Despite occupying the same broad ‘high-end’ market segment, AMD’s Radeon RX 7900 XT and NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 4090 are two very different cards.
The RTX 4090 costs almost twice as much as the RX 7900 XT, and there are a couple other graphics cards—like the RTX 4080 and RX 7900 XTX—bridging the price and performance gap between the two.
Also Read: 7900 XTX vs RTX 4090: Should You Buy AMD’s or NVIDIA’s Fastest GPU?
As we’d expect comparing the 7900 XT vs 4090, the latter is a much more powerful card. In fact, the RTX 4090 is currently the best graphics card on the market. Nevertheless, both GPUs can run games at smooth framerates at any resolution on max settings.
The key question to ask is whether you’ll need the 4090’s extra performance and whether it’s worth the extra cost compared to the 7900 XT.
AMD Radeon RX 7900 XT Advantages
- Almost twice as cheap as an RTX 4090
- Capable of 144fps in most games at 1440p
- Capable of over 60fps in most games at 4K
- Smaller and less power hungry
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 Advantages
- More than 50% faster at 4K
- More than 30% faster at 1440p
- Almost twice as fast at ray tracing
- DLSS 3 capability
What is the 7900 XT?
The AMD Radeon RX 7900 XT launched in December 2022 at the same time as the RX 7900 XTX.
This ‘RDNA 3’ architecture graphics card isn’t quite as powerful as the 7900 XTX, but it costs a little less than its sibling and can still provide enough raw performance for smooth game framerates at any resolution. It’s also a little more powerful than the cheaper RTX 4070 Ti.
While it doesn’t offer the ray tracing and upscaling prowess of a current-gen (or perhaps even previous-gen) NVIDIA GPU, the RX 7900 XT’s rasterization capabilities make it a respectable high-end choice for its price.
What is the RTX 4090?
The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 launched in October 2022 and is the fastest consumer graphics card on the market.
As the flagship card of NVIDIA’s ‘Ada Lovelace’ 40-series GPUs, the 4090 offers top-end rendering performance and the latest and greatest of graphics technologies. Whether we’re considering its stellar raw performance at 4K resolution or its unrivaled ray tracing and upscaling chops, the RTX 4090 doesn’t break a sweat.
For this flagship performance, however, the 4090 comes with a steep price tag—almost twice as much as AMD’s best GPU offering right now.
NVIDIA vs AMD Features
Both the RTX 4090 and RX 7900 XT feature better ray tracing hardware, new AI cores, and AV1 encoding support, compared to previous-gen GPUs.
However, the AMD card features some technologies that the NVIDIA card doesn’t, and vice versa.
- NVIDIA DLSS vs AMD FSR
- NVIDIA GSync vs AMD FreeSync
- NVIDIA DLDSR vs AMD VSR
- NVIDIA Reflex and NULL vs AMD Anti-Lag
The 7900 XTX can use FSR 2 upscaling, but FSR 2 can’t generate frames like DLSS 3 can. The RTX 4090, on the other hand, can use DLSS 3, which should greatly increase framerates while maintaining graphical fidelity. AMD has said FSR 3 will support frame generation too, but they’ve given no definite release date for the tech.
The 4090 supports GSync on GSync monitors and the adaptive sync tech of FreeSync and GSync Compatible monitors, while the 7900 XTX only supports FreeSync or GSync Compatible tech. However, there’s little difference between these technologies in practice, providing the monitor in question is good.
Read More: G-Sync vs FreeSync: Which Adaptive Sync Tech is Better?
Both AMD and NVIDIA offer input lag reduction tech, but NVIDIA’s Reflex provides better input latency reduction than AMD’s options. Not all games support Reflex, though, and if your system latency is already low, any improvement will probably be unnoticeable.
Finally, the 4090 and 7900 XTX both support downscaling tech: DLDSR and VSR. But which tech is better is undecided, and few gamers use downscaling anyway.
RX 7900 XT vs RTX 4090: Price Comparison
The AMD RX 7900 XT has an MSRP of $899 and the NVIDIA RTX 4090 has an MSRP of $1,599, making it $700 (78%) more expensive than the 7900 XT at recommended pricing.
Currently, you can pick up an RTX 4090 for as cheap as $1,699, and an RX 7900 XT for as cheap as $849. While both cards have models retailing for significantly more than this, this means that, at the lower end and excluding reference models, an RTX 4090 will cost about $850 (100%) more than a 7900 XT.
Real-world prices fluctuate, though, so for either card you should keep your eye out for price drops or retailer deals.
There’s no current alternative to the RTX 4090 that can get even close to matching its performance, but there are alternatives that can match the 7900 XT’s performance.
If you don’t mind spending a little more, you could opt for the AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX. This card costs $100 more than the 7900 XT with an MSRP of $999, and has over 700 more Stream Processors, 12 more Ray Accelerators, and 4GB more VRAM capacity. It performs about 12% better than the 7900 XT at 4K and is one of the best-value high-end GPUs on the market.
If you’re looking to save a little money, you could opt for the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070 Ti. This graphics card costs $100 less than the 7900 XT with an MSRP of $799 and performs about 5% worse than it.
Finally, you could opt for an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4080. But this card costs $300 more than the 7900 XT with an MSRP of $1,199 and performs about the same as the cheaper 7900 XTX across all three mainstream resolutions. However, it does beat both RX 7900 cards at ray tracing and upscaling.
- 7900 XT vs 7900 XTX: Which AMD GPU is Better Value?
- RTX 4080 vs RX 7900 XTX: Which AMD or NVIDIA GPU is Better?
Graphics Card Specs
|RX 7900 XT||RTX 4090|
|CUDA Cores / Stream Processors||5,376||16,384|
|Tensor Cores / AI Accelerators||168||512|
|RT Cores / Ray Accelerators||84||128|
|Stream Multiprocessors / Compute Units||84||128|
|Memory||20GB GDDR6||24GB GDDR6X|
|Clock speed (base/boost)||1.5GHz / 2.4GHz||2.23GHz / 2.52GHz|
|Power connector (reference)||2x 8-pin||1x 16-pin (12VHPWR adapter)|
The RTX 4090 has better specs than the RX 7900 XT across the board—excluding its higher power draw, of course. It has more shader cores, 4GB extra video memory (which is also faster), and many more AI and ray tracing cores.
All this adds up to make for a much more powerful card that should be capable of better traditional rasterization, ray tracing, and upscaling performance.
|RX 7900 XT||RTX 4090|
|Height||51mm (2.5 slots)||61mm (3 slots)|
NVIDIA’s RTX 4090 is the biggest graphics card on the market right now, but the 7900 XT isn’t exactly small, either. While a 7900 XT will probably fit more easily into more PC cases, you should still check your system to ensure it will fit without blocking access to any other components.
Power Draw and Thermal Performance
The RTX 4090 is more power hungry than the 7900 XT, and because of this NVIDIA recommends an 850W PSU for it, compared to AMD’s recommended 750W PSU for the 7900 XT.
Also Read: The Best Power Supplies Right Now
The thermal performance of both GPUs will depend on the specific model in question, whether that’s a reference model or one of the many AIB ones. However, multiple online temperature tests show that both GPUs stay well below 70c while gaming, with the 7900 XT staying a little cooler than the 4090.
7900 XT vs 4090: Gaming Performance
To give a fair overview of how these cards should perform across a variety of gaming PCs, we’ve averaged performance results from several online benchmarks, such as those from TechSpot, TechPowerUp, and PCGamer.
Also Read: 1080p vs. 1440p vs. 4K: Which Resolution Is Best for Gaming?
In the graphs below, we’ve given you the cards’ average framerates for each resolution, and underneath these, we’ve given you average relative framerate increases as percentages. While the relative percentage increases should be more reflective of the difference between the two GPUs, these track close enough to the absolute framerates that the graphs presented should give you a pretty accurate picture.
Of course, remember that actual performance differences will vary from game to game, because some games fare better with AMD cards than NVIDIA ones and vice versa.
Framerates averaged from multiple online benchmarks.
On average, the RTX 4090 performs about 16% better than the RX 7900 XT at 1080p.
At 1080p, framerates are so high that the 7900 XT’s and RTX 4090’s performance difference doesn’t matter too much. Both GPUs should offer high enough framerates for smooth gameplay at this resolution.
For this reason, for most gamers, a 7900 XT will be a more sensible purchase for a 1080p monitor, because you’ll be saving hundreds of dollars while still guaranteeing buttery smooth gameplay.
However, if you want hundreds of frames per second—perhaps for ultra-high refresh rate competitive gaming—then a 4090 might give you that extra edge in some games.
That’s a niche use case, though, and for most gamers playing at 60Hz, 75Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz, or even 165Hz, a 7900 XT should serve you just as well as a 4090 in most games at 1080p.
Framerates averaged from multiple online benchmarks.
On average, the RTX 4090 performs about 34% better than the RX 7900 XT at 1440p.
For 1440p gaming, we can make a much better case for opting for a 4090 instead of a 7900 XT. At this resolution, games become less CPU-bound and more GPU-bound, which accounts for the 34% framerate difference between the two GPUs at this resolution.
Also Read: Is 1440P Worth it for Gaming?
The same still holds true at 1440p as it did at 1080p, however, but to a lesser extent. Both the 7900 XT and the 4090 should offer more than enough frames per second for most gamers at this resolution, and this is especially true if you’re gaming at 60Hz, 75Hz, or even 120Hz in many games.
However, if you want to guarantee an average framerate of above 120fps or 144fps in most moderately demanding titles on max settings, an RTX 4090 will be a safer bet. In some more demanding games, for example, a 7900 XT might only average 100fps while a 4090 might hit 120fps.
If you know you’ll want to play some of the most graphically intensive games on max settings at 1440p, and if you’re aiming for 120fps or 144fps, opting for an RTX 4090 is reasonable. (Just remember that its 34% performance increase vs the 7900 XT doesn’t match its 80% higher MSRP, let alone its 100% higher real-world market cost right now.)
Framerates averaged from multiple online benchmarks.
On average, the RTX 4090 performs about 56% better than the RX 7900 XT at 4K.
For 4K gaming, an RTX 4090 should provide a significantly smoother gaming experience than a 7900 XT would, depending on your monitor’s refresh rate. (Note, however, that the RTX 4090 doesn’t support 4K gaming above 120Hz, while the 7900 XT does.)
Also Read: Is 4K Worth it for Gaming? Why Most Gamers Don’t Need a 4K Monitor
At this resolution, both GPUs should average over 60fps in most games on max settings. However, in demanding titles, an RTX 4090 should stay well above this threshold while a 7900 XT might stray a few frames below it.
For gaming on a 60Hz or 75Hz monitor, both GPUs should serve well for most gamers because both should render frames fast enough to surpass 60fps and 75fps in the vast majority of games on max settings. And if you drop your settings just a little, even very demanding titles should surpass 60fps when powered by a 7900 XT.
Also Read: Is 60Hz Good for Gaming?
If you’re gaming on a 120Hz monitor, however, the 7900 XT will struggle to hit this threshold in many moderately demanding games on max settings. The 4090, on the other hand, should surpass 120fps on average in most of these.
So, if you’re gaming at 60Hz or even 75Hz at 4K, the 7900 XT should be enough for most gamers. But if you want to hit 60fps even in those very few games that are incredibly GPU-intensive, a 4090 will be a better bet. Similarly, if you want to hit 120fps in moderately demanding titles, and you don’t want to lower your settings a little, the 4090 will be a better option in this case, too.
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 85% better than the RX 7900 XT at 1440p.
The 7900 XT ray traces about as well as the 7900 XTX, and the RTX 4090 beats it by a mile. But this isn’t a surprise because, when it comes to ray tracing, the 4090 beats every other GPU on the market by a mile—even the RTX 4080.
And while the third generation of AMD’s upscaling technology, FSR, should launch this year, until then all NVIDIA 40-series cards should have an edge over AMD 7000-series cards when it comes to upscaling performance. DLSS 3’s frame generation far surpasses any performance increase FSR 2 can offer.
So, if you’re keen on ray tracing or upscaling, an RTX 4090 will serve you much better than an RX 7900 XT, and its extra ray tracing performance even surpasses its extra cost (at MSRP, at least).
Game Performance Summary
At 1080p, both the 7900 XT and 4090 perform similarly, with the NVIDIA GPU performing only about 16% better than the AMD GPU. Framerates are very high for both cards at this resolution because games are very CPU-bound.
At 1440p, the 4090 performs significantly (about 34%) better than the 7900 XT. Both GPUs should average over 100fps in most games, but in more demanding games the 4090 will get closer to 120fps and 144fps thresholds.
At 4K, the 4090 significantly outperforms the 7900 XT (about 56% better). Both GPUs should average over 60fps at this resolution, but in very demanding games, the 4090 should surpass this threshold while the 7900 XT might average a few frames below 60fps.
Finally, the 4090 does ray tracing and upscaling almost twice as well as the 7900 XT. Its ray tracing performance gain even surpasses its 78% higher cost, making it worth the higher price tag from a pure price-performance perspective in at least this one respect.
Verdict: Which GPU is Best for You?
While the AMD Radeon RX 7900 XT and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 are both high-end GPUs, they’re clearly worlds apart, in terms of both price and performance.
While the 4090’s extra raw performance doesn’t match its extra cost—almost double the cost of the 7900 XT—it matches it in some areas, like ray tracing and upscaling. And some might reasonably conclude that its significantly better performance at 4K justifies its steep price tag, even though it doesn’t match its relative price increase one-to-one.
For 1080p gaming, it makes little sense to opt for a 4090 instead of a 7900 XT. Both cards average very high framerates at this resolution, and the difference between them is relatively slim.
For 1440p gaming, again, a 7900 XT will be more than enough for most gamers’ needs—even those who want to game on a 120Hz or 144Hz monitor, because the 7900 XT will get you over 120fps or 144fps in most games if you’re willing lower your settings just a little in some of them.
For 4K gaming, however, and despite the 7900 XT being no slouch at this resolution, an RTX 4090 should get you over 60fps in pretty much any game at max settings and will get you 120fps in many of them, too.
The RTX 4090 is such an expensive card that it’s difficult to recommend even to those who fit its niche use cases (such as those wanting to do ultra-high refresh rate gaming or wanting to max out games at 4K 120Hz). After all, an RX 7900 XTX, or even an RTX 4080, will serve many of these gamers just as well for a fraction of the cost.
But if money isn’t much of a concern, there’s no questioning that the RTX 4090 is leaps and bounds ahead of its competition when it comes to raw performance at 1440p and 4K, not to mention ray tracing and upscaling. If an extra few hundred dollars is within your budget, an RTX 4090 shouldn’t disappoint.