RTX 3090 Ti vs RTX 4090: Is the Next-Gen NVIDIA GPU Worth It?

RTX 3090 Ti vs RTX 4090

With the launch of NVIDIA’s 40-series graphics cards, PC gamers now have a new flagship GPU to salivate over. The RTX 3090 Ti was the go-to ultra-high-end graphics card of its generation, but the RTX 4090 has changed this.

Of course, this improvement is to be expected with a new GPU generation, but what’s surprising is that the 4090 isn’t even bad from a price-performance perspective. The 4090 seems to have the performance to justify its astronomical price.

But price-performance isn’t the only thing to consider when deciding on the 3090 Ti vs 4090, because a GPU choice should also be based on one’s gaming requirements. For instance, is the 4090’s admittedly stellar performance worth the extra cost if you’re not gaming on max settings at 4K resolution?

Also Read: RTX 4080 vs 4090: Is NVIDIA’s Fastest GPU Worth the Extra Cost?

This is the kind of question we need to ask. We also need to ask whether it’s a good time to opt for an NVIDIA GPU when AMD’s next-gen cards are just around the corner. Let’s take a closer look.

Buying Options

RTX 3090 Ti Advantages

  • $500 cheaper at MSRP and currently $600-700 cheaper in practice
  • Great for max settings, high refresh rate gaming at 1080p and 1440p
  • Can net over 100fps on max settings at 4K resolution in many games

RTX 4090 Advantages

  • Currently the best-performing graphics card on the market
  • Makes 4K gaming look as easy as 1440p gaming did a few months ago
  • DLSS 3.0 technology can double your framerate
  • Better ray tracing performance
  • Capable of AV1 encoding

What is the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Ti?

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Ti is a high-end graphics card that launched in March 2022. It was the flagship (best performing) graphics card until the 40-series launched, and its hefty price tag reflected this.

The RTX 3090 Ti is based on NVIDIA’s ‘Ampere’ architecture and is manufactured using Samsung’s 8N process. Combining raw rasterization horsepower and innovative machine learning technology for ray tracing and upscaling, the 3090 Ti has enough chops to game at any graphics setting and resolution.

What is the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090?

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 is an ultra-high-end graphics card that launched in October 2022. It was the first GPU to launch in the 40-series line-up and is currently the best-performing consumer graphics card on the market.

The RTX 4090 is based on NVIDIA’s new ‘Ada Lovelace’ architecture and is manufactured using TSMC’s 4N process. It combines rasterization capability with fancy machine learning tech to offer flagship gaming performance, and it offers a host of new features compared to the 3090 Ti.

3090 Ti vs 4090: New Features

While the 4090 and 3090 Ti offer the same basic high-end NVIDIA features to different degrees—DLSS and ray tracing capability, excellent rasterization performance, great performance at high resolutions, and exceptional out-of-the-box game and software support—the 4090 has some new tricks up its sleeve that the 3090 Ti lacks.

DLSS 3

The 4090’s new Tensor Cores give support for NVIDIA’s next generation of image upscaling technology: Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) 3.0.

DLSS combines the GPU’s Deep Learning hardware (Tensor Cores) with NVIDIA’s Deep Learning neural network to render supported games at lower resolutions and then upscale them to your native resolution. This provides a significant framerate boost with minimal graphical impact compared to native res.

DLSS 3 is essentially the same as DLSS 2 with one important difference: DLSS 3 cards like the RTX 4090 can now, in supported games, use Deep Learning to generate frames between those that your GPU renders.

Also Read: What is Input Lag & How Can You Fix/Test It?

DLSS 3 gives a massive performance boost over DLSS 2, but there are drawbacks. For one, because the newly generated frames don’t come from the traditional GPU render queue, input lag might increase compared to enabling it without frame generation. Also, few games currently support DLSS 3, but as more games are released and updated the number should increase.

Shader-Execution Reordering (SER)

The RTX 4090 includes a new technology called Shader Execution Rendering (SER), which is used to improve ray tracing performance. This tech reorders shader execution workloads whenever the GPU will benefit, improving GPU pipeline efficiency.

NVIDIA claims (PDF) that “Using SER, we observe speedups of up to 2x in raytracing regimes of real-world applications, achieved with only a small amount of developer effort.” And while SER currently requires game dev implementation via a different API, NVIDIA hopes to implement the technology into DirextX 12 and other standard APIs.

Dual AV1 Encoding

The NVIDIA RTX 4090 has another thing the RTX 3090 Ti lacks: AV1 encoding capability. While the 3090 Ti (along with all 30-series GPUs) has AV1 decoding hardware, it lacks the 4090’s AV1 encoding hardware.

The 4090’s dual NVENC encoders can encode in H.264, H.265, and AV1 formats. Intel Arc Alchemist GPUs already have AV1 support, and we’ve seen from these GPUs that AV1 cuts encoding times dramatically. And while AV1 support hasn’t been implemented on much software yet, this will change over the coming months and years.

Software like OBS already supports AV1 for recording, but for streaming it’s a matter of waiting to see if or when sites like Twitch support it. But as soon as they do, the 4090 should be capable of much quicker high-quality streaming.

4090 vs 3090 Ti: Price

The RTX 3090 Ti has an MSRP of $1,099 and the RTX 4090 has an MSRP of $1,599.

At release, the 3090 Ti had an MSRP of $1,999, so the 4090’s MSRP is cheaper than the 3090 Ti was, but $100 more expensive than the $1,500 RTX 3090 was at MSRP.

In practice, both the 3090 Ti and 4090 retail for higher than their MSRPs, unless you’re lucky enough to pick up a Founders Edition (FE) card. Currently, 3090 Tis retail for about $1,500-1,600, while 4090s are going for anywhere between $2,200-2,700 in the US.

This means that the 4090 is currently, at best, 37% more expensive than the 3090 Ti. At worst, it’s 80% more expensive—almost twice the cost.

Alternative GPUs

If you’re considering a 3090 Ti or 4090, then you probably want one of the very best graphics cards on the market. In which case, there aren’t too many alternatives.

You could opt for the cheaper RTX 4080, but the 4080 is nowhere near as good as the 4090 when it comes to price-performance. Nevertheless, the 4080 outperforms the 3090 Ti and comes with NVIDIA’s new 40-series features like DLSS 3.0, so it is a viable option.

Or you could choose AMD’s Radeon RX 7900 XT and 7900 XTX. These GPUs are less powerful than the high-end 40-series chips but have much lower launch prices (with MSRPs of $899 and $999, respectively) and require less power. They’ll also offer DisplayPort 2.1 connectivity, which the 4090 and 3090 Ti don’t offer, and which will let you game at up to 8K 165Hz or 4K 480Hz.

Graphics Card Specs

RTX 3090 Ti RTX 4090
GPU GA102 AD102
CUDA Cores 10,752 16,384
Tensor cores 336 512
RT Cores 84 128
Stream Multiprocessors 84 128
Memory 24GB GDDR6X 24GB GDDR6X
Memory speed 21GT/s 21GT/s
Memory bandwidth 1,008GB/s 1,008GB/s
Clock speed (base/boost) 1.67GHz / 1.86GHz 2.23GHz / 2.52GHz
Power connector (reference) 1x 16-pin 1x 16-pin
TDP 450W 450W

We can see that the RTX 4090 improves on the 3090 Ti from just its base specs, ignoring its more efficient architecture and new technologies.

It has about 50% more CUDA Cores than the 3090 Ti, which should translate almost directly to improved rasterization performance. Similarly, it has about 50% more SMs, RT Cores, and Tensor Cores, which should translate to improved ray tracing and image scaling performance. The 4090 also has a much bigger L2 cache than the 3090 Ti, and its core and boost clock is higher.

Both cards offer a whopping 24GB of high-speed GDDR6X video memory over a 384-bit memory bus, which is more than enough for gaming at any resolution for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, the 4090 hasn’t included PCIe 5.0 support and instead sticks to PCIe 4.0 like the 3090 Ti. This isn’t much of an issue, however, because GPUs aren’t even getting close to saturating PCIe 4.0 bandwidths in current games.

Dimensions

RTX 3090 Ti (FE) RTX 4090 (FE)
Length 313mm 304mm
Width 138mm 137mm
Slots 3 3

Perhaps surprisingly, the RTX 4090 is smaller than the RTX 3090 Ti—but only slightly. Both cards are huge, taking up three case slots. For reference, the RTX 3080 FE takes up two slots and is 20mm shorter 25mm narrower than the 4090. Whether you opt for a 3090 Ti or a 4090, ensure your case is big enough to house it.

Power Requirements

What’s especially impressive about the 4090 is that it achieves all this while maintaining the same 450W power consumption as the 3090 Ti, meaning power efficiency has been drastically improved. For both GPUs, NVIDIA recommends an 850W PSU.

Also Read: The Best Power Supplies Right Now

We should note that some users have reported their 4090’s power adapter melting. However, as GamersNexus reports, and according to NVIDIA’s data, these failures are occurring in only about 0.05% of 4090 cards. Plus, NVIDIA and AIB manufacturers quickly deal with and replace defective cards.

Gaming Performance

The true test for both the 3090 Ti and 4090 comes from benchmarking real-world gaming performance. For such high-end cards, we should expect stellar performance across all mainstream resolutions, even with ray tracing enabled.

Also Read: 1080p vs. 1440p vs. 4K: Which Resolution Is Best for Gaming?

To compare the 4090 vs 3090 Ti, we’ve sifted through reviews and benchmark comparisons such as those from TechRadar, PCGamer, and TechSpot, and we’ve averaged out their benchmark results to present a comparison that should be accurate for most gamers across a variety of systems.

RTX 4090 vs RTX 3090 Ti - Test in 9 Games

1080p Benchmarks

Both the RTX 3090 Ti and RTX 4090 are probably overkill for gaming at 1080p resolution.

Both GPUs should net you high enough frames for high refresh rate gaming in any game on any graphics settings at 1080p. If you’re playing competitive shooters (which are usually less demanding), both should get you framerates in the multiple hundreds, which is more than enough even for ultra-high refresh rate monitors.

Also Read: Response Time vs Refresh Rate: What’s the Difference?

Technically, the RTX 4090 beats the RTX 3090 Ti by a not insignificant margin (about 25%) at 1080p. But both give such high frame rates that it’s difficult to recommend the more expensive GPU if you’re only gaming at 1080p.

1440p Benchmarks

The RTX 4090 and RTX 3090 Ti both perform exceptionally well at 1440p, too, but the difference between the two NVIDIA graphics cards is more pronounced at this resolution than at 1080p.

Also Read: Is 1440P Worth it for Gaming?

At 1440p, both cards should net you well over 100fps on average in the vast majority of games being played at max settings. Both should be more than enough for gaming on 120Hz, 144Hz, or 165Hz monitors. And if you only play moderately or less demanding games, both should net frame rates high enough for 240Hz gaming.

At this resolution, the RTX 4090 performs about 40% faster than the RTX 3090 Ti. Where the 3090 Ti might get you 150fps on max settings in one game, the 4090 might get about 210fps on average. In the most demanding games this might be important, as it could mean the difference between, say, 90fps and 130fps, which would push the 4090 into better frame territory for 120Hz and 144Hz gaming monitors.

4K Benchmarks

Gaming at 4K resolution is where it makes the most sense to opt for the 4090 over the 3090 Ti. While the 3090 Ti is very capable at 4K, it doesn’t hold a candle to the 4090.

Also Read: Is 4K Worth it for Gaming? Why Most Gamers Don’t Need a 4K Monitor

On average, the 4090 performs about 60% better than the 3090 Ti at 4K. The 3090 Ti should still net over 100fps in most modern games on max settings at 4K resolution, but in the most demanding games it will struggle to hit 100fps and even 60fps in the most extreme cases.

The 4090 should hit well over 100fps even in demanding games at max settings, and in those very few extremely demanding games it should still push closer to 100fps than 60fps. In moderately demanding games, it should average close to or just above 200fps, and in less demanding games the sky is almost the limit.

Ray Tracing and Upscaling

The RTX 4090 is much better at ray tracing than the RTX 3090 Ti—which is saying something, given that the 3090 Ti gave flagship ray tracing performance until the 40-series hit the market.

With ray tracing enabled and upscaling disabled (at native resolution), the 4090 should perform over 50% faster than the 3090 Ti on average. And given ray tracing’s performance hit, this can make all the difference. It could be the difference between 50fps and 85fps, for example.

The 4090 also allows you to enable DLSS 3.0 on supported games, which improves framerates dramatically compared to the 3090 Ti’s DLSS 2.0. Thanks to its frame generation wizardry, enabling DLSS 3 should double your DLSS-disabled framerate.

An RTX 4090 with ray tracing and DLSS 3 enabled should perform about 40% faster than an RTX 3090 Ti with ray tracing and DLSS 2 enabled. And even if you turn off frame generation, you should get slightly better DLSS performance because the 4090 has more Tensor Cores to power DLSS 2’s upscaling, too.

Performance Summary

The NVIDIA RTX 4090 is a GPU that really comes into its own at 1440p and especially 4K resolutions. At 1080p it’s overkill—but then again, so is a 3090 Ti.

For high refresh rate 1440p gaming, the 40% average framerate increase makes the more expensive GPU worth it if you’re aiming for high refresh rate gaming in graphically intensive titles. But if you’re willing to drop the occasional setting to hit those high framerates, you could save a chunk of money by opting for the 3090 Ti, which is no slouch.

For 4K gaming and ray tracing, the 4090 really shines. It’s not that the 3090 Ti is bad at these things. Instead, it’s that we seem to be moving into a new understanding of just what’s possible with our hardware, and the 4090 is leading the charge here with its 60-68% performance gains. It’s showing us it’s possible in many games to hit high refresh rates while tracing rays at 4K.

Possibly the biggest selling point for the 4090, however, is its DLSS 3.0 capability. Game performance with DLSS 3 enabled is at least 50% and often 100% higher than game performance with DLSS 2 enabled. And if it causes noticeable input lag—which isn’t a given—you can disable frame generation to achieve DLSS 2 performance (or slightly better, given the extra Tensor Cores).

More Performance Comparisons

3090 Ti vs 4090 Verdict: Is the Next-Gen GPU Worth It?

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 is now the GPU to beat. It not only offers flagship rasterization performance but also a range of new features offered by all 40-series Ada Lovelace cards. Of these features, DLSS 3 is particularly impressive.

But it hasn’t been long since the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Ti was the flagship GPU, and it’s not as if this graphics card now performs worse than it used to. It still offers phenomenal performance across all resolutions in all games. But, comparing it to the 4090, the performance difference is significant.

What we see when comparing the 3090 Ti vs 4090 is a kind of paradigm shift in gaming performance. What the 4090 offers is something entirely new: the ability to comfortably play most games at 4K resolution at high refresh rates, even on max settings. In other words, the 4090 makes us think of 4K gaming the way we used to think of 1440p gaming not too long ago.

For most gamers, an RTX 3090 Ti will be more than enough, and you’ll probably save a lot of money by opting for it over an RTX 4090. If you’re looking to game at 1440p at over 100fps, the 3090 Ti will offer more than enough performance for this in all but the most cripplingly demanding of games.

However, if you want to ensure over 120fps or 144fps at 1440p in some of the most graphically intensive titles like Cyberpunk 2077, and if you don’t mind splashing your cash, then an RTX 4090 will be worth it. It’s also worth it for high refresh rate gaming at 4K since this is one of the first GPUs that can truly pull 4K gaming off without breaking much of a sweat.

There’s also DLSS 3.0, which might be what swings the decision for many gamers. While enabling frame generation might increase input latency in some games, at high enough framerates and with NVIDIA Reflex enabled it likely won’t be too noticeable. The performance increase is so dramatic that this tech alone might make the 4090 worth the admittedly enormous price tag.

Jacob Fox

Jacob's been tinkering with computer hardware for over a decade, and he's written hardware articles for various PC gaming websites. Outside of the wonderful world of PC hardware, he's currently undertaking a PhD in philosophy, with a focus on topics surrounding the meaning of life.

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