RTX 3090 vs. 4090: Is the Upgrade Worth It?

RTX 3090 vs RTX 4090 featured image

RTX 3090 vs. 4090: Is the Upgrade Worth It?

Shopping for graphics cards can be tough. Prospective customers want the most for their money, and understandably so. GPU prices have unfortunately been getting higher and higher over the last few years, making picking the next piece of your gaming rig a challenge. NVIDIA remains a popular choice for gamers, and its raytracing and DLSS technology give visuals to match the outstanding performance. Let’s take a look at two everything you need to know about RTX 3090 vs. 4090. Is the 4090 worth it? What about the 3090? Let’s find out!

3090 vs. 4090: Side-by-Side Comparison

infographic for RTX 3090 vs RTX 4090
RTX 3090RTX 4090
ArchitectureAmpereAda Lovelace
CUDA Cores10,49616,334
RT Cores82144
Tensor Cores328576
Base Clock1395 MHz2235 MHz
Memory Speed19.5 Gbps21 Gbps
Memory Bus384-bit384-bit
TDP350 watts450 watts

RTX 3090 vs. 4090: What’s the Difference?

Generational leaps with NVIDIA often yield rather stark jumps in improved performance. The jump from the 3090 to the 4090 is no different, with massive increases across the board. The price between the two cards is also a stark difference, with the 4090 retailing for nearly 50% more than the last generation 3090.


The 3090 is based around the Ampere architecture, and at the time of its initial introduction was the fastest production GPU on the market. Times have changed, but the 3090 still remains a competitive GPU for those looking to game.

Both GPUs have the same pool of memory to draw from, using 24GB of GDDR6X RAM to load textures and the like. Where the differences start to stack up is in the other features.

Our Pick
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition
  • Ampere Architecture
  • 24 GB DDR6X
  • 384-bit memory interface
  • GPU clock speed: 3.1 GHz
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The base clock speed for the 3090 registers at 1395 MHz, the 4090 however sees a 62% increase in speed, bringing it to 2235 MHz. This isn’t a marginal improvement for the 4090, but rather a vast jump in terms of performance. There’s simply more of everything else on the 4090, with the GPU having more tensor cores, CUDA cores, and raytracing cores.

This does come with the added increase in power necessary for the GPU to function, however. Users can expect 450 watts of power solely for the 4090, requiring a minimum of a 750-watt power supply to function with the rest of the components. This contrasts with the 350 watts for the 3090, which is still substantial, but not quite as demanding.


Specs are one thing, but how these GPUs perform in the real world is the real litmus test. To no one’s surprise, the 4090 readily trounces the 3090 in the performance itself. During testing with a rig that used the same CPU, RAM, and other peripherals, there was a substantial increase in performance across a wide variety of games.

The extremely demanding Cyberpunk 2077 saw a 33 frames-per-second increase at 1080p on Ultra settings. This continues with other resolutions, seeing even more substantial increases in framerate across larger resolutions.

Where the 4090 truly shines is at 4K, with a gulf in performance appearing between the two GPUs. One notable example is a tested copy of Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Ultra, with the 4090 outputting a consistent 116 frames-per-second to the 3090’s 59 frames-per-second.

That isn’t to say the 3090 is a lacking GPU, but that the move in architecture has netted substantial improvements over the former card.

Other Applications

NVIDIA cards have been a mainstay for AI development for some time. The usage of CUDA and tensor cores allow developers to leverage the power of the GPU to handle demanding models and calculations.

As with the gaming benchmarks, AI and deep learning benchmarks are also in the RTX 4090’s favor. Performance across the board is a substantial increase, with the 3090 doing admirably, but the 4090 nearly doubling the performance.

High Efficiency
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090
  • Has 16,384 NVIDIA CUDA Cores
  • Supports 4K 120Hz HDR, 8K 60Hz HDR
  • Up to 2x performance and power efficiency
  • Fourth-Gen Tensor Cores that offer 2x AI performance
  • Third-Gen RT Cores
  • AI-Accelerated Performance: NVIDIA DLSS 3
  • NVIDIA Reflex low-latency platform
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This is in part thanks to the 4090 having a substantial increase in the number of CUDA, tensor, and raytracing cores. These individual components on the GPU can allow for far more parallel processes to be conducted, greatly increasing the throughput of processing data sets or training models.

Home users likely won’t be looking to leverage these GPUs for this sort of application. But hobbyists and professionals in the field will be delighted to know the RTX 4090 is a great value for this sort of work. It is more energy efficient than the 3090 despite having a higher thermal draw.

These aren’t ideal solutions for AI work, as the 3090 and 4090 both pale against the enterprise-grade GPUs that NVIDIA markets in this particular sector. It is substantially cheaper across the board and should prove valuable for smaller research departments, as well as corporations looking to accelerate their AI development.


Perhaps the most important consideration to make between these two GPUs is their pricing. The 4090 is expectedly the more expensive option of the two. In the event that a supply of the GPU is available, it is near twice the price of the 3090.

The 3090’s price is still on the higher side of things, at least going by historical trends for flagship GPUs. With that in mind, the price is more acceptable. Prospective customers will need to weigh whether the disparity in performance is worth the extreme difference in cost.

GPU prices aren’t likely to come down, so piecing together a gaming rig is more challenging. If your budget allows for it, the 4090 is an absolutely stellar card ready for 4K gaming at extreme graphical fidelity. More budget-conscious buyers won’t be disappointed in the 3090. That said, the cost-per-performance ratio is not in the RTX 3090’s favor.

RTX 3090 vs. RTX 4090: 6 Must-Know Facts

Facts about the RTX 3090

  1. First commercially available GPU capable of playing games at 8K resolution.
  2. More powerful than the NVIDIA RTX Titan.
  3. Uses three PCI-E slots over the 3080‘s two.

Facts about the RTX 4090

  1. The most powerful GPU ever produced for the consumer market.
  2. Capable of DLSS 3 for improved game performance at higher resolutions.
  3. First flagship GPU by NVIDIA without SLI or NVLink.

RTX 3090 vs. RTX 4090: Is the 4090 Worth It?

In terms of raw statistics and performance, the 4090 is the overwhelming winner. If you’re looking to upgrade from an older flagship card and can afford the price of entry, it won’t disappoint. But is the 4090 worth it?

The extreme power draw and considerable price hike over the 3090 and 2080 are something to keep in mind. Beyond the price, it is an extremely capable card that gives an excellent price-per-performance ratio.

The 4090 will remain a gold standard until the inevitable hype cycle from NVIDIA renews. Those into high-end desktop PC builds will delight in having a GPU which can crush anything playable.

It is also a great entry point for those looking to enter into cryptographic research or machine learning. It is a far more reasonable expenditure if you’re looking to crunch massive sets of numbers. In short, if you can get the 4090, it’s a beast of a GPU looking to deliver stunning visuals.

RTX 3090 vs. 4090: Is the Upgrade Worth It? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is it worth grabbing the 4090 for 1080p gaming?

The 4090’s extreme power is probably not going to reach its full potential on a 1080p monitor. It might prove beneficial if you have a monitor with a higher refresh rate, where the extra horsepower would definitely come in handy.

That aside, if you’re looking for a stable 60fps and want to save a little money it might be worth looking at one of the lower-tier GPUs on offer from AMD and NVIDIA.

Where both the 3090 and 4090 excel is when pushing the graphical rendering to a higher resolution than the standard 1080p. Both cards are certainly capable of some impressive framerates at 4K.

If you’re wanting to see raytracing it would certainly be a less taxing process in 1080p for the 4090, and you’d likely have a good compromise between visual fidelity and performance.

Is the 4090 worth using for AI?

If you’re a hobbyist researcher, or you work for a small firm, it is a great value for that line of work. True AI-oriented cards retail for a much higher cost, and the 4090 is far less expensive than if you were dealing with an NVIDIA A100.

Further, AI is a relatively young market sector, so if you’re not looking to break the bank it makes sense to invest in something more cost-effective.

Time will likely make the overall investment necessary to get into AI less expensive. Right now, if you aren’t a massive firm working with an automotive manufacturer, it stands to reason to invest wisely in your equipment.

Is any GPU truly 8K capable?

There aren’t many commercially available 8K monitors or displays on the market currently. That said, the 3090 and 4090 can do 8K, but it comes at a cost. As you can imagine, quadrupling the resolution from 1080p requires intensive resources.

The 3090 and 4090 alike can render at this resolution, whether through DLSS or through actual display settings, but the performance is less than optimal. Users will likely find framerates stellar at 4K, but you’d be looking at sub-60fps on 8K without appropriate adjustments.

With the way current GPUs are going, it’s easy to see this as a stepping stone of sorts. The GTX 980 was touted as capable of 4K gaming, but it was far off the mark for playable and smooth framerates. Time and future GPU models will likely lead to more ideal performance at 8K.

Can you pair 4090s in the same case?

If you’re looking to do something similar to NVLink, you’re out of luck with the 4090. Aside from the massive power draw, there is no benefit in having two of these gargantuan GPUs for gaming purposes. You can’t readily tap into the extra GPU thanks to sunsetted support for NVLink.

The 3090 is the last flagship from NVIDIA capable of NVLink, which again still requires a PSU with a massive rating to run both in series. In all honesty, the 3090 and 4090 are more than capable of maxing out every recent game on the market. Even newer releases like the Dead Space remake are no trouble getting maxed and looking great.

In the event you’re looking to run multiple 4090s for AI or ML purposes, you certainly can. Certain workloads can leverage processes on multiple cards in parallel.

What is the purpose of the RT and tensor cores?

RT and tensor cores don’t directly help with graphical rendering. Instead, they handle other functions which contribute to rendering.

Aspects like physics, raytracing, and dynamic resolution adjustment can be handled by these two cores while the CUDA cores and GPU’s processor handle the actual rendering.

All of the extra cores on the GPU aid in handling more complex mathematical calculations and accelerating them. Those leveraging NVIDIA’s technology can offload some of the more extensive aspects of a game’s systems to the hardware, leaving the CPU and RAM to handle their core processes.

These are proprietary systems implemented in NVIDIA GPUs only and are part of why NVIDIA is a driving force in hardware-accelerated computing for things like AI.

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