Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 review: a new level of graphics performance

Next-gen graphics power is finally in our hands – and it’s one of the biggest generational leaps we’ve ever seen. Back then, the RTX 3080 vs RTX 2080 comparison showed some impressive gains – but the performance multipliers are at a new level considering how the new RTX 4090 stacks up against the previous GPU champions RTX 3090 and RTX 3090 Ti. On a broader level, delivering so much power does pose problems for building a well-balanced gaming PC: as you’ll see in our analysis, many of the games we test are now hitting CPU limitations. Also in 4K resolution. Even at maximum settings. The heaviest ray tracing workload? RTX 4090 is simply phenomenal.

In fact, the new card’s performance raises some fundamental questions: If CPUs can’t fully power it, does it fit well with your surrounding hardware? More importantly, what are the current real-world uses for the card? Ultimately, if you have a 4K 120Hz+ display (I’m using a 48-inch LG CX OLED), you’re in good shape to adapt your display to the hardware’s capabilities. If you game at 1440p or lower, or even have a 4K 60Hz screen, there’s a good chance the RTX 4090 will simply deliver too much of Performance…at least in today’s games.

This leads us to a key message Nvidia delivered at the launch of the RTX 4000 – one that has been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the RTX 4080’s specs and pricing. The truth is we haven’t worked our way out of the generational malaise yet and our only clue to the future of gaming comes from Unreal Engine 5 and The Matrix Awakens. UE5 seems to be the engine of choice for tomorrow’s games, where we should see the new wave of GPUs taxed more heavily. However, Nvidia is thinking beyond that and using the additional power of RTX 4000 in combination with a new DLSS 3 to make new gaming experiences a reality. We’ve seen RTX Remix modernizing older titles with full path tracing. We also saw Cyberpunk 2077’s RT Overdrive upgrade. Interestingly, CD Projekt RED and Nvidia don’t say so directly – but this is effectively another path tracing upgrade – a noteworthy statement of intent.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 – the Digital Foundry video test.
RTX4090 24GB RTX4080 16GB RTX4080 12GB
processor AD102 AD103 AD104
transistors 76.3B 45.9B 35.8B
The size 608mm² 379mm² 295mm²
CUDA cores 16384 9728 7680
boost clock 2.52GHz 2.51GHz 2.61GHz
storage interface 384-bit 256-bit 192-bit
memory bandwidth 1018GB/s 742GB/s 557GB/s
TGP 450W 320W 285W
PSU recommendation 850W 750W 700W
power supply cable 4x 8-pin 3x 8-pin 2x 8-pin
Price $1499/£1649 $1199/£1269 $899/£949
release date October 12, 2022 November 2022 November 2022

In this test, we tick most of the boxes. We’ll cover rasterization performance and focus on ray tracing using a range of titles including some of the toughest RT workouts available today. We’ll also consider reconstruction in titles where the technology is supported by all GPU vendors – which we think should be the future model. We’ll also reveal framerate numbers for DLSS 3, where you can see how the technology scales beyond CPU limitations and how it allows path trace experiences to work well on 120Hz Ultra HD displays.

However, there’s quite a lot about the RTX 4090 that we’ve yet to touch, including its creator-focused features. The media engine in the RTX 4090 is in a class unlike anything seen before. Its support for h.264 and HEVC encoding is faster and more comprehensive than anything we’ve seen before, while there’s also support for the new ultra-efficient AV1 encoding standard. In fact, RTX 4090 has two AV1 encoders baked into the silicon.

So what does this remarkable feature set cost, aside from the very expensive sticker price? There have been concerns about the power consumption of the new generation, and it’s fair to say that the new silicon is obviously more expensive to run, with the total board power capped at 450W. This might be less of a problem if you can afford a $1600/£1650 graphics card to begin with, but in my testing I’ve found that the 450W limit is rarely reached. And even if you’re there or near, the amount of performance you’re getting suggests it’s significantly more efficient than last-gen cards, as this chart shows. For the record, I think the RTX 4090 is actually CPU limited on the Forza Horizon 5 test here, hence the lower power draw. Still, it runs 75 percent faster than the RTX 3090! Elsewhere, other tests have found that you can manually lower TGP significantly and still get up to 95 percent of the card’s performance.

GeForce RTX3090 GeForce RTX4090 Power reduction per frame
Cyberpunk 2077 Ultra RT 319W – 23.05 fps – 13.84 joules per frame 406W – 46.83 fps – 8.67 joules per frame 37.36%
Metro Exodus Enhanced Ultra RT 343W – 64.59 fps – 5.3 joules per frame 436W – 119.97 fps – 3.63 joules per frame 31.51%
Forza Horizon 5 Extreme 331W – 88.53 fps – 3.74 joules per frame 284W – 154.93 fps – 1.83 joules per frame 51.07%

All of this sets the stage for the deluge of information and data that may also help put the RTX 4080 offerings into context. Benchmarks from Nvidia have suggested that the 16GB offering for titles that don’t support DLSS 3 should be somewhere in the middle between last-gen flagships and the new GPU king. However, it’s the RTX 4080 12GB priced at $899 that’s causing the most excitement, with Nvidia’s own benchmarks suggesting that its performance level is more in the RTX 3090 and 3090 Ti bracket. This can make comparisons to the excellent RTX 3080 10GB a bit problematic given the suggested price points.

However, these are discussion points for the future once we get hands-on with the actual products. The here and now is about the RTX 4090, where there is undoubtedly a huge leap in performance and an increase in “performance per dollar” compared to the RTX 3090 and the RTX 3090 Ti in particular. But even with that calculus, the specter of the RTX 3080 is large – the 3090 was only 15 percent faster overall, the 3090 Ti about 25 percent better overall . RTX 4090 may well have a value argument, but let’s not forget that it’s still incredibly expensive for the mainstream user. Is it worth? The following pages should be enlightening!

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 Analysis

  • Introduction, hardware and performance analysis [This Page]
  • Gaming benchmarks: Control, Cyberpunk 2077, Doom Eternal
  • Gaming benchmarks: F1 22, Forza Horizon 5, Gears 5
  • Gaming Benchmarks: Hitman 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • RT benchmarks: Control, Dying Light 2, Cyberpunk 2077, F1 22
  • RT Benchmarks: Hitman 3, Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition, Marvel’s Spider-Man
  • DLSS vs FSR 2: Dying Light 2, Marvel’s Spider-Man
  • DLSS 3: Marvel’s Spider-Man, Cyberpunk 2077
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090: the verdict of the Digital Foundry

https://www.eurogamer.net/digitalfoundry-2022-nvidia-geforce-rtx-4090-review-extreme-performance Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 review: a new level of graphics performance

Curtis Crabtree

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