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Nvidia RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090 Ti

Let's see just how well the RTX 3090 Ti stacks up against the brand new RTX 4090 in this GPU battle for the ages
Last Updated on January 3, 2024
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In the 19th century, Countess of Lovelace Ada King foresaw in computers an application that could potentially go well beyond mere number-crunching, a far cry from conventional mathematics and PC components, like the Nvidia RTX 4090.

Although an expert visionary in the world of mathematics, Ada herself could never foresee just how far computer science would go well into the future. Still, her namesake lives on, now emblazoned on the underlying architecture of Nvidia’s brand-new GPU, boasting unimaginable performance in the face of some intense TDP metrics.

The Nvidia RTX 4090 has made some bold claims, the most prominent among them being its potential to outperform even the best GPU by more than 50%. If that is not taking all enthusiasts and gamers to a world of imagination, I don’t know what can.

In this post, we will compare the RTX 4090 vs the RTX 3090 Ti, otherwise known as the “BFGPU.” Much like when stacking the RTX 4090 against the RTX 3090, we’ll be comparing performance, size, specs, and price points while trying to solve some of the still-hanging doubts regarding benchmarks that Nvidia has released thus far.

RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090 Ti specs comparison

GeForce RTX 3090 TiGeForce RTX 4090
GPU code nameAmpere GA102AD102
Number of transistors28,300 million76,300 million
Manufacturing process tech8nm5nm
Core clock speed1,560 MHz2,235 MHz
Boost clock speed1,860 MHz2,520 MHz
Thermal design power TDP450 Watt450 Watt
Texture fill rate625.01,290
Tensor Cores328336
RT Cores8284

The first big change in the new RTX 4090 is the manufacturing process, the motor behind its power. Nvidia decided to swap the Samsung 8nm process for TSMC’s 4nm process node. This new technology is not only more efficient but, more importantly, is smaller than the previous process. 

Having this process smaller gives the graphic card more space to store additional transistors, the internal components that give power to the entire unit thanks to the gained CUDA cores. More transistors equal more power in ALU (Arithmetic Logic Units), which means more CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) cores, and a less severe bottleneck in the pipeline. 

Leveraging 62% more CUDA cores, the new Nvidia RTX 4090 is capable of providing a core clock speed of 2,235 MHz, a 43% upgrade against the 1,560 MHz provided via the RTX 3090 Ti. This improvement is also translated into the maximum capacity of the GPU’s boost clock speed. The 4090 can perform up to 2,520 MHz versus the 1,860 MHz of the 3090 Ti, which means fewer dropped frames while gaming, but additional power requirements.

Power requirement is one of the most noticeable changes to come with the new technology. Although on the surface it may seem like the RTX 4090 will require the same 450 Watt TDP as the RTX 3090 Ti, the bump in CUDA cores, RT Cores, and Tensor Cores introduces a new generation of ray-tracing and DLSS to the Ada Lovelace card, all of which are massive power-hungry upgrades over the 3090 Ti.

But, what are all of these new features good for? The improved 4th-Gen Tensor Cores allow the RTX 4090 to generate AI-enhanced super sampling included within Nvidia’s DLSS 3.0 technology. This is thanks to a new piece of hardware named the “Optical Flow Accelerator,” which allows the GPU to generate more high-quality and accurate frames.

In conclusion, the new card will draw more power from the PSU than any of its competitors, so finally upgrading that PSU will be a necessity, as well as taking a peek at Intel’s new ATX 3.0 standards.

RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090 Ti: size comparison

Ten years ago, we dreamed of smaller and more powerful PCs. After the augmented cooling needs of some graphics cards, like the massive RTX 3090 Strix, bigger cases no sooner became the norm in the need to store these GPUs. 

The RTX 4090 has made several improvements in its cooling system over the RTX 3090 Ti. Nvidia has altered the fan design to make it more protruding and flatter. And given the overall size of the new GPU is bigger than the RTX 3090 Ti, we can expect a 10% improvement in the card’s cooling performance, confirmed by Nvidia. 

JayzTwoCents shows us in his Youtube video a direct comparison between the RTX 4090 Founders Edition and the previous GPUs from Nvidia. While he doesn’t show us the RTX 3090 Ti specifically, we can see the 4090 side by side with the 3090 Strix, a three-fan graphics card, and the differences in size could hardly be noticed. 

With that in mind, we can say that the new RTX 4090 is bigger than any of its predecessors, the sizings of which were made only with the founders’ edition. When we compare, for example, the Aorus Edition with Nvidia’s older counterparts, the size difference only increases. 

RTX 4090 Aorus Master358.5 mm162.8 mm75.1
RTX 3090 Ti336 mm140 mm61 mm

These new dimensions appear somewhat counterintuitive when the newest motherboards are smaller and lighter PC cases seem to take up a large chunk of the market. However, it’s preferable to have a much larger cooling system, so you don’t risk overheating. Thus, you will most likely need to change your PC case to fit the new RTX 4090.

RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090 Ti: performance comparison

At the RTX 40 series reveal event, Nvidia showed off its brand-new GPU with a slew of promises. They claim that the new Ada Lovelace architecture allows the RTX 4090 up to 2x performance gain in general rasterization, and up to 4 times better ray tracing performance with DLSS enabled. 

If we take the general specs with all the Core upgrades the new GPU has, this performance jump doesn’t seem delusional at all. Still, not everything is as clear as Nvidia tells us. 

At the showcase, Nvidia showed the 4090 playing three different games: Cyberpunk 2077, Warhammer, and Microsoft Flight Simulator. We know that Cyberpunk and Microsoft Flight Simulator are games that have shown incredible performance on Nvidia’s architecture. This means that seeing some great results with these games is not too surprising. But, we need to look beyond the results.

The new RTX series not only has architectural upgrades but new system features that help the GPU perform better. This feature isn’t available in every game, as very few titles have access to this new technology so far. Features like DLSS 3, DLSS Super-resolution, and ray tracing, enable the GPU some incredible performance metrics.

On the other hand, the RTX 3090 Ti doesn’t have access to these features, so the comparisons aren’t exactly fair. To visualize real upgrades from the RTX 3090 Ti to the 4090, we need to see real-world benchmarks under more comparable situations and video games running these additional features.

This is not to say the performance of the new GPU will be less than its predecessor, but the metrics do show that we need clearer benchmarks under more controlled situations to determine exactly how much better it actually will be on specific games.

We can’t take Nvidia at its word, after all. Yet, the world of technology is also a world ripe with leaks. A few days ago, a Chiphell forum post provided a now-deleted screenshot of an unknown graphics card with a score of 20,192 in 3Dmark Time Spy Extreme, numbers that align with Nvidias’ aforementioned claimed performance improvements.

Along with this leak, the YouTube channel MarkPC, which has provided insider information on hardware launches before, detailed a benchmark between the RTX 4090, the RTX 3090, and the RTX 3090 Ti. The direct comparison’s metrics also align with Nvidia’s results. These two third-party data collections give us some insight into how much better the RTX 4090 will be over the Ampere GPUs.

RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090Ti: price comparison

The pricing in technology is typically quite difficult to accurately pinpoint, particularly for Nvidia. On April 2022, the firm launched the RTX 3090 Ti with a starting price of $1,999, $500 more expensive than the RTX 3090.

According to Nvidia, the RTX 4090 will be launched at a starting price of $1,599, which is already a $400 drop from the previous card’s price point. This makes it seem like Nvidia has realized the damage it is doing to the market.

We already have official details on the starting FE price for the RTX 4090, however, there is no information yet regarding the price change for cards made via third-party retailers, such as MSI, ASUS, or ZOTAC. If we use previous launches as a guide, we can expect a $100 to $200 price increase, taking into account that the RTX 3090 Ti versions built by these companies were sold for upwards of $2,100.

The graphics card price isn’t all that must be considered, though. We also need to make sure to balance the entry price. As we said before, the new GPU has an increase in size and power. If you want to effectively draw all that power from this new RTX card, you’ll need to change the processor too, to avoid any bottlenecks. With that in mind, the RTX 4090 should be $400 cheaper, but fully upgrading will be a bit pricey.

Should I buy an RTX 4090 or an RTX 3090Ti graphics card?

Nvidia is making a lot of changes, and with these changes come necessary PC upgrades for the CPU, PSU, ATX standard, and PCI connectors, to name just a few. Buying an RTX 3090 Ti could save you some money, but eventually, you’ll be left behind in raw power.

This shouldn’t be an issue if you’re looking for great performance, but if you’re on the lookout for a better gaming experience to last you several years, you should consider buying the new RTX 4090. 

The main improvement to bear in mind here is the new DLSS 3.0 technology and shader execution that will move ray tracing workloads from a single-threaded task to a multi-threaded endeavor that will be calculated much faster. In Nvidia’s own words, you’ll be losing out on a 25% bump in gaming performance if you stick with the 3090 Ti.

When will the RTX 4090 be released?

Nvidia announced the launch of its GeForce RTX 4090 on Oct 12th at a starting price of $1,599. This will be the first in the RTX 4000 series lineup by Nvidia and the card can be purchased across several retailers found here, including Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, and Nvidia’s own site. The RTX 4080 is expected to drop a month later at $1,199 for the 16GB version and $899 for the 12GB model.

RTX 4090 VS RTX 3090 Expert view

The new RTX 4090 will be faster than the RTX 3090 Ti and any other graphics cards on the market. The improvements in the manufacturing process are too overwhelming not to ignore.

And, although Nvidia has been using the lack of detailed information to its advantage, marketing the new GPU as better than it might be, multiple leaks and third-party information seem to point out the new RTX 4090 will at least leverage a 60% to 70% performance boost over the RTX 3090 Ti. However, nothing is certain until we have the actual GPUs in hand.

Camilo is a contributor for PC Guide. He's been into tech since he was a teen, surfing through the web and local stores trying to find the cheapest way to play the latest Half-Life on his old Windows