It’s hard to believe it’s been almost nine months since Nvidia unveiled their first Ampere graphics card, the GeForce RTX 3080. Though I suppose it might also have felt like an eternity for those of you who have been trying to buy one for the past nine months.
The RTX 3080 was a truly exciting product, offering 20% better performance over the much more expensive RTX 2080 Ti ($700 vs $1200). Although many were lucky enough to grab one, it was always hard to get, and once the cryptomining boom hit again, tracking one down at the MSRP has been virtually impossible.
Over the course of the following weeks and months we’ve also received the fully unlocked version of the GA102 silicon called the RTX 3090 (which costs a cool $1500 MSRP) — though that one never made much sense for gamers — the RTX 3070, which is based on a nearly 40% smaller GA104 die, meaning it’s possible for Nvidia to get more of these dies out of a wafer. Also sharing the GA104 die is the RTX 3060 Ti, probably the hardest to find of all the Ampere-based graphics cards since Nvidia has been prioritizing the higher margin RTX 3070 thanks to seemingly strong yields.
Then most recently we saw the launch of the GeForce RTX 3060, based on the 300mm2 GA106 die. It’s meant to cost $330, but of course you can’t buy it, and you certainly can’t get one for anywhere near the MSRP.
So here we are, gamers still can’t buy a graphics card in mid-2021, or at least not easily and pricing remains sky high. Ideally we’d like to see AMD and Nvidia release sub-$300 GPUs — hello GTX 1650! … shrugs — to somewhat alleviate the supply issues and give gamers a better chance of buying a graphics card at a more reasonable price. But instead, Nvidia is refreshing GA102 with the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, which is a new expensive GPU that you still can’t buy.
The reasoning for this is simple, Nvidia aims to make more money as long as this GPU boom lasts. Now, if you don’t believe Nvidia is selling GPUs directly to miners, which happens to be our opinion, then it’s AIBs and/or distributors who are selling to miners in volume. It must be great to be selling all those RTX 3090, but letting go of slightly defective GA102 silicon for less than half the price probably stings a lot right now.
That’s exactly where the RTX 3080 Ti comes in, allowing them to maximize profits of silicon that’s not quite good enough to be an RTX 3090. Rather than selling a good portion of that silicon as a “$700” product, they can now extend the profit margin by roughly 70%. Yes, the MSRP of the RTX 3080 Ti is $1200.
For the effort, Nvidia is throwing in an extra 2GB of VRAM, an 18% increase in cores, and the wider 384-bit memory bus. Essentially you have an RTX 3090 with half the VRAM since we’re talking about ~2.5% fewer cores than the 3090 flagship.