Nvidia RTX 4080 vs Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti: which epic GPU is best?

The comparison between the Nvidia RTX 4080 vs Nvidia RTX 3080 TI graphics card just got a lot more simple – but that could actually make the choice more difficult for consumers. 

Nvidia was initially planning to launch two versions of the RTX 4080 GPU, one with 16GB of memory, the AD103 GPU chip, and 9728 CUDA cores, and a cut-down model with 12GB of memory, fewer CUDA cores, and an AD104 chip. 

However, there was a rather severe backlash, where many people (including us) pointed out that the performance difference between the two versions of the RTX 4080 was likely to be so great, that calling them both the RTX 4080 was extremely confusing. Many people even thought that the RTX 4080 12GB model actually started off life as the rumored RTX 4070. It would certainly have made more sense. 

It appears Nvidia agreed and announced that it was ‘unlaunching’ the 12GB version. Until that GPU appears, perhaps going by a new name, there will only be one RTX 4080 GPU – which makes comparing it to the RTX 3080 Ti a lot easier. 

Nvidia RTX 4080 vs Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti: price

  • Nvidia RTX 4080 costs $1,199 (around £1,050 / AU$1,790) 
  • Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti launched for $1,199 / £1,049 / AU$1,949 

Comparing the price of the Nvidia RTX 4080 and Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti is a bit tricky. On paper, it looks like the RTX 4080 will launch at the same $1,199 as the RTX 3080 Ti did. That would make the RTX 4080 an impressive value for money, considering the performance improvements it brings. 

What complicates things is that the RTX 3080 Ti launched in the middle of a global chip shortage as well as a cryptocurrency bubble, which made stock low and prices high. So, the RTX 3080 Ti rarely sold for anywhere close to that MSRP – and even now, over a year after its launch, the RTX 3080 Ti’s price is mainly still well above MSRP. 

The RTX 4080 launches in very different conditions, and while we expect it to sell out quickly (as its more expensive sibling, the RTX 4090 did), we should see it sell for the recommended retail price – to begin with, at least. 

So, we may have a strange situation where the RTX 4080 is cheaper than the RTX 3080 Ti. If that happens, there’s a clear winner. However, we do expect the price of RTX 3080 Ti GPUs to drop once the RTX 4080 is readily available. 

Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti

(Image credit: Nvidia)

Nvidia RTX 4080 vs Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti: specifications

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti was an absolute beast of a GPU when it launched in 2021 – and to be fair, it still is. During the previous RTX 3000 series lineup, it was only bested by the ultra-high-end RTX 3090 and RTX 3090 Ti. 

It comes with 10,240 CUDA cores, base clock of 1.37GHz, and a boost clock of 1.67GHz, plus 12GB of GDDR6X memory on a 384-bit bus.   

The RTX 4080, meanwhile, comes with 9,728 CUDA cores, a base clock of 2.21GHz, and a boost clock of 2.21GHz. There’s also 16GB of GDDR6X memory on a 256-bit bus. 

On paper, then, things aren’t terribly clear-cut. While the RTX 4080 has clearly faster clock speeds and more memory, the RTX 3080 Ti has a larger memory bus, which means more data can be transferred at once. The RTX 3080 Ti also has more CUDA cores. 

However, as we’ll explain in the next section, it’s not that simple. 

A mockup of what the RTX 4080 might look like

(Image credit: Nvidia/Future)

Nvidia RTX 4080 vs Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti: performance 

While we haven’t reviewed the RTX 4080 yet, and therefore haven’t put it through our usual suite of benchmark tests (we’ll update this article when we do), we have got information from Nvidia that gives us a bit of a clue about how the RTX 4080 will compare to the RTX 3080 Ti. Of course, you’ll need to take these numbers with a pinch of salt, considering they come from Nvidia and haven’t been independently verified yet. 

According to Nvidia, the RTX 4080 will apparently offer over three times the performance of the RTX 3080 Ti in certain games. 

Considering how powerful the RTX 3080 Ti is, that’s incredibly exciting, and it could mean the RTX 4080 is the GPU to get for 4K gaming.  

It appears that the Nvidia RTX 4080 is capable of such a performance leap, despite some specifications that look weaker on paper. This is thanks to some crucial tweaks that Team Green has introduced with the Lovelace architecture that the 4080 (and the 4090) is built on, compared to the Ampere architecture of the RTX 3080 Ti. 

It comes with 3rd generation ray tracing cores, and 4th generation Tensor cores, both a generational leap over what the RTX 3080 Ti has. 

Again, according to Nvidia, the new ray tracing cores offer up to twice the ray tracing performance of the previous generation. Ray tracing is appearing in an increasing number of games, and it offers impressively realistic and atmospheric lighting effects. However, it’s also extremely demanding on hardware, so any boost in performance here is going to be very welcome. 

Meanwhile, the fourth generation Tensor cores apparently offer up to five times the AI performance of the third generation – and that can help games that make use of AI tools such as DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling). 

Speaking of DLSS, which is a nifty way to upscale games using AI to improve performance, the RTX 4080 comes with DLSS 3, which brings optical multi-frame generation. This analyzes the sequential frames and motion data of a game and creates additional frames for smoother gameplay and higher frame rates. 

The RTX 3080 Ti, however, sticks with DLSS 2.0. But, that still works extremely well and is supported by a large number of games. Meanwhile, games that support DLSS 3 are rather thin on the ground at the moment – but we expect that to change over time. 

Nvidia RTX 4080 vs Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti: which should you buy?

The RTX 3080 Ti remains a fantastic GPU for gaming at 4K, and the RTX 4080 is shaping up to also be another winner from Nvidia. Buying either of these GPUs will mean you have a gaming rig that can cope with modern games at high frame rates and resolutions for years to come. 

For the absolute best future-proofing, the RTX 4080 is the one to go for, especially as more DLSS 3 games appear. 

However, if the price of the RTX 3080 Ti drops significantly once the RTX 4080 releases, then that is also an excellent purchase, and despite being (slightly) older, it’ll still be able to wow you for years to come. 

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.