The RTX 2080 Ti is the most powerful consumer graphics card currently available and the performance it offers is definitely worth the money – if you can afford it, that is. As for the 2080, the 2070, and the 2060, they are only marginally better than the previous-gen models (GTX 1080 Ti, 1080, and 1070 respectively), and are hardly worth the upgrade if you already own a 10-series Pascal GPU.
There was quite a bit of hype generated around Nvidia’s latest 12nm Turing GPUs, from the theories on the naming to the speculations about the nature of the architecture itself.
However, when they finally unveiled it in August of 2018, many people were simply… underwhelmed.
Sure, the GTX brand was replaced by RTX and we’ve jumped from 10 to 20, but despite what the naming might suggest, the news series of GPUs is hardly a monumental step-up for Nvidia once real-time ray tracing is taken out of the equation.
Real-Time Ray Tracing
Let’s start off with the most significant upgrade that Turing brings: real-time ray tracing.
So, what is this technology, what is it all about, and is it worth the extra cash?
Real-time ray tracing is definitely a very significant step forward for video game graphics, as it brings the in-game world closer to realism than ever before through ultra-realistic lighting. Namely, by tracing the paths of individual in-game rays of light, real-time ray tracing can simulate the complex behavior of light on the fly with high precision.
As you can see from the demo above, real-time ray tracing is quite something and the technology has definitely gotten serious. However, as beautiful as the demo is, there are some key issues with this technology:
- It is very demanding. If you prize FPS over visuals, this is something to keep in mind, as you will inevitably face significant FPS drops once ray tracing is turned on (see video below). This can be problematic with the cheaper RTX models in particular.
- A game needs to actually implement it properly. You can see a full list of the games which currently support/will support real-time ray tracing here. And while there are quite a few titles on there, it should be kept in mind that this technology will still only work in a limited selection of games and that it won’t always make a significant difference.
- It will get more advanced relatively quickly. Real-time ray tracing is brand new, and in a couple of years, we are bound to see hardware that can handle it much better than even the RTX 2080 Ti could, and which would likely cost less, too. Plus, more games will be implementing ray tracing and they will be doing it better than the games that support it now.
With that said, is ray tracing alone worth getting an RTX card for?
We would have to say no, but obviously, personal preferences come into play, too. Given how relatively few games implement ray tracing at the moment and considering that it generally doesn’t offer as much visual enhancement as the demos might suggest, we wouldn’t recommend rushing to the store just yet, especially if you already have a powerful GPU still capable of running the latest games.
With ray tracing out of the equation, how do the new Turing cards fare in comparison to the last-gen Pascal models when it comes to sheer performance?
Well, to be frank, they aren’t too big of an improvement, and once ray tracing is turned off, the difference is marginal at best. Just keep in mind that the RTX 2060 offers performance roughly equivalent to that of the GTX 1070/GTX 1070 Ti, the RTX 2070 to that of the GTX 1080, and the RTX 2080 to that of the GTX 1080 Ti, while the RTX 2080 Ti is in a category of its own, both performance-wise and price-wise.
And now, we get to another important point: the pricing. Many have noted that the RTX 2080 Ti is quite expensive compared to what we’ve come to expect from Nvidia’s mainstream cards that aren’t Titans.
And sure enough $1200 is a lot to pay for a graphics card, especially with the inevitable taxes if you live outside the US, but let’s not forget that the RTX 2080 Ti is the best that Nvidia has to offer right now. The regular RTX 2080 is priced at $800, the RTX 2070 at $600, and the RTX 2060 goes for $350, which is more in line with what we would generally expect. Of course, this is only MSRP pricing, and different OEMs may offer models that are cheaper or more expensive than this.
At the end of the day, as mentioned above, the differences in performance between the 10 and the 20-series are quite small, so if you have to choose between an RTX and a last-gen GTX Pascal card, the price should be the main factor to consider – if you don’t care about ray tracing, future-proofing, and generally don’t care about not having the “latest and greatest”, you could get a better deal with an older product.
As such, a GTX 1070, 1070 Ti, 1080, or 1080 Ti could very well offer better value for your money, if you can find one at a decent price. Sadly, that will be difficult at this point unless you’re willing to settle for a used GPU.
Conclusion – Is an Nvidia RTX Graphics Card Worth It?
With all of the above in mind, is an RTX GPU worth the money?
Well, it depends on the context and on the specific model.
The RTX 2080 Ti is, quite frankly, the best mainstream GPU available. So, if you’ve got $1200 to spend on a graphics card, you’d get a top-of-the-line graphics card capable of running the latest AAA games in 4K at a stable 60 FPS, generally speaking. But of course, it goes without saying that you can build an entire gaming PC for $1200 or even less.
Now, when it comes to the more affordable RTX 2060, RTX 2070, and RTX 2080, the lines begin to blur. As we’ve already mentioned, they are only marginally better than the previous generation’s Pascal models, though they are pretty much guaranteed to be cheaper than any new Pascal cards at this point. Furthermore, they are also more powerful than any of AMD’s Polaris cards, so we’ll have to wait and see whether AMD will be capable of offering any real competition once their Navi GPUs are out.
So, all in all, if you’re thinking about upgrading your GPU and you’ve got your sights on something better than the GTX 1660 Ti or the RX 590 and you don’t want to wait around to see how Navi will fare, then one of the RTX models would definitely prove to be a good choice. But are they worth upgrading from a GTX 10 model that’s in the same league, solely for the ray tracing and some extra frames? Well, not quite.
Whatever you decide, check out our graphics card buying guide for some of the best models currently available.