according to the device you're using. You'll get a basic overview of our findings on mobile, with metadata from the video capture of each GPU being translated into simple bar charts with average frame-rate and lowest one per cent measurements for easy comparisons.

On a desktop-class browser, you'll get the full-fat DF experience with embedded YouTube videos of each test scene and live performance metrics. Play the video, and you'll see exactly how each card handled the scene as it progresses. Below the real-time metrics is an interactive bar chart, which you can mouse over to see different measurements and click to switch between actual frame-rates and percentage differences. All the data here is derived from video captured directly from each GPU, ensuring an accurate replay of real performance.

Cyberpunk 2077

We didn't include Cyberpunk 2077 in this section of our RTX 4090 review because at that point, version 1.6 only supported the lacklustre FSR1, not the full image reconstruction of FSR2. That all changed with the recent release of patch 1.61 which not only added FSR2, but also saw a small decrease in overall performance in our test run (based on an internal development tool accessible via the command line). This necessitated rebenching Cyberpunk 2077 for all tests - RT, RT/reconstruction and rasterisation (seen on the next page).

Common to all reconstruction techniques is that the lower the base resolution used for upscaling, the closer the performance differentials become. The gap between RTX 4080 and RTX 3080 remains wide - perhaps down to VRAM considerations limiting the Ampere card - but elsewhere the performance differences are much closer than perhaps you would imagine. It's interesting to see RTX 4090 perform relatively faster at native 4K (around 40 percent) up against a mere 27 percent uplift in the mode people are actually likely to play. And yes, once again, RTX 3080 Ti is mysteriously faster than the superior RTX 3090 - and having double-tested this, we're not sure why.


Dying Light 2

Developer Techland may well have pivoted to multi-platform development but in common with many East European studios, we know that their hearts still lie with PC gaming - hence the incredible range of RT features added for this platform when the consoles only received RT shadows. The developers pushed the boat out and it's only with the new generation of GPUs that we can sustain performance well above 4K at 60fps thanks to image reconstruction.

In this specific title with DLSS enabled, RTX 4080 actually sits within the GPU hierachy in a place where we'd really like to have seen it across all of our RT benches - at the midpoint between RTX 3090 Ti and RTX 4090, the most powerful last-gen and current-gen GPUs. A slight worry for Nvidia may be seeing how the upcoming RX 7900 XTX would slot into this stack. Assuming a 50-70 percent uplift over RX 6950 XT, it would land in RTX 3090/3090 Ti territory: not as fast as the RTX 4080, but fast enough with RT for its price-point. We'll just have to see how the actual numbers land, as opposed to AMD's marketing claims...


Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered

DLSS has established that image reconstruction is an essential technology in the PC gaming landscape, with competitors coming up with their own solutions in an attempt to match it. It's our contention at Digital Foundry that regardless of marketing deals etc, if a game developer supports one of these technologies, it should support them all - after all, they are fundamentally based on the same inputs. Few titles support XeSS, DLSS and FSR, but Nixxes does them all in Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered... along with DLSS 3 frame generation too. It's the way it should be.

The results here are fascinating, because RTX 4090 only commands a small 10-11 percentage point lead over the RTX 4080 in 4K performance mode. This is because the game runs so fast that we're hitting the CPU limit of the Core i9 12900K - we get close to it with RTX 4080 while RTX 4090 slams right into it. Yes, we'd recommend DLSS quality mode, or even DLAA on this one for the higher tier GPUs, depending on whether you're gaming on a 4K 60Hz or HFR display.


Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 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.

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