With NVIDIA’s and AMD’s latest GPU generations upon us, there’s a whole range of new graphics cards to consider. On NVIDIA’s side we can compare the GeForce RTX 4080 vs 4090, but we shouldn’t forget their AMD competition in the form of the RX 7900 XT and 7900 XTX.
Current-gen GPUs cost more than many PC gamers expected, and this is true across the entire range of now-released NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards. But for the performance these cards offer, their prices aren’t as outrageous as we might first suspect.
The RTX 4080 and 4090 are two of the best graphics cards currently on the market, offering stellar performance across all resolutions. This is true whether we’re talking about traditional rasterization, encoding, upscaling, or ray tracing.
The two cards have very different price tags, however. The question is, is the RTX 4090’s steeper price justified by its performance? And is that extra performance needed? Let’s take a closer look.
What is the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4080?
The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4080 launched in November 2022, about a month after the RTX 4090. It’s a high-end card, outperforming the best cards of the previous NVIDIA generation, like the RTX 3090.
Based on the ‘Ada Lovelace’ architecture and built using TSMC’s 4N process, the RTX 4080 offers true next gen tech and performance, whether this is traditional rendering, deep learning-aided upscaling, or ray tracing.
What is the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090?
The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 was the first current-gen NVIDIA GPU to hit the shelves, having launched in October 2022. Not only does this graphics card outperform previous generation cards, it also outperforms the RTX 4080, but costs substantially more than any other consumer card on the market.
Like the RTX 4080, the 4090 is based on NVIDIA’s ‘Ada Lovelace’ architecture and manufactured using TSMC’s 4N process. The 4090 offers all the performance and technical impressiveness of the 4080 and more, thanks to its extra hardware horsepower.
RTX 40-Series New Features
There are several architectural changes and feature additions for both the RTX 4080 and 4090 compared to previous 30-series GPUs:
- 3rd generation RT Cores
- Shader Execution Reordering (SER)
- 4th generation Tensor Cores
- DLSS 3.0
- Dual AV1 Encoding
First, the new generation of RT Cores and the introduction of Shader Execution Reordering (SER) dramatically improves ray tracing performance. NVIDIA says that SER “dynamically reorganizes these previously-inefficient workloads into considerably more efficient ones, improving shader performance by up to 2X, and in-game frame rates by up to 25%”.
Second, the new generation of Tensor Cores and the implementation of DLSS 3 dramatically improves DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) performance. This technology lets your GPU render games at a low resolution and then uses Deep Learning to upscale it back to native resolution, giving better performance with minimal fidelity loss. DLSS 3 also uses AI to generate frames between the ones your GPU renders, improving frame rates.
Finally, both the 4090 and 4080 have AV1 encoding support. Previous generation NVIDIA GPUs could decode in AV1 format, but not encode in it. Once sites like Twitch add AV1 encoding support, these new graphics cards should be able to stream using this quick encoding format.
4090 vs 4080: Price Comparison
The GeForce RTX 4080 has an MSRP of $1,199, and the GeForce RTX 4090 has an MSRP of $1,599, making the 4090 $400 (33%) more expensive than the 4080 at recommended pricing.
But it’s difficult to find either the 4080 or 4090 in stock at MSRP because Founders Edition (FE) cards aren’t always in stock. At the time of writing, RTX 4080s can be found between about $1,270-$2,000, and RTX 4090s can be found between about $2,200-2,700.
Currently, we often find the RTX 4090 retailing for almost $1,000 (70%) more than the RTX 4080. This all depends on GPU stock, however, and prices can change quickly in the current market.
The current best alternatives to the RTX 4090 and 4080 are the recently released AMD Radeon RX 7900 XT and RX 7900 XTX.
These graphics cards are still expensive, but not as expensive as the RTX 4080 or 4090. With an MSRP of $999, the RX 7900 XTX performs about the same as the RTX 4080 but is $200 cheaper. However, the AMD card has worse ray tracing performance and doesn’t currently offer upscaling that can match NVIDIA’s DLSS (although AMD’s FSR 3 should release sometime in 2023).
If you want flagship performance like the 4090 offers, however, there are currently no alternatives.
Graphics Card Specs
|RTX 4080||RTX 4090|
|Memory||16GB GDDR6X||24GB GDDR6X|
|Clock speed (base/boost)||2.21GHz / 2.51GHz||2.23GHz / 2.52GHz|
|Power connector||1x 16-pin (12VHPWR adapter)||1x 16-pin (12VHPWR adapter)|
The RTX 4090 has over 65% more CUDA Cores, Tensor Cores, and RT Cores than the RTX 4080, and it has 50% extra GDDR6X memory capacity.
It also has more memory bandwidth thanks to its 384-bit memory bus compared to the 4080’s 256-bit bus. The 4080 tries to make up for this by its faster memory clock of 1.4GHz vs the 4090’s 1.13GHz memory clock, but it doesn’t make up for the 4090’s wide memory bus.
|RTX 4080 (FE)||RTX 4090 (FE)|
Current-gen NVIDIA graphics cards are enormous, taking up three slots inside your chassis. Unfortunately, the reference 4080 is no smaller than the reference 4090, because it uses the same board and cooling design.
The RTX 4080 has a TDP (or TGP) rating 130W lower than the RTX 4090. Because of this, NVIDIA recommends an 850W power supply for the RTX 4090, but only a 750W one for the RTX 4080.
Also Read: The Best Power Supplies Right Now
However, both GPUs should run under this maximum theoretical power consumption. While gaming, these cards shouldn’t pull power close to their respective TDPs.
We should also note that both cards use the new 12VHPWR adapter to connect to the PSU. There have been reports of some RTX 4090 power adapters melting when not connected properly, but this has reportedly only happened to a tiny number of cards compared to the total number sold.
4080 vs 4090: Gaming Performance
The true test for any graphics card is how it performs in real-world games. So, to compare the RTX 4080 vs 4090, we should see how it performs in a variety of games across different resolutions. But we should pay more attention to 1440p and 4K benchmarks with these cards because they’re overkill for 1080p.
To give an accurate picture, we’ve taken benchmark results from other sites’ reviews online such as TomsHardware, TechPowerUp, and Guru3D, analyzing and averaging out framerate differences across all three resolutions. This should give us a better idea of how these cards should perform on different gaming PCs.
Framerates averaged from multiple online benchmarks.
Both the RTX 4080 and 4090 are probably overkill for 1080p gaming. At this resolution, both GPUs should give framerates high enough for very high refresh rate gaming in moderately demanding titles on max settings. And in many of the most demanding titles, they should net 144fps or higher on max settings for 144Hz monitors.
Because these cards are so powerful, games running at 1080p become very CPU-bound. As such, there’s little difference between the performance of the two cards at this resolution. Averaging out benchmarks, we see the 4090 performing roughly 6.4% better than the 4080.
This is game-dependent, however. While some games will net almost identical average framerates with both GPUs, others might show a difference between, say, 165fps and 175fps.
Framerates averaged from multiple online benchmarks.
At 1440p, games become less CPU-bound when paired with a 4090 or 4080. As such, the performance difference at 1440p is almost double the difference at 1080p. Averaging out benchmarks, we see that the 4090 performs about 12.4% better than the 4080 at 1440p.
Also Read: Is 1440P Worth it for Gaming?
Just like at 1080p, both GPUs should allow you to play moderately demanding games on max settings at very high refresh rates. And just like at 1080p, both should allow you to play the majority of of the most demanding titles at above 144fps for 144Hz gaming.
This is a substantial performance gain for the 4090, but, ignoring other factors, the 4090’s steeper price tag outweighs this performance increase. This difference is game-dependent, however, and there are some games that might net, say, 290fps with a 4080 that could net about 370fps with a 4090.
Framerates averaged from multiple online benchmarks.
At 4K, the 4090 really shines compared to the 4080. At this resolution games are GPU-bound even with these powerful 40-series graphics cards, and thus the 4090’s abundance of extra CUDA Cores can really get to work.
Averaging out online benchmarks, we see that the RTX 4090 performs about 27% better than the RTX 4080 at 4K resolution. Crucially, this difference will matter more at 4K than at lower resolutions because higher resolutions equal lower framerates, and performance increases at lower framerates are more noticeable than at higher ones.
Both GPUs should let you play moderately demanding titles on max settings at over 120fps for 120Hz gaming, and they should let you push past the 144fps barrier in many of them, too. But in more demanding titles, the 4090 should get you that noticeable step closer to utilizing your 120Hz or 144Hz refresh rate while gaming at 4K.
Ray Tracing and Upscaling
Framerates taken from Guru3D’s testing.
Just like with raw performance at 4K, there’s a big difference between the RTX 4090 and 4080 when it comes to ray tracing. Guru3D’s testing shows that, in a ray tracing test which makes “ray-tracing performance the limiting factor” (3D Mark DirextX Full Path Ray Tracing), the 4080 nets 87fps and the 4090 nets 135fps. This means the 4090 traces rays about 55% faster than the 4080.
Framerates taken from TomsHardware’s testing.
With DLSS, the story is a little more nuanced. Benchmark results show that the 4080 gives a framerate increase of about 80% going from native resolution to DLSS 2, and of about 150% going from native res to DLSS 3. The 4090, however, shows a framerate increase of about 72% from native resolution to DLSS 2, and of about 130% going from native res to DLSS 3.
So, the 4080 increases its performance more, proportionally, than the 4090 does by enabling DLSS. But this is to be expected, because the 4080’s absolute framerates are lower than the 4090’s, and DLSS’s AI magic can make up more of the difference.
So, while the 4080 can improve its performance more than the 4090, relative to the cards’ own native framerates, the 4090 has higher framerates, and the number of frames gained is higher with the 4090. For example, the 4080 might go from 40fps to 100fps (150%/60fps increase), while the 4090 might go from 60fps to 130fps (116%/70fps increase).
And, of course, we should note that both cards perform very well compared to previous generation GPUs, regarding both ray tracing and DLSS.
Performance Difference Summary
In sum, both the RTX 4080 and RTX 4090 perform exceptionally well at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions. At 1080p both are probably overkill, but they’re great top-end choices for 1440p and 4K gaming.
At 1440p, the 4090 performs about 12.4% better than the 4080, but both cards should be good for high and very high refresh rate gaming. At 4K, the 4090 performs about 27% better than the 4080, and while both cards should be good for high refresh rate 4K gaming, the 4090 will push closer to those refresh 120Hz and 144Hz refresh rates in more demanding games.
Both GPUs demolish previous-gen cards in ray tracing and DLSS performance, but the 4090 traces rays over 50% faster than the 4080 thanks to its extra RT Cores. And while the 4080 increases its framerates more, proportionally, than the 4090 does by enabling DLSS, the 4090 gains a bigger number of frames than the 4080 by enabling DLSS, because it has higher framerates to begin with.
Verdict: Is the 4090 Worth the Extra Cost?
It’s no surprise that both the RTX 4080 and 4090 should offer more than enough gaming performance for most gamers’ needs. This generation of NVIDIA GPUs blows the 30-series out of the water in raw rasterization, upscaling, and ray tracing performance.
But both cards are very expensive—the RTX 4090 especially so. At MSRP, the $400 (33%) difference is ‘small’ enough to justify getting a 4090 instead of a 4080 if you’re going to be gaming at 4K resolution, enabling ray tracing on max settings in demanding games, or gaming at very high refresh rates at 1440p. If you can find a 4090 FE in stock or a custom 4090 for close to the FE’s MSRP, then it’s a reasonable choice.
However, 4090s that are actually in stock are often about $1,000 (70%) more expensive than the 4080s that are in stock, and this makes the 4090 a harder sell. If budget is of no concern and you want flagship performance for high refresh rate 4K gaming, or very high refresh rate 1440p gaming, then the 4090 is your only option. However, if you’re fine with 144Hz 1440p gaming or 100fps 4K gaming, the 4080 is a better offering.
If you’re opting for an RTX 4080, you could also consider the cheaper AMD Radeon RX 7900 XT or 7900 XT. The latter card should perform almost identically to the 4080, providing you don’t mind worse ray tracing performance and the lack of DLSS.
If you’re really into ray tracing and want high framerates, the 4090 is a better option thanks to its heap of extra RT cores. And if you like to enable DLSS, either card will serve you well, with the 4080 getting a better relative performance increase, and the 4090 getting a better absolute performance increase, from enabling it.
Finally, if you’re wanting ultra-high-end longevity, the 4090 might be a better purchase just for its memory configuration. With its extra 8GB capacity and wider bandwidth, it will be less likely to struggle with large texture sizes in games a few years down the line. It’s not a given that the 4080’s memory config will struggle, though, because we don’t know what future game requirements will be—we’ll have to wait and see.