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NVIDIA RTX 4090 review: Unholy power

You probably don’t need it, but you will covet it.
How do you review a product like the NVIDIA RTX 4090? That is unmistakably the fastest consumer GPU we’ve ever seen based just on its specifications. So yes, I can confirm that I can play almost everything in 4K with ray tracing enabled and all graphics features enabled. Hell, if you’re a masochist, it can scale up to 8K. It darn well better for a $1,599 video card, though. Who is this genuinely for, though, is the true query.
Comparing the RTX 4090 to earlier NVIDIA and AMD technology is essentially useless. It’s obviously much faster. Of course you’ll feel envious. If you have the money and the want to upgrade, trust God (or, as NVIDIA’s admirers refer to the company’s CEO Jensen Huang, who wears a leather jacket). Yet, it just exists as an object of lust for everybody else who doesn’t require cutting edge technology. You could certainly wait for the future RTX 4080 cards or whatever AMD is working on, but the 4090 isn’t one of them. NVIDIA is laying down the gauntlet with a power-hungry card for the most ardent gamers and developers, just like the previous generation of GPUs.
If your decision hasn’t been made, I’ll suppose you came to see what a beast the 4090 is. And let me tell you, it’s a breathtaking sight. The triple-slot RTX 4090 GPU, which weighs 4.8 pounds and is almost the size of a PlayStation 5, will take up most of any case it is in. Honestly, if you’re considering purchasing it, make sure your PC has enough space to accommodate a card that is almost 5 inches thick and almost a foot long.
Upgrade your power supply as well, but be ready: The 4090 requires an 850W PSU and has a high 450W TDP (the same thermal design profile as the 3090 It). (Some independent businesses are clamoring for 1200W PSUs!) Although though it can be powered by a single Pie 5.0 connection, not many of those PSUs are currently available, thus most users will probably wind up utilizing four 8-pin adapters. After organizing all of my wires, I cursed Jensen’s name when I realized I needed to string another PSU line.
NVIDIA hasn’t made many changes to the 4090 Founder Edition’s design besides its outrageous power requirements, though: It is still a top-tier, all-metal card with two fans on opposite sides, a sizable vapor chamber, and a heatsink array. In my tests, the 4090 maintained a pretty cool 70C under load, despite NVIDIA’s boast that they can push 20 percent more air than the 3090 It.


But, everything inside the RTX 4090 is what makes it so unique. It makes use of the business’s brand-new “Ada Lovelace” architecture, which bears the name of the first computer programmer in history; I wonder, though, if NVIDIA pays royalty to use her name in marketing. It contains 24GB of GDDR6X Memory, 16,384 CUDA cores (nearly 6,000 more than the 3090 It), a base clock speed of 2.23GHz, and a boost clock speed of 2.52GHz. These numbers make the upcoming RTX 4080 cards, which begin with 7,680 CUDA cores, look insignificant in comparison.

And in all honesty, that seems to be the reason why NVIDIA dropped the 4090 before the rest of its new GPUs. It resembles a celestial body that is so large that it bends space-time around it. The new standard is this. What other GPU can you use to play Cyberpunk 2077 in 4K with maximum graphics and ray tracing at 135 frames per second?

To be clear, the 4090 isn’t just about raw power, though. By utilizing DLSS 3, NVIDIA’s most recent AI upscaling technology that is now capable of producing whole frames of imagery on its own, it was able to achieve that incredible Cyberpunk framerate. (That’s on top of employing AI to scale lower quality textures, like previous versions.) A Plague Tale Requiem ran more than twice as quickly in 4K, producing about 175 frames per second thanks to DLSS 3. (up from 74fps).

107 frames per second were easily achieved in Control when playing in 4K with high ray tracing settings on the RTX 4090. What’s even better, though? getting a stable 128 frames per second when I turned on an earlier DLSS version. It’s simply a shame that DLSS 3 isn’t yet supported because I’m sure it would result in even greater performance. Although the game was actually rendered in 1,440p, DLSS does a remarkable job of making it appear as though it were 4K to my eyes. (I used Samsung’s 55-inch Arc monitor to test the 4090, which gave me a far wider view than my usual 34-inch ultrawide screen.) I would have noticed any graphical irregularities if there were any.)

Ray tracing performance on the 4090 was a feature that still managed to destroy NVIDIA’s 30-series cards, therefore I was very interested in highlighting that performance. It makes lighting, shadows, and reflections more realistic. For the majority, I bet the improved graphics it offers would be more impressive than an increase in framerate. It is therefore amazing to see an NVIDIA card that can finally produce 4K and reliable ray tracing at frame rates above 100. But is that really worth $1,599? It is still unknown, especially given the unknown competitive landscape for the remaining 40-series cards.

The 4090 might be a better choice if you want a video card that can do more than just play games. It performed twice as well in the Blender 3D rendering benchmark as the RTX 3090 It, a GPU that was debuted earlier this year and costs a staggering $1,999. (Let’s pause for a moment to remember the unfortunate individuals who jumped on that card.) The RTX 4090 outperformed the 3080 It by 10 seconds when transcoding a brief 4K clip into 1080p. If you’re rendering lengthier clips, episodes, or feature films, that could easily mount up.

When you see what the RTX 4090 is capable of, it’s difficult not to want it. It offers a glimpse of a future in which ray tracing is finally possible without compromise. Yet, given the upcoming $899 and $1,199 RTX 4080 cards, it is difficult to reduce the cost of a whole machine in order to obtain the greatest frame rates available. These days, there is simply so much more to think about. For instance, you might combine one of those 4080s with a Steam Deck to enjoy PC gaming everywhere in your house and on the go. You won’t enjoy as much fun, but you won’t have the status of belonging to the 4090 club.