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Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 review in progress: Lovelace, hate price

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So. Funny thing about our RTX 4080 review: I sort of don’t have time for it. We are amidst the busiest few weeks in PC gaming hardware for at least four years, with major product launches all round (from its rival Radeon RX 7900 XT to Intel’s 13th Gen CPUs) and a neverending stream of other components and peripherals that still need appraising. Also, I get the impression that if I don’t do more Black Friday stuff, senior ReedPop figures will show up at my flat and start taking my fingers with chisels.


Still, there will no doubt be potential graphics card upgrade-makers looking at the RTX 4080 to see if it’s more of a palatable purchase than the RTX 4090. That vanguard of Nvidia’s next-gen Ada Lovelace architecture is by far the most powerful GPU I’ve ever tested, and introduced a very cool new feature in DLSS 3, but with prices starting £1679 / $1599 it’s just not a sensible option. And since I did have an RTX 4080 show up at the last minute – Asus’ customised ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 OC Edition – I can at least provide some quick benchmarks and initial thoughts as to whether it’s a better deal.


Here’s one such thought: no. The RTX 4080 may be cheaper than the RTX 4090 but at £1269 / $1199 and upwards, it still tacks on hundreds of pounds/dollars over the launch price of the RTX 3080. This Asus model? More like £1649 / $1550, which is approaching the outlay for an RTX 4090 Founders Edition. That… it… I… no. No!


It does, at least, outperform the king of the Ampere generation: the RTX 3090 Ti. And often by respectable margins, too. Below are the results of my RTX 4080 benchmarks so far, focusing on its natural habitat of 4K:


A performance bar chart showing how the RTX 4080 performs in various 4K games benchmarks, compared to other high-end graphics cards.


The RTX 4080 also produces sizeable gains on the RTX 3080, though they’re not exactly proportional to the price rise. If drastic gen-on-gen improvements are what you truly seek, then the RTX 4090 might even be – and it almost hurts to push these words into a keyboard – the better buy. Its performances in Total War: Three Kingdoms and Metro Exodus, especially, are miles ahead of the rest. The RTX 4080’s advances look merely routine in comparison.


There’s relatively positive news from the RTX 4080’s DLSS 3 output. This overhauled upscaler, which can further boost performance by adding in AI-generated, interpolated frames alongside the ordinarily rendered ones, is actually better at ramping up FPS here than it is on the RTX 4090. Here’s how the two cards compare in Cyberpunk 2077:


A performance bar chart showing how the RTX 4080 compares to the RTX 4090 in Cyberpunk 2077 with various DLSS 3 settings.


The RTX 4080 starts off at a disadvantage; at 4K it can’t even really handle the Psycho ray tracing setting without upscaling. But with both DLSS 3’s upscaling and its AI frame generation switched on, the RTX 4080 ends up with a greater multiplication effect on its overall framerate. DLSS 3’s Quality setting makes for a 204% improvement over native on the RTX 4080, for instance, while the RTX 4090 gets a 153% improvement. On the faster Performance setting, it’s 278% faster (!) on the RTX 4080 and 223% faster on the RTX 4090.


The catch is that Cyberpunk 2077 will still ‘feel’ smoother on the RTX 4090, as a quirk of these AI-generated frames is that they don’t affect input responsiveness like ‘real’ rendered frames do. In terms of aiming smoothness and camera movements when driving, that 82fps on Quality mode would feel more like the 49fps that the RTX 4080 got with frame generation off.


I still think DLSS 3 is absolutely worth trying in tough games like this, though the list of supporting games needs time to grow. And in other games, including those with older versions of DLSS, can we say the RTX 4080 is close enough behind the RTX 4090 to justify its cost? Or even that it’s far enough ahead of the RTX 3090 Ti, which is now cheaper? Not really, at least from my testing so far. Power efficiency looks surprisingly good, and DLSS 3 compatibility is a plus point in itself, but that’s it for compelling strengths so far.


I’ll run some more benchmarks when I get the chance and/or can once again shove all the deals coverage onto Will. But outside of repeated barnstorming performances, and perhaps better luck with melting power adapters, it’s hard to see how the RTX 4080 can be worth the cash.

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