Why there’s no GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (yet)

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Why there’s no GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (yet)

Two long years after the GeForce RTX 20-series kicked off real-time ray tracing and uncompromising 4K performance in earnest, Nvidia finally took the wraps off its hotly anticipated successors on Tuesday. The first GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs are damned impressive, culminating in the ferocious GeForce RTX 3090 with 24GB of cutting-edge GDDR6X memory and enough power to game on an 8K display. But glancing over the launch lineup, one things sticks out: Why is there no GeForce RTX 3080 Ti? The RTX 2080 Ti was the heavy hitter in the 20-series lineup, after all.

Nvidia never talks about unannounced products, but there are several reasons to skip a high-end Ti out of the gate this generation, and a lot of it has to do with the competition. Big Navi and new consoles cometh, after all.

Let’s dig in.

Why GeForce RTX 3090 instead of 3080 Ti?

Debuting with a $1,500 GeForce RTX 3090 instead of a GeForce RTX 3080 Ti makes sense for two key reasons: It lets Nvidia continue to push graphics card pricing upward while establishing a hard-to-topple performance benchmark, and it leaves room to maneuver if AMD’s imminent RDNA 2-based “Big Navi” Radeon graphics cards come out with GPUs blazing.

Let’s start with that first part. Nvidia’s machinations over the last few GPU generations make two things clear: It hates losing in performance benchmarks, and it likes making as much money as possible from its high-performance graphics cards. (Which is the entire reason for a business to exist!)

Witness how Nvidia endlessly held off launching the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti as a counter to Radeon Vega’s potential (and unrealized) threat, or how it launched the superfluous GeForce GTX 1070 Ti solely to take the Radeon Vega 56 down a peg in performance charts. Nvidia wants to win, full stop. And in a year with both Big Navi and the AMD-powered Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles launching, striking first with a monstrous GeForce RTX 3090 firmly establishes Nvidia as the high-water mark for enthusiast-class gaming performance. Big Navi could pull a surprise upset, but it’s unlikely.

geforce rtx 2080 ti long Brad Chacos/IDG

The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti cost a staggering $1,200 on arrival, but the GeForce RTX 3090 costs even more.

By pulling this card out with the long-dead xx90 classification, Nvidia can also keep prices high. The company faced fierce criticism and slow starting sales thanks to the higher prices established in the GeForce RTX 20-series, which pushed up costs for each GPU tier (the RTX 2070 and 2080 each cost $100 more than their predecessors) but offered the same traditional gaming performance in each price tier. The $700 GeForce RTX 2080 went toe-to-toe with the $700 GTX 1080 Ti outside of ray tracing tasks.

If Nvidia called this the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti but priced it $300 higher than the 2080 Ti, forum-goers would grab their torches and pitchforks. Stuffing this much performance and 24GB of cutting-edge GDDR6X memory into a radically redesigned graphics card isn’t cheap. By calling it the GeForce RTX 3090, Nvidia can squeeze more money out of the price-is-no-object enthusiasts while avoiding unrest.

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