Gigabyte nVidia RTX 2080 Ti Gaming OC 11G

www.gigabyte.com

Expect to pay: From $1,899 AUD

Featuring the RTX 2080 Ti model of nVidia’s latest and greatest Turing GPUs (graphics-processing-units), the long-winded sounding Gigabyte RTX 2080 Ti Gaming OC 11G (alongside Gigabytes Aorus and G1 branded cards) is one of the company’s top offerings. This is reflected in the fact that not only is it factory overclocked (running at 1665Mhz instead of the RTX 2080 Ti’s base clock-speed of 1545Mhz), it also features an exceptionally sturdy build quality – courtesy of its metal back-plate – and is backed by a 4 year warranty (something which I’ve come to regard as especially important, given the pain I was recently put through when one of my HDDs suddenly gave up the ghost).

As added bonuses, it also comes with controllable RGB lighting (specifically, the words ‘GIGABYTE’ emblazoned on its side), and Gigabyte’s custom Windforce cooling system to keep this beast from toasting itself – more on that later.

One of the first things you’ll notice when you pull it out of the box, aside from how solid it feels, is just how big and heavy this thing is. This is not a card you will be able to house in a small case. It’s a whopping 286.5mm in length, and takes up 3 expansion slots (though you’ll really want to allow it 4-5 in order to give it sufficient airflow). Make no mistake, when it’s under load, this card throws off a fair amount of heat. Even in a large case with good airflow, it’s more than capable of making your PC act as your room’s own personal heater. I was surprised at just how hot the computer was to the touch – not enough to worry me, but certainly approaching the uncomfortable end of the spectrum.
Of course, with that amount of heat, comes noise. Like most modern GPUs, its fans do switch off when running at low temperatures for silent running. In reality, though, you’ll probably have them running the entire time you’re gaming, especially in Australia’s summer. While this is not really an issue compared to the noise level of other GPUs and your CPUs own fan, when it gets under load you’ll really hear it (the main culprits here being Total War: Warhammer II and Battlefield V).

Clocking in at nearly $2,000 AUD (that’s around $1,400 USD for our American friends) it is definitely one of the most expensive cards out there. So, what’s it actually like to use? Coming from a GTX 1070, the improvement in performance was distinctly noticeable. Motion feels smoother (especially in Total War: Warhammer II), and everything I could throw at it worked without fuss. The 11GB of super-fast GDDR6 RAM means that, excluding the most recent games, there is no noticeable performance difference in terms of actual game-play [see insert below] between running a game at resolutions of 2560x1440 pixels or higher. All the games tested – from Crysis 3 to Battlefield V – happily ran between 40-137 FPS, depending on how complex the visuals were, with graphics and ray-tracing (where applicable) turned to maximum. (Indeed, in some instances I’m sure the dip in frame-rate was due to the CPU - a venerable but still powerful Core i7-3770 - acting as a bottleneck). Also, for the first time, I’ve been able to ramp up all graphics options in The Witcher 3 and enjoy an unbroken 60 FPS – even with nVidia Hairworks enabled (a hair simulation which that would bring a GTX 1070 to a stuttering halt).

The RTX 2080 Ti also boasts the most powerful ray-tracing (RT) core of all the RTX 20 series, so what about ray-tracing performance? To be honest, it’s too early in the technology’s history and seems too reliant upon developer’s skill at optimisation to be able to fairly say. Battlefield V’s use of ray-tracing originally came at an enormous hit to FPS, even on the 2080 Ti which caused a lot of people to decry the technology as a gimmick. However, a quickly released update boosted frame-rates to over 60 FPS (well, in most cases) at 2560x1440 with visual settings maxed.

While there are plenty of benchmarks out there, putting theoretical maximum benchmark speeds aside, for real-world usage the only things likely to hamper this card’s performance for most users are poor optimisation of ray-tracing by developers, CPU bottlenecks (for those of us not using the latest and greatest CPU – meaning most of us), and the insanely hot Aussie summer.

In short, while Gigabyte’s powerhouse can get hot and noisy and it does costs a packet, complaining about that would be like whingeing that your Ferrari’s a bit on the pricey-side and its engine growls too much. Yes, it is one of the most expensive graphics cards around, but it’s also one of the most powerful.■

SMALL NIBBLE

How Many Frames-per-Second?

Frames-per-second (FPS) are a matter of obsession for most PC gaming enthusiasts. This is usually used as a measure of how powerful a graphics card is: the more FPS, the better.

Part of this is to do with smooth motion. While the human eye is capable of detecting a single photon, implying little limitation on how many FPS we can perceive, there is a lower limit at which motion becomes noticeably jerky and unpleasant. For example, anything less than 24 FPS (the standard frame-rate for movies) will result in noticeable stutter, be highly uncomfortable to watch, and usually makes the game unplayable. As well as eliminating stuttering and pausing, higher frame-rates also result in a noticeably smoother feel (something that anyone who saw Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films at 48 FPS would appreciate).

So the more FPS the more smooth the motion? Well, it depends on your monitor. Most monitors have a refresh speed of 60Hz (60 cycles/second), which means the maximum number of frames they can render each second is 60 (explaining the mild online obsession with 60 FPS). So while the benchmark of your swanky new card may show it running the latest game at over 100 FPS, unless you’ve got a very special and expensive monitor capable of 120Hz or more, you’ll not see any real difference above 60 FPS.

The other reason is in-game detail. Every bit of graphical ‘bling’ (highly detailed models and environments, dynamic lighting and shadows, running at a high resolution, etc...) taxes the graphics card and lowers its maximum FPS. This means that for less powerful cards, it is necessary to lower the overall visual quality of the game in order for you to maintain a playable frame-rate.

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