The RX 7900 XTX and RTX 4090 might be AMD’s and NVIDIA’s fastest GPUs, respectively, but they are by no means equal. The 4090 is much more powerful and has a higher price tag.
There are two questions we must ask when deciding between the 7900 XTX vs 4090. First, which graphics card is better value from a price-performance perspective? Second, is an RTX 4090 overkill for your needs meaning the less powerful 7900 XTX will be enough?
To answer these questions, we need to consider what features and technologies these cards offer, as well as how they perform across different resolutions on average. And, of course, we need to consider these things alongside their prices.
In this guide, we’ll cover all this, and we’ll also consider alternatives to these two high-end GPUs if there are cards that offer a similar level of performance.
- Best RTX 4090 Graphics Cards
- Best RX 7900 XTX Graphics Cards
- Best RTX 4090 Prebuilt Gaming PCs
- Best RTX 4090 Laptops
What is the 7900 XTX?
The AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX is currently AMD’s fastest graphics card. It launched in December 2022 and features a new design that places all its main rendering components on one Graphics Compute Die (GCD), which connects to several other Memory Compute Dies (MCDs) using ‘Infinity Links’ to connect the different dies.
This ‘RDNA 3’ architecture GPU competes most closely with NVIDIA’s RTX 4080. It’s a great graphics card for any gamer who wants high-end performance but doesn’t want to spend almost twice as much on an RTX 4090, providing they don’t mind sacrificing DLSS 3 and some ray tracing performance compared to the 4080.
What is the RTX 4090?
Not only is the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 NVIDIA’s fastest graphics card, it’s also the best graphics card on the market, full-stop. Having launched in October 2022 as the first of the current GPU generation, this ‘Ada Lovelace’ architecture GPU outperforms every other consumer GPU on the market.
It also costs substantially more than other high-end GPUs on the market, though—you have to pay a significant premium for such flagship performance. There are currently no video cards that come close to matching its performance, but the RTX 4080 and RX 7900 XTX are next in line.
AMD vs NVIDIA Features
There are several new features offered by both RDNA 3 and Ada Lovelace cards. Both the RTX 4090 and RX 7900 XTX offer improved ray tracing hardware, AV1 encoding support, and AI cores capable of supporting next-gen upscaling tech (though the AMD card has to wait a while before FSR 3 is implemented).
There are some manufacturer-specific differences between the two GPUs’ features, though:
- NVIDIA DLSS 3 vs AMD FSR 2 (and upcoming FSR 3)
- NVIDIA GSync vs AMD FreeSync
- NVIDIA DLDSR vs AMD VSR
- NVIDIA Reflex and NULL vs AMD Anti-Lag
For starters, the 7900 XTX is still running on what might be called ‘last-gen’ upscaling tech, this being FSR 2. The RTX 4090 supports current-gen DLSS 3, which can use frame generation to greatly boost framerates without sacrificing much visual fidelity. FSR 2 doesn’t have frame generation, but AMD says that FSR 3 will. We don’t know when FSR 3 will launch, but when it does, the 7900 XTX should support it.
Second, the 4090 can power GSync on GSync monitors, while the 7900 XTX can only power the adaptive refresh rate tech of FreeSync and GSync Compatible monitors. Fortunately, any decent FreeSync or GSync Compatible monitor should offer variable refresh rate tech that’s almost indistinguishable from GSync tech.
Third, both cards support input latency reduction technologies, but NVIDIA has Reflex which currently beats anything that AMD offers—although whether Reflex is an option depends on the game in question.
Finally, both the 4090 and 7900 XTX have downscaling technologies (DLDSR and VSR). There’s ongoing debate over which one is better, and downscaling is a niche tech that most gamers don’t use.
7900 XTX vs 4090: Price Comparison
The RX 7900 XTX has an MSRP of $999 and the RTX 4090 has an MSRP of $1,599, making the NVIDIA card a whopping $600 (60%) more expensive than the AMD one.
Currently, you can pick up a 7900 XTX for about the same price as its MSRP. With the 4090, however, things aren’t so great. Unless you’re lucky enough to pick up a Founders Edition (FE) card, the cheapest RTX 4090s at the moment are retailing for about $1,850, which is $850 (85%) more expensive than the 7900 XTX.
If you’re looking for a graphics card that performs as well as the 4090 but costs less, you’re out of luck. The reason the 4090 costs so much is that it performs much better than even the next-best graphics cards from both NVIDIA and AMD.
On the other hand, if you’re happy with the 7900 XTX’s performance, there are a couple of alternatives you might consider.
First, there’s the RTX 4080. This card performs about as well as the 7900 XTX on average, but costs $200 more. This extra $200 might be justified if you like to use ray tracing or if you want to use DLSS 3, because the 4080 is much better at ray tracing and upscaling. Or, you might find that the 4080 performs better in specific games that you like playing—the two cards don’t perform identically in every title.
Alternatively, you could consider the RX 7900 XT, which performs a little worse than the 7900 XTX but costs $100 less. Although, if you’re considering opting for the XT, you might also consider saving another $100 on top and opting for the RTX 4070 Ti, which performs almost as well as the 7900 XT.
Graphics Card Specs
|RX 7900 XTX
|CUDA Cores / Stream Processors
|Tensore Cores / AI Accelerators
|RT Cores / Ray Accelerators
|Stream Multiprocessors / Compute Units
|Clock speed (base/boost)
|1.86GHz / 2.5GHz
|2.23GHz / 2.52GHz
|Power connector (reference)
|1x 16-pin (12VHPWR adapter)
While we wouldn’t recommend judging two GPUs with completely different architectures based on specs alone, it’s quite clear even from this spec sheet that the RTX 4090 is significantly more powerful than the 7900 XTX.
It has many more shader cores, AI cores, and ray tracing cores, and it has a higher base clock and slightly higher boost clock speed—which is notable considering AMD GPUs usually have higher clock speeds than their NVIDIA competitors.
On the memory front, both cards are similar, offering a massive 24GB memory capacity that should provide all the longevity one could need. But the 4090 uses faster GDDR6X VRAM compared to the 7900 XT’s GDDR6 RAM, and it has slightly more memory bandwidth.
Finally, we should note that there is one thing not mentioned on this table that goes in the RDNA 3 card’s favor. Not only does it have a USB-C port with DisplayPort (DP) 1.2 pass-through, but it also has DP 2.1 ports which support 4K at 480Hz and 8K at 165Hz. The 4090, on the other hand, has DP 1.4a ports which only support 4K at 120Hz and 8K at 30Hz.
|RX 7900 XTX
|51mm (2.5 slots)
|61mm (3 slots)
The AMD RX 7900 XTX isn’t a small card, but the RTX 4090 is a behemoth in comparison. If you’re sure an RTX 4090 will fit in your case and not block any other components, there’s no downside to its size (especially if you take steps to prevent GPU sag). Just make sure you measure your system before hitting the purchase button.
Power Draw and Temperature
As we would expect from such a powerful card, the RTX 4090 can churn through a lot of electricity. As such, for its 450W TDP (TBP) rating, NVIDIA recommends you use an 850W power supply. However, despite the 7900 XTX having a TDP 130W lower than the 4090’s, AMD still recommends an 800W power supply to power it.
Also Read: The Best Power Supplies Right Now
Providing you aren’t unlucky enough to receive an overheating 7900 XTX from a bad GPU batch (retailers are recalling these and should exchange or refund any problem cards), both the 4090 FE and reference 7900 XTX should keep temps nice and cool. While gaming, both should keep you below 70c, which is well below maximum thresholds.
4090 vs 7900 XTX: Gaming Performance
To give you a good overview of these cards’ respective performances, we’ve averaged game performance results from a variety of different online reviews, such as those from TomsHardware, TechPowerUp, and PCGamer.
For each resolution, we’ve presented averaged framerates and average percentage increase differentials. Because of the way we’ve worked these out, the average percentage increase should be more reflective of the difference between the two GPUs. But the framerate comparisons track close enough to these that they indicate how the two graphics cards stack up pretty accurately.
Just remember that these are averages, and actual performance differences may vary from game to game. Some games prefer AMD cards, others prefer NVIDIA ones. If you know which games you’ll likely be playing, it’s always best to check out benchmark comparisons for those specific games.
Framerates averaged from multiple online benchmarks.
On average, the RTX 4090 performs about 7.6% better than the RX 7900 XTX at 1080p.
At 1080p, when paired with either of these GPUs, games are very CPU-bound. This means there’s only a slight difference between these two cards’ performances at this resolution.
Both GPUs should average well over 100fps at 1080p even in the most demanding titles. In very demanding games, the 4090 might get you closer to 144fps than the 7900 XTX, but the difference is still relatively slight.
As such, if you’re certain you’re going to stick to 1080p, it probably makes more sense to opt for the much cheaper 7900 XTX since the extra money spent on an RTX 4090 will mostly go to waste. Unless you want the best ray tracing performance, of course, because the 4090 does better with ray tracing even at 1080p.
Framerates averaged from multiple online benchmarks.
On average, the RTX 4090 performs about 18% better than the RX 7900 XTX at 1440p.
For 1440p gaming, we can make a better argument for opting for an RTX 4090 over an RX 7900 XTX. Sure, the 4090’s 18% performance increase doesn’t come close to matching its 60% higher price tag, but no one ever expected a flagship graphics card’s performance to match its price difference (if we did, we’d surely also expect Lamborghinis to cost a lot less than they do, too).
Also Read: Is 1440P Worth it for Gaming?
The fact is, an 18% average framerate difference is very substantial. And while both GPUs should net well over 100fps in the vast majority of games on max settings at 1440p, the 4090 can make all the difference at higher refresh rates.
For example, in some games the 4090 performs about 40% better than the 7900 XTX, which could mean pushing from about 130fps to 180fps, which is great news for those of you with a 144Hz monitor. And in those games where there’s a smaller difference (say, 8%), it’s not as if it performs worse than the 7900 XTX.
In other words, if you have the money to spare, an RTX 4090 is worth its salt over a 7900 XTX for 1440p gaming. But the 7900 XTX is still capable enough to churn out 144fps in most games, and in those few demanding titles that push it below 144fps or 120fps, lowering just one or two graphics options should get you back up to the mark.
Framerates averaged from multiple online benchmarks.
On average, the RTX 4090 performs about 37% better than the RX 7900 XTX at 4K.
4K gaming is what the RTX 4090 is really targeted at. Unfortunately, the 4090 can’t support more than 120Hz at 4K (unlike the 7900 XTX which can), but opting for a 4090 over an RX 7900 XTX makes sense if you want to hit 120fps on max settings in many games.
Ignoring the most graphically intensive titles like Cyberpunk, there are still many games that, when run on max settings, will have the 7900 XTX averaging below 100fps (say 90fps, 80fps, or sometimes 60fps). The 4090, on the other hand, should run most of these titles at over 100fps, even surpassing 120fps in moderately demanding games.
If 60fps at 4K is your goal, a 7900 XTX should serve you well in all but the most demanding titles. But if you want to push beyond this and achieve 120fps at 4K, and providing you can afford it, an RTX 4090 is much better for 4K gaming than an RX 7900 XTX.
Finally, if you don’t mind dropping your settings to achieve high framerates and you want to game at 4K 144Hz or higher, you’ll have to opt for a 7900 XTX because the 4090 maxes out at 4K 120Hz.
Ray Tracing and Upscaling
Score taken from PCGamer’s testing (1440p charts).
Based on PCGamer’s 3DMark Port Royal testing, the RTX 4090 does ray tracing about 79% better than the RX 7900 XTX at 1440p.
There’s no question about it: NVIDIA is still king of ray tracing. If you want to enable ray tracing (especially if you’re gaming at 4K resolution), the 4090 should serve you much better. Its better ray tracing performance will compound with its already better raw performance at 1440p and 4K for much higher framerates than the 7900 XTX can offer.
Similarly, if you want the best upscaling on the market right now, the 4090 is where it’s at. AMD has upscaling (FSR 2), but until it releases FSR 3, it has nothing that can hold a candle to the framerate increases gained by DLSS 3’s frame generation.
If these technologies are very important to you, opting for the NVIDIA GPU is the way to go.
Game Performance Summary
For 1080p gaming, the slight difference between the performance of 7900 XTX and the 4090 doesn’t justify the 4090’s steep extra cost. Even if you want to game at an ultra high refresh rate, the 7900 XTX will serve you almost as well as the 4090.
For 1440p, opting for an RTX 4090 makes sense if you can afford it, providing you want to hit 144fps or higher in most games on max settings. If you’re aiming for 120fps or lower, a 7900 XTX should still serve you well and will be much easier on the wallet.
Buying a 4090 for 4K gaming makes much more sense than for 1440p or 1080p gaming. If you’ll only be gaming at 60Hz, the 7900 XTX is still a great option. But if you want to hit 120Hz on max settings at 4K, the 4090 will get you there in many more games. On the other hand, the 4090 maxes out at 4K 120Hz, so if you want to lower your settings and hit 4K 144Hz or higher, you’ll have to opt for the 7900 XTX.
More Performance Comparisons
- RTX 4090 vs RTX 4080
- RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090 Ti
- RTX 4090 vs RTX 4070 Ti
- RTX 4080 vs RX 7900 XTX
- RTX 4070 Ti vs RX 7900 XTX
- RTX 4070 vs RX 7900 XTX
Verdict: Should You Buy a 7900 XTX or a 4090?
In many ways, knowing when to opt for RTX 4090 instead of a 7900 XTX should be easy. If money is of no concern and you’re gaming at 1440p or 4K, opting for a 4090 is a no-brainer. It’s just that much better in terms of performance. Similarly, if you want to game at 120Hz in almost every game on max settings at 4K resolution, only the 4090 will get you there.
But most people don’t fit these use cases. Most gamers will be willing to sacrifice some performance to save a lot of money. Considering the 4090 costs $600 (60%) more than the 7900 XTX at best, and will probably cost even more than this, opting for a 7900 XTX is a better bet for most gamers.
With the 7900 XTX you’ll be able to game at 1440p averaging over 100fps on max settings in almost any game, and you’ll be able to game at 4K averaging over 60fps on max settings in almost any game and close to 100fps in most. If you’re willing to lower your settings down from maximum, the sky is the limit. And at 1080p games are so CPU-limited that the 7900 XTX performs almost as well as the 4090.
Apart from some exceptional use cases, unless you’re swayed by its superior ray tracing and DLSS capabilities, the only real reason to opt for an RTX 4090 instead of an RX 7900 XTX is if you have a 120Hz 4K monitor and want to make the most of it in modern games on max settings. The only other time it makes sense to opt for one is when money is of no concern—and those who don’t mind the cost likely knew they’d opt for a 4090 from the start.