Reviews of the RTX 3090 make it clear this GPU is a lot of things. It’s about the weight of a small roasted chicken (RTX 3090: 4.84 pounds; roasted chicken: 5-7 pounds). It’s longer than the Xbox Series X is tall. It’s a true triple-slot GPU and packs 24GB of VRAM. If you choose to wield an RTX 3090 as an offhand weapon, you will suffer a -4 / -8 to attacks due to its off-balance weight and heft. This may be reduced to 0 / -4 if you took graphics cards as an exotic weapon proficiency.
Beyond these metrics, the RTX 3090 is more. It’s a heck of a lot more expensive than the just-launched RTX 3080 and it offers about 1.15x additional performance compared with that card. Nvidia has used this launch to push the idea that the RTX 3090 is an 8K gaming card or a GPU for ultra-high-end prosumers. Whether that’s true is a little more complicated. 8K gaming isn’t in its infancy. 8K gaming is still in the womb.
We’ve rounded up coverage from multiple publications, including Eurogamer, Hot Hardware, and PC Gamer. The general opinion on the RTX 3090 is that the 24GB of VRAM can be genuinely useful in certain 4K content creation workloads. It could also be useful if you are working extensively with AI modeling, depending on the needs of your model. As far as its actual usefulness in gaming, however, 24GB is overkill.
In order to talk about whether the RTX 3090 is a good deal, we have to sandbox the problem a bit. Objectively speaking, the one thing the RTX 3090 offers that the RTX 3080 cannot match is the additional 14GB of VRAM. For certain prosumers, this alone can justify the purchase, especially if you want one GPU for both your 4K video editing and your personal gaming without compromising on features or performance for either.
For everyone else, this GPU is an objectively bad deal. The RTX 3080 is (or will be, once you can buy one) half the price and about 85 percent the performance. Given how good Ampere’s performance is to start with, the RTX 3080 is a great pick for anyone who wants to game at the highest frame rates and resolutions, but still has a gasp of concern for affordability and price/performance ratio. The RTX 3090, not so much.
The RTX 3090’s overall feature set is a much better match for its price point than the RTX 2080 Ti’s was. The 8K gaming claim is a little wobbly, but that’s partly because standing up 8K gaming is itself a little wobbly right now. Because basically nobody has 8K displays, Nvidia created an 8K DLSS mode (upscaling 1440p to 8K). It’s also possible to use dynamic super resolution (DSR) to push the resolution up that high via supersampling. The reviewers that tested the GPU in 8K all appear to have used this method.
Even among the relative handful of customers who buy GPUs like this in the first place, 8K gaming is going to be the nichest of niche applications. Most users will encounter this card at 5K or below, and it excels at those frame rates, even if they don’t show off its advantages over the RTX 3080 to quite the same extent.
The RTX 3090 is not a good value for most customers. But evaluated against previous top-end cards, I’d say it’s the best value since the GTX 1080 Ti. The general opinion of the reviewers that tested it agrees:
Eurogamer writes: “All told then, RTX 3090 is the traditional hard sell for the mainstream gamer but the high-end crowd will likely lap it up.”
Hot Hardware’s conclusion echoes the points above. It notes that the GPU is only 4-20 percent faster than the RTX 3080 for regular gamers before noting: “Consider complex creator workloads which can leverage the GeForce RTX 3090’s additional resources and memory, however, and it is simply in another class altogether and can be many times faster than either the RTX 3080 or Titan RTX.”
PC Gamer also emphasizes the content creator aspect, stating: “This is the Ampere generation’s Titan. That’s how you justify selling a GeForce GPU, with only 11 percent higher 4K gaming performance over its closest sibling, with a 114 percent higher sticker price.”
In their conclusion, PCG leans harder into the “Not for gamers” than other reviews, saying:
This is a toughie because there are very, very few people who I would recommend the $1,500 RTX 3090 to. And none of them are gamers…This is every inch the Titan card Jen-Hsun said it would be. It’s a creator’s card, one with a stunningly powerful GPU and a frame buffer that allows personal creation on a level not seen on a GPU this side of $6,000.
In short, this GPU may be the best thing that ever happened to you, if you’re a creative type with $1,500 to drop on a high-end card with dramatically better performance. The rest of us can more than make do with the excellently positioned RTX 3080.
Your move, AMD.