Nvidia has announced its flagship, next-generation gaming graphics cards, the RTX 4090 and RTX 4080.
Why it matters
Nvidia-based graphics cards are still the most popular ones on the market, and any new technologies that speed them up significantly are notable.
Goodbye, hello Ada Lovelace: Nvidia revealed its new generation of GeForce graphics cards at its annual Graphics Technology Conference, featuring the company’s biannual upgrade to the GPU’s architecture. Nvidia claims the flagship RTX 4090 can perform up to 2X better on raster-heavy games and up to 4X faster on fully raytraced games than the former flagship the RTX 3090 Ti, while the RTX 4080 should be up to 3X faster than the RTX 3080 Ti. The RTX 4090 is slated to ship on October 12 starting at $1,599, while the RTX 4080 is coming in November starting at $899; the latter will come in two versions, 16GB and 12GB.
In addition to Nvidia’s Founders Edition cards, versions using the GPUs will be available from Nvidia’s usual partners (), including Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, PNY and Zotac. The RTX 3080, 3070 and 3060 will remain in the line, and I’d look for big discounts on them during the holiday shopping season.
|RTX 4090||RTX 4080 (16GB)||RTX 4080 (12GB)|
|Memory||24GB GDDR6X/384 bit||16GB GDDR6X/256 bit||12GB GDDR6X/192 bit|
|Boost clock (GHz)||2.52||2.51||2.61|
|Card width||3 slots||3 slots||varies|
|Price||starts at $1,599||starts at $1,199||starts at $899|
When the RTX 4090 ships, there will be some free proof-of-pretty-and-performance DLC: Portal with RTX and a new Ray Tracing: Overdrive Mode for Cyberpunk 2077. There will also be a home-built real-time-rendering app, Nvidia Racer RTX.
The chips’ Ada Lovelace architecture — it’s not clear whether it will be referred to as “Ada,” which is shorter, or “Lovelace,” in keeping with tradition — introduces seven hardware upgrades, some of which are derived from its datacenter sibling,:
- Built on 4nm process. Optimally, smaller processes make it possible to cram more silicon into the same space, with (usually) improved power and performance efficiencies.
- 3rd-generation ray tracing cores double the throughput of calculations for how the rays interact with the polygons defining the image, which Nvidia says boost floating point operation speed by up to 2.8X
- 4th-generation Tensor cores, which drive Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling software, allows DLSS to jump from generating individual pixels to more efficient frame-based algorithms for its new DLSS 3. Over 35 games and apps are signed up to incorporate DLSS 3 starting in October.
- Updated Streaming Multiprocessors deliver more than 2X the throughput of the Ampere SMs
- Shader Execution Reordering optimizes the handoff of ray-traced data to the SMs for rasterizing, which the company claims boosts shader performance by up to 2X and frame rates by up to 25%.
- Optical Flow Accelerator uses pixel motion data to DLSS in order to generate new frames; Nvidia says this improves performance in CPU-intensive games (complex simulation games, like Microsoft Flight Simulator).
- Dual AV1 Encoders should improve on-the-fly video processing quality for streamers. OBS is expected to release a new version of its streaming software in October, and Discord slated to support it later this year.
To go with the new processing capabilities, Nvidia introduced some new software algorithms to improve performance as well:
- Opacity Micro-Maps create and save masks in a world’s objects in advance, so they don’t need to be recreated.
- Displaced Micro-Meshes are meshes of smaller triangles that the new RT cores can process without needing to be stored or preprocessed somewhere else; they improve speed (up to 10X per Nvidia) and require up to 20X less video memory in certain cases.