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Is the RTX 3080 good enough for path tracing? Find out here

Can this last-gen GPU keep up with next-gen path tracing?
Last Updated on September 26, 2023
Is the RTX 3080 good enough for path tracing? Image shows the text "Is the RTX 3080 good enough for path tracing?" next to an MSI RTX 3080 with three blue question marks above it, on a blue gradient background.
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This article will shed light on an important query for next-gen gamers: is the RTX 3080 good enough for path tracing? Path tracing, a high-end graphics rendering technique, has seen a spike in interest with the release of graphically demanding AAA titles. Given the intense computational power required for path tracing, the choice of GPU is crucial. We’re exploring the capabilities of the NVIDIA RTX 3080, a prominent figure of the RTX 30 series, to determine its efficiency and performance in handling path tracing. Let’s get started.

What is path tracing? Graphics technique explained

While there are similarities between the two, path tracing differs from the similarly named ‘ray tracing‘ technologies. Path tracing is a Monte Carlo technique used in computer graphics to produce high-quality videos and pictures with accurate global illumination. Unlike ray tracing, which creates realistic in-game reflections, lights, and shadows, path tracing is more efficient at handling refraction. Overall, it’s more accurate in stimulating the physics of light and is slightly less demanding on your GPU.

RTX 3080 and path tracing

The RTX 3080 is equipped with advanced GPU features that make it a strong contender for path tracing tasks. Built on the Ampere architecture, it is fitted with 8704 CUDA cores and 10GB GDDR6X memory, providing substantial computational prowess and memory bandwidth to handle the intricacies of path tracing. Even in demanding environments, the RTX 3080 can deliver commendable performance, ensuring realistic and detailed images with its RT and Tensor cores.

While it may not match the raw power of the latest 40 series GPUs, the RTX 3080 holds its ground firmly, offering a balanced mix of price, performance, and path tracing capabilities. In games like Cyberpunk 2077 or Starfield, where intricate lighting and detailed environments are paramount, the RTX 3080 contributes effectively to enhancing the gaming experience by providing sufficient power for decent path tracing results.

While it might not get you up to 4k, the 3080 should provide you with steady framerates at 1080p with path tracing enabled. We’ve summed up the performance of the RTX 3080 against many of its 30 series competitors, including the 3080 vs the 3090, as well as the RTX 3070 vs the RTX 3080.

Understanding the path tracing performance

The realistic lighting, shadows, and reflections achieved through path tracing can elevate the visual appeal of any game or rendered scene. The RTX 3080, with its dedicated ray-tracing hardware, enhances these visual elements, delivering a more immersive and visually striking gaming experience. It can adeptly handle the computational demands of path tracing, ensuring smoother frame rates and visually rich details in various gaming environments.

However, it’s worth noting that for the most optimal path tracing performance, settings may need to be adjusted to find a sweet spot between visual fidelity and game performance. Despite these adjustments, the RTX 3080 proves to be a capable GPU for path tracing tasks, offering a good balance between cost and performance.

Can the RTX 3080 handle path tracing in high-resolution settings?

Yes, the RTX 3080 can handle path tracing in high-resolution settings such as 1080p, but with certain limitations. The framerate may struggle, and there might end up being some lag or stuttering as your GPU works at full power. It provides a good level of detail and realism, especially in games optimized for ray tracing. However, if you’re considering a GPU upgrade, for a similar price you can switch to AMD’s latest mid-range card, the RX 7700 XT, for optimized 1440p gaming. For all things GPU, make sure to head over to PC Guide’s GPU hub to get all your graphics card queries answered.

Marla writes across a wide range of topics across PC Guide, including AI, PC hardware, and news on the latest tech releases. She's a passionate writer that's interested in the future of technology.