Here's Why NVIDIA's GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Might Be Bound For A GA103 GPU Refresh

hero geforce 3060ti pcb
Did you see our boy Jeff's story on the mobile RTX 3080 Ti this morning? If you haven't, take a second to glance at that, but if you're short on time, the quick version is that a YouTuber tore down his high-powered gaming laptop to have a look at the GeForce GPU inside and found a surprise: it's a new chip, called GA103.

Now, for those unfamiliar, NVIDIA has been using a particular naming scheme for its graphics processors for better than a decade now. These are codenames for the GPU chips themselves, not to be confused with model names for graphics cards. In other words, we're talking about this "GA103" name, not "GeForce RTX 3080 Ti".

nvidia ga103 gpu sideways
The GA103 die, in laptop form. Image: Geekerwan

The codenames go like this: GA103 is G for Graphics, A for Ampere, 1 because it's the first-generation Ampere architecture, 0 because it hasn't been revised, and 3 because it's a step down from GA102. GA100 is the largest Ampere chip, and so far, GA106 is the smallest. Turing GPUs used "TU" instead of "GT" because "GT" was already taken by Tesla, the first-generation compute-capable GPU from NVIDIA.

This is, to our knowledge, the first time NVIDIA has produced a GPU with the "103" nomenclature. Typically, GPU series start at 100, and then proceed down through even numbers, with sometimes a 107 in between 106 and 108. That makes GA103 unusual, but then, we live in interesting times. That its first appearance is in a mobile GPU is even more interesting.

It might not stay that way, though; the eagle eyes of famed leaker and enthusiast HXL (known as @9550Pro on Twitter) spotted a line in the AIDA64 version 6.60.5918 beta patch notes that says "GPU information for nVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (GA103)." Clearly the AIDA64 folks know something we don't, because the RTX 3060 Ti that we know and love is based on the GA104 GPU, not GA103.

Assuming that this isn't simply a typo—and it probably isn't—that implies the existence of an RTX 3060 Ti based on the relatively-new GA103 GPU. Unfortunately, that's the only hard detail we have at this time. However, we can infer couple of things and then speculate a bit for fun, so let's do so!

First, we can infer based on the name that the new RTX 3060 Ti is probably not going to be very different from the current one, at least on paper. It will probably have extremely similar if not identical specifications; otherwise, NVIDIA would probably have called it something else. It may have different overclocking or turbo characteristics though, thanks to the larger GA103 die. It also may have different thermal properties, which plays into the abovementioned overclocking capabilities.

Second, we can infer that we're likely to see a new batch of RTX 3060 Ti cards hit the market. Even if you're a GPU market doomsayer (which is understandable), that's still good news, because more product on the market means more demand is being served, which in turn means that the extremely-starved GPU audience will be just that little bit less hungry. The RTX 3060 Ti is a great value at MSRP, so hopefully some of those cards can find their way into the hands of gamers.

geforce rtx 3060 ti founders edition
GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition

Why would NVIDIA issue a new batch of RTX 3060 Ti cards based on GA103? Well, that's the interesting question, isn't it? We have a couple of thoughts on the idea, and they're not necessarily exclusive. It's possible that NVIDIA is trying to save limited stocks of smaller GPU chips for laptops, leaving desktop cards to be powered by larger GPUs, less constrained by power and thermal limits.

It's also possible that NVIDIA's next-generation Ada Lovelace GPUs will only be available as high-end models to start with. Rumors have mean green's next-gen parts as massive monstrosities drawing enormous amounts of power, and it's not unimaginable that the company could release those as halo products while rounding out the rest of its range with Ampere cards. Admittedly, it would be unusual; NVIDIA CEO and leather jacket connoisseur Jensen Huang is on record saying that NVIDIA is a "one-architecture company."

Then again, it wouldn't be the first time that NVIDIA filled out the dangling rungs of a new GPU series with an older architecture, either. So saying, it's possible that NVIDIA is producing a new run of extant GeForce SKUs using new chips in prepration for the launch of Ada Lovelace, but that's just conjecture on our parts. Either way it will be interesting to see how the new GeForce RTX 3060 Ti differs from the extant model.

Image credit: Geekerwan