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GeForce RTX 3080 Review Megathread

GeForce RTX 3080 Review Megathread

GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition reviews are up.

Image Link - GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition

Reminder: Do NOT buy from 3rd Party Marketplace Seller on Ebay/Amazon/Newegg (unless you want to pay more). Assume all the 3rd party sellers are scalping. If it's not being sold by the actual retailer (e.g. Amazon selling on Amazon.com or Newegg selling on Newegg.com) then you should treat the product as sold out and wait.

Below is the compilation of all the reviews that have been posted so far. I will be updating this continuously throughout the day with the conclusion of each publications and any new review links. This will be sorted alphabetically.

Written Articles

Anandtech - No Anandtech review today. Will be added next week


Instead, I'm confident in saying that the $699 RTX 3080 has handily dethroned the GTX 1080 Ti as the market's best expensive-but-attainable GPU. Its specific performance profile, achieved with serious hunger (320W) and a large-but-not-epic pool of RAM (10GB, albeit in the efficient GDDR6X profile), will let you rip and tear in 4K resolutions and in high-performing VR scenarios without requiring buy-in from game developers to toggle Nvidia's proprietary systems.
Simultaneously, this card's advances on the ray-tracing front make that realm's "medium" settings a no-brainer in applicable software, even without having to toggle Nvidia's DLSS upscaling system. So far, we haven't seen any software take advantage of Nvidia's newly advertised "RTX I/O" system, which is meant to more efficiently funnel 3D assets through the GPU without wasting CPU cycles. It's a proprietary Nvidia tech, limited only to its newest GPUs, so I'm not holding my breath expecting RTX I/O to make industry-wide waves in the immediate future.
But much of that proprietary "RTX" stuff from Turing, particularly ray tracing, will soon become an industry-wide standard, thanks to factors like the upcoming Windows 10 standard of DirectX 12 Ultimate and AMD's own aggressive entry into ray tracing (fueled in part by both major next-gen consoles this holiday season). What I once called the "RTX lottery ticket" is now a given, and the RTX 3080 is proof that you can have your 60fps-at-4K cake and eat your ray traced frosting, too.
Verdict: If you're itching to build a desktop PC in the $1,500-and-up range, you can finally expect proper bang for your $699 GPU buck. Buy.


We are impressed with the Founders Edition of the RTX 3080 which has exceptional performance at Ultra 4K and at 2560×1440. For now, it stands alone as the fastest video card in the world and it has launched at $699 – the same price the RTX 2080 SUPER FE launched at, and $100 less expensive than the RTX 2080 at launch – and much less expensive compared to the $1199 RTX 2080 Ti FE which launched two years ago.
The Founders Edition of the RTX 3080 is well-built, solid, and good-looking, and it stays cool and quiet even when overclocked. The only nitpicks we have are that the shipping/display box is almost impossible to open after the card is removed, and that the 12-pin adapter cable is bulky and it looks out of place on such a great-looking card. Fortunately, EVGA has stepped up with a much less bulky cable that will aid meticulous builders for cable management.
If you currently game on an GTX 1080 Ti, you will do yourself a big favor by upgrading to a RTX 3080. For the same launch price, the RTX 3080 will give much better visuals for ray tracing, much higher overall performance, and DLSS 2.0 will allow for better performance for the games that use it. The RTX 3080 is a true 4K/60 FPS video card for most modern games. It well deserves BabelTechReviews Editor’s Choice Award.

Digital Foundry Article

Digital Foundry Video

The RTX 3080 is an important product. For two years now, the pinnacle of PC graphics technology has been defined by the Turing-based RTX 2080 Ti. It's fast, very fast. It's so fast in fact, that there's a strong argument that any resolutions below ultra HD or high resolution ultrawide won't see the GPU horsepower fully utilised on anything other than the fastest gaming CPU. And yet the RTX 3080 takes everything to the next level - you're looking at an average range of 65 to 80 per cent more performance up against 2080, and around 24 to 37 per cent more grunt than 2080 Ti. With ray tracing factored into the equation, the boosts can be even more significant.
And in a world where the console manufacturers have been bashful about telling us how much the next generation is actually going to cost, Nvidia coming straight out of the gate with $699/£650 pricing for a product so powerful is a massive statement - and delivering an upcoming RTX 3070 with 2080 Ti-level performance at Series X money may also give many pause: should they buy a new console or upgrade the PC they may already own?
There's a lot more to the RTX offering we've not looked at in this review either - the firm's commitment to streamers and broadcasting with bespoke tools is significant. We use the RTX voice tool all of the time to provide cleaner voiceovers in our video work, but it's clear that Nvidia is looking to push its AI hardware to deliver much more functionality both inside and outside of gaming. Software is often a value-added extra we don't consider, but there's a lot of interesting work happening here. My only criticism? Extra features are very, very welcome but the Nvidia GPU control panel is well past its sell-by date and really needs a fresh lick of paint and a ginormous speed-up.
It's unlikely that paying a bit more for electricity is likely to worry the kind of user willing to spend so much on a graphics card - and the 220W TDP for the upcoming RTX 3070 suggests that Nvidia knows that, throwing everything it possibly can at the more premium 3080 and 3090 where the kind of user likely to buy in at this level won't mind the 'performance at all costs' approach to the products. Certainly, I really enjoy using this card - I like using RTX 2080 Ti for 4K gaming and the RTX 3080 doesn't feel like an iterative upgrade. I can do more with it, I can feel the difference. Side-by-side with RTX 2080, it's almost a night and day improvement in many regards. But with that said, I still think the 20-series cards have much to offer: they don't become obsolete overnight, they're still strong performers and they have the complete next-gen feature set. And I suspect the real audience for this card lies elsewhere: there's still a lot of folks out there with a 10-series Pascal cards and as the graphs across these pages demonstrate, those products are starting to show their age - and in that respect, the new Ampere line looks like a highly compelling upgrade.


We feel it is safe to say that it's been worth the wait. Ampere as an architecture is nothing short of impressive. Combined with hyper-fast GDDR6X memory and a radical new cooling design, a new trend is set, as this product is seriously competing with the board partner cards. I mean, all registers are green, including rendering performance, cooling, and acoustic performance as well as the simple yet so crucial aesthetic feel. I do worry a little about the open fin structure versus dust. Next to that, you are going to yearn for a dedicated 12-pin power connector leading from the PSU and there is some coil whine going on. Of course, overall power consumption has increased really significantly. How important these things are to you, is for you to decide. The flipside of the coin is that you'll receive a product that will be dominant in that Ultra HD space. Your games average out anywhere from 60 to 100+ FPS, well, aside from Flight Simulator 2020 :)
Dropping down in resolutions does create other challenges; you'll be far less GPU bound, but then again, we do not expect you to purchase a GeForce RTX and play games at 1920x1080. Arbitrarily speaking, starting at a monitor resolution of 2560x1440, that's the domain where the GeForce RTX 3080 will start to shine. The raw Shading/rasterizer (read: regular rendered games) performance is staggering as this many Shader cores make a difference. The new generational architecture tweaks for ray-tracing and Tensor also is significant. Coming from the RTX 2080, the RTX 3080 exhibited a roughly 85% performance increase and that is going to bring Hybrid Ray-tracing tow higher resolutions. DX-R will remain to be massively demanding, of course, but when you can play Battlefield V in ultra HD with ray-tracing and DLSS enabled at over 70 FPS, well hey, I'm cool with that. Also, CUDA compute performance in Blender and V-Ray, OMG! The asking price for all this render performance is $699 USD, and that is the biggest GPU bottleneck for most people, especially with the upcoming consoles in the vicinity. However, there always has been a significant distinction between PC and console games; I suspect that will not be any different this time around. We bow to the Ampere architecture as it is impressive as, for those willing to spend the money on it, it's wholeheartedly recommended and eas an easy top pick.


Nvidia latest Ampere architecture arrives in consumer graphics card space as the GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs. Initially comprised the RTX 3070, RTX 3080 and RTX 3090, debuting at different times over the course of the next month, they are primed to set new benchmark standards at the premium end of the market.
The largest, most powerful Ampere die is known as GA102, and it goes much bigger on floating-point cores yet ironically reduces the relative amount of silicon devoted to RT and Tensor cores when they've been firmly in the marketing headlights since being amalgamated into last-gen Turing two years ago.
Floating-point muscle is supported by oodles of bandwidth and general efficiencies across the chip. GA102 is a veritable monster with capability of pushing close to 40 TFLOPS of compute performance in unbridled form, clearly hinting at its datacentre provenance, from which Nvidia moulds gaming graphics.
GeForce RTX 3080 takes GA102 as its performance base but retains approximately 85 percent of its throughput potential through the use of 68 out of a possible 84 SMs. The backend, meanwhile, sacrifices width and a modicum of speed compared to a full-fat layout, but be in no doubt, RTX 3080 is a supremely fast card in its own right.
Fast enough, actually, to smash the last-gen GeForce RTX 2080 Super with which, for now, it shares a $699/£649 price tag. It's typically over 50 percent speedier, rising to 80 percent in a best-case scenario, and there's enough silicon artillery to roundly defeat the $1,199 RTX 2080 Ti in every game. RTX 3080 heralds a step-change in performance at the $699 price point.
More pragmatically, RTX 3080 delivers on the promise of 4K gaming at a fluid 60fps and, equally important for Nvidia's ambitions, for the first time, the ability to render at the same level with raytracing and DLSS turned on. That's a big deal.
The new GPU's frequency/voltage sweetspot occurs at a higher wattage than we're accustomed to in the consumer space, most likely resulting from using 8nm Samsung instead of 7nm TSMC. 320W requires a new FE cooler - and pretty it is - and again speaks to the high-performance datacentre characteristics baked into Ampere. The wattage isn't a problem for any premium gaming PC, of course, but it's worth knowing that availing oneself of excellent performance requires extra wick. Even so, RTX 3080 tops the bang4buck and energy efficiency charts.
There is plenty to like here. GeForce RTX 3080 represents true 4K60 max-your-settings gameplay at an unexpectedly low $699. It's hard to argue against performance or value, so we won't. All that's left to say is that if you want the fastest GPU money can currently buy, at least for the next week, GeForce RTX 3080 provides it with alarmingly good value.

Hot Hardware

Summarizing the new GeForce RTX 3080's performance is as simple as could be -- it is the fastest GPU we have tested to date, across the board, period. Regardless of the game, application, or benchmark we used, the GeForce RTX 3080 put up the best scores of the bunch, often more than doubling the performance of AMD's current flagship Radeon RX 5700 XT. Despite its much lower introductory price, the GeForce RTX 3080 even skunked the Titan RTX and GeForce RTX 2080 Ti by relatively large margins. The bottom line is, NVIDIA's got an absolutely stellar-performing GPU on its hands, and the GeForce RTX 3080 isn't even the best Ampere has to offer -- the upcoming GeForce RTX 3090 is bigger and burlier across the board.
We have been hearing rumblings of Ampere's monster performance for months. Even before CES, a couple of board partners hinted that NVIDIA had lofty goals for Ampere and the company has delivered in spades. The GeForce RTX 3080 is a beast. We suspect peak power consumption is going to be a concern for some users, but in practice, for us at least, it is a non-issue. Thanks to the newly engineered cooling solution, the GeForce RTX 3080 runs cool and quiet in real-world conditions. Sure, your rig might put out a bit more heat, but we suspect most users aren't going to care with a GPU that performs as well as the RTX 3080 does.
Of course, we have yet to see what the GeForce RTX 3090 can do and AMD has announced that is RDNA2-based Radeon RX 6000 series will be unveiled in a few weeks. Looking back through our numbers, "Big Navi" will have to offer more than 2X the performance of a Radeon RX 5700 XT to be in the same class as the GeForce RTX 3080. Could AMD do it? Sure, it's possible. But based on the company's somewhat conservative decisions of the last few generations, we don't think its targets are quite that aggressive. We'll know for sure soon enough though.
Today, the spotlight shines on NVIDIA. The GeForce RTX 3080 is nothing short of impressive. At its expected $700-ish price point (depending on the model), there is nothing that can come even close to touching it. The new NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 is an easy Editor's Choice. If you're buying a new GPU in its price range, there is no other choice currently.

Igor's Lab

It should not be an advertising sales event, but a test that is as objective and fair as possible, even if the results are still so solid that you have to fight a bit with the “want to have” factor in the gaming sector. Especially at higher resolutions, this card is a real board, because even if the lead over the GeForce RTX 2080 Super doesn’t always turn out to be in high double digits, it’s always enough to virtually reach the next quality level in playability. Right stop of many quality controllers included. Particularly if the games of the GeForce RTX 3080 and the new architecture lie, are also sometimes up to 80% increase compared to the RTX 2080 super in it and a RTX 2080 Ti is beaten with almost 40%. This too must be noted if one wants to be fair. But it is only the beginning and not generally enforceable with the game engines, unfortunately.
It is also exactly the increase, because you can, for example. has always demanded when playing in Ultra-HD. Here you go, here’s an offer for it. The fact that the RAM with its 10 GB could become scarce from time to time, at the latest in Ultra-HD, is due to the design by NVIDIA and also by many game manufacturers, who fill up with data exactly what can be filled up. Which of course would not be a blanket apology and thus the only point of criticism. It should have been doubled by now, price point or no price point.

KitGuru Article

KitGuru Video

There’s no two ways about it. Nvidia’s RTX 3080 is a stunning return to form for the manufacturer, delivering hugely impressive gen-on-gen gains compared to the RTX 20-series that debuted two years ago. The 3080 is the fastest graphics card we have ever tested (though the RTX 3090 will have something to say about that next week), and it is delivered at almost half the price of last generation’s flagship, the RTX 2080 Ti.
The most disappointing aspect of the RTX 20-series was its marginal improvements in terms of traditional raster performance. Ray tracing aside, unless you were willing to pay the big bucks for the 2080 Ti, we didn’t get any GPUs that delivered a big generational jump in performance. It seems Nvidia took that disappointment as a challenge; with the RTX 3080, Nvidia has delivered a huge jump forward.
That’s because, on average, the RTX 3080 improves on the RTX 2080 by 68% at 4K resolution, while it’s also 31% faster than the RTX 2080 Ti and 58% faster than the 2080 Super. Anyone who held onto a GTX 1080 Ti will also see performance increases to the tune of 90%, again at 4K. Across the aisle, AMD is now in real need of Big Navi to deliver the goods when it arrives on October 28, as the 3080 crushes the Radeon VII by 86% and it’s over twice as fast as the RX 5700 XT, again at 4K.
The margins of victory for the RTX 3080 do change as we step down in resolution – it’s 31% faster than a 2080 Ti at 4K, 25% faster at 1440p and 18% faster at 1080p. The latter resolution proved a significant problem on a number of occasions due to CPU bottlenecks. Even with an i9-10900K running at 5.1GHz, the CPU was holding the 3080 back by a significant margin in at least 5 of the 11 titles we tested today. Even where the bottlenecks weren’t as significant, relative gains versus the 2080 Ti were lower at 1080p than 1440p or 4K, in every single game we tested. Gamers looking to buy this GPU will certainly get the most out of it at 4K, though a 55% increase in performance over the RTX 2080 at 1440p shows high refresh rate WQHD users will also get their money’s worth.
However you slice it, RTX 3080 is a huge step forward from Turing. Of course, it is easy to be cynical and point out the fact that Turing hardly improved on Pascal in terms of traditional raster performance at this price point, and that does make Ampere look more attractive than it should. There may be an element of truth there, but even the gains versus Pascal look impressive considering the GTX 1080 Ti came out three and a half years ago. The 3080 is 90% faster on average at 4K, but over 120% faster in certain titles like Control and The Division 2.
It’s also good to see RTX performance taking a significant stride forward. The improvements to the RT cores and overall architecture mean relative performance with RT on scales slightly better than with it off – gains of around 35-40% compared to the 2080 Ti were typical in our testing. Of course, enabling the technology still results in a significant hit to performance, but as 3080 has pushed things so far forward, the end result isn’t nearly as bad as it was with Turing. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, for instance, we saw average frame rates hitting nearly 90FPS at 1440p with RTX set to Ultra, while Metro Exodus was averaging over 110FPS at the same resolution, again with RTX set to Ultra.


The performance of Nvidia's RTX 3080 is unquestionably impressive. Even making allowances for the fact that a few of our games get a bit grumpy about both ray tracing and DLSS in various combinations, preferring an everything on or everything off approach (it is true for pre-DLSS 2.0 titles). Another factor that's worth considering is that Nvidia's current pre-release drivers are missing some elements that allow us to overclock things properly. Regardless, the amount of performance available from the card in a simple plug-and-go form is so great that anyone who has recently purchased any of the RTX 2xxx cards will be left green with envy.
We all knew that the RTX 2080 set were supremely good, but they were always stupidly expensive. Here you have a card which is, right now, the fastest card on the planet and yet is so affordable that you could grab a 2TB M.2 NVMe drive and still save on the price of an RTX 2080 Ti. Or, if you're running an X570 system like we are, it is enough of a saving that if you'd budgeted for a Ryzen 3 3300X and RTX 2080 Ti setup you could upgrade that CPU to a Ryzen 9 3950X without needing to spend any extra money. That's bananas.
DLSS is massively impressive too. Just cast your eye across our DLSS off and DLSS on results, it's clear that you can gain massive FPS boosts yet without compromising image quality. If like us, you're old enough to remember the early days of 3D games, you'll know that lowering your game resolution is the easiest way to improve FPS, but turning everything blurry in the process. DLSS 2.0 gives you higher frame rates and higher image quality. It's witchcraft.
Thus, as we said at the start, the RTX 3080 FE is RTX 2080 Ti besting performance for the price of an RTX 2080 Super, and why you haven't already left to buy one, we don't know. You owe it to yourself. If the graphics card is outside of your price range, we know for a fact that cheaper Ampere cards are on the horizon.

PC Perspective

NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition is the fastest graphics card I’ve ever tested, and it’s an amazing product for the money. Now, actually buying one for $699 might require devine intervention, but we don’t really know until they go on sale.
We know demand will be there because performance is just so damn impressive with this card. No, the leap in performance isn’t 2x over the RTX 2080 outside of certain testing scenarios, but it’s always significant – often 60% or greater. The RTX 2080 was soundly beaten in these benchmarks.
I’ll be honest here. The RTX 2080 was a letdown. The Turing launch left a lot of gaming frustrated, and Pascal continued to be the architecture of choice for most GeForce gamers. RTX made for an awesome demo, but outside of a few titles that was about it. DLSS took time to improve, and without it full native rendering with real-time ray tracing was too expensive from a performance standpoint.
I feel like the ray tracing story has changed, if the RTX 3080 is any indication. Suddenly I’m really interested in games that use more RTX features, and excited about the prospect of the RTX 3090’s performance in this department. Frame rates – even without DLSS – are suddenly playable even at very high settings, and the visuals in some of the games and demos are stunning.
With the RTX 3080 we finally have a graphics card that redefines the $699 performance level in a way that eclipses even the GTX 1080 Ti. It’s an exciting time to be an enthusiast, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the RTX 3070 – and (fingers crossed) the RTX 3090 as well.

PC World

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said that Ampere is GeForce’s greatest generational leap ever, and he wasn’t kidding. Remember being blown away when the GTX 1080 was 60 to 70 percent faster than the GTX 980, even with its slightly higher price? The GeForce RTX 3080 spits out frames up to 80 percent faster in several games, and 60 percent higher in the others. It’s roughly 30 percent faster than the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, the $1,200 previous-gen flagship, and a ridonkulous 100 to 160 percent faster than the older GeForce GTX 1080. All at the exact same $700 price tag as the RTX 2080.
The promises were true. This thing is an absolute monster. Sometimes it’s faster at 4K than the RTX 2080 is at 1440p. Ludicrous.
There are no games where the GeForce RTX 3080 fails to clear a 60-frames-per-second average at 4K resolution with all possible visuals effects turned on. The exception is the ridiculously strenuous Total War: Troy, which averages 56 fps (and feels just fine at even lower speeds as a strategy game). Most games go significantly faster than that. Other than Troy, again, no games fall below 100 fps at 1440p resolution with everything maxed out. Again, Total War again falls just shy, at 98 fps, and again, most games go significantly faster than that. If you’re fine bumping graphics down to high, games fly along even faster in our off-the-cuff tests. No graphics card has come close to this level of performance before.
The “worst” (but still massive) results come in CPU-bound or older DX11 titles. The Ampere architecture screams when unleashed on properly optimized games that were built for DirectX 12 or Vulkan. More and more of those are being published these days, and all ray-traced games require DX12. The impact of ray tracing and DLSS doesn’t appear to be lessened despite the next-gen RT and tensor cores, but the RTX 3080 is so fast, it doesn’t matter. You can play ray traced games at 1440p, and even 4K now.


As we saw across most of these results, the performance gains seen with the new generation Ampere GeForces is simply incredible. There’s no other way to say it. The strong performance seen because of the RT cores makes AMD’s next move an important one. We’ve already known for ages that the new consoles all use ray tracing, and those are of course built with AMD Radeon GPUs. How that will all carry over to the desktop, we’re not sure, but we will gain a better understanding in late October when AMD makes its RDNA2 “Big Navi” announcement.
Even in the most modest of cases, the RTX 3080 outperformed the last-gen TITAN RTX by around 10%, and that’s not even the comparison card we should be choosing. That wouldn’t even be the 2080 Ti, which NVIDIA has said the RTX 3080 would easily beat out. The best comparison would be the 2080 SUPER, which also cost $699 ahead of this launch. Compared to that card, the RTX 3080 simply slays. We do not see gains like these come around to GPUs all too often.
As mentioned before, the only limitation we can think of with this card on the creator side is the 10GB frame buffer, but we don’t see that being a common complaint anytime soon. For those with the biggest needs, the 24GB frame buffer on the RTX 3090 should solve your quandary. Hopefully NVIDIA has other SKUs planned that will help fill that 10GB~24GB void (of course it does).
While this article took care of the ProViz aspect of the new GeForce RTX 3080, a forthcoming article will take an in-depth look at gaming, which will include a number of new RTX-infused titles. Stay tuned.


Averaged over our whole benchmarking suite, at 4K resolution, the GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition is 66% faster than the RTX 2080 that it replaces (both launched at $699). NVIDIA's new card even beats last generation's flagship the RTX 2080 Ti, by a whopping 31%! AMD's Radeon RX 5700 XT is half as fast as the RTX 3080. Yup, 3080 is +100% 5700 XT performance—AMD better get things right with RDNA2. If you've held out on a GTX 1080 Ti until now, congrats, now is the right time to upgrade. RTX 3080 Ti will double your FPS, and give you all the latest techs and features like raytracing and DLSS.
When looking at lower resolutions, the lead of the RTX 3080 shrinks considerably, +51% over RTX 2080 at 1440p, +35% at 1080p. The reason is that with so much GPU horsepower, games are becoming increasingly CPU limited. A posterchild for that is Anno 1800—at lower resolution all cards are bunched up against an invisible performance wall, around 68 FPS in this case, that's the CPU limit. We're already on a very fast CPU, Ryzen won't run any faster either. We've tested this extensively in our RTX 3080: 10900K vs 3900XT review that just went up, too. Back to Anno 1800, 1080p is totally CPU limited on all high-end cards, after switching to 1440p, most comparison cards fall back in FPS, because their GPU isn't fast enough, so they become GPU limited. The only exception are RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 3080, which both achieve 67 FPS at 1440p—still CPU limited. When switching to 4K, RTX 2080 Ti falls back to 46 FPS, RTX 3080 still seems quite CPU limited at 63 FPS. While unfortunate, CPU limits are a reality of gaming—RTX 3080 will not magically give you 360 FPS in all games—no graphics card can. CPU power, game engines and developers have to catch up with the new performance first.
GeForce RTX 3080 is perfect for 4K gaming. It's able to exceed 60 FPS in nearly all titles, the only exception in our test suite is Control, which runs at 48 FPS. NVIDIA does have one ace up their sleeve: DLSS, which renders the game at lower resolution and upscales the frame to your native monitor resolution. While traditional upscaling comes with blurriness and artifacts, NVIDIA DLSS uses AI to improve the scaling. The algorithm has improved over the years, but the basic concept remains. Machine learning is used to train a model to excel at upscaling of game content. While only few games support DLSS at this time, the numbers are growing quickly.
NVIDIA has always been criticized for high pricing in the past, it seems they listened to feedback. The RTX 3080 Founders Edition retails at $699, which an extremely competitive price. Remember, RTX 3080 is twice as fast as RX 5700 XT ($370), 31% faster than RTX 2080 Ti ($1000+). It seems that NVIDIA is concerned mostly with the new consoles, which will bring high-fidelity gaming to the masses at prices around $500. Charging $1000 for a graphics card will be tough sell for many, when they can have a whole gaming console for $500. At the RTX 3080's price point there really is no alternative, maybe a used RTX 2080 Ti at bargain prices? Not sure, definitely nothing that AMD offers at this time. We are working on several reviews of RTX 3080 custom-designs from board partners, the reviews will be up very soon. It will be interesting to see if their cards will be able to match or exceed the RTX 3080 Founders Edition. NVIDIA set the bar very high.

The FPS Review

Compared to the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti at 1440p the GeForce RTX 3080 FE averages an increase in performance of 20% over the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE. The Far Cry 5 and FS 2020 numbers bring that average down a lot, if we remove those two then the average is 24%. At 4K the GeForce RTX 3080 FE averages 25% faster than the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE. The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE video card was a $1200 video card, now for $500 less at $699 you can have performance that is 20-25% faster than the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE, for less money. That is advancement, again, all without including Ray Tracing or DLSS into the mix, pure rasterization.
Point being? Rasterization Performance improvement is there on the GeForce RTX 3080 FE, the facts speak the truth.
As you can see, with Ray Tracing Enabled the performance advantages with GeForce RTX 3080 FE are even higher than without Ray Tracing. The average performance increase at 1440p compared to the RTX 2080 FE is 77%. The average performance increase at 4K compared to the RTX 2080 FE is 84%. The GeForce RTX 3080 FE has a very large leap over the GeForce RTX 2080 FE with Ray Tracing turned on. Compared to the RTX 2080 Ti FE the RTX 3080 FE at 1440p averages 33% faster and at 4K it is 32% faster. This proves that Ray Tracing performance is vastly improved.
At the end of the day, the NVIDIA Ampere architecture is superior to last generation’s Pascal architecture. The node has improved from the last generation, and the architecture is now keyed more specifically to floating-point performance, Ray Tracing performance, and machine learning/AI performance via Tensor Cores. The architecture also supports some interesting new technologies we are looking forward to such as RTX I/O. It has future bandwidth support in mind with PCI-Express 4.0.
Rasterization, Ray Tracing, and Machine Learning are all aspects of modern-day GPUs, and they all matter moving forward for gaming. In traditional gaming (rasterized performance) the GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition gives us a big upgrade in performance compared to the GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition it is replacing. We see benefits depend on the game, with some as high as 80+% and most averaging around 50-60% advantage, depending on the resolution. In addition, the GeForce RTX 3080 FE also provides 20-25% faster performance than the previous fastest video card, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. When you apply Ray Tracing, the advantages in performance grow even more. Apply DLSS on top of that and Ray Tracing is playable in games at 4K now, and most definitely 1440p.
At $699 the GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition video card offers gamers a lot of gaming performance and features that will improve the gameplay experience. At the end of the day the gameplay experience is most important, and the GeForce RTX 3080 FE has the ability to transform that gameplay experience with features like Ray Tracing and DLSS. With the performance it brings, those features are playable. It also offers the fastest performance around, and even provides better performance than the fastest video card of the last generation. Whether you play games without Ray Tracing and DLSS, or you play games with, this video card will provide the best gameplay experience.


The GeForce RTX 3080 is here, right now, and priced pretty reasonably considering the performance it offers. Last month, you could have spent $2,500 on dual RTX 2080 Ti cards hooked up via NVLink, only to find that multi-GPU support in games is largely dead, particularly in new releases. Now, for $700, you get 30% better performance than the outgoing RTX 2080 Ti and pocket $500 in savings. That's assuming you can find an RTX 3080 in stock.
Let's also be clear that the RTX 3080 is primarily for high-resolution gaming. Yes, you can run 1440p with RTX effects, and it will be a good fit. It's a better fit for 4K gaming. Don't bother with it if you're using a 1080p display, as you could get nearly the same level of performance with a lesser GPU. Which brings us to the next option: Wait for the RTX 3070 or RX 6800 XT (whatever AMD's $400-$500 option ends up being called).
The RTX 3070 should still be plenty fast for 1440p gaming, and more than fast enough for 1080p — just like the RTX 2080 Ti. Nvidia says it will perform "better than the 2080 Ti," though we take that marketing-speak with a scoop of salt. Out of all the benchmarks we ran, there was only one (Doom Eternal) where the 3080 actually doubled the 2080's performance.
Anyway, saving $200 and buying a 3070 could make a lot of sense. It's interesting to note that the RTX 3070 is a substantial step down from the RTX 3080, however. The 3080 has 48% more GPU, RT, and Tensor cores, it has 20% more memory, and the memory is clocked 36% higher. That's a big enough gap that we could see an RTX 3070 Ti down the road, but at what price? Alternatively, wait and see what AMD's Navi 2x / RX 6000 GPUs can do, which we'll hear about more on October 28.
The bottom line is that the RTX 3080 is the new high-end gaming champion, delivering truly next-gen performance without a massive increase in price. If you've been sitting on a GTX 1080 Ti or lower, waiting for a good time to upgrade, that time has arrived. The only remaining question is just how competitive AMD's RX 6000, aka Big Navi, will be. Even with 80 CUs, on paper, it looks like Nvidia's RTX 3080 may trump the top Navi 2x cards, thanks to GDDR6X and the doubling down on FP32 capability. AMD might offer 16GB of memory, but it's probably going to be paired with a 256-bit bus and clocked quite a bit lower than 19 Gbps, which may limit performance.

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Bow+Handcannon loadout/playstyle is EXTREMELY strong currently, due to the sandbox changes and introduction of stasis (detailed breakdown of buffs + detailed breakdown of bow+HC in general)

It's pretty common to hear players regard the bow+HC loadout as "cheesy". Personally, I play the game we have - and also like to try fun new ways of playing. I've been having a blast running bow+HC in Beyond Light (and running up high-kill games frequently). The loadout has been working so well that I started really thinking about it - and I've come to realize that the sandbox update, coupled with changes in game flow (due to stasis - freezetag 2020!) have cumulatively provided a significant buff to this loadout. I'll break down all the changes which have rendered this loadout (which was already strong in 6s) even stronger:

  • Removal of 150rpm handcannons: The best handcannon choices for bow+HC are 140s or 120s (more impact and range for cleanup following a bow hit), thus removing 150s provides an indirect buff to bow+HC. With 150s gone, bow+HC users are no longer at a TtK disadvantage in a straight-up handcannon fight (if using a 140 - if using a 120 there is still obviously a TtK disadvantage, but it is reduced).
  • Buff of 110s to 120s: High-impact handcannons have always been the optimal choice for bow+HC, due to their best-in-class range and the fact that crit/body combos from a single bow shot and handcannon shot are more likely to net the kill with higher handcannon damage. The RPM buff from 110 to 120 is a straight buff to bow+HC as it allows for faster repeat shots if you whiff the first shot following a bow hit, and it improves lethality generally if you get into an engagement with just your handcannon.
  • Handcannon range buff: This is one of the most significant buffs - in the previous sandbox it was not uncommon for handcannon follow-up shots to be out of range on longer sight lines, given that bows have so much more range. The increased damage drop-off of handcannons now makes that much less likely. Equally significant is the parallel increase to handcannon aim assist (which is tied to range): this has made follow-up shots noticeably easier to pull off at range. This is particularly important for 120s, which are now almost never out-ranged and have become really noticeably "stickier".
  • Auto rifle nerf: This one is straightforward: 600rpm autos killed extremely fast - occasionally too fast for a bow shot followed up by a handcannon shot. The slight nerf to autos has been noticeable in this regard.
  • Sniper rifle nerf: This is a significant indirect buff to bow+HC. Snipers have always been the achilles heel to the loadout, as the main disadvantage of bow+HC is the fact that you frequently will remain grounded (aerial play is limited compared to most traditional loadouts) - this results in often being very "snipeable". The sniper nerf (reduced AA for low-zoom scopes) has reduced the prevalence of snipers generally, and reduced their effectiveness in countering bow+HC.
  • Mountaintop nerf: In skilled hands, Mountaintop was a pretty hard counter to bow+HC: it fired instantly, could kill instantly without requiring nearly as much precision as bow+HC, and is basically made for in-air play. The nerf here removed one of the major barriers to using bow+HC in high-level play.
  • The new seasonal artifact: This is minor, but worth mentioning. The new artifact has two mods that benefit bow+HC: Hand Cannon Targeting and Unflinching Hand Cannon Aim. These are pretty self-explanatory, and both serve to improve probability of landing follow-up handcannon shots.
  • Stasis being a thing now: Stasis has largely upended the flow of the game, and overall I agree with the majority opinion that it is unbalanced and unfun generally. That said, we play the game we have - and in doing that I've noticed that the new stasis gameplay has actually benefitted bow+HC; players are more "timid" so to speak - less likely to ape/engage in CQC due to the threat of being insta-frozen by melees/grenades. This has resulted in more engagements occurring at mid-range - the ideal bow+HC range. It's now easier than ever to keep your engagement range at the ideal point, maximizing effectiveness of the loadout. Proper bow+HC play already involved managing engagement distance to stay out of CQC (no shotgun right?) - staying out of insta-freeze range is essentially the same and doesn't disadvantage the playstyle at all.

As you can see, the buffs are largely indirect small items - but cumulatively they present a truly significant overall buff to bow+HC. It was already strong (particularly in 6s) - now it's extremely strong in skilled hands. The playstyle is completely different to conventional loadouts and a lot of fun - if you haven't tried it out, now's the time!

That's all for the main point of this post. I figured I'd also write up an overview of the bow+HC loadout, for anyone who is curious/unaware or has never tried it out and wants to know how to set it up properly.

Warning: wall of text below! Turns out there was a lot of minutiae to talk about. Most of what follows will probably seem obvious to seasoned players - this is more intended for newer players or those who haven't considered bow+HC before :)

  • Recommended loadout:
The most essential component of the build is the ability to quickly swap to a handcannon for the follow-up. There are several ways to do this: using the hunter exotic Lucky Pants or Dragon's Shadow, the warlock exotic Ophidian Aspect, or using a handcannon with quickdraw. Pros and cons of each method are detailed below. Whichever way, it is essential that handcannon ready time be reduced as much as possible (handcannon dexterity mods are recommended). This is really the only 100% required build component; everything else is just minor tweaks to further improve the build.
Legendary bows should have either quickdraw (best), snapshot, or be equipped with Quick Access Sling.
Specific best-in-slot options for handcannons and bows are detailed below, with build recommendations.

  • Armour mods/weapon mods/character stats:
Mobility: Bow+HC is mostly a grounded playstyle (note: this is not the case against skilled opponents, especially outside of 6s; see below). Jumping kills bow accuracy, and you can't slide while your bow is drawn. As a result your mobility stat determines how agile you can be - to a greater extent that if you were running a regular loadout; tier 10 is the goal. Being able to quickly dip in and out of cover is essential and provides a noticeable increase in survivability.
Recovery: Bow+HC requires significant management of engagement range - often resulting in frequent disengagements when playing against skilled players (covered in depth in the Playstyle section below). For this reason recovery is even more beneficial than usual - after mobility, maximize recovery as much as possible.
Discipline: I personally place discipline as my 3rd priority following mobility and recovery - and I firmly believe that mobility should be the highest priority. That said, there is an argument for building around discipline for high-level play: in tough lobbies, basic bow+HC play is typically not very effective (good players will not be easy picks). In these games, higher-level play is necessary to win - a major component of which is ability (grenade) use. So, if you're intending to hit Legend with bow+HC, run Trials flawless with consistency, play in challenging private matches, etc - you may want to spec into as much discipline as possible (and practice grenade/aerial play in 6s).
Amour mods: Optimal armour mods are what you'd expect them to be: dexterity, targeting, and unflinching. These mods can be for handcannons or bows - I personally prefer handcannon mods, as I seem to hit my bow shots more consistently than my handcannon crits.
Worth noting: because bow+HC is a double-primary loadout, the slots for special ammo mods are freed up for other options.
Subclass choice: Bow+HC is pleasantly subclass-agnostic for all classes; it works well with pretty much everything. That said, stasis subclasses are probably the optimal choice currently...
Weapon mods: Depending on your playstyle, handcannons benefit most from either Targeting Adjuster (or the new Adept Targeting Adjuster), the new Adept Range mod, or Icarus. Icarus is best-in-slot for high-level play, as it goes a long way to counteracting the biggest disadvantage of bow+HC (lack of aerial play options). If you are sticking to 6s or just don't prefer an aerial playstyle, the Targeting Adjuster mods or Adept Range both increase the reliability of landing follow-up handcannon shots.
The best mod choice for bows is dependent on weapon perks and build. Adept Accuracy, either of the Targeting Adjuster mods, Icarus, and Quick Access Sling are the best options. If the bow doesn't have quickdraw (and you aren't a hunter running Dragon's Shadow), Quick Access Sling is necessary. However, this isn't optimal as you are sacrificing more accuracy/aim assist or increased aerial accuracy - whereas a bow with quickdraw needn't make a sacrifice. The best option is to run Icarus on a bow that has quickdraw and perks for high accuracy.

  • Bow Choice:
This is pretty straightforward: For legendary bows, precision archetype is the best choice. Lightweight archetype bows don't make sense for bow+HC; the only real advantages they hold are in draw time and aim assist (at the cost of significant damage and accuracy). Draw time is not highly relevant to bow+HC (given that bow shots are followed up with handcannon shots), and the increased aim assist stat of lightweight bows is entirely offset by their poor accuracy stat.
So: legendary precision bows. Three options are standouts: Subtle Calamity (energy), Biting Winds (kinetic, new in Beyond Light), and Accrued Redemption (kinetic). All three can max out the accuracy stat (the roll is Tactile String/Natural String+Fibreglass Arrow Shaft+Accuracy masterwork), and all three can roll quickdraw. The god roll Biting Winds is arguable best, as it can roll quickdraw and snapshot for maximum handling speed. If you don't have rolls on either of these bows, No Turning Back (kinetic) is an excellent 2nd choice as it's an easily-obtained static roll with quickdraw and maxed accuracy (if you have the accuracy MW, which rolls randomly). For light-level-enabled modes, Biting Winds is the only option that is not sunset - there is no energy option with quickdraw. There is Point of the Stag (not sunset)- it doesn't roll quickdraw, but can work with Quick Access Sling as a make-do option (sacrificing Icarus sadly).

  • Exotic Bows: These are obviously all unique - but in brief, Le Monarque is the only real choice for high-level play. Furthermore, the characteristics of Le Monarque that make it unique also make it arguably the best choice out of all bows:
Highest possible bow damage: The best-in-class damage numbers of Le Monarque speak for themselves: 175 crit/125 body. No other bow comes close. Precision bows hit 151 crit/101 body. Wish Ender hits 160 crit/102 body - but has an atrocious 800ms draw time and, crucially, lacks snapshot or quickdraw. Trinity Ghoul has an exotic perk which is more or less irrelevant in PvP, has a slow draw time... and lacks quickdraw or snapshot.
Le Monarque's damage numbers enable guaranteed-kill crit/body combos that are unique among all bows: LM body+120rpm crit: 214 damage; LM body+140rpm crit: 195 damage. 195 kills low-resilience, 214 is guaranteed. Neither of these combos is a kill with any other bow. The importance of this really can't be overstated: although it is always preferable to land a crit with your bow shot, the flexibility of being able to secure the kill at minimum TtK with a body shot puts Le Monarque in a league of its own. The disorienting/stressing effects that the poison DoT places on opponents (which will spread to nearby opponents if they are clustered) are just icing on the cake.
Snapshot Sights: This perk allows the player to remain in hipfire (out of ADS) before engaging - without either snapshot or quickdraw, bows enter ADS too slowly to allow this. Bow+HC users without snapshot/quickdraw will have to pre-aim before engagements - this is hugely disadvantageous because A) this is simply not always possible in the chaos of the crucible, and B) ADS time should be minimized because it has a host of obvious disadvantages - loss of radasituational awareness, promotion of passive play, etc.

One very specific build is extremely strong and worth mentioning: Le Monarque+Oathkeepers. With legendary bows I strongly advise against running Oathkeepers - they serve little purpose, and can actively promote an excessively passive and non-aerial playstyle. With Le Monarque, that is not the case. There is a huge benefit to knowing your poison DoT damage is always guaranteed; without Oathkeepers, the window for successfully landing that poison shot is very narrow - in the chaos of the crucible, not even the best players can pull it off with absolute consistency. Oathkeepers remove that variable entirely, enabling focus to be shifted elsewhere (positioning, radar, communication, etc).
There are a few disadvantages to LM+Oathkeepers. The biggest is probably the fact that you can't run Icarus on your bow - limiting aerial play compared to legendary bows with Icarus. The other main disadvantage (which can be counteracted by conscious play) is the tendency for Oathkeepers to induce a more passive playstyle. It's easy to keep an arrow knocked at all times - but it's a terrible idea, as you become far more static (predictable), and less likely to rotate properly throughout the match. If running Oathkeepers, it is important to be aware of this tendency, and to intentionally avoid these pitfalls.

  • Handcannon choice:
The options for legendary handcannons are pretty easy to narrow down. If you are using Lucky Pants or Dragon's Shadow, quickdraw is not necessary and any 120/140 with your preferred perks will work (120s are optimal). For warlocks/titans and hunter builds without Lucky Pants or Dragon's Shadow, there are slim options. 120s are the best-in-slot option as explained above, and there are only a few examples which can roll the requisite perk of quickdraw: Thin Line (energy), Home For The Lost (kinetic, also an unobtainable Y1 static roll), and the new version of The Steady Hand (kinetic, iron banner). Thin Line is the only choice if you're running a kinetic bow.
The Steady Hand deserves a special note - it is the clear best-in-slot choice. Firstly, as the only non-sunset 120 with quickdraw, it is the only legendary 120rpm option for Trials/IB if you aren't running Lucky Pants/Dragon's Shadow. However, beyond that it also has phenomenal base stats, perk options, and "acquirability" (it should be farmable from IB, and odds are decent for strong rolls). Optimal rolls include: quickdraw+snapshot (1/36 chance), quickdraw+iron grip (1/36 chance), and quickdraw+wellspring (1/36 chance). Snapshot would shave a few frames off optimal TtK and is obviously excellent, but not necessary like quickdraw. Iron Grip hugely boosts stability, which is severely lacking in 120s. Wellspring reduces all cooldowns on kill - great for the neutral game and likely to be highly utilized, as almost all kills with bow+HC are with the handcannon. Additionally, with the correct roll The Steady Hand can reach a massive 86 range (actually 96 if using the Adept Range mod when it is available!). Max range roll requires: range MW+sureshot+any of the 4 second-slot perks which provide +5 range. Odds for this roll are a surprisingly reasonable 1/48. The god-roll with max range and quickdraw is a 1/288 chance. The GOD god-roll of max range+quickdraw+one of the 3 optimal final perks listed above is a 1/576 chance (I want one...).
(Interesting side note on The Steady Hand: If you want a high-impact handcannon with high stability, this is the one to farm for when iron banner rolls around. The stability god-roll reaches a massive 86 stability - far and away higher than any other 120rpm handcannon. The best part is it still maintains an impressive 71 range. Odds for getting this roll are 1/1152)
140rpm handcannons, while objectively worse than 120s for bow+HC, can still put in work. Options featuring quickdraw include: Ten Paces (kinetic), Kindled Orchid (energy), and The Old Fashioned (kinetic). Of these, only The Old Fashioned is not sunset; there is no non-sunset energy 140rpm handcannon that can roll quickdraw.

  • For light-level-enabled modes: note on weapon pairings/sunsetting
Due to the mess that is sunsetting, there are zero non-sunset legendary bows OR 120/140 handcannons in the energy slot that can roll quickdraw. Point of the Stag (energy bow) can work with Quick Access Sling, but that's about it. So, for Trials/IB, the possible weapon pairings are actually vanishingly slim: either Le Monarque or Point of the Stag, with either The Steady Hand or The Old Fashioned.
Hunters running Dragon's Shadow or Lucky pants have a few more options: Le Monarque+any HC Point of the Stag+any HC, or Biting Winds+any HC. Nonetheless, sunsetting has clearly reduced the pool of potential bow+HC builds by a big margin.

  • Exotic armour:
Hunters have the obvious advantage in this field: Lucky Pants, Dragon's Shadow, and Oathkeepers provide unique advantages for bow+HC that are unobtainable for warlocks/titans.
Lucky Pants lend themselves well to builds that incorporate exotic handcannons (TLW+bow, Sturm+bow, Ace+bow, etc.). These builds all have inherent advantages and disadvantages that follow the unique attributes of each exotic handcannon. They also allow use of handcannons which lack quickdraw. Builds include: Le Monarque+any handcannon that lacks quickdraw, or a legendary bow+exotic handcannon. For regular crucible, Subtle Calamity pairs best with Lucky Pants as it can roll quickdraw - for Trials/IB you are limited to Point of the Stag+Quick Access Sling.
Dragon's Shadow provides the necessary handling boost for handcannons and allows for builds with handcannons/bows that lack quickdraw. I personally am not a huge fan, as I find losing my dodge to cooldown and needing to monitor the buff/cooldown constantly to be pretty disadvantageous (especially when simply using a handcannon with quickdraw provides the same benefit).
Oathkeepers are interesting, in that I would only recommend them when paired with Le Monarque - the advantage of a guaranteed poison hit is substantial. For legendary bows, Oathkeepers offer less benefit and may even promote an excessively passive playstyle, at the cost of your exotic slot.
The above three options are the primary exotics for bow+HC, but there is an exception: builds with a legendary handcannon w/quickdraw and legendary bow. In this case, neither Oathkeepers, Lucky Pants, or Dragon's Shadow provide a significant benefit, and exotic choice is really up to preference for specific perks. I personally would recommend Wormhusk, because disengaging to heal is a necessary tactic with bow+HC.
Warlocks and titans have very minimal choice regarding exotics to pair with bow+HC. For warlocks, Ophidian Aspect is a strong choice for its buff to weapon handling (important note: the handling buff from Ophidian Aspect is not enough to counteract a lack of quickdraw, especially for 120s). If using a handcannon with quickdraw, Transversive Steps are probably best. One unique strategy for warlocks revolves around empowering rifts: if you're running Le Monarque, empowering rifts will 1-shot at any resilience. I personally don't love this strategy as you're limited by ability cooldown and it's inherently passive... but it definitely works.
For titans... I'm honestly not sure if there is any exotic that directly pairs with bow+HC. Peacekeepers could be really interesting for a closer-range bow+SMG build maybe?

  • The playstyle:
The idea of bow+HC is to dramatically increase the lethality of bows by following up successful bow hits with a handcannon. Bows on their own have a hilariously non-competitive TtK (~1.34s for precision archetype bows) and can't do much beyond teamshotting - even in 6s. And relying on teammates for kills is no fun. In high-level comp bows alone are even worse - frankly they are not competitive in any way. Supplementing a bow with a handcannon changes this - following up a bow shot with a handcannon shot can be extremely fast and often catches opponents completely off-guard. This allows players to negate the inherent "passive play" characteristic of bows - on the contrary, bow+HC can and should be used very aggressively. In 6s, high-kill games should always be the target: if you're hanging back and playing super passive, you're doing it wrong. A skilled bow+HC player should always be pressuring the opposing team.
The fundamentals of the playstyle are largely the same as regular crucible loadouts: good game sense, knowing when to retreat, playing with your teammates, etc.
One very basic point is pre-drawing your bow (this may seem obvious, but this guide is geared to players who may have zero experience with bows): the bow+HC time-to-kill is simply not competitive if you are drawing your bow once you see an enemy.
Compared to traditional loadouts (primary+shotgun, primary+sniper, etc.), the main differentiator in how to play effectively with bow+HC is engagement range. Bow+HC lacks any insta-kill "panic buttons" in CQC (bow body shot+melee is the closest option) and similarly is at an obvious disadvantage in long range vs. snipers. While it's true that in low-level 6s lobbies you can pretty much run rampant without caring too much about engagement range (if you're decently skilled with bow+HC), things change at higher levels of competition. Against skilled players you WILL lose if they successfully force an engagement at long or short range. Maintaining the correct spacing between yourself and opponents is crucial. Consciously controlling your movement so at to engage at the correct range (midrange) as often as possible is essential to strong bow+HC play.
Following from this is knowing when to disengage. This is important for all loadouts but is especially relevant to bow+HC. The playstyle often requires disengaging more frequently relative to normal playstyles; unlike shotgunning, you don't often need to fully commit ("ape"); unlike sniping, you won't often be securing instant kills without taking any damage. Playing in the midrange without instant-kill special weapons means that you will need to disengage more frequently to "play your life" - which is fundamental in high-level play regardless of loadout.
Snipers are a particular weakness for bow+HC (less so in Beyond Light but still significant). Bows can be thought of as ultra-low zoom snipers that don't kill on crits, have a charge time, and limit your mobility; with this mindset it's easy to see why challenging snipers at range is easily punished. Restraint is essential: skilled snipers will win every time and peeking should usually be avoided against good players. You'll die. In 6s, the best play is often to not challenge sniper lanes and simply rotate to a new position - you will avoid a losing engagement and can enter a more favourable one quickly. In survival/trials, sacrificing your position is not usually the best option - you could be leaving your teammates at a disadvantage, surrendering heavy spawn, guarding a revive etc. Here, engagement range is critical; reducing engagement range is the only play, and it functions the same as it would with a shotgun or fusion rifle loadout (avoid sightlines and flank/pressure as best as possible). Challenging snipers can be done most safely with radar pinging tactics (applies to all loadouts) - peek from a sightline while a teammate is within radar range of the sniper and at a different angle/sightline. If you can't challenge a sniper's lane safely, play defensively and don't peek. Emotes/swords can be used 3rd-person perspective peeking - useful in extra sweaty lobbies.
In high-level lobbies, basic spacing strategies (and good aim, basic game sense, etc.) is typically inadequate to consistently win with bow+HC. Skilled opponents will exploit the weaknesses of the loadout and provide zero easy picks. In these scenarios the key is being unpredictable. Most players haven't encountered skilled bow+HC players at high levels; they will base their play off past encounters with bow+HC in low-level lobbies. The idea is pretty simple and not unique to bow+HC: be conscious of what the enemy expects you to do, and avoid doing those things. Functionally, this mostly boils down to four things: aggressive vs. passive play, usage of abilities (specifically grenades), aerial play, and teamshotting.
Aggressive vs. passive play
Deceptively simple: most players expect bow users to be highly passive - this is what they've encountered most frequently. Push aggressively to catch (most) players by surprise. Alternate aggressive pushes with baiting - fake a push, then back off from absolute close range. Mix up with grenades/aerial play. This is similar to good play with regular loadouts, but can be trickier in that you should be aware of engagement range at all times, due to your lack of instant-kill special weapons.
Very self-explanatory yet very important. High-level lobbies won't afford you many opportunities for clean bow-swap-to-handcannon kills. Playing intelligently with your teammates will give you the opportunity for instant kills, as opponents need only marginal damage to be vulnerable to a single bow crit - 49 for legendary bows, just 25 for Le Monarque. These damage levels are typically below the "retreat threshold" at which players will disengage to heal - leaving them open to a bow crit for the kill.
Usage of abilities
Countering the inherent disadvantages of bow+HC at close range is difficult. Grenade abilities are a strong option available to all classes - due to the massive crit damage of a single bow shot (151 for legendaries, 175 for Le Monarque), even the slightest tickle from a grenade can prime an enemy for an insta-kill. If you're running LM, take note of the damage number if you tag an opponent with a grenade - anything 75 or higher can be followed up with an LM bodyshot for a guaranteed kill. This also (obviously) works in reverse - tagging an enemy with a bow shot primes them for a grenade (depending on the bow and crit/body, grenades need only hit for a maximum of 99 down to a minimum of just 25 for a guaranteed kill).
Class abilities are useful, but not as critical to the playstyle as skilled grenade use. Dodge is probably the best class ability for bow+HC - it is a strong tool to control engagement range and disengage. It also enhances survivability in CQC - very beneficial for bow+HC given the obvious lack of a special weapon. Following up a dodge in close quarters with a jump often allows bow+HC to avoid a shotgun/melee death, and sets up a bow bodyshot+handcannon cleanup (or bow+melee when in range). At the very least it gives you a chance to trade. Barricade mostly functions as it would with any loadout - the one notable exception is that barricades can be particularly useful for pre-drawing a bow while maintaining sight of an opponent. Empowering Rifts have a unique benefit in that they can allow bows to instant-kill in a single crit.
Aerial Play
For good reason, aerial play is not typically seen as a strong suit of bows: they suffer from significant penalties to in-air accuracy, and missing while airborne leaves bow users highly vulnerable. However, when executed properly, aerial play with bow+HC can be highly effective - and is in fact necessary to maximize the potential of the loadout. Strong aerial play is key to higher level bow+HC. At higher levels of play, the loadout is unlikely to be effective without it. Due to how important aerial play is, I've expanded this section to be a deep dive into every aspect of aerial play with bow+HC.
Note: "aerial play" refers to any instance of play while non-grounded - from the smallest jump-shot to a full double-jump.
For handcannons, Icarus is absolutely essential if you want to maximize aerial bow+HC play. Even if you are a grounded player, I would still recommend Icarus for your handcannon; regardless of playstyle, you will at times find yourself airborne. Often these will be moments of undesirable close quarters combat - a heavily disadvantaged position for bow+HC, and one in which your best play will usually involve your handcannon. Minimize this disadvantage as much as possible: run Icarus on your handcannon.
For bows, it comes down to your personal playstyle - for certain aerial playstyles, the best option is legendary bow+Icarus. The obvious sacrifice here is giving up Le Monarque. LM is arguably the best bow in the game; trading it's huge advantages for anything is a big ask. That said, strong aerial play is important enough against tough opponents that giving up LM can be worth it. Ultimately, it comes down to preference - both options have pros and cons, and suit different playstyles. Both can work equally well at high levels, where good aerial play is necessary - the difference is in the playstyle. I recommend practicing with both to see which works best for you.
With aerial play it's usually best to aim for body shots (with bows) when in close quarters. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that bow body shots can be landed consistently in CQC from hip-fire. This is huge: hip-firing is faster, allows you to maintain situational awareness, affords instant access to your abilities, and maximizes your movement options. ADSing for a crit while in a CQC fight is clunky and highly limiting. The second reason is basic consistency: the odds of missing against slippery opponents are higher in CQC, where missing usually results in death. Targeting a crit instead of centre-of-mass is riskier. While hitting aerial crits undeniably offers better damage and potential TtK (guaranteed kill with 1 followup handcannon hit), the increased consistency of targeting body shots is usually worth the tradeoff. Bow body shots do a surprising amount of damage and can usually get the job done; if you are forced into an absolute close-range engagement and can't disengage, bow bodyshot+melee is the best "panic button" available and can kill near instantly.
At medium range and further, aiming for crits while airborne makes sense; missing is less likely to result in death, and the goal is to deal maximum damage. In these engagements, an essential aerial technique is jump-shotting at range from cover. The keys here are range and cover: jump-shotting out of cover or in close/close-mid range is viable and useful, but bow+HC doesn't offer any real advantages vs. regular loadouts in such scenarios. On the other hand, the unique attributes of bows offer real advantages when jump-shotting at range (mid+) and peeking from cover. These include:
  • Unequaled damage from a single shot (min 101, max 175).
  • No need to factor in the possibility of wasting special ammo (less risk)
  • Inherent high accuracy and unlimited range of bows (higher probability of success)
Cumulatively these attributes make bows very strong for this style of jump-shotting. Against skilled opponents, it's often a necessary technique; these players will reliably punish basic peeking (standing position>strafe out of cover) - and bow+HC almost never works with slide-peeking out of cover (nocking an arrow after a slide is an easy punish). This leaves jump-shotting as the only mix-up option for peeking lanes. Without strong jump-shotting skills, good teams can easily shut down aggressive bow+HC play. It's one of the most important bow techniques and is crucial for maximizing the loadout's potential.
Regardless of your build choice, clean-up kills at close range (or with the threat of snipers) should almost always be attempted with aerial play - most players will not expect this from bow users, and bow body shot damage is often enough to secure the kill with no follow-up.
Another aerial tactic worth mentioning is engaging with only your handcannon. Against particularly slippery or skilled opponents this can be more reliable - and it serves as a mix-up which they will not be expecting.

I'll wrap up this guide with a breakdown of what I personally consider to be the current best build overall for aerial bow+HC play - and for the playstyle as a whole. It's not the strongest option in all scenarios - but it is definitely the most versatile, with fewer weaknesses than other bow+HC builds. It's also relatively simple to put together and works with all classes - although hunter probably synergizes best.
The build is (quite simply) Le Monarque+120rpm HC. The unique attribute of this particular pairing which makes it so strong is the bow bodyshot + handcannon crit combo: a Le Monarque body shot and 120rpm crit hits for 215 - a guaranteed kill. All other bow+HC builds require a bow crit to guarantee a kill with the followup handcannon shot. This means you can secure kills at the fastest possible TtK regardless of landing the bow crit, at (nearly) any range! The strength of this cannot be overstated; it enables plays based off intentional bow bodyshots that no other build can match - and provides superior forgiveness and flexibility in every engagement. These attributes enable a playstyle that is unique to this build. Relative to other bow+HC builds, LM+120rpm has nearly zero downsides: in close/close-mid range, it excels for aggressive aerial play (second only to legendary bow+TLW) - offering near-instantaneous kill potential without requiring high precision. This makes intentionally playing around hip-fire body-shots a competitive strategy - and Le Monarque is equipped with snapshot for rapid pivots to ADS as needed. At mid-range and further, the best-in-slot damage output of LM and best-in-slot damage+range of 120rpm handcannons offer the greatest lethality in a bow+HC loadout - and again require objectively less precision for minimum TtK. No other build is as effective at all ranges, or as forgiving. The best part is this build is relatively easy to set up: all you need is a 120rpm HC with quickdraw (or Lucky Pants/Dragon's Shadow) and Icarus.

That's all for now... way more than I intended to write haha. Hopefully this provides a useful overview of bow+HC. Try it out if you haven't before and you're looking for a totally different playstyle in the crucible!
submitted by Dr_Thumbs to CruciblePlaybook

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