From 40nm Fermi to 16nm Pascal
With the venerable GeForce GTX 980 having celebrated its third birthday already, in the world of GPUs that puts it squarely over the hill. To further confirm that notion, its successor, the GeForce GTX 1080 is over a year old already and offers 60% more performance. The performance bump in this last generation was very significant and that is why the Pascal-based GTX 1080 remains the GPU to beat unless money is burning a hole in your pocket.
Whether you are looking to upgrade from an older GPU or simply appreciate the statistical significance of the data presented, this article should give you a clear perspective of graphics cards performance spanning several years. This feature was a follow up to the 'Then and Now' article we published shortly after the GTX 980's release. We gathered then that in 5 years we had seen close to a 3x bump in graphics horsepower.
But with the release of the Pascal based graphics cards and the GTX 1080 which was the architecture's flagship board, the time has come to revisit history and see how six generations of Nvidia GeForce graphics cards compare.
The table below shows the eight GPUs that comprise our test. The list includes four major Nvidia architectures released between March 2010 and June 2016: Fermi (GTX 480 and GTX 580), Kepler (GTX 680 and GTX 780), Maxwell (GTX 980 and 980 Ti) and Pascal (GTX 1080).
|GeForce||GTX 480||GTX 580||GTX 680||GTX 780||GTX 780 Ti||GTX 980||GTX 980 Ti||GTX 1080|
|Die size (mm2)||529||520||294||561||561||398||601||314|
|Bus width (bit)||384||384||256||384||384||256||384||256|
|Price at release||$500||$500||$500||$650||$700||$550||$650||$600|
Note: This feature was originally published on 06/20/2016. We have revised it and bumped it because it's as relevant today as it was before. Part of our #ThrowbackThursday initiative.
The GTX 480, GTX 580 and GTX 680 were clearly the single-GPU flagships for their series, while the GTX 780 was truly an extension of the GTX 600 range and when it landed it was second only to the GTX Titan -- this card is excluded from this write-up because at $1,000, it was in a different class and hardly made sense to the average gamer for the price.
Six months after the GTX 780 shipped we got an even faster 700 series GPU, the GTX 780 Ti. This was followed almost a year later by the GTX 980, and again this major release was eventually accompanied by the faster 980 Ti variant along with the flagship Titan X.
It is worth pointing out that the GTX 1080 was only the beginning for the Pascal architecture. A faster, more polished variant in the form of the GTX 1080 Ti saw the light in March 2017, as reviewed here. Other releases in the GeForce Pascal family include the GT 1030, GTX 1050, 1050 Ti, 1060, 1060 3GB, GTX 1070 and the overkill Titan XP.
However as we've done in the past, to streamline testing we are sticking to flagship cards for their respective series and testing in DirectX 11 titles only, as supported by all GeForce series, old and new, so we can accurately compare them. Without further ado, let the benchmarks begin...
Test System Specs
Benchmarks: Crysis 3, BioShock, Tomb Raider
First up we have Crysis 3 and like most of the games featured in this article this title is getting on a bit now at 3 years old. Even so, at 2560x1600 it still presents a challenge and with anti-aliasing disabled the GeForce GTX 1080 averaged just 68fps, though that made it 42% faster than the 980 Ti.
It is crazy to look back and see GPUs such as the GTX 480 averaging just 16fps at the same resolution, making the 1080 over four times faster. What’s more, the GTX 480 averaged 42fps at the lowly 1366x768 resolution. Do note the GTX 480 was released 3 years before Crysis 3, but the results are nonetheless surprising.
BioShock Infinite isn’t nearly as demanding as Crysis 3 and for that reason the GTX 1080 is able to average well over 100fps at 2560x1600, as did the 980 Ti. This time the GTX 1080 was only 23% faster than the GTX 980 Ti and 57% faster than the GTX 980. The GTX 1080 also remained over 4x faster than the old GTX 480.
When testing with the popular Tomb Raider reboot the GTX 1080 averaged 122fps at 2560x1600, making it quite a bit faster than the GTX 980 Ti. Just as interesting is the fact that at this resolution the GTX 1080 was 6x faster than the GTX 480 and almost 5x faster at 1366x768.