Nvidia turns everything to 11 with the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, GTX 1080 price cuts

SAN FRANCISCO — At GDC 2017, Nvidia announced its long-expected GTX 1080 Ti. The GPU, which has been rumored since at least the Nvidia Titan X’s unveil, is a potent upgrade compared with Nvidia’s previous top-end consumer card, the GTX 1080.

The gap between the GTX 1080 Ti and the 1080 is one of the smallest we’ve seen Nvidia field. Like Titan X, the 1080 Ti is a GP102 design that relies on GDDR5X memory to hit its bandwidth targets. It’s a 12 billion transistor part, with 3584 cores, 224 texture units, and 88 ROPS (3584:224:88). That’s eight fewer ROPS than the Titan X. Memory bus width is also slightly lower, at 352-bit instead of the full 384-bits on Titan X. This difference is compensated for with faster RAM — the Titan X uses 10Gbps memory, while the GTX 1080 Ti raises uses memory rated for 11Gbps. “11”, in fact, is something of a theme for this card. It has 11GB of RAM, 11/12 the ROPs of the Titan X, 11Gbps RAM, and 11/12 of the memory bandwidth.

According to Nvidia, the performance jump between the GTX 1080 and the 1080 Ti is the largest boost they’ve ever fielded. The GTX 780 Ti was ~18% faster than the GTX 780, the GTX 980 Ti was 25% faster, on average, than the 980, and the new GTX 1080 Ti will be (according to Nvidia), roughly 35% faster than the 1080. At the unveiling event, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang declared that the 1080 Ti would actually be faster than the Titan X (he didn’t specify by how much.)

Nvidia isn’t just announcing the 1080 Ti today, they’re also making a minor update available to the already-launched GTX 1080 and GTX 1060. OEMs will have the option to build GTX 1080’s with 11Gbps GDDR5X (up from 10Gbps) and GTX 1060’s with 9Gbps GDDR5X (up from 8Gbps). That’s a relatively minor bump and the core revision presumably remains the same — we’ll have to wait and see how OEMs price the cards and whether they ship hardware with higher clock speeds. TSMC’s 14nm process is presumably mature enough now that we might see slightly higher clock speeds.

The GTX 1080 Ti wasn’t the only announcement at Nvidia’s GDC event, but it’s likely to command the most attention. Nvidia also announced expansions to its Ansel software, new DX12-compatible GameWorks libraries, and a DX12 GameWorks VR version that leverages Microsoft’s Direct Compute standard. Nvidia also announced a new VR FCAT system for monitoring dropped frames and a better sense of how VR performs. Previously, FCAt required an expensive dedicated second system for better video capture and analysis. By offering a software solution with visualization tools and multiple performance metrics, Nvidia is boosting the kind of analysis reviewers and users can perform.

And the price? $ 699. That’s honestly better than I expected, and it’s one heck of a deal. It’s also a smart strategy for Nvidia — by pricing at this level now, they ensure current dominance of the high end of the market. When the Vega (or RX Vega) actually launches, Nvidia will be well-positioned to respond with price cuts and strong performance (whichever is required).

As part of the GTX 1080 Ti launch, Nvidia also announced that the GeForce 1080’s new MSRP is $ 499. The 1080 Ti will be available “next week” according to Jen-Hsun Huang. An exact day was not specified.