The 20GB version of Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab)) 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 (opens in new tab)—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.
The actual RTX 3080 Ti we have in our hands today is a different beast—a downgrade (opens in new tab), 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.