DF Direct Weekly: RTX 4080 pricing – a big mistake or a sign of things to come?

DF Direct Weekly: RTX 4080 pricing - a big mistake or a sign of things to come?
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The impact of Nvidia’s RTX 4080/4090 reveal last week was intense. We saw the unveiling of the RTX 4090 – a phenomenal feat of performance – aided by the debut of groundbreaking new technologies like the DLSS 3-frame generation, the remarkable RTX Remix, and a new version of Cyberpunk 2077 running at full power in every way path-tracing . The technology is there to take PC gaming to a new level, but the reaction to the keynote was instead dominated by the RTX 4080’s pricing. Two RTX 4080s are coming with wildly different levels of specs – priced at $899 and $1199 respectively – and based on the response to Nvidia’s own benchmarks there is a performance gap between them and an fps per dollar deficit compared to previous gen- on-gene jumps .

There’s still a lot we don’t know. Nvidia’s numbers only cover a handful of games – so the true value of the RTX 4080 in its dual form can only be determined through hands-on testing with a much wider range of titles plus the introduction of DLSS 3. What is clear, however, is that the nature of an 80-series card has radically changed. Looking back at RTX 3080, it used a stripped down version of 3090 and 3090 Ti silicon, the GA102 processor. Both 4080 cards use different, smaller processors – AD103 and AD104 versus the much larger AD102 in the 4090 – and so expect a significantly larger difference in performance between the 80-class and 90-class this time around. The differences in processing power and memory bandwidth between the RTX 4080 and the 4090 are notable. With that in mind, it’s hard to understand why two completely different products both get the 4080 name. Excluding DLSS 3, only the RTX 4090 appears to offer a significant gen-to-gen improvement based on Nvidia’s own numbers.

Part of the discussion in this week’s DF Direct Weekly looks at the various reasons why this is happening. The backlash is blaming Nvidia for over-pricing its products for “rebadging” a potential RTX 4070 into an RTX 4080 to deliver an 80’s-class sub-$1000 product. Last week, however, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang delivered a strong message: cost-cutting performance or getting the same performance for half the cost with a new generation is a thing of the past.

Two years ago, Xbox architect Andrew Goossen told us Nvidia’s position in plain language: the cost per transistor isn’t falling as quickly anymore. Microsoft didn’t see a way to effectively bring down the cost of the Xbox Series X, hence the introduction of the Xbox Series S. If the cost of existing technology can’t be brought down, it stands to reason that more power will drive prices higher. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 5’s cost has increased recently despite using a smaller 6nm chip. Additionally, we haven’t even factored in runaway inflation and its impact on GPU prices.

Nvidia RTX 4080 pricing is causing a storm, overshadowing some notable tech in this week’s DF Direct Weekly.
  • 00:00:00 Introduction
  • 00:21:59 News 02: DLSS 3.0 revealed!
  • 00:42:19 News 03: RTX Remix Modding Tools impress
  • 00:47:33 News 04: RT Overdrive Patch for Cyberpunk 2077 teased
  • 00:52:38 News 05: Xbox DRM scaled back for disc games
  • 00:58:48 News 06: Introduced NTSC/PAL switching for classic PS+ games
  • 01:02:05 News 07: New Star Ocean demo suffers from performance issues
  • 01:06:21 DF Supporter Q1: Given the leak of the Tegra T239, a likely Switch SoC, when will the new Switch be released?
  • 01:12:32 DF Supporter Q2: How much difference does save speed make in games?
  • 01:14:07 DF Supporter Q3: Do you think Konami will develop new big games again?
  • 01:16:51 DF Supporter Q4: What do you think about the GTA6 leak?
  • 01:22:49 DF Supporter Q5: Rich, did you imagine doing this kind of work 20 years ago? And what game do you need a physical version of?

There may well be extenuating factors to explain the pricing, but ultimately the market will decide what it thinks of the RTX 4080. The reaction is that there is undoubtedly a golden opportunity for AMD to make a difference with its upcoming RDNA 3 graphics line. If Nvidia is indeed overpriced, AMD has an opportunity to significantly undercut its competition. Unless it sensibly offers a much better deal, we should accept the likelihood of big silicon fetching big prices in the future, just as Nvidia suggests. In its favor, AMD is moving to a multi-chiplet design, as opposed to the larger monolithic processors found in RTX 4000 products. The use of chiplets allows elements such as memory controllers to be entirely separate processors, made using cheaper processes, potentially reducing costs. It’s a strategy that has paid off well for AMD in the CPU space – so Team Red could still deliver. For now, however, the RTX 4090 will remain the domain of the super-rich and will perform far better than the RTX 3090, even beating the 3090 Ti into a cocked hat by some margin. But the message is clear: the biggest gen-on-gen upgrade featuring Nvidia’s new graphics hardware comes at a price: $1599.

However, as discussed by me and the team on this week’s show, the RTX 4080’s price storm has drawn attention away from some incredible things. Portal RTX builds on the new RTX Remix tool, effectively opening the door for many older games to get full path-tracing remasters. Portal itself is a brilliant example of what Remix can do: classic gameplay never ages, but now the title looks stunning. DLSS3? We’ll have a lot more on that soon, but with an effectively tracked Cyberpunk 2077 running at perfectly playable frame rates, the potential here is amazing: PC can now scale beyond consoles, offering a completely different experience from the usual staples like unlocked frame rates , ultra-wide resolutions, tweaked settings, etc. All of this has been overshadowed by the RTX 4080’s specs and pricing.

With the RTX 4000 reveal dominating our show – running for nearly an hour – there’s more to talk about: John is happy with the recent relaxation of Xbox DRM but not so happy with the performance of the new Star Ocean demo on PS5, nor its general display on xbox. And while it’s great that 60Hz support is making its debut for European PlayStation 1 classics, it looks like the first title is fundamentally flawed. DF supporter questions? Well, the Nvidia keynote dominates, but we’re also discussing the potential T239 processor in the new Switch, Ryzen’s relationship with memory speed, the GTA6 mega leak, and Konami seemingly getting back into gaming! And the best question of all? Could I have guessed 20 years ago what I would do with Digital Foundry today? Supporter Q+A is an integral part of the DF Supporter program and you can get involved – join us!

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