2021 is a weird time for graphics cards. The latest RTX 30 series is almost impossible to get hold of because of a shortage of silicon, increased global demand because of lockdowns and a boom in crypto-currency mining. It’s almost the perfect storm, and no one is really sure when stock is likely to return to normal levels.
With the RTX 30 series mostly unavailable, it’s likely that those urgently seeking an upgrade might consider the last generation of RTX cards, the 20 series. Released late in 2018, the RTX 20 series of cards introduced Nvidia’s flagship ray-tracing technology
Close to three years later, the cards are certainly showing their age compared to the 30 series, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t a viable option if you’re looking for a quick upgrade. There are a few caveats you’ll want to keep in mind though.
Before choosing your upgrade path, you need to decide which resolution you want to play at. The RTX 2060 and 2070 series cards are designed for 1080p and 1440p gaming, respectively. If you’re more than happy staying at these resolutions for the next few years, then an RTX20 card is more than enough bang for your buck.
Having said this, the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti perform incredibly well at 4k in certain cases. This might not be the case in the future, as the next generation of games will almost certainly push these graphics cards to their limit at 4k. For games released last generation though, the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti can run most games at 4k and above 60fps.
One of the biggest benefits of PC gaming is undoubtedly the ability to run video games at a constant, and often higher frame rate, than consoles. The frames per second (FPS), is a measurement of how many individual frames are shown in any one second of gaming time. The more frames there are in one second, the smoother the image and animations will appear. To truly take advantage of higher frame rates, you’ll need a high-refresh rate monitor.
Performance across the 20 series of cards will vary, but the entire series performs well. For example, here’s the typical performance you can expect from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt at max settings (Based on UserBenchmark).
RTX 2060 - 92.5 fps
RTX 2060 Super - 106 fps
RTX 2070 - 99.7 fps
RTX 2070s Super - 110 fps
RTX 2080 - 117 fps
RTX2080s Super - 115 fps
RTX 2080ti - 128 fps
The Witcher 3 is a reasonably old game, but it does take a lot to run it at higher frame rates on ultra visual settings. Even the weakest card in the lineup, the 2060, can run a number of games at well above 60fps.
Both the RTX 20 and 30 series of cards are home to some unique features, most impressive of which is the Deep-Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) technology. DLSS allows games to run at much smaller internal resolutions, while outputting at 4k. This results in a high-resolution image that runs without the performance cost of native 4k.
At the time of writing, the DLSS technology is exclusive to the RTX cards and a number of games including Cyberpunk 2077, Death Stranding and Control have incorporated DLSS as a graphical option. DLSS will be especially crucial on the RTX 20 over the next few years, as a new generation of games and consoles push visual fidelity to an even greater level.
The other headlining feature is ray-tracing, a new method of rendering ultra-realistic lighting in video games. This feature launched with the 20 series of cards, but unfortunately, the RTX 2060 and 2070 struggle with the demanding rendering technique. Fortunately, DLSS makes ray-tracing more viable on the weaker RTX cards, and it’s something that will only improve alongside DLSS.
This is where things get interesting, as the global shortage of silicon and the demand for graphics cards has increased the cost of RTX 20 and 30 series cards. At launch the RTX 2060 - which is the cheapest RTX card - cost around £300. That same card currently goes for around £400 - £600 on Ebay.
It’s not much better heading further into the line of cards, with the 2080ti going for around £800 and above, which is around what it cost at launch.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, as it would appear there are some people not looking to cash in on the shortage. With a bit of browsing, we found 2080 Ti cards well below the £800 mark. There were also RTX 2060 cards available below the original launch price of £300.
Despite their age, the RTX 20 series of cards are still a worthy purchase. With exclusive features like DLSS and ray-tracing, the cards are primed to perform well in the upcoming generation of games. It’s true that the 30 series of cards build on the performance and technology introduced by the 20 series, but at the current moment in time it is likely far easier to purchase the former over the latter.
If you can find a RTX 20 series card for the right price, and you are satisfied with playing games at 1080p or 1440p, then we would definitely recommend picking one up.
If you are however looking to upgrade to a 4k monitor, it might make sense to wait just that little bit longer for one of the RTX 30 series cards.
Read More: How does NVIDIA GeForce Now work?