When it comes to PC graphics cards, Nvidia's varied selection of powerful GPUs is unmatched. From the wickedly powerful, 4K graphics-pumping GeForce GTX 1080 Ti to the entry-level GTX 1050 – and everything in between – Nvidia remains the gold standard.
However, gamers are constantly demanding new levels of graphical fidelity and tech companies and researchers both require greater GPU computation and AI abilities, so that standard continues to grow and grow. And that’s why Nvidia is slaving away developing its new generation of GPU architecture: Nvidia Volta.
After releasing two professional-level Volta cards back in 2017, we’ve already gotten a taste of what Volta is capable of – but because they focus on learning applications, they’re currently prohibitively expensive, so they’re not great for gaming. Still, everyone is eager to take a look at the new GeForce GTX cards, given the massive leap in performance we’re expecting to see. However, we have our money on Nvidia’s new Turing architecture being behind the GeForce GTX 11 series.
Either way, you shouldn’t expect to see Volta-powered GTX cards any time soon, as Nvidia might be biding its time due to pricing and VRAM shortages.
Eager for an upgrade? Here's everything that we've heard so far.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Nvidia's next-gen, 12nm GPU line
- When is it out? The Tesla V100 and Titan V are out now, but GeForce cards are TBD
- What will it cost? TBD
Nvidia Volta release date
As mentioned, Nvidia's Volta architecture is already on the market, albeit not in any form that you're likely to slide into your gaming PC. The Tesla V100 was first out the gate in May 2017, as a professional-level GPU built to empower artificial intelligence applications and help run data centers. It's not a consumer-level device by any stretch of the imagination.
On the other hand, the Nvidia Titan V – released in December 2017 – is considered a consumer device, but you might scoff at the $2,999 (about £2149, AU$3800) price point. The Titan V is targeted towards researchers and other high-performance computing needs rather than making PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds look pretty.
But if you are looking for a new graphics card, will you be able to buy a fresh, top-of-the-line GeForce GTX 1180 soon? Honestly, we're not sure. The GTX 10-series line was announced back in May 2016 and began rolling out that month, so we're nearing the two-year mark since Nvidia's Pascal-powered cards first released. But they're still selling like crazy, especially with the current cryptocurrency craze leading to gouged prices and scarce availability.
Furthermore, Nvidia head Jensen Huang suggested last August that it's still too costly to produce consumer-level gaming graphics cards at reasonable prices. Given that we didn't see any GeForce announcements at CES 2018 in January, and since the Titan V just recently rolled out at that eye-popping price, it seems entirely possible that Nvidia isn't going to rush out Volta-powered gaming GPUs anytime soon.
We expect to see them in 2018, but our original expectation of a spring debut doesn't seem terribly firm, and there aren't enough solid rumors or leaks to point to at this time.
Rather the latest reports suggests that Nvidia will announced Ampere as the high-performance computing successor to Volta at the GPU Technology Conference.
Nvidia Volta price
Without a roadmap for releases, we can't say for sure what to expect from pricing for Volta-powered GeForce GTX graphics cards. The Titan V's pumped-up pricing shouldn't scare you, as the card was never intended for gamers. On the other hand, if Volta-powered GPUs were still too pricey to produce for graphics cards a few months ago, how long will it take until they hit a point where Nvidia deems them worth selling?
Until then, we can look back at the base price points for the current 10-series line, although you might find much higher prices due to the cryptocurrency boom.
- Nvidia Titan Xp - $1,200 (£1,099, AU$1,950)
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti - $699 (£679, AU$1099)
- Nvidia TX 1070 Ti - $449 (£419, AU$759)
- Nvdia GTX 1080 - $599 (£600, AU$925)
- Nvidia GTX 1070 - $379 (£379, AU$699)
- Nvidia GTX 1060 - $199 (£279, AU$429)
We'll have to wait and see whether Nvidia releases a similar range of Volta-based cards, as well as whether they'll see any significant price increase from the 10-series starting points.
Given that the prices of Nvidia Pascal graphics cards came at a slightly higher premium – coinciding with the increased performance – over the Maxwell cards they replaced, we can imagine that these 11-series parts could be more expensive.
Nvidia Volta specs
Volta introduces a new 12-nanometer manufacturing process, which marks a significant step up from the 16nm process seen with the Pascal GPUs.
What exactly does that mean?
Well, it means that Nvidia's manufacturing partner TSMC can jam a whole lot more transistors into a comparable amount of space, thus yielding a massive surge in computing ability. You'll get better performance, not to mention significant power savings.
The Titan V packs in 21.1 billion transistors, which collectively provide a stunning 110 teraflops of computing power. New tensor cores are designed to speed up deep learning ability, with nine times more peak computing teraflops over the previous Titan Xp card. And it's twice as energy-efficient too.
Additionally, the Titan V has six graphics processing clusters with 5,120 CUDA cores (up from 3,840 in the Titan Xp) and 320 texture units, and a base clock of 1200MHz that can boost up to 1455MHz. With 12GB HBM2 memory onboard, the Titan V boasts a memory bandwidth of 652.8GB/sec.
The last bit on the specs side is surprising from Nvidia, whom just the last year championed the enhanced speed of GDDR5X memory on its high-end GPUs.
The Nvidia Titan V is the first mainline card to feature high-bandwidth memory outside of the company’s Quadro and Tesla parts. Whether this means HBM2 will be a mainstay of Volta remains to be seen.
All told, it's a potentially enormous upgrade over the last generation of Nvidia cards.
But let's step back for a moment, because all we can do right now is compare a $2,999 graphics card to the $1,200 card that came before it—and neither of those figures gives us a whole lot of insight into what we'll actually see from the cheaper GeForce cards that ultimately come our way. We'll likely get scaled-down versions of the Nvidia Titan V at lower prices, so they may not hit the same kinds of peaks as their progenitor is capable of.
Even so, however, the promise of dramatically increased performance on the top end suggests that we'll see similar kinds of improvements at the more approachable price points. And if so, then the GTX 11-series really should provide dramatic boosts in graphical output. On the high end, we should get 4K gaming nearer to the sweet spot of 60 frames per second, while cheaper versions should be more capable of smooth VR performance and strongly support resolutions in excess of 1080p.
Until Nvidia releases a roadmap for its GeForce GTX offerings and hints at what form those cards will take, we're still spit-balling for now.
But based on these initial pro-level renditions, Volta seems capable of so much more than the previous Pascal-powered GPUs – and even if those are plenty powerful today, Volta appears poised to elevate PC gaming to previously unseen levels. We'll keep you updated as further details or leaks emerge.