Together these two cards define the high end of Nvidia's latest line of cards, and they're priced accordingly. However, the RTX 4080 is notable because Nvidia's actually releasing two versions of it — one with 12GB of onboard video memory and the other with 16GB.
There's a few other small differences, too, which we'll outline in this article so you can make a more informed buying decision. However, given the power of these cards, you can rest assured that both will be showing up in some of the best gaming PCs coming out later this year.
Now let's dig into the details so we can help you answer the most important question — should you upgrade to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080?
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 price and release date
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 12GB is a bit less expensive than the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 16GB, but neither is cheap. The less powerful RTX 4080 12GB will have an MSRP of $899, which the beefier RTX 4080 16GB will cost $1,199.
Both cards are slated to go on sale in November 2022, though Nvidia has yet to provide a specific release date. The company will sell some of its own Founders Edition RTX 4080 16GB cards, and you can also expect a slew of RTX 4080 12GB and RTX 4080 16GB variants from third-party manufacturers like Gigabyte, PNY and more.
These prices have been something of a shock to GPU fans, since they're quite a bit higher than similar cards in the last generation. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 (10GB) went on sale in September 2020 for $699, for example, while the GeForce RTX 3090 went on sale the same month for $1,499.
Compare those numbers to what Nvidia's charging for its new 40-series cards and you'll see they're all at least $100 more expensive than similar models in the last generation.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 specs
|Header Cell - Column 0||Nvidia RTX 4090||Nvidia RTX 4080 16GB||Nvidia RTX 4080 12GB|
|Nvidia CUDA Cores||16,384||9,728||7,680|
|Boost Clock (GHz)||2.52||2.51||2.61|
|Standard Memory Config||24GB GDDR6X||16GB GDDR6X||12GB GDDR6X|
|Memory Interface Width||384-bit||256-bit||192-bit|
|Ports||HDMI 2.1a, DisplayPort 1.4a (3x)||HDMI 2.1 (2x), DisplayPort 1.4a (3x)||HDMI 2.1 (2x), DisplayPort 1.4a (3x)|
As you can see from the specs chart above, there's a meaningful difference between Nvidia's two 4080 models that's bigger than 4GB of VRAM.
While the cheaper RTX 4080 12GB does have less VRAM than the RTX 4080 16GB, it also has fewer CUDA cores (Nvidia's proprietary parallel processors — the more there are, typically the better graphics) and a narrower memory interface width (in which wider typically equals better). However, the 12GB RTX 4080 also has a slightly higher base clock speed and boost clock speed than the more expensive RTX 4080 16GB — or the top-of-the-line 4090 for that matter.
That higher clock speed goes some way to justifying the high price of the 4080 12GB, which appears to have fewer CUDA cores (7,680 vs 8,704) than the old GeForce RTX 3080 despite being newer and $200 more expensive.
Before these cards were unveiled we heard persistent rumors that Nvidia was preparing to announce an RTX 4090, an RTX 4080 and an RTX 4070. Now that Nvidia's taken the surprising step of unveiling two RTX 4080 cards at once — one with meaningfully less power than the other — it's hard not to presume that the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 12GB is the card we thought was going to be announced as the 4070.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 DLSS 3 support
Nvidia also unveiled a new version of its DLSS upscaling tech alongside the announcement of the RTX 4080 and 4090. This is an update on the DLSS 2 tech company debuted in 2020, which itself was an update on its original DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) upscaling technology.
DLSS is incredibly complex, but to try and put it simply: Enabling DLSS in games that support it causes the game to render at a lower resolution to achieve higher frames per second, while upscaling the image using Nvidia's proprietary machine learning tech to try to make it look as if it was running at native resolution.
When it works well, it can give you a nice FPS boost without sacrificing too much visual quality.
This new DLSS 3 technology will roll out on October 12, right alongside the 4090. So by the time the 4080s are on sale it should be up and running, and since Nvidia is partnering with some developers to ensure DLSS 3 support in their games, you can count on support in titles Cyberpunk 2077, Microsoft Flight Simulator and more.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 outlook
At long last Nvidia's 40-series cards have arrived, and that's good news for anyone who cares about high-performance computing. Whether you're doing advanced video editing work or trying to play Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K, these cards are now among the best you can buy -- and they're priced accordingly.
However, if you take the long view it's a bit disheartening to see Nvidia heralding the arrival of the 40-series with some of the most expensive cards we've ever seen, at a time when many people are feeling pinched by rising prices.
These cards are hitting the market not long after a major crypto crash which caused miners to start flooding the market with second-hand GPUs, and as powerful Nvidia RTX 30-series graphics cards crash in price the even higher price tags on these new 40-series cards make them seem unappealing to all but the wealthiest and most performance-obsessed PC enthusiasts.
If you count yourself among them, don't miss our guide to where to buy Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 cards once they go on sale. The GPU supply crisis may finally be ebbing, but that doesn't mean these cards will be easy to find at launch.