RTX 4090 vs 3090 – should I buy Nvidia’s latest graphics card?

RTX 4090 vs 3090 – should I buy Nvidia’s latest graphics card?
Romilly Cotta Updated on by

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RTX 4090 vs 3090 – should you upgrade to Nvidia’s beastly new graphics card, saying goodbye to the RTX 3090?

Let’s get stuck into the specs, price and critical features to consider before you make your final decision.

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Now that the RTX 4090 graphics cards have been released with much of the noise around it quietening down, it’s time weigh up everything it has to offer. If we were judging by specs alone, it’s fairly obvious that the RTX 4090 would be crowned winner. Sadly though, most of us don’t have infinitely deep pockets, making the decision between RTX 4090 vs 3090 a a far more complex decision.

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Significantly, both cards are the flagship products of their generation (although the 3090 Ti’s release eventually changed that), making them both very worthy graphics cards of varying specs and price. The RTX 3090 was released back in September 2020, and has since been replaced by the RTX 3090 Ti as the flagship card for that generation.

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RTX 4090 vs 3090 – is the 4090 the better graphics card?


This section will delve into the specs of both graphics card – naturally pretty significant factor for anyone looking considering to purchase the RTX 4090.

CUDA Cores16,38410,496
Boost Clock (MHz)2,5201,695
Base Clock (mHz)2,2301,395
GDDR6X Memory24 GB 24 GB
Memory Bandwidth1,008 GB/s36.2 GB/s
Maximum Resolution7680 x 43203840 x 2160
Connectivity SupportHDMI 2.1a , 3 x DisplayPort 1.4aHDMI 2.1, 3 x DisplayPort 1.4a
Dimensions (mm)304 x 137336 x 140
TDP450 W350 W
Minimum Overall Power Demand850W750 W

At a glance, the raw specs on the RTX 4090 easily explains it’s monstrous reputation amongst tech community.

RTX 4090 vs 3090 – architecture

It’s standout feature is definitely Nvidia’s new Lovelace architecture along with its AD102-300 chip which grants it a high number of transistors (76 billion to be exact) despite its highly compact size.

Compared to the RTX 3090’s Ampere architecture based on Samsung’s 8nm process, the RTX 4090’s chip is half the size whilst bringing up to 2.5 times the performance of the previous generation.

CUDA cores

It’s important to understand what CUDA cores are in the specs since there are so many of them with these graphics cards! They are basically processors on Nvidia graphics card working to create the final image and fulfil the task of processing everything in the graphics card.

The RTX 3090 card has 10,496 CUDA cores, whilst the 4090 hits it out the park with over 16,000. This increase will most likely translate to a higher performance level for the RTX 4090.

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VRAM is most important if you’re gaming in 4K and above since it requires a higher capacity to keep up.

Both cards share the same amount of VRAM, with 24GB of GDDR6X and a 384-bit memory bus.

Significantly, they differ on memory clock. the 4090 has a higher memory clock by 2 Gbps making it the faster graphics card.

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This is one of the few specs which does not necessarily mean bigger = better. The thermal design power of a card refers to the total energy consumed for your computer.

Although the 4090’s higher TDP generally means it’s the more powerful processor, it also means it’s the more expensive GPU to run. This is definitely a factor we think is important to people thanks to the cost of living crisis.

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It’s worth being aware that even if you can fork out the $1500 to get the RTX 4090, it’s power consumption will definitely eat more into your monthly energy costs.

RTX 4090 vs 3090 – GPU clearance / size

GPU clearance basically refers to a number of factors which affect the physical dimensions of your graphics card, and how it relates to your PC case.

If you’d like some guidance on PC cases, (hint: the 4090 is huge), then check out our article here.

There’s no getting around the fact that the RTX 4090 is massive and one of the largest GPU’s we’ve seen. That being said the RTX 3090 was considered pretty large upon its release too, so there’s a chance that your PC case might already be able to accommodate something large. If you’re in doubt, read through WePC’s guide to the Best PC cases of 2022 that helpfully explains the different factors you should consider when buying a PC case.

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RTX 4090 vs 3090 – which GPU performs the best?

In this next section we’re delving into the different features which contribute to each graphics card overall performance.

Cooling – which graphics card is best for cooling?

The cooling requirements of the RTX 4090 & 3090 is another factor to compare since it affects each GPU’s overall performance. A lack of adequate cooling can be detrimental to your GPUs performance.

The bottom line is that if you’re planning to upgrade your RTX 4090 from a GPU earlier than the 30 series, you might need additional fans in your PC case to keep things cool and efficient.

Nvidia has taken these factors into account though – the new fans on the RTX 4090 have been extended and apparently improve the GPU’s cooling performance by 10%, generally increasing airflow across the memory modules. This is an improvement on the RTX 3090 which was met with complaints from enthusiasts about a lack of cooling.

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Ultimately though, for the RTX 4090 vs 3090 comparison, the 4090 requires additional requirements and fuss made since it uses a lot more power than the 3090.

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Can RTX 3090 run games in 4K?

Next-gen gaming is revolving around 4K, with most games now offering native 4K resolution. It’s no secret that 4K demands a lot of pixels from your computer, almost 8 times more than Full HD.

The RTX 3090 can certainly handle 4K gaming. Playing games such as World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth or Destiny 2 and you can expect somewhere between 60 to 70fps. Thanks to its 24GB of VRAM (which is the same amount as the RTX 4090). The RTX 3090 can also cope with 8K gaming with DLLS, although we think this spec is more for show since DLLS is not native 8K, and that for gaming it’s better to stick to 1440p.

That brings us onto the RTX 4090, which can easily handle 4K, leading us to wonder about 8K.]

Can RTX 4090 run games in 8K?

Even if you’re planning on using your RTX 4090 for more than just gaming, if it can cope with taxing games like Apex Legends or Overwatch 2, then it can cope with almost anything.

The RTX 4090 boasts the ability to run 8K games at 60fps with the right settings, easily trumping the RTX 3090 despite initially being marketed as the first 8K-capable GPU in the world.

Naturally then, the RTX 4090 kicks butt at 4K gaming with high refresh rates, and with DLSS 3 enabled is the clear winner ahead of the RTX 3090 and its DLSS 2.1 which can’t compete with the frame rates.

RTX 4090 vs 3090 – our final thoughts

To summarise everything we’ve discussed in this article, these two GPUs main point of conflict ultimately boils down to price and accessibility. The RTX 4090 is very clearly the winner on almost every front apart from price, which is what happens when Nvidia leaves two years between releasing their flagship GPUs.

The thing is though, is that there’s always going to be another, newer, better GPU around the corner. In our opinion, the RTX 3090 is still an excellent graphics card, despite now being two years old. It also potentially comes with less fuss (in terms of buying a larger PSU case) whilst also being cheaper to run in terms of energy.

It’s worth mentioning that the RTX 3090 will likely be included in the Black Friday discounts, so if price is definitely a concern for you, 100% choose the older graphics card.

If reading about the high costs of the RTX 4080 has left you feeling metaphorically out of pocket, we’ve got something to help you out. Our friends over at WePC have put together a top picks collection of the best hardware deals currently available on Newegg which you can check out here.

RTX 4090 vs 3090 FAQs

Is the RTX 3090 still good for gaming?

100% yes – now that it’s two years old, it’s becoming a far more accessible and desirable graphics card thanks to its high VRAM (the same as the 4090) and core count. 4K gaming and RayTracing is all still possible too.

Why is the RTX 4090 so expensive?

The RTX 4090 is one of the most expensive GPU ever made, costing over $1,500 thanks to Nvidia’s marketing strategy and sheer performance increase from the RTX 30-series.