The beginning of 2019 saw a ‘revolutionary’ graphics card being introduced by Nvidia, the Titan RTX. The Titan RTX was more of a revolution in terms of its $2500 pricing than the performance. With the Titan RTX, there were complaints that it was not a major upgrade over the RTX 2080Ti. The card could only gather a cult following owing to its massive 24GB VRAM and the hype remained only on paper. Come 2021 and it seems Nvidia has tried to pull a similar stunt with the RTX 3090 with many starting to refer the newest and most powerful card from the green team to be more of an RTX Titan’s successor than a major upgrade over RTX 3080.
For the layman, graphics cards might just be meant for gaming. However, the masters of the trade know that graphics cards are an utmost requirement in any endeavour that involves graphic content. To be honest, the older members of the RTX family are already more than capable of handling any game and creative content creation you throw at it. So what does flagship graphics cards like the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 offer that the moderately powered counterpart.
Reasons for Flagship Graphics Adapters
In the world of console or PC gaming, getting a game to run on 4K is a daunting task, technologically speaking. The top-of-the-line graphics card is supposed to complete that task without breaking a sweat. But the RTX 3080 is already aptly capable of doing so. Hence, it begs the question. When supply lines are battered and most enthusiasts are still waiting to lay their hands on the RTX 3080 or RTX 3080 Ti, why again a new card in the RTX 3090.
Read on for the answers
1. RTX 3090 – The Card for a New Case
It’s difficult but if you can get your hands on the RTX 3090, you would see that the new RTX is a ‘big’ card. By big, I mean a card that may not fit the gaming case you got just last year. Its length is above 12 inches and the width exceeds 5 inches. Now that, calls for a new case. If you are looking for perspectives, look at the image below. We have the ‘brothers’ sitting side by side.
The build of the RTX 3090 otherwise is robust like every other RTX card and there is the same single cooling fan to let off the ‘steam’, only that it is much bigger than RTX 3080. However, contrary to popular beliefs, there is no noise even when the card is close to its maximum usage but there is a lot of heat generated that is let out while handling heavy hardware-accelerated rendering tasks. The new card has a three-slot design and hence the PCIe slots on the mainboard for add-on cards beside the PCIe 4.0 slot would be rendered useless unless you plan correctly.
The RTX 3090 Founders Edition comes in an all-metal body that’s has thick metal fins that makes the entire body a heatsink for the GPU. Expect the designs to change with different OEMs who might opt for more fans in the heatsink for heat dissipation. The new RTX is powered by a 12-pin connector and comes with a bundled adapter if you are going for the Founders Edition.
Bigger Bandwidth and Power
The power intake is specified at a massive 350 watts and the recommended PSU for the system has been specified at a minimum of 750 watts with at least 85 percent efficiency. A new feature that finds daylight in the RTX 3090 is the NVLink connector that enables the movement of data at more than 100GBps speed between a pair of these beasts in a multi-GPU configuration.
In terms of connections, there is a single HDMI port conforming to version 2.1 standards and 3 Display Ports each conforming to version 1.4.
2. RTX 3090 – The Card that Immortalizes Games
Nvidia itself has marketed this card as an 8K gaming machine and the card does deliver but in only a handful of games. If you possess (one heck of) a display that can do 8K resolution, the RTX 3090 can give you 60fps (a bare minimum for smooth gameplay) on many titles. However, the practicality of such operation might be far from ideal as 4K gaming still has a lot of catch-ups to do, and right now only some high-end TVs can do native 8K. You can, however, achieve 8K gaming on 4K monitors using Nvidia’s upscaling feature called Dynamic Super Resolution. That however, leaves room for a 5-10 percent improvement in performance in native 8K displays.
DLSS 2.1 with 9x AI Super Resolution Technology
The RTX 3090 just rips apart every game at 4K on high settings as it comes with DLSS 2.1. Nvidia has upgraded the DLSS specially for the RTX 3090 to offer 8K performance in supported games. The new technology offers 9x AI Super Resolution Technology as opposed to 4x smart AI upscaling of DLSS 2.0. In simple terms, cards with DLSS 2.0 rendered games at 1080p, then used smart AI upscaling technologies to render them at 4K resolution with little or no visual degradation. DLSS 2.1 takes this up by quite a few notches. The RTX 3090 renders visuals at 1440p resolution and then upscales the image to 8K using similar AI upscaling technologies.
Here is what RTX 3090 with DLSS 2.1 can do to the FPS of various games.
The Rise of 8K Gaming
The numbers are nice but they start to stagger once more visually intensive games like Control, Shadow of Tomb Raider, Metro Exodus, Horizon Zero Dawn or even Dark Souls III come into the mix. The FPS drops to 40s and that’s due to a variety of reasons with the primary reason being, there aren’t enough games that run at native 8K resolution and next most games don’t even support Nvidia’s Dynamic Super Resolution.
Overall, when it comes to gaming, the RTX 3090 is 10-20 percent faster than its predecessor at more than double the cost. Other than 8K gaming, there is nothing much to get more off your games from the RTX 3090 that you haven’t got from the RTX 3080 already.
Hence, the scene isn’t all rosy for the RTX 3090 but we have to appreciate that it has introduced 8K gaming, similar to what Titan X did with 4K in 2015. 8K gaming is taking baby steps and hence you cannot expect to crank up the settings and start smashing in whichever game you want. However, with all said and done, 8K gaming at 60fps, through its HDMI 2.1 port IS very much on the cards with Nvidia’s new card.
3. RTX 3090 – Going Beyond Gaming
Now that we know that the RTX 3090 offers just marginal improvement over the RTX 3080 in games and there is still a long way to go before 8K gaming becomes mainstream, the question is, What is the actual utility of this beast of a graphics card?
Well, the content creation corner could have a few answers for us. Let see how good the new RTX is at creating stuff.
3D Rendering Workhorse
The RTX 3090 is Nvidia’s answer to AMD’s Radeon VII that came with 16GB of High Bandwidth Memory which became popular among AI content creators for its large pool of VRAM. The Radeon VII came with an insane 1TB/s memory bandwidth that let heavy content developers handle huge datasets. The RTX 3090 comes with 24GB of GDDR6X memory with a bandwidth above 950 GB/s that makes it a go-to option for professionals. The new card is more adept at massive performance improvements in 4K or 8K video rendering and 3D data modelling and rendering than just gaming.
Nvidia would probably be nearing the end of support for Quadro or Tesla cards which were meant for workstations with the launch of RTX 3090. Nvidia has brought forward a card that is cheaper than dedicated workstation cards and yet is a formidable component aimed at extreme level content creation. The same NVENC encoder found in RTX 2080 is present in the RTX 3090 but is now supported in Adobe Premier and hence becomes a boon for video creators. The GPU now accelerates the entire video production workflow cutting the production and processing time in half.
In 3D rendering through applications like Autodesk Maya or Blender, the process sees a 91 percent improvement in time consumed in rendering due to the large amount of VRAM and GPU core performance. The same huge VRAM pool allows the RTX 3090, real-time manipulation in field-of-depth or focus distance and focal length during video scenes or during 3D AI programming with huge data footprints.
RTX 3090 – Conclusion: A GPU for the Future
The RTX 3090 is the first step into the future. With a huge amount of VRAM and comprehensive 8K capabilities already, the RTX 3090 is built to offer glimpses of what the future of gaming and content creation looks like. Although the actual performance in gaming is not overwhelmingly better than its predecessor and that’s mostly due to the RTX 3080 already being the ceiling most games can climb to at the moment, the RTX 3090 addresses the exact area that was open for innovation and that’s gaming at Super UHD resolution. It could be the best companion for heavy content creators and affluent gamers who do not mind splashing the cash for top-of-the-line tech. To some extent, the RTX 3090 opens doors for new possibilities and forces gaming studios to up the ante.
Here are some of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 from various manufacturers.