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Nvidia Ampere GPUs Destroy Early Benchmarks, Won’t Require PCIe 4.0

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Nvidia recently unveiled its long-awaited Amepre-based graphics cards, displacing the famously spendy Turing architecture. Ampere isn’t going to be cheap necessarily, but the value seems great based on some early tests. You might also be happy to learn you won’t need a PCIe 4.0 slot for the top-of-the-line RTX 3090. 

The new cards are Nvidia’s second-generation of ray tracing hardware. The most powerful RTX 3090 card will support 8K 60fps video, and potential buyers have been concerned their older PCIe slots wouldn’t cut it. Most modern desktop motherboards have at least one 16x PCIe slot for a video card. The PCI Express 4.0 standard has started appearing over the last several years, but there are still plenty of boards with the older 3.0 slot. 

There was some concern the new RTX 3090 would hit a bottleneck with 3.0 slots, which might only be a year or two old. In a thread on the Nvidia subreddit, an engineer confirmed that no, you won’t need PCIe 4.0 for the 3090. While a 16x 4.0 slot has higher bandwidth, the card will perform almost exactly as well in either type. The performance gain from upgrading to 4.0 would probably only be a few percent. 

You don’t need to fret about your PCIe slot because the Ampere cards should have plenty of performance headroom. Digital Foundry has posted its early 3080 benchmarks at 4K, and the gains over the RTX 2080 are substantial. Borderlands 3 is 81 percent faster on the 3080, and Doom Eternal is a bit higher still. Control is just a few points lower, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider performs nearly 70 percent better. Digital Foundry also did a few tests specifically on ray tracing. Control was 77 percent faster with ray tracing on the new card, and Quake 2 RTX was 92 percent faster. 

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If future tests agree with these numbers, Ampere could make high-end 4K gaming a much less frustrating experience. The 3080 tested by Digital Foundry will retail for around $699, but some OEMs will make more or less expensive versions of the same thing. That’s not cheap, but the value is impressive given these test results. The RTX 3080 looks to be more capable than the RTX 2080 Ti, a card that started at $1,199 for Nvidia’s Founder’s Edition. We’ll need to wait for more real-world testing and analysis, but Ampere is looking like a major win for Nvidia.

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