The RTX 2080 vs. the GTX 1080 Ti in VR, Revisited

The Turing RTX 2080 versus the Pascal GTX 1080 Ti Benchmarked with FCAT-VR Revisited

This is a follow-up to our November VR evaluation where we saw that the RTX 2080 was slower than the GTX 2080 Ti in VR although it is faster for pancake gaming.  Since NVIDIA promises regular VR driver updates, we want to see how their performance now compares using the latest drivers.  We present a ten-game expanded VR performance comparison measuring frametimes and unconstrained performance using FCAT VR.

Since we posted our original review, we have benchmarked up to 25 VR games for our follow-up reviews over the past two years.  We have even compared FCAT VR with our own video benchmarks using a camera to capture images directly from a HMD lens.  For BTR’s VR testing methodology, please refer to this evaluation.

We currently benchmark ten Oculus Rift VR games with the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition versus the RTX 2080 Founders Edition using Intel’s Core i7-8700K at 4.7 GHz, an EVGA Z370 FTW motherboard and 16 GB of Kingston HyperX DDR4 at 3333 MHz on Windows 10 64-bit Home Edition.  Here are the ten VR games that we benchmark:

  • Batman VR
  • Chronos
  • DiRT: Rally
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Fallout 4
  • Project CARS 2
  • Obduction
  • Robinson: The Journey
  • Skyrim
  • The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Until FCAT VR was released there was no universally acknowledged way to accurately benchmark Oculus Rift games.  To compound the difficulties of benchmarking Rift games, there are additional complexities because of the way it uses a type of frame reprojection called asynchronous space warp (ASW) to keep framerates steady at either 90 FPS or at 45 FPS.  It is important to be aware of VR performance since poorly delivered frames will actually make a VR experience quite unpleasant and the user can even become VR sick.

It is very important to understand how NVIDIA’s VRWorks functions to deliver a premium VR experience, and it is also important to understand how we can accurately benchmark VR as explained here.  Before we benchmark our ten VR games, take a look at our Test Configuration.

Test Configuration – Hardware

  • Intel Core i7-8700K (HyperThreading and Turbo boost is on to 4.7 GHz for all cores; Coffee Lake DX11 CPU graphics).
  • EVGA Z370 FTW motherboard (Intel Z370 chipset, latest BIOS, PCIe 3.0/3.1 specification, CrossFire/SLI 8x+8x), supplied by EVGA
  • HyperX 16GB DDR4 (2×8 GB, dual channel at 3333 MHz), supplied by HyperX
  • RTX 2080 8 GB Founders Edition, stock FE clocks, on loan from NVIDIA
  • GTX 1080 Ti 11 GB Founders Edition, stock FE clocks, on loan from NVIDIA
  • 480 GB Team Group SSD
  • 1.92 TB San Disk enterprise class SSD
  • 2 TB Micron 1100 enterprise class SSD
  • Seasonic 850W Gold Focus power supply unit
  • EVGA CLC 280mm CPU water cooler, supplied by EVGA
  • EVGA Nu Audio stereo PCIe sound card, supplied by EVGA
  • Edifier R1280T active desktop speakers
  • EVGA DG-77, mid-tower case supplied by EVGA
  • Monoprice Crystal Pro 4K
  • Oculus Rift

Test Configuration – Software

  • Nvidia’s Game Ready 419.67 and 416.81 WHQL drivers.  See Control Panel image below.
  • Unconstrained framerate results show average frame rates in bold including dropped and synthetic frames shown on the chart next to the averages in a smaller italics font.
  • Highest quality sound (stereo) used in all games.
  • Windows 10 64-bit Home edition.
  • Latest DirectX
  • All 10 VR games are patched to their latest versions at time of publication.
  • MSI Afterburner latest Beta
  • FCAT-VR Capture v0.9.3202.0 UAC
  • FCAT-VR Beta 17

10 VR Game benchmark suite & 2 synthetic tests

Synthetic

  • VRMark Cyan Room
  • Unigine Superposition VR Benchmark 1080P Extreme

Oculus Rift VR Games

  • Batman VR
  • Chronos
  • DiRT: Rally
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Fallout 4
  • Project CARS 2
  • Obduction
  • Robinson: The Journey
  • Skyrim
  • The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

NVIDIA Control Panel settings:

Here are the NVIDIA Control Panel settings.

We used MSI’s Afterburner to set both cards’ highest Power and Temperature targets.  By setting the Power Limits and Temperature limits to maximum for each card, they do not throttle, but they can each reach and maintain their individual maximum clocks.

Let’s individually look at ten VR games’ performance plus two synthetic benches using FCAT-VR.

Synthetic Benchmarks

We don’t give a lot of credence to synthetic benchmarks as they only are useful for the engines they are designed with and they have little to do with actual performance for any games.  However, here are Unigine’s Superposition VR benchmark and VRMark’s Cyan benchmark results showing last November performance comparing driver 416.81 and today’s results with Game Ready 419.67

According to both benchmarks, the GTX 1080 Ti regressed slightly while the RTX 2080 gained a little performance.  Just as with last year’s results, if we go by these synthetic tests, the RTX 2080 should be significantly faster in VR than the GTX 1080 Ti.  Let’s see if this now holds true for our ten VR test games.  First up, Batman Arkham VR.

Batman Arkham VR

Batman Arkham VR is an unusual game that immerses you into Batman’s world but really doesn’t involve fighting.   It is a short game using the Unreal Engine that has a lot of interactivity with an emphasis on detective work and puzzle solving.   Although it is an older title, it still has great visuals.

Batman Arkham VR has very few adjustable settings so we benchmark at its full resolution and with 100% pixel density

Here are the performance results of our two competing cards compared using the FCAT-VR generated chart.

In November, the unconstrained framerate of the GTX 1080 Ti was 193.3 FPS, and it was faster than the RTX 2080 which managed 183.3 FPS.  Today the unconstrained framerate of the RTX 2080 Ti increased to 201.82 FPS and it is now faster than the GTX 1080 Ti which also increased to 189.40 FPS. Neither card drops any frames or has to resort to generating synthetic frames using ASW in this older VR game.

Chronos

Chronos is a Rift launch title with graphics options that are still good for GPU testing.  It is an very well-made 3rd-person view RPG, and it is also very difficult. It offers at least 15 hours of play with many puzzles to solve as well as requiring the player to be good in combat, especially with defense and attack timing.  Overall Chronos is an excellent VR game.

We picked Epic which is the highest settings for each option.

Here is the FCAT-VR generated chart for Chronos.
Back in November, the GTX 1080 Ti was a little faster with 128.4 unconstrained FPS while the RTX 2080 managed 125.8 FPS.  However, the GTX 1080 Ti dropped 10 frames while the RTX 2080 didn’t drop any.

Today, both cards have regressed very slightly in performance while the GTX 1080 Ti is still slightly faster with 121.3 FPS while the RTX 2080 manages 120.28 FPS.  This time, the GTX 1080 Ti drops 13 frames while the RTX 2080 dropped 1 frame.

Let’s check out DiRT: Rally next.

DiRT: Rally

DiRT: Rally has a built-in benchmark that is very repeatable.  If the framerate drops below 90 FPS, the Test Summary of the built-in benchmark accurately shows the minimum as 45 FPS (with ASW reprojection).  Unfortunately, it does not display unconstrained FPS or frametimes so we use FCAT-VR. DiRT: Rally is a fun and demanding game for either PC gaming or for VR that requires the player to really learn its challenging road conditions.  Best of all, DiRT: Rally has a lot of individual settings that may be customized although we benchmarked using the stock “Ultra” preset.

Here is the DiRT: Rally benchmark as run by our 2 test cards and charted by FCAT-VR.

Back in November, the GTX 1080 Ti edged out its faster pancake gaming competitor with 115.3 unconstrained frames per second while the RTX 2080 managed 111.5 FPS.  The GTX 1080 Ti dropped 24 frames to the 20 frames the RTX 2080 dropped, and neither card generated any synthetic frames.

Today, the both cards’ performance have regressed slightly.  The GTX 1080 Ti manages 111.2 unconstrained frames per second while the RTX 2080 delivers 108.5 FPS.  The GTX 1080 Ti drops 20 frames to the 23 frames the RTX 2080 drops, and neither card generates any synthetic frames.

Elite Dangerous

Elite Dangerous is a space sim with many options, and it is difficult to find a repeatable benchmark outside of the training missions.  This time we cannot compare our November results directly as the training missions have changed

A player will spend a lot of time as the pilot of a space cruiser looking at a skybox of nearly empty space as they explore the universe completing a multitude of tasks.  It is also co-op and multiplayer, and you need to be connected to the Internet to play.  It has been updated often and has a very dedicated following of players.

We picked the default Ultra setting and maxed out our FoV.  Here are the frametimes comparing the GTX 1080 Ti with the RTX 2080.

Back in November, the GTX 1080 Ti edged out the RTX 2080 by a small margin.  Nothing has really changed today as the GTX 1080 Ti delivers 118.4 unconstrained frames per second with 8 dropped frames, while the RTX 2080 delivers 112.7 FPS with 2 dropped frames.  No synthetic frames needed to be generated.

Let’s head to a new game we are adding to this benchmark suite, Fallout 4.

Fallout 4 VR

Fallout 4 is our most demanding title and it is a very impressive game visually.  It has been somewhat optimized for the Oculus Rift and the controls work decently with it, unlike when it was first released.  We benchmark at the highest settings and with TAA.

Here is the frametime plot for Fallout 4 once again comparing the GTX 1080 Ti performance with the RTX 2080.

In Fallout 4, the GTX 1080 Ti delivers 53.7 unconstrained frames per second with 365 dropped frames, while the RTX 2080 delivers 59.3 FPS with 264 dropped frames.  ASW keeps the game looking great requiring the GTX 1080 Ti to generate 17% synthetic frames while 12% synthetic frames needed to be generated by the RTX 2080.  This is a clear win for the newer card.

Next we will check out another demanding VR game, Project CARS 2.

Project CARS 2

One has to experience Project CARS 2 as a player to appreciate it, and there is absolutely no way to convey the incredible sense of immersion that comes from playing it in VR using a wheel and pedals.

Project CARS 2 is a huge game that a player may spend hundreds of hours with, and there is a learning curve as one cannot just jump into a supercar and expect to immediately race successfully.   Project CARS 2 is a sim, and although it can be dumbed-down into an arcade-style racer, it is best played with a racing wheel and pedals.

Project CARS 2 offers many performance options and settings, and we prefer playing with SMAA Ultra which appears to give a bit of temporal anti-aliasing.

Project CARS 2 performance settings

There are no overall default “ultra”, “high”, “medium”, or “low” settings, so we picked the SMAA Ultra pre-set and we used maximum settings – except for Motion Blur which looked best to us on Low.  Other individual setting were moved to their highest settings including Pit Crew Detail to “All” and “Yes” for Enhanced Mirrors.  For VR we set our mirrored desktop resolution to a windowed 1024×720.

Since our chosen settings are demanding, Project CARS 2 makes good use of the Oculus Asynchronous Space Warp (ASW) feature so that a card delivering less than 90 FPS will intelligently reproject every other frame and will still be playable without causing VR sickness.  We would recommend, however, lowering grass and reflections to maximize framerate delivery outside of benchmarking this game.

Here are the results of our FCAT-VR benching.

At our very high settings, neither card can deliver the ideal 90 frames per second to avoid ASW, so there is frame reprojection for both cards.  Back in November, the GTX 1080 Ti edged out the RTX 2080 by a very slight margin – the Ti delivered 79.9 unconstrained frames per second while the RTX 2080 managed 78.6 FPS.  However, the GTX 1080 Ti dropped only 1 frame while the RTX 2080 dropped nine.

This time, the RTX 2080 edges out its competitor with 81.5 unconstrained FPS, 1 dropped frame and 1% synthetic frames generated, while the GTX 1080 Ti regressed slightly with 78.6 fps and 2 dropped frames with 3% synthetic frames generated

Let’s look at another great looking VR game, Obduction.

Obduction

Obduction is an adventure video game developed by Cyan Worlds that started with a successful Kickstarter campaign.  Obduction is considered the spiritual successor to Myst and Riven.  A player finds himself in a strangely familiar alien world that he must explore to return home, and there is a big emphasis on puzzle solving which gets more difficult as the player progresses.

We chose the area below to benchmark.   Even an RTX 2080 Ti will drop frames on High settings – never mind on Epic although it is still generally playable on the top 3 GeForce cards – as the game still does not seem to be well-optimized and there are occasional stutters and warp misses.

Here are the frametimes comparing the GTX 1080 Ti with the RTX 2080.

We did not test this game in November.  The GTX 2080 edges out the GTX 1080 Ti by a small margin.  The GTX 1080 Ti delivers 76.7 unconstrained frames per second with 39 dropped frames generating 8% synthetic frames, while the RTX 2080 delivers 80.4 FPS with 54 dropped frames but with 6% synthetic frames generated.

Let’s benchmark Robinson: The Journey.

Robinson: The Journey

Robinson: The Journey is first person adventure/puzzle game developed by Crytek using the CryEngine.  Just like with Crytek PC games, the visuals are still among the very best to be found in any VR game.

For us, Crytek’s Robinson: The Journey was a blast to play in VR with a start to finish in about 6 hours.  It’s probably Crytek’s best story of any game they made, so far.  You even get a very cure baby T-Rex as a pet who likes to play hide and seek, roars on command to frighten and help move huge vegetation-eating dinosaurs.

Laika is your pet baby T-Rex.

The visuals for Robinson: The Journey are very good and they add greatly to the immersion of the game.  It’s the one game that I allowed reprojection just to enjoy the increased visuals with a 2.0 Pixel Density.  There is incredible attention to detail as dense jungles with ancient trees are filled with wildlife, some of which are quite dangerous.  There are several very different environments to traverse including the wreck of a gigantic spaceship, and all of them are well-executed.

Let’s look at VR performance.  We benchmarked the highest settings as below (but chose 1.0X for the resolution setting).

Here are the frametimes of our competing 2 video cards:

We did not test this game in November.  Again, the GTX 2080 edges out the GTX 1080 Ti by a small margin.  The GTX 1080 Ti delivers 152.9 unconstrained frames per second with 1 dropped frames, while the RTX 2080 delivers 158.0 FPS but with 7 dropped frames.  No synthetic frames were needed to be generated with either card.

Let’s benchmark Skyrim VR.

Skyrim VR

Skyrim VR is an awesome game that this editor played for over 40 hours in VR to complete the main quest.  It’s an older game that is not as demanding as many of the newer VR games so its performance is still very good on maxed-out settings.  The immersion a player experiences in this game is far superior to anything the pancake version can manage.  And there are mods available to make the game look incredible in VR.

We benchmarked Skyrim VR using its highest settings, but we left the resolution at 100%.

We did not test this game in November.  Again, the GTX 2080 edges out the GTX 1080 Ti by a small margin.  The GTX 1080 Ti delivers 140.7 unconstrained frames per second with 10 dropped frames, while the RTX 2080 delivers 138.8 FPS but with 27 dropped frames.  No synthetic frames were needed to be generated with either card.  We would recommend increasing the resolution multiplier as far as a player’s card can handle without needing to generate synthetic frames while playing the vanilla Skyrim VR game.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, a player can move among the trees of a realistic forest and see them from any perspective.  It is considered by some to be a “walking simulator”, but it is also an excellent detective game with great puzzles.  It doesn’t hold your hand, nor is it linear, but it allows a player to explore freely in a mostly large open world.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is still one of the most impressive games visually, but there are issues with its free locomotion implementation that can make even some of the more VR-hardened players, VR sick.  We completed the game and loved its story.

There are few in-game graphics options available, so we picked 100% resolution and TAA.

We did not test this game in November.  Again, the GTX 2080 edges out the GTX 1080 Ti by a slight margin.  The GTX 1080 Ti delivers 138.8 unconstrained frames per second with 27 dropped frames, while the RTX 2080 delivers 140.7 FPS but with 10 dropped frames.  No synthetic frames were needed to be generated with either card.

As with Skyrim VR, we would recommend increasing the resolution multiplier as far as a player’s card can handle without needing to generate synthetic frames.  It’s a beautiful game with difficult puzzles and a great story.  This is the last of our ten games, so let’s look at the summary charts.

Unconstrained FPS, dropped frames, and synthetic frames

In this chart, we compare November’s overall Unconstrained Framerate chart summing up our four test games that we also tested and are comparing today.

Now let’s check out today’s 10-game comparison with the latest 419.67 drivers.Let’s check out our conclusion.

Conclusion

Back in November, we were surprised that although the synthetic benchmarks indicated that the RTX 2080 would be much faster than the GTX 1080 Ti, the five games that we tested then indicated that both cards were currently in the same class with the older Pascal card edging out the newer Turing card.  Today, the two cards remain in the same class, but the RTX 2080 is now overall faster than the GTX 1080 Ti.

We are going to continue with our VR performance evaluations.  We will next benchmark the RTX 2080 Ti, the RTX 2070, the RTX 2060, and we will compare them with AMD’s competing cards, the RX Vega 64 liquid cooled edition and the Red Devil RX Vega 56 to see where they all stand with regard to VR performance.

Feel free to comment on this review in the comments section below, and also let us know which games you would like us to add to our VR game benchmarking suite.  BTR has more than 25 VR games available.

Happy VR gaming!