Nvidia’s RTX 30-Series has been blowing our minds since its release late last year. They’re so powerful in fact, that it can be hard to know which is right for your system and which is total overkill.
So, to help you understand the distinction between these cards, we’ve arranged a head-to-head between the RTX 3070 and 3080.
The 30-Series marked a full shift in architectural makeup, transitioning from the infamous Turing blueprint to the all-singing, all-dancing Ampere microarchitecture. Some of the advancements include wider bandwidth (HBM2), a smaller 8-nm process node, 50% more CUDA cores, 3rd gen Tensor cores, and 2nd gen RT cores.
The 3070 is built on the GA104-300-A1 variant of Ampere and contains 5888 shading units spread across 46 SMs, 184 texture units, 96 rendering units, and 184 Tensor cores for super-fast AI learning.
The 3080 is the product of the GA102-200-KD-A1 Ampere variant containing a monstrous 8704 shader units – nearly 3000 more than the 3070. That’s a pretty big jump for a single GPU step in the same family. It also has an 88 texture unit premium, bringing a lush realism to high rez gaming. However, apart from 1MB larger 5MB L2 cache and just shy of 100 extra Tensor cores, these are very similar cards.
Another huge improvement we see in Ampere is just how good the thermals of the 30-Series are. The 3070 has the capacity to reach 93°C before throttling and is unlikely to breach 80°C under load. Pair it with a high-spec air cooler or liquid AIO (for those with the funds), and you can achieve a stable 5% overclock. That equates to 2080 Ti performance, but for a fraction of the cost.
The 3080 has the same 93°C thermal capacity as you’d expect, and despite pulling a whopping 320 watts as opposed to the 3070’s 220-watt draw, still maxes out around 79°C under load. With a quality cooler, you can achieve a +75MHz core overclock, resulting in slightly boosted frame rates.
Both GPUs were released in axial shrouds, but the Galax Classic series includes a 3080 blower edition, and the Asus Turbo series offers up a 3070 blower card.
We could talk tech all day long, but if these GPUs don’t fit into your case, they’re useless to you, so let’s take a quick look at the boring stuff.
For such a powerful card, the 3070 is quite modestly sized, making it a suitable option for smaller ATX mid-tower cases. Measuring 9.5” (L) x 4.4” (W) x 2-slot, it should replace any mid to high-tier previous-generation graphics cards without any trouble.
The 3080 on the other hand is BIG! Measuring 11.2” (L) x 4.4” (W) x 2-slot, you’re gonna need a large mid tower case with strong brackets to accommodate this beast. It may even be worth investing in a support brace to prevent GPU sag. 3rd party iterations of the 3080 tend to be even larger, so make sure you take some accurate case measurements before purchasing.
That’s enough about physicalities. Let’s get down to the important stuff… real-world gaming performance.
If you’re a 1080p gamer, to get anything like the performance these cards are capable of you are really going to need a monitor with a high refresh rate. Anything else is a waste. Having said that, we’d always advise buying the latest tech where budget allows to future-proof a potentially monitor buy further down the track.
1440p can be considered the 3070’s native resolution. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a game in which it won’t hit the desired 60fps average. Even during demanding titles such as RDRII it averages 80fps, making it the perfect option for 60Hz 1440p monitors.
Unless you have a powerful 140Hz 1440p monitor, the 3080 really is overkill at this resolution. During RDRII, it pushes beyond 100fps, and it absolutely smashes Shadow of the Tomb Raider with averages beyond 140fps.
4K is where the 3080 lives; this is its bread and butter. Even during the notoriously GPU-heavy titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, it hits 60+ frame rate averages. The 3070 does provide 60fps 4K averages during less intensive titles, but we had to drop settings significantly to keep up the averages across a wider selection of games.
As you’re probably aware, the 30-Series features the pinnacle of hardware ray tracing technology. The 20-Series got the ball rolling, but these 2nd gen RT cores offer twice the throughput per core. That, my friends, means that the RT workload doesn’t take nearly as much toll on 30-Series cards.
The 3070 has 46 2nd gen RT cores in total, a hefty treasure trove of global illumination potential. In ultra RT mode, lighting, shadows, and reflections look so dang real, you’ll be fully transported into the world set forth by your game, but you can expect to drop some frames.
The 3080 has a very impressive RT core stockpile, counting 68 in total, leading to exquisite lighting in games that support it, but the burden on frames per second can be substantial. In fact, running ultra RT mode reduces the 3080 to more of a 1440p performance level.
Sometimes the difference in memory configurations in a family from one GPU to the next isn’t too significant, but as Nvidia was really targeting a native resolution for each of these cards, their VRAM specs are completely dissimilar.
The 3070 features 8GB of GDDR6 memory, while the 3080 has 10GB of enhanced GDDR6X memory. The higher operating frequency of 6X means that with 760.3GBps, the 3080 has nearly twice the bandwidth of the 3070. It also features a 320-bit bus memory interface as opposed to the 256-bit bus memory of the 3070.
Due to the 16-byte burst length of GDDR6, which is twice that of 6X, the 3070 has the higher 1750MHz memory clock frequency, but 6X offers twice the efficiency per channel, leading to a 19GBps effective speed, 5GBps faster than the 3070. This, alongside the extra 2GB capacity, is what gives the 3080 its high-resolution edge.
We’ve got some good news and some…good news! The good news is that if you’re choosing between these cards, you’re in for a hell of a time regardless of the outcome. The other good news is that the purpose Nvidia has in mind for these two cards is so clean-cut that you really only have to think about your current setup to decide which is right for you.
Although the 3080 is more of a 1440p card when ultra ray tracing is turned on, it is a decidedly 4K creature, perfect for a 60Hz refresh rate monitor and powerful CPU. Using it for 1440p exclusively will only result in severe CPU and monitor bottlenecks, and wasted frames are wasted money.
The 3070, on the other hand, is a 1440p demon! If you have a 60 or even 140Hz 1440p monitor, the 3070 is the most logical option and will offer you the biggest price for performance ratio of the two cards.