Here’s why the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series are such a huge upgrade over the GeForce RTX 20 series
The Ampere generation brought about some massive improvements over the GeForce RTX 20 series based on the Turing architecture, not only in terms of performance, but also bang-for-buck. As the latest and greatest from NVIDIA, you might have expected that, but there are actually quite a few interesting upgrades that make it the perfect upgrade, especially if you are on an older graphics card. Here’s how NVIDIA managed to deliver the significant performance leap over their last-gen offerings.
NVIDIA Ampere Streaming Multiprocessors
The new Ampere Streaming Multiprocessors (SM) offer a significant boost to FP32 performance, thanks to a redesign of the second datapath in the Ampere SM design. Instead of being only able to executing INT32 operations, the second datapath can now handle both INT32 or FP32, for a total of 128 FP32 operations per clock, or 64 FP32 and 64 INT32 instructions per clock, in a single SM.
That represents a doubling of FP32 performance coming from the Turing generation, and the reason why NVIDIA now touts massively increased CUDA core counts in their Ampere GPUs. This allows for impressive performance gains, especially in workloads like raytracing denoising shaders.
2nd Gen Ray Tracing Cores & 3rd Gen Tensor Cores
Another significant change are the new RT cores in Ampere. The new RT cores offer twice the throughput of the ones in Turing, which allowed NVIDIA to pack half the number cores to optimize the die size, while still offering better performance than its predecessor. As the Ampere architecture is better at async compute, it allowing raytracing and shading to be processed concurrently, improving performance in raytraced titles by up to 2X.
Ampere’s Tensor cores offer a similar doubling in throughput, allowing NVIDIA to half the number of Tensor cores per SM and still deliver similar performance in the same workloads. On top of that improvement in throughput, the Ampere architecture brings hardware support for sparsity, enabling up to 2.7x more tensor operations compared to Turing.
Gamers can take advantage of the improved performance of the 3rd Gen Tensor cores with NVIDIA DLSS, which upscales graphics with the power of AI to deliver higher frame rates without sacrificing image quality. The Ampere architecture is also now capable of 8K DLSS, thanks to the upgraded Tensor cores.
As games now demand more memory bandwidth to tackle the increasingly complex and detailed graphics and textures, especially at higher resolutions, faster memory is vital to ensure that the GPU can be fed with data efficiently. And that’s exactly what GDDR6X memory does. Instead of just increasing the frequency, GDDR6X uses PAM4 signaling to transmit four bits of data per clock cycle, doubling the effective bandwidth as compared to GDDR6 at a given operating frequency.
To be able to support PAM4 signaling, NVIDIA had to finetune the PCB and memory power delivery. Thanks to all the hard work put into the design, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series supports up to 19.5Gbps data rates for up to 936GB/s of memory bandwidth to enhance their capabilities at handling data-hungry workloads like game raytracing and 8K video rendering.
We talked quite a bit about 8K, so it would only be apt for the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series cards to sport an output standard that supports the higher resolution. With HDMI 2.1, you can connect up to 8K 60Hz HDR displays without having to deal with multiple display cables. And to make sure that you get to enjoy more than just 8K gaming, the Ampere architecture is the world’s first GPU architecture to offer hardware-based decoding of the AV1 codec, which saves up to 55% bandwidth over H.264, while also reducing the CPU load when playing back 8K60 HDR content.
Better value for money
On top of providing the above great features, Ampere also offers a lot more for your money. Across the board, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series offer significant gains over their predecessors, while being priced pretty similarly. A good example is probably the upcoming GeForce RTX 3070 cards, which will offer performance on par with a last-gen GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, while being less half the price of the older flagship graphics card.
And as if that’s not enough, NVIDIA will also be bundling Watch Dogs: Legion for every purchase of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series cards or GeForce RTX 30 series PCs. When Jensen Huang said it was safe for Pascal owners to upgrade, he really meant it.