The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is the most powerful consumer GPU available right now; there’s no debating that. It outperforms the RTX 2080 Super by a good margin and is almost as powerful as the significantly more expensive Titan RTX when it comes to gaming.
But of course, the RTX 2080 Ti itself is a rather valuable piece of hardware. The MSRP on the Founder’s Edition is a hefty $1200, and needless to say; you can get an entire gaming PC for that kind of cash or even less.
On the other hand, if you want the very best performance that you can get in 4K with ray-tracing turned on, then chances are you would be perfectly willing to spend so much gravy on a graphics card alone.
But which model should you acquire?
n this buying guide, we’ll be listing the best RTX 2080 Ti models available for 2021.
Table of ContentsShow
ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
Boost Clock: 1665 MHz
Connectors: 2x DP, 2x HDMI, 1x USB-C
- Good performance
- Quiet and efficient cooling
- A bit cheaper than the competition right now
- Very dated design
For the first entry on the list, we have a familiar-looking graphics card coming from Asus, and it belongs to their famous Republic of Gamers brand: the RoG Strix RTX 2080 Ti.
Asus RoG Strix cards are generally reliable and well-balanced, so the RTX 2080 Ti is no exception. The card has good overclocking potential, the fans are fairly quiet, and the temperatures never get too high, even under heavy load. That said, it outdoes the Founder’s Edition version of the card in each of those respects, as it can hit higher clock speeds without running louder or hotter than the reference model.
But when we say “cooler,” we refer strictly to the temperature. As you’ve probably noticed, Asus is still using the same shroud design that they’ve used in older Nvidia Pascal and AMD Polaris GPUs back in 2016. That said, the simple gray shroud and the basic RGB lighting are quite underwhelming in 2021, especially for a flagship GPU such as this one.
At the end of the day, the RoG Strix RTX 2080 Ti offers the sort of performance that you’d expect out of this superb GPU, but we feel that it loses a couple of points due to its dated exterior design. Chances are, if you’re spending upwards of $1200 on a graphics card, you’d want one that looks better.
And seeing as there are other RTX 2080 Ti models out there that offer comparable (if not better) performance while also being much more compelling to the eye, we’d say only go with the Asus RoG Strix RTX 2080 Ti if you really don’t bother with the design and want to save a few bucks, as this particular model is usually going for a little less than the competition these days.
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming X Trio
Boost Clock: 1755 MHz
Connectors: 3x DP, 1x HDMI, 1x USB-C
- Sleek and modern design
- Great RGB lighting
- Runs hot under load
If we said that MSI did a great job with the current generation of graphics cards, we wouldn’t be the only ones. So, what’s so good about the MSI RTX 2080 Ti Gaming X Trio?
Well, for one, there triple Torx 3.0 fans do a good job at keeping the card cool without being too loud. The card is quieter than the Asus RoG Strix RTX 2080 Ti, although it tends to run a fair bit hotter, so it’s a one-step forward-one step back situation in the cooling department.
When it comes to overclocking, this card comes with a higher factory clock, but there’s about as much overclocking headroom as with the Strix variant. However, seeing as the Asus card has slightly better (and slightly louder) cooling, it beats the MSI version in this regard, if only by a split hair.
However, an area where MSI has the lead is precisely where the Asus card is lagging behind – the design. MSI graphics cards used to be characterized by gaudy shrouds and too much red, but thankfully the company shifted to a more neutral black-and-gray shroud design and left the colors to the RGB lighting. Needless to say, this makes for a more neutral and flexible design that will fit in with almost every build.
With all that said, the MSI and the Asus versions of the RTX 2080 Ti are on roughly even terms. The Asus variant is a bit cheaper, and the clock can be pushed a bit farther due to slightly more efficient cooling, but the MSI one runs more quietly and looks much better, complete with better-looking and more extensive RGB.
EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra
Boost Clock: 1755 MHz
Connectors: 3x DP, 1x HDMI, 1x USB-C
- Good all-around performance
- Translucent shroud looks great with RGB
- Hefty price tag
Up next, we have a model from EVGA, and it is one of the most imposing RTX 2080 Ti models out there – the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra.
One look at this graphics card and its massive aluminum heatsink, and you can immediately tell that EVGA isn’t kidding around. While not significantly thicker than either of the two previous models, the 2.75 slot design definitely makes this card come across as bulkier than its MSI and Asus counterparts.
But does it affect the performance? Well, the card can reach clock speeds as high as those of the Asus model, the noise levels are pretty much the same, and so are the idle and load temperatures. That said, the two cards are on roughly even terms when it comes to performance.
On the other hand, an area where EVGA has the upper hand is, once again, the design. While we’re not big fans of EVGA’s translucent shrouds in cheaper models, if we’re talking a card such as this one that also has RGB lighting, the combo works exceptionally well. However, we do feel that it would’ve looked even better without the EVGA logo dotting the fans, but again, that’s all subjective.
One major drawback to the EVGA RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra is that it is quite expensive, seeing as the default price on the official website is $1500 – a big price premium that is hardly justified considering the performance.
EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra Hybrid
Boost Clock: 1755 MHz
Connectors: 3x DP, 1x HDMI, 1x USB-C
- Good overclocking potential
- Low temperatures and noise
- Pump can get loud
Next, we have another model from EVGA, and it also comes from the FTW3 Ultra series, but with one main difference: this particular RTX 2080 Ti comes with hybrid cooling.
So, what exactly is this “hybrid cooler”? Well, as you might have guessed, it’s a combination of liquid and air-based cooling. The pump is placed directly on the GPU, and it is connected to a single case-mounted radiator and fan, all the while there is also an additional fan and heatsink mounted on the card itself that cools the VRAM and the rest of the card.
But how efficient is this? As far as performance is concerned, the Hybrid cooler allows for the GPU to reach somewhat higher clock speeds when overclocked, but the actual in-game performance boost is not much ahead of an overclocked air-cooled model. However, this hybrid cooler does aid the card run at noticeably lower temperatures, and it’s also quieter, which is a big plus, although the pump can get quite loud at times.
Ultimately, considering that this card costs about as much as the air-cooled FTW3 Ultra (at least when there are no discounts or price cuts involved), this Hybrid cooler might be worth it with the RTX 2080 Ti, as it not only helps the card hit higher clock speeds but also allows it to do so while maintaining lower temperatures and generating less noise.
- Good blower cooler
- Solid performance
- Great for cramped setups
- Runs fairly hot and loud under heavy load
- No backplate
And for the final entry, we have something a bit different. The last card comes from PNY, and it is their blower-equipped variant of the RTX 2080 Ti.
Blower-cooled graphics card sure look sleek with their closed heatsinks, but they are nowhere near as popular as cards with open-air coolers. Why? The answer is simple: open-air cooling works much better for spacious computer cases. Blowers can be quite loud, and their limited airflow also inhibits their overall cooling efficiency, thus leading to lower clock speeds and less overclocking potential.
But of course, blowers aren’t entirely without merit. They are great for smaller, more cramped cases that generally suffer from limited airflow, so if you want to build a compact high-end gaming PC, then this is the RTX 2080 Ti you should have your eye on.
If that’s not the case, then there’s little reason to go with this model instead of any of the ones mentioned above. It’s not quite as fast, it runs hotter and louder, and PNY didn’t include a backplate for this model, which feels like a big shortcoming in the aesthetics department in this day and age when even budget graphics cards often come with metal backplates installed.
How To Pick The Right Card For Your Needs
Now, there are a few things to consider when shopping for a new GPU i.e. if you’re trying to decide between several variants of one specific GPU. So, here are the key factors to keep in mind!
If you want to make sure that a graphics card will fit inside your case, the two key dimensions to keep in mind are the length and the width of the card.
Some graphics cards are longer, either because they have a longer cooler/heatsink or because they have a longer PCB. In either case, you should make sure there is enough room for the card and that it will not be obstructed by the HDD/SSD rack.
As for width, cards that have thicker heatsinks or backplates often end up taking up more vertical slots inside the case, which leads to two potential issues:
- They might obstruct some of the motherboard’s additional PCIe slots, thus preventing you from installing any other PCIe expansion cards in those slots.
- They might be too close to the bottom of the case, and even if there is enough room to fit the card, being too close to the bottom or bottom-mounted power supply could inhibit airflow and thus lead to higher temperatures and higher noise generation.
As you should be able to tell, all the RTX 2080 Ti models listed here are fairly large, so it would definitely be a good idea to check the dimensions of the card you want to buy and the dimensions of your case, just to be on the safe side.
Like any other component that generates excessive amounts of heat, graphics cards need active cooling. As you can tell from the article, there are the three main types of cooling that modern GPUs utilize:
Open-air coolers are the most common, and most of the graphics cards currently listed in this article use them. For the most part, open-air coolers are the best solutions for the majority of gaming PCs because they feature better overall heat dissipation and can benefit more from case fans. These coolers can have anywhere from one to three fans, but in the case of high-end cards such as the RTX 2080 Ti, they most commonly come with three.
As for blowers, we’ve mentioned that they feature a closed heatsink and a single blower fan that blows the hot air out of the back of the card, directly out of the case. This prevents heat buildup inside the case, which makes the blower a good fit for small cases with limited airflow or for multi-GPU rigs that have several graphics cards placed close to each other.
Finally, liquid cooling is the most efficient by far, which makes it ideal for overclocking. However, they are significantly more expensive than open-air and blower coolers, so they are a niche product aimed primarily at PC enthusiasts with high-end graphics cards.
When equipped with a liquid cooler, a card will run at significantly lower temperatures, which obviously allows for more overclocking headroom. However, they aren’t necessarily quieter than open-air coolers, as they still need to have an active pump to cycle the liquid from the block to the case-mounted radiators, which are then cooled by fans.
Moreover, liquid-cooled graphics cards aren’t as readily available for purchase, so if you want to get a liquid-cooled model, it would be best to get the graphics card (or just the cooler) directly from the OEM. However, as mentioned before, liquid cooling will mainly appeal to enthusiasts, so they might not be worth the money or the hassle if you’re new to the whole thing.
Now that we have touched upon cooling, we have to say a few words about overclocking. In case you’re not familiar with it, overclocking is the act of pushing a GPU’s clock speed beyond the default clock speed set by the manufacturer.
Now, the RTX 2080 Ti is an incredibly powerful GPU, so how much extra performance can you squeeze out of it through overclocking?
Well, generally speaking, an overclocked GPU can get you roughly 5-15% more frames per second compared to a card running with reference settings, but this will inevitably vary from game to game.
While this is usually a relatively minor boost when it comes to budget and mid-range GPUs, considering the immense graphics processing power of the beast that is the RTX 2080 Ti, the 5-15% mentioned above could translate into a considerable performance boost, even in more demanding AAA games.
Again, generally speaking, an overclocked RTX 2080 Ti should get you approximately up to 10 extra FPS in 4K and up to 15 extra FPS in 1440p if we’re talking demanding AAA games. Just bear in mind that you need a powerful CPU if you want to avoid a bottleneck.
Ultimately, all of the cards listed here can offer more or less the same kind of overclocking performance, although some will be running more quietly and at lower temperatures than others.
You’ve probably noticed that we talked about the card design a lot in the article. And sure enough, aesthetics are more important than ever, what with the rising popularity of translucent cases and RGB lighting. As a result, the OEMs are trying harder than ever before to make their cards visually appealing, both because of that and because a better-looking card makes for a more marketable product.
So, if you’re getting a translucent case or are building an open rig and want to make sure your setup looks good, what should you keep in mind when it comes to your future graphics card’s design?
First and most noticeably, we have color. Only a few years back, many graphics cards had specific color highlights that served as something of a manufacturer’s signature. For example, Gigabyte had orange, Zotac had yellow, and MSI had red, although the design varied from series to series.
However, most OEMs have moved away from this design approach, and for two reasons: consistency and RGB lighting.
Naturally, for it to look aesthetically pleasing, a build must have a consistent color scheme, and by painting their shrouds and backplates a specific color, OEMs made it more difficult for their cards to blend in with different setups. Now, cards mainly have black shrouds with more subtle gray or white highlights, something that makes them much more neutral.
Then, there’s the RGB lighting, which is simply a better solution on virtually every front if you want to add some color to your setup. It is flexible and allows you to easily establish and change the color scheme across different components whenever you feel like it, not to mention that it is cheaper than ever and is now quite commonplace even among the more affordable graphics cards.
Finally, there’s the backplate. Much like RGB, backplates are slowly making their way to the lower price ranges, and in 2021, it’s not uncommon to find them even in budget graphics cards such as the GTX 1650 Super.
Most can agree that backplates look great, but what purpose do they serve?
Well, the main purpose of a backplate is just that – they look cool. In practical terms, however, they do protect the PCB, preventing it from bending, and they also make it easier to get the dust off the back of the card, which is always convenient.
Something that a backplate does not do, however, is help with the cooling. Despite what some OEMs might claim, tests have shown that having a metal backplate doesn’t help with heat dissipation at all, so graphics cards with backplates won’t be hitting higher clock speeds or running any cooler than their backplate-less counterparts.
Something that differs from model to model is the number and type of connectors that the card comes with, so what connectors are there, and which should you prioritize?
In 2021, the latest graphics cards come with two primary connectors: DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0b. And how do these two compare?
Well, in this context, the two most important things to keep in mind are the resolutions and the refresh rates.
HDMI 2.0 supports 4K in 60 Hz and 1080p in 120 Hz. Meanwhile, DisplayPort 1.4 supports 8K in 60 Hz, 4K in 120 Hz, and 1080p at 240 Hz. Both of these connectors support HDR, and both can transfer audio. Although when it comes to adaptive sync, HDMI only supports AMD FreeSync, whereas DisplayPort supports both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync.
That said, considering that the RTX 2080 Ti can easily hit framerates above 60 FPS in most games even in 4K, you should probably use DisplayPort as your main connector. Moreover, if you’re thinking about a triple-monitor setup, you should use DisplayPort in that case, too.
On the other hand, if you are using a 60 Hz display that cannot display more than 60 FPS anyway, you could use HDMI as well, as there would be no difference between these two interfaces that would be visible to the naked eye.
Keep in mind – it is important to make sure that your monitor is using the same version of DisplayPort/HDMI as the graphics card! Both HDMI and DisplayPort are backward compatible, but if the graphics card comes equipped with DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0 but your monitor uses an older version of these technologies such as DisplayPort 1.2 or HDMI 1.4, you could end up missing out on some characteristics, or you would be dealing with a potentially problematic resolution/refresh rate limit.
At the end of the day, which of these RTX 2080 Ti models would we pick?
Well, as previously mentioned, they all have their merits, but if we had to pick one, it would be the Asus RoG Strix RTX 2080 Ti. Granted, the design is in urgent need of a refresh, but the card is great in all other departments, as it strikes a good balance between performance, temperature, noise generation, and pricing.
Meanwhile, the EVGA RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra would be a good choice if you want to squeeze extra performance out of the RTX 2080 Ti but want to avoid the high temperature and noise generation that you’d usually get when overclocking an air-cooled variant.
But those are just our pick! Any of the graphics cards listed here would be good options, given that you keep their capabilities in mind, as well as your own requirements and budget limitations.