RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090: How Ada stacks up to Ampere

A clash of seismic proportions

RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090

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The bout of RTX 4090 vs 3090 is intensifying as the launch for the second generation BFGPU draws ever closer. The tail end of 2022 has represented a bit of a turning point as far as enthusiast-grade hardware is concerned. We’re now at a point where many high-end graphics cards are retailing far below their respective MSRPs, so could trading up for the latest model be worth it?

That’s what’s so interesting when analyzing RTX 4090 vs 3090 because the answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might first imagine. We’re comparing the technical specs, analyzing the pricing histories, and weighing up which BFGPU is right for your machine this year. Regardless of which option you have in your crosshairs, one thing is for sure, it’s going to get heavy either way.

Current RTX 3090 deals

  1. PNY RTX 3090 24GB GDDR6X XLR8 PCI Express 4.0 Graphics Card with Triple Fan, $930.99 (save $49)
  2. MSI RTX 3090 GAMING X TRIO 24G, 24GB GDDR6X, PCI Express 4.0, $839.99 (save $490)
  3. MSI RTX 3090 VENTUS 3X 24G OC 24GB GDDR6X PCI Express 4.0, $1,762.99 (save $92)

RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090 specs comparison

For the sake of brevity, we’ve compiled the raw technical specifications of the RTX 4090 and RTX 3090 into an easy-to-read table:

RTX 4090 RTX 3090
AD102 processorGA102 processor
16384 CUDA cores10496 CUDA cores
384-bit memory bus384-bit memory bus
2235 MHz base clock speed1395 MHz base clock speed
2520 MHz boost clock speed1695 MHz boost clock speed
1,018 GB/s bandwidth936.2 GB/s bandwidth
450W TDP350W TDP
$1,599 MSRP$1,499 MSRP
How the RTX 4090 and RTX 3090 directly compare against each other. Sources: TechPowerUp; Nvidia

As can be expected, the far newer RTX 4090 boasts significantly more CUDA cores than the original, with an increase of roughly 56.09% over the original BFGPU. Naturally, given the jump in core count, there’s an additional 100W TDP here, meaning more power will be needed to fuel the card at its best.

The original RTX 3090 utilized the same 12-pin connector as the rest of the Ampere series. However, things changed with the introduction of the RTX 3090 Ti, which required a 16-pin connector, or an adapter utilizing 3 x 8-pin PCIe leads. From what we’ve seen, some aftermarket cards could even need 4 x 8-pin connectors to function properly. The recommended PSU is 850W.

The power connector included with the Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 4090 AMP Extreme AIRO (Source: Zotac)

This can be seen with several different partner variants of the BFGPU 2.0, such as with the Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 4090 Amp Extreme AIRO. An unwieldy adapter like this may not be necessary, though. Some manufacturers, such as Corsair, have created specialized 16-pin power leads that connect with 2x 8-pin leads, which is far more standard for most PC users.

Our first look at Corsair’s upcoming 600W PCIe 5.0 12VHPWR Type-4 PSU power cables (Source: Corsair)

RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090: size comparison

This is to be expected, after all, the RTX 3090 Ti had similar requirements when it launched earlier this year. The RTX 4090 is the second PCIe 5.0 compliant video card from Nvidia while on paper looking to be built on the same size silicon. That’s not quite the case from what we’re able to tell from the physical size, though, with larger coolers needed resulting in a bigger graphics card.

How the RTX 4090 appears to be much larger than both RTX 3090 and RTX 3090 Ti (Sources: Gigabyte / Videocardz)

Originally reported by Videocardz, we now have a direct visual comparison of just how large the coolers for aftermarket RTX 4090 graphics cards will be. As you can see, there’s nearly double the size of the original RTX 3090, and a good third on top of the revised BFGPU.

How the new RTX 4090 Founders Edition compares to the RTX 3090 and the rest of the Ampere line. (Source: TechPowerUp)

TechPowerUp has had the RTX 4090 FE model in-house and provided a comparison between the new BFGPU and the original. From what the image indicates, it’s looking as though the RTX 4090 is slightly shorter than the RTX 3090, it appears to be much thicker when put side by side.

What does this mean for consumers wishing to upgrade to the RTX 4090? Well, you’re going to need a particularly large PC case. From what we’ve observed here, we’re confident in stating that the new model is unlikely to fit in a mid-tower. We’ve had our hands on the RTX 3090 Ti, and that card was a struggle inside one of our test machines. A full tower may be needed here.

RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090: performance comparison

How the RTX 4090, and Ada graphics cards, compare against Ampere with gaming performance (Source: Nvidia)

The most important factor separating the RTX 4090 and RTX 3090 is the performance differences. As you may expect, the former is a stronger performer when taken on synthetic benchmarks and from the real-world performance that we’re able to verify. Nvidia itself has published some strong figures when taken in isolation but doesn’t give us the full story.

The fine print denotes that the tests were conducted “using DLSS Frame Generation on RTX 40 series where possible. This is where we need to take these results with a grain of salt, as it’s not quite a fair fight here. DLSS 3.0 is only available on RTX 40 series graphics cards, as Ampere and Turing GPUs do not have access to this degree of upscaling technology.

It stands to reason, though, that the RTX 4090 using DLSS 3.0 does significantly outperform the RTX 3090. However, it would have been more transparent for the company to publish figures using native performance numbers and then DLSS on par with Ampere’s capabilities.

Fortunately, there are far more real-world benchmarks to rely on to give us a much more accurate comparison. Our friends over at WePC’s ASUS ROG Strix OC RTX 4090 review sees a full suite of synthetic and real-world benchmarks, as we can see below.

RTX 4090 Synthetic benchmarks

RTX 4090 Gaming Benchmarks

Other outlets online have been publishing direct-comparison videos which let us know how the RTX 4090 stacks up to its predecessors. Now, the RTX 4090 is out, but Game Ready drivers arguably aren’t fully 100%.

A direct comparison between the RTX 4090 and RTX 3090 Ti published by YouTube user MarkPC (Source: MarkPC on YouTube)

One of the more prominent RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090 pieces online is a video by YouTuber user MarkPC. The prolific benchmarking-centric channel has been home to many hardware launches in the past few years. Helpfully enough, too, this outlet has directly tested some games cited in Nvidia’s own in-house benchmarking for us to analyze.

Cyberpunk 2077 is perhaps the most prominent example. The benchmarks have shown that the RTX 4090 was averaging around 100 FPS in 4K at Ultra settings. By contrast, the RTX 3090 Ti was able to achieve 58 FPS, just shy of 60. This is consistent with Nvidia’s own demonstration of Cyberpunk 2077 with DLSS 3, so the quoted figures are indeed accurate here.

It’s a similar story for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, too. The RTX 4090 appears to average around 112 FPS, with the RTX 3090 Ti barely able to maintain 70 FPS. Both are once again tested at 4K resolution with ultra settings. Nvidia claimed in its charts that there would be roughly a 1.5x performance difference in this game, and that appears true. There’s an FPS difference of 60%.

How the RTX 4090 compares to both the RTX 3090 Ti and the stock RTX 3090. (Source: Mike Benchmark on YouTube)

As with all testing, you shouldn’t stop at one second-hand source. YouTube user Mike Benchmark appears to have their hands on the RTX 4090 as well. The figures published in this video are consistent with the rates from the first example. This is evidenced by Cyberpunk 2077, with the RTX 4090 averaging 90 FPS, whereas the RTX 3090 Ti and RTX 3090 are hovering around 60 FPS.

Things are consistent with Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla as well. The RTX 4090 is pushing upwards of 111 FPS, with the RTX 3090 Ti and RTX 3090 offering 66 and 61 FPS respectively. Keep in mind, these videos have been released ahead of the RTX 4090 release date so must be taken with a degree of skepticism. Should these rates be legitimate, then the performance quota is accurate.

RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090: price comparison

It was a smarter move on Nvidia’s part to retail the RTX 4090 cheaper than the launch price of the RTX 3090 Ti. The former will carry an MSRP of $1,599, with the latter coming in at an eye-watering $1,999 which did not go down well with many press outlets. Make no mistake the RTX 4090 is a full $100 more expensive than the original BFGPU, though.

Another important factor with RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090 is the cost of investment. It’s important to consider the landscape of the GPU market at this point, as the latter is now selling for historic lowest-ever prices. It’s now entirely possible to find RTX 3090 stock for well under $1,000.

For example, the ASUS TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3090 is selling for $959.99 at Newegg right now. With many graphics cards at the online retailer hovering around the $999 mark. Taking deals off the table, the BFGPU effectively had its original MSRP cut down by a third, as the stock price appears to linger around $1,099.

Taken as a whole, you’re going to be really paying $600 more for an RTX 4090 than you would for an RTX 3090 at this time. That’s to say nothing of partner cards, as the likes of MSI, Zotac, and PNY rates can vary upwards of Nvidia’s own stated MSRP. Whether or not the investment is worth it will come down to what you want your gaming PC to be able to do.

We’re showing you where to buy RTX 4090 graphics cards in case you’re interested in pre-ordering or have a specific model in mind ahead of the release date.

The official pricing and specs for the upcoming RTX 4090 graphics card. (Source: Nvidia)

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

Simply put, if you want the absolute best gaming and general performance in your PC then you should get an RTX 4090 graphics card. The Ada GPU benefits from PCIe 5.0 compliance and DLSS 3 for much higher bandwidth leading to leading frame rates. However, the cost of the card may not end there. If you don’t have an 850W PSU or higher, you’ll need to get one.

What’s more, given the added bulk of RTX 4090 graphics cards, you’re going to need a larger PC case to be able to insert it safely. The RTX 4090 is considerably thicker than the RTX 3090, a GPU that was already a tight squeeze inside of many average-sized mid-towers in our experience.

Then there’s the processor to keep in mind. You’ll want a Ryzen 7000 or Intel Core 13th Gen to make the most of all that available bandwidth on offer. Buying an RTX 4090 could warrant putting together an entirely new build, however, it’s likely that you wouldn’t have to upgrade any components for a very long time as a consequence.

In comparison, you can still get the same 24GB GDDR6X memory from the RTX 3090, you just won’t be able to utilize DLSS 3.0 to push the frame rates higher. This ultimately depends on which target resolution you’ve got in mind, what FPS you want your games to achieve, etc. You may be better served going for the older, cheaper card if you don’t want the bleeding edge.

When will the RTX 4090 be released?

The official release date for RTX 4090 graphics cards is October 12. Not much is yet known as to the availability of the Founders Edition model or partner cards yet. However, we’re expecting a much stronger launch this time around than when Ampere dropped two years prior. We’ll be bringing you everything you need to know on the day.

Why does the RTX 4090 need so much power?

The RTX 4090 achieves a bandwidth of 1,018 GB/s but has a 450W TDP in order to do so. Because of the wattage required to run the card and the added cooling requirements. Some third-party graphics card manufacturers are even recommending PSUs above 850W as recommended by Nvidia. If you’re after a partner card, we strongly advise at least 1000W or higher for overhead.

How big is the 4090?

The RTX 4090 measures 304mm (11.9 inches) by 137mm (5.3 inches) in width. Yes, it’s that big. The RTX 4090 is also a three-slot card. That means it takes up what Nvidia says is 61mm (2.4 inches) of space – what you may call depth – in your case.

In terms of weight, and it will depend on the specific construction from partners, you’re looking at over 2,000g. Yes, that’s 2kg, or 4.4 pounds. In some cases – we’re looking at you ASUS ROG Strix OC – the weight may be as much as 2,500g. That’s 5.5 pounds!

4090 v 3090 CUDA cores

The 4090 trumps the 3090 in every stat going, and that includes the CUDA (Compute Unified Defined Architecture) core count. While the 3090 has 10496, the 4090 has over 6,000 more, with 16384. That’s a 64% increase.