In a bizarre twist to Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 40 series GPU rollout, it turns out there will be no 12GB version of the RTX 4080 at all. Nvidia announced an "unlaunch" of the graphics card, which would have sat below the RTX 4080 16GB and the RTX 4090, effectively cancelling it. The 16GB version will still release as planned on November 16th.
"The RTX 4080 12GB is a fantastic graphics card, but it’s not named right", reads Nvidia’s statement. "Having two GPUs with the 4080 designation is confusing. So, we’re pressing the "unlaunch" button on the 4080 12GB."
"It’s not named right" is one way of putting it. Personally I was holding judgement until benchmarks, but the RTX 4080 12GB reveal went down pretty poorly with PC hardware fans, and reception just got worse upon the confirmation of more in-depth specs. For one thing, it was never just the RTX 4080 16GB with less VRAM – it was a completely distinct design, with a different underlying Ada Lovelace processor (Nvidia’s AD104, a step below the 16GB’s AD103). The 12GB model’s VRAM would be slower too, with less bandwidth; in fact, the RTX 4080 12GB’s overall memory bandwidth would be narrower than that of the original, 10GB RTX 3080 from the previous Ampere generation. All that for a much higher starting price of £949 / $899, and confusing naming would prove to be the least of Nvidia’s problems.
Cancelling the launch outright still seems like drastic measure, particularly with release day only one month away. And if you think this would cause major disruption to Nvidia’s board partners, who will have paid for the right to make their own RTX 4080 12GB cards, you’re almost certainly right. Gamers Nexus are reporting, citing sources within two of these manufacturers, that Nvidia are actually contributing to the costs of replacing the now-useless packaging that former RTX 4080 12GB partner cards would have been sold in.
This indicates that the existing RTX 4080 12GB stock will be rebranded as a different RTX 40 series product, as opposed to being buried in the desert next to Atari’s 700,000 E.T. cartridges. Logic would suggest it would become the new RTX 4070 or RTX 4070 Ti, though nothing about a new name or release date has slipped out (beyond Nvidia comping the new boxes). Hopefully it comes with a less fanciful price as well – the RTX 4090 has already shown that you can have the best graphics card in the world on pure performance, but it's still a bad deal if it costs several weeks’ rent.