Nvidia has unveiled its 28-billion transistor Ampere-based 30 series graphics chips for PC gamers. The new chips will shore up PC gaming just as the next-generation consoles arrive from Microsoft and Sony for the holidays.
The Santa Clara, California-based company unveiled its Ampere graphics processing unit (GPU) architecture in May. But it built the first A100 chip with 54 billion transistors — the on-off switches that are the building blocks of all things electronic — for artificial intelligence, scientific computing, cloud graphics, and data analytics. Now, a variant of the chip that powers upcoming supercomputers will take 3D graphics in PC games to a new level.
The three new gamer chips — the GeForce RTX 3070, 3080, and 3090 — will sell respectively for $500, $700, and $1,500, and they will include the second generation of RTX, or real-time ray tracing graphics. Nvidia introduced real-time ray tracing two years ago with its first-generation RTX, and games began to adopt it. The RTX technology dramatically improved the realism of shadows, reflections, and lighting in games. While game developers weren’t ready for it at first, Huang said there are now hundreds of RTX games in development. Games such as Minecraft, Control, and Wolfenstein 3D: Youngblood already feature RTX.
Nvidia said the Ampere-based chips will deliver 3D graphics performance that is two times better in performance than the previous-generation Turing architecture and 1.9 times more power-efficient.
“This is the greatest-ever generational leap we have made,” said CEO Jensen Huang, who is known for his hyperbole, in a press briefing. “If the last 20 years was amazing, the next 20 will seem like nothing short of science fiction.”
Huang said that Fortnite, the popular battle royale game with 350 million users, will turn on its RTX real-time ray tracing features for better graphics realism features such as reflections, shadows, global illumination, and ambient occlusion.
New features for gamers
In addition, Huang showed off Nvidia Reflex, which enables displays to operate at higher speeds to the benefit of reaction times for competitive gamers. Reflex reduces latency, or interaction delays, by up to 50%. He also showed off Omniverse Machinima, which enables players to use games to tell stories with real-time animations. And he unveiled the free Nvidia Broadcast, which makes it easier to stream games without hassles.
In a demo of Nvidia Reflex in Riot Games’ online shooter Valorant, Huang showed a scenario where an opponent, traveling at 1,500 pixels per second, is only visible for 180 milliseconds. But a typical gamer has a reaction time of 150 milliseconds — from photon to action.
“You can only hit the opponent if your PC adds less than 30 milliseconds,” Huang said.
But many gamers have machines and displays with latencies up to 100 milliseconds. Nvidia Reflex will reduce the latency by up to 50 milliseconds. That could help players like me have better reaction time in action games like Call of Duty: Warzone.
30 series GPUs
The 30 series GPUs can handle 30 teraflops of shader processing, 58 teraflops of RT core processing, and 238 teraflops of Tensor core processing. That adds up to twice the performance of the previous generation, with the ability to handle features like DLSS (deep learning super sampling), which uses AI to fill out details and handle processing more efficiently. The previous generation could handle 11 teraflops of shader processing, 34 teraflops of RT core processing, and 89 teraflops of Tensor core processing.
The company revamped the input-output system for the graphics, enabling rapid loading and game asset decompression by up to 100 times, in partnership with Microsoft’s new DirectStorage for Windows application programming interface. That helps the central processing unit (CPU) offload storage tasks to the GPU, improving framerates and eliminating load times.
Micron worked with Nvidia to create GDDR6X, which Nvidia said is the world’s fastest discrete graphics memory for the RTX 30 series with speeds up to 1 TB per second memory bandwidth.
To make the improvements, Nvidia worked with contract chip manufacturer Samsung to come up with the 8N Nvidia custom manufacturing process.
Besides Fortnite, other games taking advantage of the GPUs include Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Cyberpunk 2077, Dying Light 2, and Watch Dogs: Legion. Game engines supporting the GPUs include Unreal Engine, Unity, Frostbite, id Tech, Northlight, Luminous Engine, and 4A Engine.
The $700 GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card will feature 10GB of GDDR6X memory running at 19 gigabits per second (Gbps) and consistently deliver 60 frames per second for 4K resolution gaming. The $500 GeForce RTX 3070 is 60% faster than the original RTX 2070, has 8GB of GDDR6 memory, and can run games at 4K and 1440p resolutions.
The top of the heap is the BFGPU (for Big Ferocious GPU), the $1,500 GeForce RTX 3090. It comes with a “silencer,” or a three-slot, dual-axial, flow-through design that is up to 10 times quieter than the previous Titan RTX. The design keeps the GPU up to 30 degrees Celsius cooler. It has 24GB of GDDR6X memory and is up to 50% faster than Titan RTX. It can run games at 60 frames per second in 8K resolution.
Add-in card manufacturers include Asus, Colorful, EVGA, Gainward, Galaxy, Gigabyte, Innovision 3, MSI, Palit, PNY, and Zotac. New gaming PCs with the cards are coming from Acer, Alienware, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and MSI. And system builders using the cards include CyberPower PC, Digital Storm, Falcon NW, Ibuypower, Maingear, Origin, NZXT, and Puget.
The GeForce RTX 3080 will be available starting September 17. The GeForce RTX 3090 will be available starting September 24. The GeForce RTX 3070 will be available in October.
Nvidia released a new demo dubbed “Marbles at Night,” featuring fully path-traced photorealistic real-time graphics with reflections, textures, and light sources. It’s like looking at an interactive movie with a ton of special effects. On Ampere-based machines, the demo can run in remote play at 30 frames per second at 1440p. Nvidia showed it to some influencers in person at 60 frames per second on an 8K LG OLED TV. An 8K TV can display four times the pixels, or dots on a screen, versus a 4K TV.
“This is insane because it’s impossible for us to show you what it looks like on the stream,” Huang said. “Today’s Ampere launch is a giant step into the future.”
Huang said it was 20 years since Nvidia introduced GPUs with programmable shading, which modernized 3D graphics. In that time, graphics processing has gotten 100,000 times faster and gaming grew to billions of people.
“I can’t wait to go forward 20 years to see what RTX started,” Huang said. “In this future, GeForce is your holodeck, your lightspeed starship, your time machine.”