Whether you’re building your own gaming computer from scratch or simply upgrading your outdated graphics card, you’ll want to know you can trust the brands being recommended to you.
To show you how we came to our decision so you can see for yourself and put your mind at ease, we’ve touched on some of the most important features that we think you should consider when trying to determine whether you should invest in the RTX 2070 or the GTX 1080.
Since the launch of Nvidia’s Turing graphics card architecture sometime last year, the company has turned its attention to creating a well-rounded range of GPUs that will suit every preference, set-up, and budget, so that every gamer has options.
This has seen them return to revamp their GTX GPUs, and they consistently bring variety in the form of their original, Ti-moniker, and Super-moniker cards. So, there’s even more to choose from than ever, and a number of options that are worthy of your consideration.
The RTX 2070 and the GTX 1080 are both mid-range GPUs that were the original graphics card in their family, and like every firstborn, they’re both capable of carrying a lot on their shoulders. Neither would have trouble taking out a lower-end GPU from AMD or Nvidia, but how do these two graphics cards stack up against each other when put to the test?
They’re pretty evenly matched in terms of price, but of course, there’s a lot more that goes into a decision like this which means they’re not necessarily matched in terms of ability.
We’re going to take a look at what we consider to be some of the most important features that you should factor into your decision, including architecture, cooling solution, the size and dimensions of the GPU, resolution, frame rates, and VRAM memory.
The long-awaited Turing architecture well and truly lived up to the hype that built up in the run-up to its release, and it’s what the RTX 2070 GPU is based on. This means that this is a graphics card that is equipped with the latest Tensor and Ray Tracing cores, totaling 288 and 36 respectively, which enables real-time ray tracing and realistic shadow imagery.
Comparably, the GTX 1080 features the older Pascal architecture, although it’s the most advanced 16nm FinFET version which means that it’s more efficient than its predecessors. It has 2,560 CUDA cores, where the RTX 2070 only has 2,304.
However, Nvidia boasts of their Turing architecture boost as being up to 50% more effective per core, which would translate to them taking the lead. You might want to check that with a language dictionary, however, as the clock speeds tell a different story.
Clock speeds are another important thing to think about, as this will determine the speed at which your games can run at. The GTX 1080 has a base clock speed of 1,607 MHz and a base clock speed of 1,733 MHz, so there’s a small but not huge improvement when boosted.
If you’re looking to overclock your GPU, you’ll squeeze more performance out of the RTX 2070 which comes clocked at 1,410 and can be boosted to a speed of 1,620 MHz leaving a bigger gap in the performance, but both speeds are slower than the GTX 1080 delivers.
The absolute craftsmanship of the fans, vapor chamber, and shroud, ensures that this is a cooling solution that works efficiently, and the GTX 1080 manages to stay well below the 94℃ maximum temperature limit.
On average, we saw it settle somewhere between 70℃ and 80℃, only peaking over this mark to around 83℃ when pushed to the absolute limits of its ability. By comparison, the maximum temperature we recorded for the RTX 2070 is 79℃, so just slightly cooler.
The RTX 2070 is known to sometimes run a little on the warmer side when under a particularly heavy load, so it’s especially important to invest in a cooling system that’s going to help you battle the risk of overheating.
You need to know whether your graphics card will actually slot in somewhere within your existing gaming set-up, and if you’re already dealing with a crowded motherboard, being able to compare the exact measurements of the GPU against the available space is useful.
When it comes to the RTX 2070 and the GTX 1080, there’s admittedly not a huge amount of difference, but it’s still enough that one may be a tighter fit than the other. So, which is the larger of the two?
The GTX 1080 takes up slightly more space as it measures 267 mm (L) x 112 mm (W) x (40 mm (H) with a dual-slot cooling solution, and it connects to the rest of the system using a PCI-Express 3.0 x 16 interface.
The RTX 2070 shares the same PCI-interface, but nothing else. It measures at a shorter 229 mm in length, is 1 mm wider with a width of 113 mm, and although it too has a 2-slot cooling solution, it’s also shorter in terms of height reaching just 35 mm.
Resolutions and Frames Per Second
In terms of raw performance, the RTX 2070 is capable of delivering a pixel rate of 108.90 GigaPixels/Second, which is only a slight improvement over the GTX 1080 which has a pixel rate of 102.80 GigaPixels/Second. Still, the higher the pixel rate, the better the resolution.
Both graphics cards offer absolutely fantastic performance at 1080p, but the RTX 2070 takes the lead by about 9% and delivers impressive frame rates of approximately 120.8 per second on average. Games like Minecraft delivered particularly impressive results, and even titles such as League of Legends and PUBG offered faster frames than the GTX 1080.
What’s interesting about these two GPUs is that the RTX 2070 consistently maintains this lead and the gap doesn’t get any smaller as you increase the settings, which you would usually see when comparing two similar-value graphics cards.
Instead, the GTX 1080 lags behind by a larger 10% disparity when cranked up to Ultrawide 1440p performance settings, although it still manages to give us just under 70 frames per second with an average of 69.0, so it’s by no means a weak graphics card in its own right.
However, when compared to the RTX 2070 it’s clear that it can’t keep up, and the final nail in the coffin is when we tested them at 4K settings where the GTX 1080 dropped below 50 frames and the RTX 2070 managed to keep pushing out a decent 53.7 frames per second.
Like all of Nvidia’s RTX GPUs, the RTX 2070 comes with the exciting new Tensor and Ray Tracing cores that are designed to work with the Turing architecture and provide high-quality real-time ray tracing to the games that support this feature.
If you’re in any doubt over these abilities, a simple scroll back through this article and the results we’ve already reviewed will demonstrate exactly how much of an upgrade these new RT and Tensor cores are compared to the former rasterization technology that was used.
Nvidia chose not to equip their latest GTX series graphics cards with the same ray tracing technology, despite the fact that some of them do feature Turing architecture, but this was a deliberate decision that was made in an attempt to present them as more affordable alternatives to the high-end RTX range.
That’s not to say that you can’t experience ray tracing at all on these GPUs, as what Nvidia has done is create a downloadable driver that enables ray tracing on GTX cards for games that support it. However, seeing as it’s not designed for this purpose it doesn’t handle the intense demands of real-time ray tracing and shadow rendering as well as the RTX 2070.
The GTX 1080 features the GDDR5X VRAM memory type, which is an improvement on the earlier version, GDDR5, but not quite the same step up as is offered by GDDR6, which is the most energy-efficient memory type currently available.
They both offer an 8 GB capacity of memory storage which is more than suitable for the majority of modern game titles, and this should reduce the risk of any bottlenecking occurring.
The RTX 2070 takes the lead in terms of memory bandwidth as it delivers much higher speeds of 448.00 Gbps compared to the GTX 1080 which is only capable of 320.00 Gbps. This means you can increase the resolution and AA settings further as it is able to access and retrieve stored data faster.
If you’re already the proud owner of the GTX 1080, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend upgrading to the RTX 2070 as while there’s definitely an improvement in the performance quality it provides, it’s not a big enough jump up in quality to justify the cost.
However, if you’re struggling to get the results you want out of an older graphics card, it’s definitely worth bypassing the GTX 1080 and heading straight for the RTX 2070 because this will offer more for your money, as it will deliver better resolution and faster frame rates for smoother and more seamlessly realistic gameplay.
Plus, it’s a better option for future-proofing your PC rig, especially as ray tracing is only at the beginning of its journey, with the expectation of it becoming the next big thing in gaming. It’s also the more affordable of the two options, so even if sticking to a budget is your highest priority, it’s still going to be a good idea to opt for the RTX 2070 in this case.