Nvidia’s RTX 30 Series is going to be worth the wait

Cutting-edge graphics versus cryptocurrency

The RTX 3080 is a beefy piece of kit. I’ve had to wedge the absolute unit that I’ve been testing into my humble Micro-ATX case, draping my modest rig in a flashy fur coat. I also had to add another cable to my power supply unit, because the card demands separate cables for its sockets to safely provide enough power to this fidelity juggernaut.

While it sounds arbitrary, that alone was enough to make me feel like I was taking part in a meaningful technological upgrade. By making you tinker with, or even replace your power supply entirely, here’s Nvidia clobbering you over the head with the idea that you better buck up your ideas and sort yourself out if you want to play with its fancy new toys.

And fancy they are! So fancy, in fact, that nobody can get their hands on them. The 30 Series cards are scorching commodities, so scarce and price-gouged by scalpers at this point that the only thing that rivals it in the consumer demand department is the PS5. And you can’t mine cryptocurrency with a PS5

Back in September upon the launch of the 3080, a single Bitcoin cost roughly $11,000 dollars. Yet after an incredible rally over the holidays, Bitcoin’s price broke $41,000 and is now hovering around the $35,000 mark. This has made investors a lot of money and dragged plenty of average consumers into the tempting folds of the crypto market. But how is this connected to the RTX 30 series?

Well, google ‘3080 mining rig’ and you’ll find plenty of apocalyptic-looking machines that hoover up power to make their owner’s thousands in cryptocurrency on a monthly basis. At the expense of building a ventilated den in your garage for machines to scream and wail in, tech-savvy bulk-buyers can make hordes of passive income with these devices instead of using them to play Red Dead Redemption 2 at max settings, as I do. Maybe I’m the idiot? But at least now you know why it’s hard to pick one up, as even at high resale prices: they’re getting munched by the miners.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080. Credit: NVIDIA

It’s a shame honestly because, for the enthusiast video game consumer, the RTX 3080 is a stupendously good deal at its £649 RRP. Its little brother the RTX 3070 is an even better deal at £469, I’d argue, especially if you’re not bothered about 4K. Nvidia lowering its graphics card prices between generations while usurping the 20 series (and the next-gen consoles) in power is a net good for everyone involved.

Back in September 2020, I wrote that the 30 series cards were priced to be “next-gen console killers” and they certainly would be, if more people could get their hands on them. While the argument for convenience swings in favour of the consoles, in the power department, there is no contest. If you’re serious and committed to the PC gaming ecosystem, this is what you’re looking for. It ate the 3DMark benchmark I ran for breakfast – 96 per cent better than all results.

At 1440p with all settings maxed out, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla seldom dips below 80fps. The fluidity of combat and, particularly, the nicks and details on the main character’s model in cutscenes are pretty startling up close. Ubisoft’s open-world vision of gnarled trees and lush English landscape feels uncompromised with such power under the hood.

In Cyberpunk 2077 with ‘psycho’ ray-tracing and all settings maxed, it only dipped below 60fps at 1440p in really intense situations, when I took part in big open-air battles in busy parts of the city.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – which I consider to be the best-looking game of the bunch – hovered around a very respectable 60fps even with its most absurd, usually greyed-out settings switched on at 1440p. This is all extremely impressive, especially if you’re a mark for uncompromising video game visuals.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080. Credit: NVIDIA

Personally, I’m more of a frame rate fan, so I have been tweaking the trio – frame rate, resolution and refresh rate – to meet my monitor’s 144Hz for that silky smooth playing experience. I really don’t need to compromise much to get close, and many of the games I play that aren’t trying to be at the bleeding-edge of graphical fidelity get the silky treatment instantaneously. This is what’s most important I think. As a PC gamer, it’s nice to know that it’ll be able to play anything you throw at it.

If you’re employed in the creative industry, there’s also the benefits for productivity and design work. Exporting and playing back live footage in Premiere Pro feels nice and fast, in my admittedly non-scientific tests.

So yes, it’s fantastic – but very much out of stock. Comments made by Nvidia’s CFO in November suggested that it would take “a few more months” for 30 Series supply to catch up with demand. With a heavy pinch of salt, that suggests January or February 2021 may be the time when we start to see more cards become available from retailers.

So we could be seeing a resupply in the next few weeks then if all goes to plan. But it’s all well and good if the stock is there – what about stopping scalpers and bots, energized by the crypto rally? Nvidia previously apologised about the initial launch of the 3080, noting that they were investing in “numerous security upgrades, including CAPTCHA” and cancelling illegitimate purchases.

At the very least, this will make it easier for the average consumer to purchase a card when the restock rolls around. If that’s you, godspeed, and may your browser be good to you. This technology is really worth the wait!

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