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NVIDIA RTX 3080 review: A huge leap for 4K gaming with raytracing

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NVIDIA RTX 3080 review: A huge leap for 4K gaming with raytracing

The 3080 Founders Edition card we reviewed isn’t much bigger than the 2080 Ti. It has a sleek, almost office-professional aesthetic that’s a nice contrast to the gaudy third-party cards we’ll inevitably see. The cooling is also dramatically different: NVIDIA made the PCB more dense to fit a fan that blows air directly through the card, while another ejects warm air from the rear. There’s also a new compact 12-pin power connector that opens up more room on the PCB (and yes there’s a dongle in the box for two 8-pin cables). 

Under the hood, the RTX 3080 is powered by 8,704 CUDA Cores, 68 RT ray tracing cores and 272 tensor AI cores. It has more than twice as many CUDA cores as the RTX 2080 Ti, and while its RT count is the same, the new architecture is around twice as fast. 

Surprisingly, its tensor core count is dramatically lower than the 2080 Ti, just 272 compared to 544. But again, NVIDIA claims this new generation of tensor AI cores is significantly faster than before. And if all that isn’t enough, NVIDIA also stuffed in 10GB of GDDR6X RAM, a new type of memory that’s making its debut in the RTX 3000 GPUs. 

All games tested in 4K/HDR with the highest graphics quality settings and ray tracing (where available), on a rig powered by an Intel Core i7-8700K and 32GB of RAM.

All of that hardware is in the service of one thing: Making the RTX 3080 the fastest GPU we’ve ever tested (that is, until we get our hands on the 3090). It reached 82FPS in the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark, while running in 4K with maxed out graphics settings and “ultra” RTX shadows. In comparison, the 2080 Ti hit only 52 FPS. It clocked in around 2,500 more points in the 3DMark Port Royale ray tracing test, as well as 1,400 more points in the TimeSpy Extreme 4K benchmark. The big takeaway: this GPU isn’t just a modest improvement over NVIDIA’s last card, it’s a huge leap forward.

The 3080 also made Control playable in 4K with all of the graphics and ray tracing settings dialed up. It sat comfortably between 53 and 60FPS. I had to turn on DLSS to reach those speeds, though. That’s NVIDIA’s technology for upscaling low-res textures with its AI cores. The 2080 Ti, topped out at around 40FPS. Running Control natively in 4K on the 3080, without DLSS’s help, I hit a middling 32FPS. Clearly, ray tracing can still crush this hardware, which is why NVIDIA is investing so much in other ways of delivering high-res gameplay.

If you’re lucky enough to have a high-refresh rate 4K monitor or TV, the 3080 will also help you get the most out of that. I was able to play Wolfenstein: Youngblood in 4K with DLSS and ray tracing settings turned on at around 119 FPS. The 2080 Ti, meanwhile, could only hit around 70 FPS. I’ve argued for a while that framerates matter more than rendering resolution — the 3080 will finally let you have both.

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Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

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Elgato’s new Ring Light can be controlled from a Stream Deck

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Elgato’s new Ring Light can be controlled from a Stream Deck

When it comes to streaming, a well lit room can often make the difference when engaging with a community. Elgato has been developing its livestream lighting range for a while now, and its newest lighting product — the Ring Light — has been designed to put all the focus on streamers while also integrating seamlessly with the rest of company’s streaming kit. As well as controlling the light from the app (or with Siri), pre-sets can also be added to Elgato’s Stream Decks, making lighting changes as easy as hitting a button.

Much like the Key Light, the new Ring Light has premium, edge-lit LEDs with a color range of 2900 – 7000K. A separate ball-head mount offers plenty of options for positioning, and it’s multi-mount compatible. Elgato products have reputation for selling out fast, but the Ring Light is currently available for $200 at Best Buy.

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Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

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Jabra announces noise-canceling Elite 85t earbuds, ANC firmware update for 75t

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Jabra announces noise-canceling Elite 85t earbuds, ANC firmware update for 75t

Less than a year after launching the Elite 75t true wireless earbuds, Jabra is already announcing its next pair — and the company’s first earbuds to ship with active noise cancellation. The $229 Elite Active 85t look pretty much identical to their predecessors but feature a few tweaks for improved comfort. And the ear tips are more oval-shaped than before, which the company says makes for a better seal.

Jabra has built a dedicated ANC chip into the 85t earbuds, and you can choose your preferred amount of noise cancellation between five different levels using sliders in the companion smartphone app. (HearThrough, or the amount of outside noise that gets piped in, is also adjustable in the same way.) The Elite 85t have a six-microphone array for voice calls — four mics are used for the noise canceling feature — and 12-millimeter drivers “for big sound and powerful bass.” Jabra says the “semi-open design” allows for natural audio passthrough when you want it.

Image: Jabra

Going semi-open isn’t a small change for Jabra; the 75t and 65t were both a closed design, but now the company is trying to avoid the “earplug effect” that some people find uncomfortable. Battery life is rated at up to 5.5 hours of continuous listening with ANC on, which extends to 25 hours with the case (and 31 hours with the case if ANC is off). The Elite 85t earbuds support wireless charging and are rated IPX4 for water and sweat resistance. Preorders start next month, and they’ll ship sometime in November. A titanium / black color will be available at launch, with other colors following in January 2021.

But here’s a pleasant surprise: Jabra also plans to bring noise cancellation to existing Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t earbuds through a firmware update in October. This is possible because of the company’s engineering work with Qualcomm. Jabra describes the ANC that the 75t will get as a “standard” version meant to reduce and eliminate low-frequency noises around you; the 85t will apparently do a more comprehensive job since those buds include the dedicated chip for noise cancellation.

Still, getting a feature like this after the fact is pretty nice. Jabra says if you buy the Elite 75t or Elite Active 75t in October, they’ll be shipping with the ANC update by that point. But existing owners can install the over-the-air firmware update to add noise cancellation. Battery life does take a hit if you enable it, dropping from 7.5 hours of straight listening to 5.5 hours with ANC switched on.

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Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

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Fitbit Sense review: Basic smartwatch, robust health tracker

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Fitbit Sense review: Basic smartwatch, robust health tracker

Blood oxygen is a nice metric to keep an eye on, but it’s only really useful in detecting anomalies that could signal other underlying health issues. Since I didn’t have an irregularity during my review window, I can’t vouch for the long-term performance, but knowing it’s there offers some peace of mind. 

Compared to Apple and Samsung, which track your SpO2 when you launch the tool, Fitbit will only monitor your blood oxygen levels when you’re asleep. A company spokesperson said this is because the Sense takes five minutes to measure your SpO2, and no one wants to sit still that long. Plus, the company said nighttime is when your body is most likely to show variations from your baseline levels, and that your blood oxygen doesn’t tend to change much during the day.

Fitbit adopts a similar philosophy with the new skin temperature tracking. You’ll need to have worn the Sense to bed for three nights before the watch can deliver reports on your baseline temperature as well as variations. If you want to continue to track your skin temperature after getting the baseline reading, you’ll have to keep wearing the Sense to bed, which could be annoying for some people (myself included). 

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

If you do, though, the Sense has the potential to help catch when you have a fever, as well as detect the start of a menstrual cycle. After my third night, Fitbit reported no overall changes, which isn’t surprising since it’s the first result. (You’ll need the three evenings of data before it delivers the first report.) While it doesn’t give you a reading of your actual skin temperature, the Sense can tell you how it fluctuated as you slept, and it was interesting to see how I grew warmer as I fell deeper into sleep, then cooler again. Though this data isn’t immediately useful, I could see it alerting me to the onset of fever or an illness.

Heart rate, workouts and sleep tracking

Thankfully, you don’t have to be asleep for the Sense to monitor your heart rate. It constantly keeps an eye on your pulse to warn you of any irregularities, similar to other Fitbit products, and the Apple Watch, too. The device makes use of Fitbit’s new heart rate sensor and algorithm to see if your pulse is too high or low, based on your age and resting heart rate. Again, my heart rate hasn’t fallen outside what Fitbit determined to be my normal range, but this could help someone detect potentially fatal conditions. 

The constant heart-rate monitoring also helps Fitbit better understand what sleep zones you’re in, making it a more insightful bedtime tracker than Apple’s devices with watchOS 7. The latter only tells you how long you were asleep based on your movement, while Fitbit will use your pulse to figure out if you’re in REM or deep sleep, for example. The Galaxy Watch 3 also does this and I’ve found it to offer similar data to the Sense, though Fitbit’s watch is slightly more comfortable to wear to bed.

Fitbit Sense review

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Apart from keeping tabs on your health, the Sense can also help with your workouts. Its built-in GPS accurately measures your runs, walks, hikes or bike rides without your phone, and reports your distance and pace after you’re done. It took about 40 seconds for the Sense to lock onto a signal before my first run, but just 10 seconds when I tried again the next day in an area farther away from scaffolding and skyscrapers. That’s not terrible; in fact, it’s similar to the Galaxy Watch 3. Even so, the Sense lags the Apple Watch Series 5, which barely pauses to connect to GPS. (I was not able to test the Series 6 before this review was published, but as far as we know the GPS sensor on the Apple Watch hasn’t been updated.)

Like other Fitbit watches, the Sense can track a wide variety of activities, like yoga, circuit training, golf, martial arts and tennis. It’ll add up the amount of time you spent in heart-rate zones like fat burning, cardio or peak, then assign you points based on your age and resting pulse rate. These Active Zone Minutes were introduced with the Charge 4 tracker this year, and according to World Health Organization and American Heart Association guidelines, most people should strive to get 150 points a week. 

Fitbit will also evaluate your cardio fitness, which is an estimate of your maximum oxygen uptake during intense exercise or VO2Max, and give you a score. While these numbers are mostly useful to athletes, they still provide reassurance that you’re not abnormal. 

Fitbit Sense review

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Fitbit Premium and other smartwatch features

It’s nice that the Sense is able to track so many different health metrics, but if you want to see more information or track your performance over time, you’ll have to spring for Fitbit Premium. It costs $9.99 a month and brings features like seven-day and 30-day trends for heart rate variability, SpO2, breathing rate, skin temperature changes and other metrics. Premium also unlocks the detailed breakdown into what affected your stress score and deeper details into your temperature changes throughout the night, as well as additional workout content and guided meditations. 

I’m not a fan of requiring someone who bought your product to pay more each month to access their data, but at least the information Fitbit provides for free is meaningful. I also wish I didn’t have to keep wearing the Sense to bed to get continued reports on my breathing rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature and oxygen saturation. 

Most other things about the Sense are typical of a Fitbit smartwatch: You get notifications from your phone when it’s nearby, and you can dictate replies to messages (if you’re using an Android device). You can also control your smart home gadgets with Alexa on your wrist, or play your favorite Spotify playlists and log your calorie or water intake, to name a few examples. I prefer Samsung’s Tizen OS for many of these features, as it generally offers more options, but Fitbit’s OS should be adequate for most people. 

Performance and battery life

Fitbit doesn’t share information about the processors in its smartwatches, but whatever they used in the Sense could use an upgrade. The watch takes what feels like forever to launch apps like Today or Spotify. What’s more, the Sense crashed a few times during my first few hours with it. After I learned to be very deliberate with the device, I’ve grown accustomed to the delay, but in general Samsung and Apple watches are faster.

The Sense does beat its main competition on battery life, though — it lasted about two and a half days before hitting 25 percent and warning me (through a phone alert and an email) that it was low on juice. That’s with the always-on display enabled, two nights of sleep tracking plus three brief workouts and one 40-minute yoga session. I expect GPS will also drain the battery, while disabling the always-on display should get you some hours back. That’s better than the Apple Watch Series 6 (based on our experience with the Series 5, since Apple gives similar estimates for both) and the Galaxy Watch 3, which might get you into a second day with always-on screens enabled. But generally they give up after one and a half.

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Devon is a fitness enthusiast who loves playing Golf in his free time. He keeps in touch with the Golf events happening all around the world and jots down fine news pieces for the website.

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