This fall has been big for graphics cards. Namely, we saw the huge launch of NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs in late September. Despite some faulty and frankly disappointing launches, though, the 30-Series GPUs are still very much sought after. But which should you choose?
With each of the 30-Series GPUs being a massive hit, especially where demand was concerned, and almost unanimously positive reviews, it’s genuinely difficult to decide which is right for you. We broke each of them down, looking at specs, price, and purpose (or use cases) to work out which will give you the best bang for your buck.
All of the 30-Series graphics cards are based on NVIDIA’s latest Ampere architecture making them more efficient, powerful, and high-performance than ever. When Huang said these cards would spell a huge generational leap for the company, he wasn’t exaggerating.
Both the RTX 3090 and the RTX 3080 are replacements – or upgrades – for two of the previous 20-Series cards, with the RTX 3080 a direct upgrade of the RTX 2080 and the RTX 3090 a replacement for the ridiculously expensive RTX Titan which retailed at around $2500. The RTX 3070, while not an upgrade, has almost identical stats to the RTX 2080, which makes its lower price point all the more endearing.
While the RTX 3080 was proclaimed the flagship gaming GPU of this launch, the RTX 3090 was named, by Huang, the BFGPU (Big Friendly GPU). That’s because it is huge. As a replacement for the RTX 2080 Titan graphics card, the RTX 3090 had to deliver on all counts (speed, performance, and power) if it could chalk up to its predecessor. So it makes sense that, on paper, the RTX 3090 has higher stats than both the RTX 3080 and RTX 3070 in key areas like storage and Tensor core count.
With a 24GB memory and 328 Tensor cores (compared with the RTX 3080’s 10GB memory and 272 Tensor cores and the RTX 3070’s 8GB memory and 134 Tenso cores), the RTX 3090 is an 8K-ready graphics card, with extremely high performance and extraordinary capabilities.
The thing is, 8K gaming is still in its infancy and 4K monitors are still a rarity, much less 8K monitors. Not to mention, most games haven’t been designed with 8K texture packs, and the equipment you need for 8K gaming is very expensive. Obviously, if you’re an enthusiast and you can afford this godly setup, the RTX 3090 looks great. But for others, the RTX 3080 might actually fare better. Although it’s undeniably geared towards 4K gaming, it does feature an 8K ready HDMI 2.1 connection on its back, so the capabilities are still there.
The RTX 3080 is still crazy when it comes to power. And, at the same price point of its predecessor but with double the performance, power, and overall quality, it’s hard to pretend the RTX 3080 isn’t an absolute steal. The RTX 3080 also trumps the RTX 3090 in terms of power consumption which means you’ll need a fairly powerful power supply unit of at least 750W to take full advantage of the card.
Then there’s the RTX 3070, which is essentially at the bottom of the 30-series GPU hierarchy. Despite having considerably lower stats, though, the RTX 3070 is a budget-friendly GPU, meaning you’re likely to get more bang for your buck. The RTX 3070 is geared towards high quality 1440p graphics but it’s perfectly capable of handling 4K graphics, too.
Each of the 30-Series GPUs has quite specific, and fair, price points.
As we know, the RTX 3090 – being the absolute beast that it is – can be purchased for $1499. This might seem like a lot but, compared to its predecessor which costs $2500, the RTX 3090 is genuinely a bit of a steal. Obviously, as always, it depends on your use cases. It might not be worth it for a casual gamer, or even a gaming enthusiast to purchase a $1499 GPU, especially if that means you’ll have to fork out for an 8K monitor to reap the full reward. Then again, if you do have a spare $1499 lying around, and you really do want to give one of the best GPUs of all time a spin… why not?
The RTX 3080 is much cheaper than the RTX 3090 at $699. With amazing specs and 8K capabilities for those who need it, the RTX 3080 is a huge bargain. Again, though, it depends on what you need your GPU for. With double the specs of the RTX 2080 at the same price, it’s hard to argue with, really.
And finally, the RTX 3070 has been marketed as the budget-friendly GPU of the 30-Series. Still just as capable of handling 4K as the RTX 3080, this 3070 would be great for those just starting out with PC gaming as well as enthusiasts trying to manage their money. The small gap in price between the RTX 3080 and RTX 3070 accounts for the fairly insignificant difference in specs. And, at a full $1000 less than the “BFGPU” RTX 3090, it’s clear which would be the better option for a budget-friendly build. Plus, the RTX 3070 is still cheaper than the RTX 2080, with pretty much identical specs.
We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again. The biggest determinant of whether or not a GPU is right for you is the use cases; what is its purpose?
All GPUs can be used for the same thing, like gaming or creating. But whether or not a higher price point is worth it depends on what you’ll get out of it. In its review of the RTX 3090, PC Gamer wrote, “there are very few people who I would recommend the $1,500 RTX 3090 to. And none of them are gamers.” Most people believe that creators are the only people who will find spending $1499 on the RTX 3090 actually worth it. It’s such a high price point and its capabilities go far beyond what most people can actually afford to use it for right now. That being said, if you have a spare 8K set up and $1500 lying around…why not?
The difference in specs between the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 don’t facilitate such a huge jump in price, especially for casual gamers. We think the RTX 3080 is perfect for hardcore PC gamers and enthusiasts, especially those looking to move into the 4K gaming sphere. If you already have a 4K monitor and you’re looking for a card with great specs that will last a few years, the RTX 3080 will be ideal.
For us, the RTX 3070 is for those who are just getting started with PC gaming, or who are looking to upgrade an old, outdated graphics card. The RTX 3070 is the perfect budget option that will still let you play any game in amazing quality, and let’s not forget it can work for 4K displays, too. The RTX 3070 is also perfect if you’re looking to spend under $500 on your GPU this time around.
Choosing a graphics card is no easy feat, especially when it comes to NVIDIA’s 30-Series cards. Each amazing in its own right, these cards spell a serious quality upgrade for the company and your PC. Like always, it truly does depend on what you’re after.
We’d say the RTX 3090 is only really worth it if you’re a creator – that means you can treat your GPU purchase as an investment, one that will get you returns through high quality and fast performance. For gamers, it’s a toss-up between the RTX 3080 and RTX 3070, and will probably depend on your budget and how serious you are. If you’re looking for the best GPU for under $1000, go for the RTX 3080 – especially if you’re a PC gaming enthusiast. If money is a little tighter for you, or if you’re just looking to upgrade an old card, go for the RTX 3070. For not too much difference in specs and a $200 drop in price, you can’t go wrong.
Check out our Where to Buy pages for the RTX 3090, RTX 3080, and RTX 3070 if you’ve made up your mind. While stocks are expected to be low until next year, now’s the perfect time to eye up which sites are offering the best deals, especially as we approach Black Friday.