Nvidia unveils the next-generation of GPU tech with the RTX 2000 series, and we've never seen anything like it.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 is real - as we now know - except that it's actually called the RTX 2080 and is actually the mid-tier card in Nvidia's latest offering of RTX 2000 cards.
If that's slightly baffling to you, it's because Nvidia has released the RTX 2080 alongside the RTX 2070 and an RTX 2080 Ti. Yes, that's right, a Ti-model card is available on launch this time around, instead of a mid-generation refresh. And it's the 2070 that's looking to come a little later.
We all had an idea of what to expect from the keynote thanks to Nvidia's Siggraph showcase a week earlier that outlined the power of the company's new Turing GPU architecture. At the core of the RTX's capabilities is the ability for real-time ray tracing, a technique that accurately maps light's direction of travel from a fixed point. Traditionally this would take a lot of horsepower and a lot of time to replicate, and it's the type of technique many animation companies like Pixar and Dreamworks use to render their CGI worlds.
The difference is, Nvidia's off-the-shelf consumer card can now do that – and it hopes to transform the face of video games with its new technique. Read on to find out everything we know about the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, RTX 2070 and RTX 2080 Ti.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Gamescom reveal
If you'd like to see Nvidia's reveal presentation for yourself, you can watch the Twitch stream recording below.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 price: How much will the RTX 2000 series cost?
Alongside the announcement of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2000 series, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang revealed pricing for each of the cards. Unsurprisingly, they're more expensive than the GTX 1080 series was on release but, arguably, they're more fairly priced due to the power that's on offer after such a short turnaround period.
As with the GTX 1000 series, you can snap up cards directly from Nvidia under its "Founders Edition" brand, or pick up cards from Asus, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI, PNY and Zotac.
If you're not after the fancy Founders Edition cards, Nvidia has set reference prices for other manufacturers to sell against. A standard RTX 2070 will set you back $US499; an RTX 2080, $US699 and an RTX 2080 Ti $US999. UK pricing hasn't been announced by individual manufacturers yet, and there was a little bit of confusion about Australian pricing, as multiple pages appeared and disappeared on Nvidia's website as the launch was ongoing - it seemed someone was getting excited, getting sensible, and then getting excited again... You can read about that on our sister-site PCPowerPlay, but the long-story-short version is that the upper end cards will cost around $1899, if those price leaks are true.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 release date: When do the RTX 2000 series go on sale?
Preorders for Nvidia's Founders Edition cards are currently open, with shipments expected to go out from 20 September for the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti. The RTX 2070 lands sometime in October, but no specific date has been given just yet.
It's not yet known when third-party manufacturers will begin selling their cards, but it's expected they'll probably land around the same 20 September date.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 specs: What makes the RTX 2000 series special?
Nvidia claims that the RTX 2000 series of cards offers "up to 6x the performance of previous-generation graphics cards", which is quite a lofty claim seeing just how powerful the Pascal-powered GTX 1080 and its 1000 series was.
For those of you wanting raw tech specs, the RTX 2070 is said to offer more performance for ray tracing than Nvidia's own Titan Xp card released last year. The RTX 2080 Ti, however, is the true flagship consumer card in Nvidia's range of Turing chips. Clocked at 1,350MHz with 4352 CUDA cores and 11GB of GDDR6 RAM – this isn't a card to be sniffed at. The regular RTX 2080 is clocked to 1,515MHz with 2944 CUDA cores and 8GB of GDDR6 RAM and even the RTX 2070 is a powerhouse at 1,410MHz and 2304 CUDA cores alongside 8GB GDDR6 RAM. Each card is also designed to be overclocked, so you can pump even more power out of each one.
Nvidia also recommends a 650W power supply for your rig as a single RTX 2080 draws 215W of power to run.
In terms of output, Nvidia has equipped each card with DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2 and a USB Type-C VirtualLink port so you can plug VR headsets directly into the card so both USB and HDMI signals will travel along a single wire. Nvidia's cards are also capable of an 8K resolution (7,680 x 4,320 pixels) at 60Hz – although this requires two DisplayPort 1.4 cables to be used.
You'll also find the standard Ansel, G-Sync, HDR and NVLink technologies supported as well. One thing that Nvidia was barely mentioning throughout the launch event were some of the classic metrics of video card performance, like resolutio and framerate. With this much power, framerates are going to be high on all but the most massive of screens, and even then these are cards designed to make 4K look like small beer.
The real trick that the new 20-series brings to the table is raytracing.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 features: Why is ray tracing so important?
The big breakthrough for the RTX 2000 series is how Nvidia's Turing architecture is now capable of real-time ray tracing. This technique, long held as the holy grail of video game development, lets developers create worlds that feel grounded as light reacts and bounces around just as you'd expect it to in the real world.
For Nvidia, real-time ray tracing is the benchmark that these new cards are scored against and so – for them – traditional benchmarking tools just won't suffice anymore. One argument is that the GTX range of cards weren't built for ray tracing so a direct comparison in terms of performance isn't fair – it's one reason why the company hasn't listed TFLOPS numbers, opting instead for RTX-OPS (average of card performance across various operations like shading and ray tracing) and giga-rays per second – a measurement for how well the cards can ray trace in real time.
The demos shown on stage were certainly very impressive, with lighting in Battlefield V really impressing. Going forward, Nvidia says that more games will get ray tracing support, teasing support in at least 21 games including Hitman season 2, We Happy Few, PUBG and Final Fantasy XV.
In time it's evident more developers will come aboard as Nvidia leads the graphics market, especially for games. Not only does it have the contacts at studios to make it happen, but it's working with Microsoft to integrate ray tracing into its newest DirectX release, DirectX Raytracing (DXR) for Windows 10. Epic Games is also working on integrating ray tracing technology into Unreal Engine so developers can tap into its power easily.
A video shown earlier this year showcasing real-time ray tracing in Unreal Engine will give you an idea of what you can expect from games running on a GTX 2080 in Unreal.
Ray-tracing in action - does it really deliver?
We're not going to lie - the hands-on time we had at the launch was... impressive in some ways, and less than stellar in others. We played a session of Battlefield V, and while the game is looking no doubt capable of stunning graphics, the code on display seemed a little unoptimised, and was running on rather dinky monitors to boot at a relatively low screen res.
And on top of that, the film-grain effect was dialed up to stupid levels, and Nvidia techs gave you a good bollocking if you even looked like you were going to mess with the settings.
That said, even though the effect is quite subtle - in game you're looking for more important visual cues than cool reflections and lighting tricks - it certainly adds to the immersion. You don't notice how games like proper reflections until you see yourself reflected in the window you're running past, or even catch sight of an approaching enemy. Explosions are no more damaging, but they seem to swallow all available light, looking for more menacing as raging orange colour reflects all the way from the light source down a battle-damaged street.
By the time the game launches, and alongside other titles supporting RTX at launch we've no doubt this will be a firmly viable tech.
And on a nice, big monitor, with a high refresh rate and impressive screen res... Yeah, this is going to deliver some serious eye-candy.