I’ve been covering NVIDIA’s Ampere GPUs for all of 2020. In the blight that this year has been for so many, Ampere rumors and news has been particularly lively and uplifting. Now that NVIDIA has officially revealed the lineup, and we’ve all had some time to reflect, the news isn’t just great because of new hardware.
There’s so much great about Ampere to be excited about. These are my top five.
5. A Respectable…No, Powerhouse Mid-Range
Mid-range GPUs have, for years, floundered. Over the past few years that’s changed, with excellent cards like the GTX 1660, and even this year’s AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT. Yet the major challenge for many buyers has been the limitations those GPUs have. Over the past decade, the major limitation has been resolution. High-end GPUs allowed for 1080p, 1440p, or 4K gaming. For1optimal performance with a mid-range card, that just wasn’t the case.
Not so anymore. Sure, you could argue that the 2070 Super like we tested in the Alienware Aurora R9 was a 4K-ready GPU. The 2070 Super is an outlier, one that released just over a year ago. And it’s an awesome graphics card. But even in Doom Eternal we were maxing out at 4K. The new mid-range is the RTX 3070, which according to NVIDIA is more powerful than the RTX 2080 Ti.
Last year’s top-of-the-line is next month’s mid-range? Yes, that’s the future we want.
4. The 2X Performance
Especially after rumors that GPU performance growth was slowing, seeing this massive jump is a godsend. We definitely have seen a slowing of GPU growth before this change, where the cost for graphics performance was greater than the performance growth.
Now gamers can buy one of these three Ampere cards without concern. Even if we see a huge increase in performance in the next generation, the major push graphical output in today’s games is for resolution. It’ll take time for developers to crank out more challenging performance challenges for GPUs to solve, and that may take a few years. Even today’s “new Crysis” of Flight Simulator mostly stresses today’s videocards by being memory hogs, not processing.
3. The Physical Hardware, and The Future of Improved Performance
This latest line of GPUs is built on an 8nm process. All the news you’ve read about Intel missing 7nm, and AMD hitting it for CPUs? Graphics cards use plenty of transistors too, and are built on similar processes. That’s already crazy impressive, yet both TSMC and Samsung have shared that they’ll reach 5nm within the next two years, and TSMC specifically will hit 2nm by 2030.
That means your massive graphics cards will be just as big and pack even more processing power. It’s hard to say what kind of performance boost we’ll see purely from this physical hardware change, but that’s in part the reason for the 2X performance boost.
Separately, Ampere uses PCIe 4.0, doubling throughput to 32Gbps. GDDR6 has a throughput of 14Gbps, compared to Turing’s 8Gbps. And, finally, both the 3080 and 3090 use 320W and 350W respectively; that additional power requirement is a good thing.
Of course, the new fan designs are nice, but really unnecessary. Stay tuned to hear about how Asetek will support some cool offerings in the near future.
2. Serious Competition for AMD Will Push The Company Harder
AMD’s strategy of owning the low- and mid-range in GPUs has seemed smart; we’ve seen some growth, and their latest cards are very promising. Yet reports show that NVIDIA now owns 80% of the GPU market. Sure, it’s great news for NVIDIA and bad news for AMD, but the increased competition will only drive the underdog even harder.
We’ve seen AMD come back strong against Intel and make a huge push forward, reaching 40% CPU market share this year. And the latest APU offerings are especially interesting, considering the company’s long-term growth strategy. We may see both Intel and AMD pushing for unique CPU-GPU combinations to better compete against NVIDIA. Whatever happens, the gamers win.
1. Next Gen Consoles Are Already Obsolete
Okay fine, the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X aren’t obsolete. But they’re both built on the RDNA2 architecture, effectively as powerful as a Radeon 5700 XT at the most.
With the Xbox One and Playstation 4, we saw the high-end of the then-current generation of GPUs outperforming consoles, though console performance has historically been better on day one. If only because of no significant operating system to slow the console down, along with significant optimization. Not only will that not be the case this time around, both new consoles will have less than half the graphics performance of the RTX 3070.
And, as a gamer who loves the games more than performance and specs, the real kicker to this point is that console maker Nintendo is the only one of the big three working with NVIDIA. Both Microsoft and Sony have stuck with AMD for better pricing over the past two generations. We still have no word on when Nintendo will reveal a new console, but it’s very likely that we’ll see plenty of Ampere tech in that next-gen device.
There may be no better “screw you” to Microsoft and Sony, who have pushed pixels and performance in an effort to undercut Nintendo.