The 20GB Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti we could have had has been found down the Russian GPU mines

Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti graphics card on blue gradient background
(Image credit: Future)

The 20GB version of Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3080 Ti is out in the wild, on elicit sale in Russia, and smashing through Ethereum mining algorithms like some GPU savant. This is apparently the most profitable mining graphics card around, at its Russian street price of some $3,000, but isn't a GPU you're ever likely to find on the shelves of your local Micro Center.

That's because this is an RTX 3080 Ti that was never meant to be released.

Back in the morass of 2020 the 20GB RTX 3080 Ti was being crafted as the $1,000 card to put AMD's Radeon RX 6900 XT back in its box. But after the red team's top GPU launched to the sound of a sad trombone it all went rather quiet. Suddenly Nvidia didn't need to bother releasing another high-end card, and the fact that the original RTX 3080 Ti had gone far enough through the production process to actually be manufactured by board partners shows how serious Jen-Hsun's gang once was about it.

We've even seen RTX 3090s in the wild with GPUs that were previously meant for the defunct 20GB RTX 3080 Ti, chips which have their markings physically crossed out. That's how close we got to a retail version of this silicon; it was actually branded.

We'd also heard about this 20GB version from contacts at other board partners before the project seemingly got canned, and the latest card to do the rounds in Russia is a Gigabyte version that actually did make it out of the factories.

Twitter leaker @momomo_us posted a link to the existing VBIOS files for the 20GB versions of these RTX 3080 Ti cards, and you can see from the dates on them that these were for versions released in 2020 and uploaded in early January this year. The version numbers are also lower than those for a modern RTX 3080 Ti, all confirming these aren't for upcoming cards.

But that hasn't stopped a Russian YouTuber (via Videocardz) from showing the GPU mining Ethereum at 94 MH/s—which admittedly is lower than the 125 MH/s that was originally leaked at the start of this year—but who also notes that this card is not capable of gaming as the SKU is not actually officially supported by Nvidia.

Because it was not actually released. Except seemingly by some enterprising retailers in mother Russia.

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(Image credit: Future)

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The actual RTX 3080 Ti we have in our hands today is a different beast—a downgrade, as we've casted it before. It has fewer cores than the original was meant to have, and comes with 12GB of GDDR6X memory instead of 20GB. It's still a fine card, though it sits uncomfortably between the GeForce RTX 3090 and GeForce RTX 3080, unable to really offer a compelling alternative to either.

And boy, does it get hot under that Founders Edition shroud.

So yes, sadly this isn't a new memory-heavy, hash rate unlocked GeForce GPU coming our way, but more evidence of just how far Nvidia got down the road of the 20GB card before it called time on the project.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.