Nvidia has finally taken the lid off their upcoming RTX 3080 Ti, a new GPU dropping tomorrow as a near-replacement in many workloads for the RTX 3090. The big differentiator here will be VRAM, and gamers who don’t need more than 12GB will be able to save a little money, so long as you were in the market for a $1,000+ GPU in the first place.

Despite the name, the new RTX 3080 Ti is not a replacement for the RTX 3080. It’s a drop-in replacement for the RTX 3090, for everyone who doesn’t need more GPU VRAM.

Nvidia isn’t shy about asking for money for the card, either. The RTX 3080 Ti has 1.17x more cores than its predecessor, but it’s a whopping 1.71x more expensive. We can assume there will be a future GPU to address this gap, but the price increase here is exactly the opposite of how a typical refresh cycle works.

Then again — this is a damned odd refresh cycle.

The RTX 3080 Ti is early for a typical refresh. It’s even earlier, relative to the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, than the RTX 2000 “Super” GPUs were relative to the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070. Generally speaking, when Nvidia or AMD introduces a GPU like this, the new cards reduce the cost and improve the performance ratio of the previous family. The RTX 3080 Ti doesn’t do that.

What makes the new card’s price even more unusual is AMD’s ostensible market positioning. The RTX 2000 series launched at much higher prices than Pascal had carried, and they launched at a time when AMD wasn’t offering much in the way of effective competition in the GPU market.

Right now, AMD’s RDNA2 GPUs are competition for Nvidia, or they would be if anyone could buy one. AMD GPUs are, by all accounts, even harder to come by than Nvidia cards. This speaks to the larger problem: Nvidia is raising prices most likely in part because it can’t meet demand at lower price points. Raising prices will reduce demand for these GPUs and allow Nvidia to capture more of the price inflation that has been flowing to OEMs.

The decision to outfit the 3080 Ti with just 12GB of VRAM is an interesting one. It may be partly due to GDDR6 shortages; the original 3080 Ti as rumored for last year was a 20GB GPU with a 16GB RTX 3070. The new GPUs will not mine cryptocurrency as quickly as the previous family did.

The RTX 3070 Ti will launch on June 10 with claimed performance 1.5x higher than the RTX 2070 Super. Unlike the RTX 3080 Ti, it will continue to offer just 8GB of VRAM.

Gamers should be aware that ray tracing titles can use more than 8GB of VRAM. Our tests of the 6700 XT showed that it’s possible to hit the 8GB VRAM limit on an RTX 3070 when you activate ray tracing at 4K.

At 1080p and 1440p, the RTX 3070 is faster than the 6700 XT in ray tracing workloads. At 4K, RTX 2080 and RTX 3070 RT performance collapses in both Godfall and Legion. The 6700 XT, with its larger VRAM buffer, remains steady.

We’re still quite early in the rollout of ray tracing support for next-generation video games. This implies that 8GB and smaller GPUs could face VRAM pressure at higher resolutions when RT is enabled, even if their GPU cores are otherwise powerful enough to handle the workload.

When you’ll be able to buy these cards is anyone’s guess and depends on how the crypto bubble evolves from here.

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