NVIDIA‘s latest GPU reveal isn’t the monster GeForce RTX 3090 Ti, or even the compact and affordable RTX 3050. No, the green team this week silently launched the GeForce RTX 3080 12GB, a new spec-tweaked upgrade to the 30-series stalwart RTX 3080 10GB that’s based on the same silicon but is optimised for more demanding workloads.
Santa Clara’s best seem almost embarrassed to launch their new GPU. Perhaps they’re concerned by a backlash from gamers currently unable to source a GPU at reasonable prices, particularly as last week’s announcement of the RTX 3090 Ti was seen as deeply tone-deaf in the context of today’s market. An uncharitable interpretation of the launch is that allows NVIDIA to adjust the pricing of the 3080-series upwards and effectively ignore their 2020 MSRPs, but maybe they will continue to produce and sell the original RTX 3080 SKU alongside the 12GB model.
The headline improvement over the status quo is the change to a 12GB GDDR6X frame buffer, a feature that’s sure to have an impact both in 4K gaming and workhorse rendering. Alongside that upgrade is a commensurate improvement to the memory bus width, which is up to 384-bit from 320-bit and matches the 3080 TI and 3090. The memory speed is unchanged from 19Gbps.
That’s not all. The product development team have also boosted the number of active Shader Modules on the GA102 from 68 to 70, pushing the number of active CUDA cores up from 8704 to 8960. RT and Tensor core numbers should also see a slight bump, increasing pixel-pushing performance in most scenarios.
Boost clocks remain high at 1.71 GHz, but the Base frequency is down a little to 1.26 GHz (from 1.44 GHz). Reference Total Graphics Power ratings are increased to 350W from 320W as you might expect.
A whole raft of partner RTX 3080 12GB designs from the likes of MSI and INNO3D have been announced as part of this launch, featuring upgraded proprietary cooling solutions and clock speed bumps over reference levels. Certain models will also require up to three 8-pin PCI-Express power connectors (the reference calls for two), so it comes as no surprise that many of them surpass the 350W TGP.
Performance for NVIDIA’s new card should still be well short of the RTX 3080 Ti, and pricing will be well above that of the RTX 3080 10GB’s. Early indications peg it above that of the RTX 3090’s original MSRP ($999), with some models easily surpassing the $1300 price point. That’s a far cry from the RTX 3080 10GB’s original $699 MSRP. Like the 3080 10GB, they’re also liable to be as rare as hens teeth at actual retailers.
Alongside the launch is a brand new graphics driver specifically for the card. The GeForce Game Ready 511.17 WHQL driver lists only the RTX 3080 12GB as a supported card, and is optimised for the card’s launch on 64-bit versions of Windows 10 and 11. Lack of listed support for other SKUs means that you should probably only install this driver if you own one of the new cards.
The RTX 3080 12GB will likely be integrated into the main driver stack with the release of the next GeForce Game Ready Driver later this month.
Driver Release Notes
GeForce Game Ready Driver
Game Ready Drivers provide the best possible gaming experience for all major new releases. Prior to a new title launching, our driver team is working up until the last minute to ensure every performance tweak and bug fix is included for the best gameplay on day-1.
Includes support for the 12GB GeForce RTX 3080.
Changes and Fixed Issues in Version 511.17
The following sections list the important changes and the most common issues resolved in this version. This list is only a subset of the total number of changes made in this driver version. The NVIDIA bug number is provided for reference.
Fixed Issues in this Release
[Detroit Become Human]: Random stuttering/freezing occurs in the game. 
Flicker/disappearing text when 12-bit color is used 
[HDR][G-Sync]: Mouse pointer gets stuck after turning on HDR from the Windows Control Panel or after toggling G-Sync from the NVIDIA control panel. 
– To work around, click the mouse (right or left button). The mouse cursor will be sluggish for a few seconds before returning to normal operation.