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
|RTX 3090||RTX 4090|
|Base Clock||1395 MHz||2235 MHz|
|Memory||24GB GDDR6X||24GB GDDR6X|
|Memory Speed||19.5 Gbps||21 Gbps|
|TDP||350 watts||450 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.
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.
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.
- 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
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
- First commercially available GPU capable of playing games at 8K resolution.
- More powerful than the NVIDIA RTX Titan.
- Uses three PCI-E slots over the 3080‘s two.
Facts about the RTX 4090
- The most powerful GPU ever produced for the consumer market.
- Capable of DLSS 3 for improved game performance at higher resolutions.
- 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.