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This Nvidia leak would change the game again

Nvidia's next generation of graphics cards, the RTX 30 series, has arrived, bringing strong performance and top-quality visuals at competitive prices. However, a leak revealed on Twitter by reputable insider @kopite7kimi hints at the existence of an enhanced RTX 3080 Ti that could deliver performance results almost on par with its big brother, the RTX 3090.

The RTX 30 series rolled out in fall 2020, beginning with the RTX 3080 on September 17. That card was followed by the RTX 3090 on September 24, and, finally, the RTX 3070 on October 29. The release of this new family of cards was vital because it represented a change in Nvidia's approach to bringing high-performance graphics units to gamers at more affordable prices.

While Nvidia has long taken a performance-first approach with its technology, allowing its pricing to reflect its bleeding-edge tech, the RTX 30 series is more competitively priced. The RTX 3070, for example, costs $499 and delivers performance on par with the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, which costs $1,199. The RTX 3080, billed by Nvidia as the new line's flagship unit, costs $699. Finally, for those who have the money to spend on the smoothest graphics possible, the RTX 3090 is priced much higher, at $1,499.

However, kopite7kimi's leak revealed specifications for the long-rumored RTX 3080 Ti model that show a 10,496 CUDA core count, the same featured in the more expensive RTX 3090. The specs also show that the RTX 3080 Ti will have 20 GB of fast GDDR6X memory, twice the amount available on the standard RTX 3080 and only 4 GB fewer than the RTX 3090.

Of course, the RTX 3090 and the rumored RTX 3080 Ti will have to have some differences in performance levels to make up for whatever their price disparity ends up being. Most likely, this will manifest itself in lower clock speeds on the RTX 3080 Ti resulting from dependence on the same 19 Gbps memory speed that the RTX 3080 uses. This will cap out at the same 760 GB-per-second memory bandwidth that the standard RTX 3080 produces.

Another difference highlighted in kopite7kimi's tweet is the lack of NVLink support to hook two cards together for smoother gameplay and better thermal performance, meaning the RTX 3090 will remain the only card with this technology. Also, the RTX 3080 Ti will reportedly retain the standard card's 320-watt power supply, putting it behind the capabilities of the 350-watt RTX 3090.

As the RTX 30 line represents a new approach in pricing for Nvidia, perhaps the biggest question about the new RTX 3080 Ti is how much more it will cost than the standard model. Doubling the amount of GDDR6X adds a lot of value to the card but will drive the price of production up. Adding another $200 to the price tag, bringing the RTX 3080 Ti to $999, is a fair guess, according to TechRadar, as that would place it well below the RTX 3090 and within range of its biggest competitors.

Of course, all of this speculation is coming in the shadow of AMD's newly announced line of video cards. Nvidia will likely want to balance its pricing against the competition, the most expensive of which is the AMD 6900 XT, priced at $1,000. AMD demonstrated that its new RX 6000 series cards could be competitive with the RTX 30 series, often at lower price points, due to massive performance increases that resulted from its new RDNA 2 technology, the same found in the PlayStation 5.

Nvidia also faces some challenges outside of matching up with its biggest competitor. Internally, the company has encountered problems with partner Samsung in providing a large enough supply for RTX 30 series cards already in production. Keeping up with that supply for an entirely new line of graphics cards could stress that supply line even further.

Externally, the high demand for new graphics cards combined with a shortage of GPU chips has led industry analysts to predict that the entire stock of cards has a chance to sell out as soon as it becomes available. The difficulty of meeting consumer demand and the expected announcement of even more variations may mean it will be a while before a clear winner emerges in the newest graphics cards war. Few will be able to get their hands on the cards before 2021

While the graphics cards may be difficult to find in the near future, gamers have other ways of playing games at high-end graphics levels. Nvidia also offers a new streaming service, GeForce Now, as an alternative to cloud gaming options like Google Stadia.