NVIDIA’s RTX 3000 cards make counting teraflops meaningless

by | Oct 26, 2020 | Cards | 1 comment

The most popular GPU among Steam users today, NVIDIA’s venerable GTX 1060, can performing 4.4 teraflops, the soon-to-be-usurped 2080 Ti can handle around 13.5 and the approaching Xbox Series X can handle12 These numbers are calculated by taking the number of shader cores in a chip, multiplying that by the peak clock speed of the card and after that increasing that by the number of directions per clock. In contrast to lots of figures we see in the PC area, it’s a reasonable and transparent calculation, but that doesn’t make it an excellent measure of gaming performance.

Almost every GPU family shows up with these generational gains

AMD’s RX 580, a 6.17- teraflop GPU from 2017, for instance, performs likewise to the RX 5500, a budget 5.2-teraflop card the business introduced in 2015. This sort of “concealed” enhancement can be attributed to lots of aspects, from architectural changes to video game developers using new features, but almost every GPU household arrives with these generational gains. That’s why the Xbox Series X, for instance, is anticipated to exceed the Xbox One X by more than the “12 versus 6 teraflop” figures recommend. (Ditto for the PS5 and the PS4 Pro.)

The point is that, even within the exact same GPU business, with each year, modifications in the methods chips and video games are created make it more difficult to recognize just what “a teraflop” indicates to video gaming performance. Take an AMD card and an NVIDIA card of any generation and the contrast has even less worth.

All of which brings us to the RTX 3000 series. These arrived with some really stunning specs. The RTX 3070, a $500 card, is listed as having 5,888 cuda (NVIDIA’s name for shader) cores efficient in 20 teraflops. And the new $1,500 flagship card, the RTX 3090? 10,496 cores, for 36 teraflops. For context, the RTX 2080 Ti, as of today the best “customer” graphics card offered, has 4,352 “cuda cores.” NVIDIA, then, has actually increased the number of cores in its flagship by over 140 percent, and its teraflops ability by over 160 percent.

Well, it has, and it hasn’t.

NVIDIA cards are comprised of lots of “streaming multiprocessors,” or SMs. Each of the 2080 Ti’s 68 “Turing” SMs contain, amongst many other things, 64 “FP32” cuda cores devoted to floating-point mathematics and 64 “INT32” cores dedicated to integer math (calculations with whole numbers).

The big development in the Turing SM, aside from the AI and ray-tracing velocity, was the ability to execute integer and floating-point math simultaneously. This was a considerable modification from the previous generation, Pascal, where banks of cores would flip between integer and floating-point on an either-or basis.



The RTX 3000 cards are built on an architecture NVIDIA calls “Ampere,” and its SM, in some ways, takes both the Pascal and the Turing method. Ampere keeps the 64 FP32 cores as previously, but the 64 other cores are now designated as “FP32 and INT32″ Half the Ampere cores are committed to floating-point, however the other half can carry out either floating-point or integer math, simply like in Pascal.

With this switch, NVIDIA is now counting each SM as containing 128 FP32 cores, instead of the 64 that Turing had. The 3070’s “5,888 cuda cores” are maybe better referred to as “2,944 cuda cores, and 2,944 cores that can be cuda.”

As games have actually ended up being more complicated, designers have started to lean more greatly on integers. An NVIDIA slide from the initial 2018 RTX launch suggested that integer mathematics, typically, comprised about a quarter of in-game GPU operations.

The drawback of the Turing SM is the potential for under-utilization. If, for instance, a work is 25- percent integer mathematics, around a quarter of the GPU’s cores might be sitting around with nothing to do. That’s the thinking behind this brand-new semi-unified core structure, and, on paper, it makes a lot of sense: You can still run integer and floating-point operations concurrently, however when those integer cores are dormant, they can run floating-point rather.

[This episode of Upscaled was produced before NVIDIA explained the SM changes.]

At NVIDIA’s RTX 3000 launch, CEO Jensen Huang stated the RTX 3070 was “more powerful than the RTX 2080 Ti.” Utilizing what we now know about Ampere’s style, integer, floating-point, clock speeds and teraflops, we can see how things may work out. Because “25- percent integer” work, 4,416 of those cores might be running FP32 mathematics, with 1,472 handling the needed INT32

Combined with all the other modifications Ampere brings, the 3070 could surpass the 2080 Ti by maybe 10 percent, assuming the game doesn’t mind having 8GB instead of 11 GB memory to work with. In the absolute (and highly unlikely) worst-case scenario, where a work is exceptionally integer-dependent, it might behave more like the2080 On the other hand, if a video game needs extremely little integer math, the increase over the 2080 Ti could be huge.

Uncertainty aside, we do have one point of comparison up until now: a Digital Foundry video comparing the RTX 3080 to the RTX2080 DF saw a 70 to 90 percent lift throughout generations in a number of games that NVIDIA provided for screening, with the performance space greater in titles that make use of RTX functions like ray tracing. That variety offers a glimpse of the sort of variable performance gain we ‘d anticipate offered the brand-new shared cores. It’ll be interesting to see how a bigger suite of video games behaves, as NVIDIA is likely to have actually put its finest foot forward with the sanctioned video game choice. What you won’t see is the nearly-3x enhancement that the jump from the 2080’s teraflop figure to the 3080’s teraflop figure would suggest.

With the first RTX 3000 cards arriving in weeks, you can anticipate evaluations to give you a firm concept of Ampere performance soon. Even now it feels safe to state that Ampere represents a significant leap forward for PC gaming. The $4993070 is most likely to be trading blows with the present flagship, and the $6993080 ought to use more-than sufficient performance for those who may previously have opted for the “Ti.” These cards line up, though, it’s clear that their worth can no longer be represented by a particular figure like teraflops.

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NVIDIA’s RTX 3000 cards make counting teraflops meaningless

The most popular GPU among Steam users today, NVIDIA's venerable GTX 1060, is capable of performing 4.4 teraflops, the soon-to-be-usurped 2080 Ti can handle around 13.5 and the upcoming Xbox Series X can manage 12. These numbers are calculated by taking the number of shader cores in a chip, multiplying that by the peak clock…