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Wait for AMD to make its Big Navi move before you buy the Nvidia RTX 3080

Cyberpunk 2077
(Image credit: Nvidia)

Earlier this week, Nvidia unveiled its Ampere GeForce cards, led by the RTX 3080 and accompanied by the Titan replacement RTX 3090 and the RTX 3070. All three of these graphics cards are bringing major generational improvements over the 2018 Turing lineup, without another price increase like we saw last time around. 

And, while it's definitely exciting seeing the promise of such improved performance, it's important to note that Nvidia isn't the only company that's going to be releasing new graphics cards this fall – AMD Big Navi is coming soon, too. 

Beyond claims made on behalf of the PS5 and Xbox Series X – that those consoles will be capable of 4K 60 fps gameplay with ray tracing – we don't really know what RDNA will be capable of, or where exactly it will be competing within this new Nvidia lineup – but you should still wait to see the hand AMD has to play before you jump in. 

(Image credit: Future)

AMD RDNA 2 could also slap

The GPUs in the PS5 and Xbox Series X are super impressive. 

For a console. 

It is kind of ludicrous to believe that the GPUs being included in the consoles are not going to be cut down versions of whatever ends up in actual AMD graphics cards, in order to fit the cooling and power requirements that a console has. Think about it – there's no way that Microsoft and Sony are going to be stuffing a 750W+ power supply in a console, so we're going to get a way less powerful GPU. 

The actual graphics cards that come out of RDNA 2 will likely be way more powerful than what ends up going into the gaming consoles. AMD has already said that it's going to be competing with Nvidia at the high end – maybe not as high end as the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 – so it's very possible that whatever top-end graphics card AMD launches will actually put some pressure on Nvidia. 

If AMD can launch a graphics cards that tackles the the RTX 3080 at 4K, or even outperforms it at the same price, anyone who buys an RTX 3080 might feel a little burned. 

It's also important to note that AMD didn't knock Intel out in the CPU race right away, either. The first generation of Ryzen was impressive, but didn't really threaten Intel too much – similar to the launch of the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT in July 2019. 

However, if AMD takes the same approach with RDNA that it did with Zen, this generation we could see AMD really start to hit Nvidia hard – though it does remain to be seen. Nvidia isn't Intel, after all, and it looks like Ampere is the biggest jump in GPU performance in years, something that can't really be said about, say, Coffee Lake

(Image credit: Nvidia)

Only three Nvidia cards to start

At its GeForce Special Event, Nvidia only had three cards to show, and while it's likely that those will be the only Nvidia cards we get this year, the gaps in performance and price between the three are pretty huge. Nvidia is claiming that the GeForce RTX 3070 is slightly faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, whereas the RTX 3080 is apparently nearly twice as fast as the RTX 2080 – that's a huge gap in performance, and is clearly open for Nvidia to slide in another graphics card. 

Now, for the sake of argument let's say that AMD launches a card that comes close to beating the RTX 3080 at the same price point. We already saw a Lenovo leak a little while back that showed an RTX 3070 Ti with 16GB of VRAM that was conspicuously absent from Nvidia's showcase. 

It's important to keep in mind that graphics card lineups never all come out at the same time. While the RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 all got announced and launched at the same time at Gamescom 2018, we didn't see the RTX 2060 until CES 2019, which was then followed up by the GTX 1660 Ti, GTX 1660 and GTX 1650. And then, we got yet another refresh in middle of 2019 with the Super cards. 

With its RTX 30 series, Nvidia likely has a whole cavalcade of graphics cards, that it can likely launch whenever

If AMD undercuts one of the RTX 30 series cards without absolutely dominating it, Nvidia can easily launch a new GPU that can just steal AMD's thunder. So, especially if you have your eyes on the RTX 3070 – and you definitely should – it's super prudent to wait for AMD to show its hand. If Nvidia is going to react to any of AMD's launches, this is the card that will be most significantly impacted. 

(Image credit: Nvidia)

Patience will pay off

Even if you're a die-hard Nvidia loyalist, waiting a few months before adopting a new generation of graphics card is just a good idea. Over the course of the first few months of this generation of graphics cards, both AMD and Nvidia will have a bunch of kinks to work out through driver and firmware updates. 

It's not like your graphics card is going to explode or anything before the drivers mature, but you might get degraded performance and game crashes out of nowhere – on top of some possible visual glitches. 

But beyond that, we're about to enter into one of the most competitive graphics card battles in years, and until AMD shows its hand, we can't really proclaim Nvidia as the victor yet. 

And even if Nvidia does win, grabbing a graphics card a few months down the line when availability stabilizes after the early adoption rush and drivers have a chance to mature is just a good idea – mashing F5 on Newegg or Nvidia's store page is never fun, and with the reception Nvidia's announcement had, you can bet that these graphics cards are going to sell out fast. 

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