Two years after the launch of the GeForce RTX 30-series and huge stock shortages later, Nvidia has revealed the first two graphics cards of the new GeForce RTX 40-series.
Leading the pack is the mighty GeForce RTX 4090, with the GeForce RTX 4080 hot on its heels. And with the former slated for an October 12 release, there may actually be time to pre-order a card in an orderly fashion, unlike the mess that happened with the launch of the high-end GeForce RTX 3080 and GeForce RTX 3090. There's no word on an exact release date for the GeForce RTX 4080 but it's expected in November 2022.
At $1,599 (£1,679 in the U.K.) the GeForce RTX 4090 isn't cheap and will launch at some $100 more than the RTX 3090. Meanwhile, the GeForce RTX 4080 comes in 12GB and 16GB versions, costing $899 (£949) and $1,199 (£1,269) respectively. That means the RTX 3080 is some $200 more expensive than the RTX 3080 was at launch.
But the kicker here is, these cards are set to arrive when the semiconductor shortage that blighted everything from new graphics cards, PS5 restocks and Xbox Series X restocks, to car components, has eased off considerably. And a huge collapse in GPU-powered cryptocurrency mining, thanks to the likes of Ethereum dropping in value, means there’s less of a feverish appetite for new GPUs.
As such, that means there’s likely to be a greater chance of getting the new graphics cards at their retail value, something that wasn’t possible for the RTX 30-series, and even today you’ll find the likes of the RTX 3080 at inflated prices. And here's all the details on where to buy the RTX 4080 you'll need.
So all this leads to the question of whether you should be ready to upgrade to a GeForce RTX 3080 or other RTX 40-series cards that are likely to arrive as 2022 gives way to 2023.
Why you should want to upgrade to the RTX 40-series
The most obvious answer to the question of whether you should upgrade is if you need to. By that I mean is your gaming PC struggling to run the latest games even with medium to low settings? If so, then yes now is a good time to consider upgrading your machine or even building a whole new rig with the GeForce RTX 40-series in mind.
And the reason you should consider the new GPUs is the sheer power on offer. Nvidia claims the RTX 4080 will outperform an RTX 3090, and the RTX 40-series will offer two times the performance and power efficiency of the previous “Ampere” RTX 30-series graphics cards, thanks to new streaming multiprocessors from the “Ada Lovelace” architecture.
Without throwing a lot of teraflop numbers at you, you can expect the RTX 4080 and RTX 4090 to chew through the latest graphically intensive games at max settings with ease, including the ultra-demanding Cyberpunk 2077; a game computing writer Tony Polanco reckons is well worth going back to.
One might argue that current and upcoming games are held back by mostly being multiplatform and thus reliant on the performance envelopes of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. While that's true to an extent, as developers get more familiar with the relatively new consoles, they’ll be able to extract more performance out of them and thus create games that have impressive graphics. Usually, this tends to translate into not only needing powerful PC hardware to match game console performance, but also higher-end PC-specific graphics settings to tap into powerful hardware; full ray tracing on the likes of Control and Cyberpunk 2077 are examples of this.
And when it comes to ray tracing, the performance is expected to jump by up to four times, meaning you’ll be able to enjoy realistic global illumination to go alongside high-resolution gaming.
Speaking of resolutions, the new RTX 40-series cards support Nvidia’s third-gen deep learning super sampling tech (DLSS 3), which renders an image at a lower resolution then uses AI to upmix it to higher resolutions (like 4K) without the equivalent native rendering performance hit. DLSS 3 will apparently deliver “additional high-quality frames” and up to two times the game performance.
In short, if you’re looking to build the best gaming PC of 2022 with high-end specs, you’re almost certainly going to be looking at the new GeForce RTX 40-series.
Why you shouldn't upgrade to the RTX 40-series
As attractive as the GeForce RTX 4080 and RTX 4090 look on paper with impressive specs and figures, there’s an argument that they might be too much for all but the most high-end of gaming PC setups. After all, the vanilla RTX 3080 is no slouch when it comes to 1440p and 4K gaming, while Nvidia had touted the RTX 3090 as a professional and high-end enthusiast graphics card, meaning more powerful replacements may be overkill for a lot of PCs.
And if you’ve already got, say an RTX 3080 or GeForce RTX 3070, it may be that the real-world performance gains only translate to slightly better frame rates -- so you may not see as much of an upgrade.
Even if you don’t have a relatively recent graphics card, the RTX 30-series isn't disappearing just yet, with GeForce RTX 3060 offering a very capable GPU for $329. And with the new high-end RTX 40 cards, I’d not be surprised to see the likes of the RTX 3080 and RTX 3070 notably drop in price as some retailers try to clear stock to make way for new cards. We’ve seen this already, with some retailers dropping the prices of RTX 3080 cards for the likes of MSI-branded cards; prices tend to fluctuate, but shop around and you're likely to find a deal.
So if you’ve got a PC with a relatively recent processor and decent RAM and a solid power supply, you may find it’s cheaper and a better fit for your machine to go for an RTX 30-series card than a newer RTX 40-series GPU, as least for the next few months; more affordable RTX 40-series cards are almost certainly on the horizon.
One more thing: AMD is set to reveal its RDNA 3 GPU architecture and next-gen Radeon cards on November 3. So Team Red could have some impressive tech to challenge Nvidia with, especially if it’s very competitive on price.
What’s the conclusion here? I’d suggest waiting to see how well the new Nvidia graphics cards perform in independent real-world testing and if the new Ada Lovelace GPU architecture has more tricks up its virtual sleeve than Ampere.
But if you really must upgrade, say your graphics card has just died on you, then definitely shop around for any deals on the RTX 30-series cards before deciding to pre-order an RTX 4080 or RTX 4090.