Asus GeForce RTX 3090 Ti Review: Witness the Power

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Asus GeForce RTX 3090 Ti
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Tom's Hardware Verdict

Asus takes the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti and gooses it to even higher performance levels with a factory overclock. It's now the fastest graphics card we've tested, but we're nearing the launch window for next-gen GPUs. That, plus the high price and power draw make this card a highly questionable choice.

Pros

  • +

    + Fastest GPU currently available

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    + Decent factory overclock

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    + 21Gbps GDDR6X with improved VRAM cooling

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    + Fast for content creation workloads

Cons

  • -

    Massive power draw

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    Feels late to the party, with Ada on the horizon

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    Extreme price for a minor performance boost

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The GeForce RTX 3090 Ti launched two weeks back, and we're finally done with our testing and evaluation. It now reigns as the king of graphics cards, surpassing its 3090 predecessor by up to 10% — provided you're testing at 4K. But that performance comes at a cost, and not just in terms of dollars. The RTX 3090 Ti also takes the crown as the single most power hungry GPU we've ever tested (not including dual-GPU solutions like the 2014-era Titan Z), pushing the limits of how much juice a graphics card can guzzle.

If all you want is the fastest GPU possible, efficiency be damned, this is now the best graphics card and the top solution in our GPU benchmarks hierarchy. But much like sports car enthusiasts might look at a Ferrari or Lamborghini with no intention of buying one, most PC gamers will want to stick with the RTX 3080 or RTX 3080 Ti and give this a pass.

Similar to the recent RTX 3080 12GB, Nvidia chose not to sample reviewers directly for the RTX 3090 Ti. It suggested reaching out to the AIC (add-in card) partners, and Asus supplied us with its RTX 3090 Ti TUF Gaming OC. Perhaps part of the reason Nvidia didn't sample is because board partner models will generally perform better thanks to factory overclocks, and might even run quieter due to larger coolers. Here's a look at the specs for the various cards that at least plausibly compete with the 3090 Ti. 

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GPU Specifications
Graphics CardRTX 3090 Ti AsusRTX 3090 TiRTX 3090RTX 3080 TiRTX 3080RX 6900 XT
ArchitectureGA102GA102GA102GA102GA102Navi 21
Process TechnologySamsung 8NSamsung 8NSamsung 8NSamsung 8NSamsung 8NTSMC N7
Transistors (Billion)28.328.328.328.328.326.8
Die size (mm^2)628.4628.4628.4628.4628.4519
SMs / CUs848482806880
GPU Cores1075210752104961024087045120
Tensor Cores336336328320272N/A
RT Cores848482806880
Boost Clock (MHz)1950 (OC mode)18601695166517102250
VRAM Speed (Gbps)212119.5191916
VRAM (GB)242424121016
VRAM Bus Width384384384384320256
ROPs11211211211296128
TMUs336336328320272320
TFLOPS FP32 (Boost)41.94035.634.129.823
TFLOPS FP16 (Tensor)168 (335)160 (320)142 (285)136 (273)119 (238)N/A
RT TFLOPS81.978.169.566.658.1N/A
Bandwidth (GBps)10081008936912760512
TDP (watts)480450350350320300
Launch DateMar 2022Mar 2022Sep 2020Jun 2021Sep 2020Dec 2020
MSRP$2,099 $1,999 $1,499 $1,199 $699 $999
Online Price$2,149 $2,008 $1,919 $1,299 $969 $1,149

The RTX 3090 Ti represents the culmination of Nvidia's Ampere architecture, featuring the now fully enabled GA102 GPU. That's the same GPU in the 3090, 3080 Ti, and both variants of the 3080, just with two extra SMs compared to the GeForce RTX 3090 that launched way back in September of 2020. 19 months later, we're getting a minor boost to core counts, a modest boost to clock speeds — on both the GPU and the GDDR6X memory — and a rather large kick in the pants to the price and power consumption.

That last bit is sort of interesting. We recently reported on some testing by Igor's Lab where he limited the 3090 Ti to 300W. It dropped performance down to the level of the RTX 3080 Ti, but with lower power than the RTX 3080 and even AMD's RX 6800 XT (using non-reference cards). Nvidia has effectively gone about as far as possible to the right on the voltage, power, and frequency curve, eking out the last few ounces of performance. Then Asus takes that just a bit further and squeezes another 90MHz out of the chip.

We do have to wonder how much of the power goes to the GDDR6X memory, which is notorious for using power and generating heat. Nvidia has switched to 16Gb modules rated at 21Gbps for the 3090 Ti, so the memory can all be on one side of the PCB and thus benefits from improved cooling — and we saw that in our testing as well, with the Asus card never getting above 100C on the GDDR6X, regardless of workload. We even overclocked the memory to 23Gbps and still stayed under 100C while running a mining test — but only managed 124 MH/s sustained for Ethereum, which is just 2 MH/s higher than a good RTX 3090, despite the difference in memory speed.

On paper, the RTX 3090 Ti is 12% faster than the 3090 on compute and has 8% more memory bandwidth. Running in OC mode (not the default Gaming mode), Asus tacks on 5% in core clocks, meaning in theory the card could be up to 18% faster than the reference RTX 3090. In practice, it will be quite a bit less than that, as we'll see soon.

Asus GeForce RTX 3090 Ti TUF Gaming OC

Asus provided its GeForce RTX 3090 Ti TUF Gaming OC for this review, a large card that includes the relatively common (for an extreme GPU) triple fans, and occupies 3.2 slots. It's not quite as chunky as the RTX 3090 Ti Founders Edition, which is slightly thinner but weighs 2189g (or at least, that's what the 3090 FE weighed) and measures 313x138x57 mm. The Asus card tips the scale at 'only' 1676g, practically a featherweight! But it measures 326x104x63mm. It's a physically impressive card, which is a bit of a given considering the silicon and its cooling needs.

The packaging is equally imposing, with a long box that consists of a sheath over a slightly unusual interior box that has chopped-off corners. It looks somewhat cool, but it was actually quite difficult to open. For something that's just going to end up on a shelf or recycling center, Asus probably could have stuck with a traditional box.

The Asus RTX 3090 Ti TUF includes three DisplayPort 1.4 and two HDMI 2.1 outputs, which is slightly unusual as most cards these days only include up to four outputs. The IO bracket is still only two slots wide, which seems a bit odd considering the card more than occupies three slots. A wider bracket would have provided a bit of extra support, and unlike EVGA's GPU leash, Asus doesn't include anything extra in the package to deal with card sag.

Power comes via the new PCIe 5.0 16-pin connector, which is compatible with Nvidia's 12-pin connector as well. Included in the package is an adapter that takes three 8-pin inputs to drive the 12-pin output, providing a theoretical (in spec) power delivery of up to 450W, plus another 75W from the PCIe slot. While we don't typically disassemble GPUs, it's worth noting that Asus has a dedicated VRAM heatsink that's designed to help wick heat away from the memory. As we'll see later, it definitely works, and memory temperatures weren't an issue during testing.

Unlike Asus' higher tier ROG Strix line, the amount of RGB lighting on the TUF Gaming is relatively subdued. Only the small trapezoidal TUF logo on the top of the card lights up — there's no lighting on the fans or the rest of the shroud. Those who like a lot of bling will probably want to look at other alternatives, but if you prefer a more subdued look, the TUF Gaming performs well and has everything you could want.

Test Setup for GeForce RTX 3090 Ti

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Our GPU test PC and gaming suite was updated in early 2022. We're now using a Core i9-12900K processor, MSI Pro Z690-A DDR4 WiFi motherboard, and DDR4-3600 memory (with XMP enabled). We also upgraded to Windows 11 to ensure we get the most out of Alder Lake. You can see the rest of the hardware in the boxout.

Our gaming tests consist of a "standard" suite of eight games without ray tracing enabled (even if the game supports it), and a separate "ray tracing" suite of six games that all use multiple RT effects. For this review, we'll be testing at 4K, 1440p, and 1080p at "ultra" settings — which generally means maxed out settings, except without SSAA if that's an option. We also enable DLSS Quality mode in the games that support it, which includes all of the ray-tracing suite and three of the games in the standard suite.

Besides the gaming tests, we also have a collection of professional and content creation benchmarks that can leverage the GPU. We're using SPECviewperf 2020 v3, Blender 3.10, OTOY Octane, and Vray. Those last three all focus on 3D rendering and support Nvidia's RTX GPUs; only Blender 3.10 currently provides GPU rendering acceleration on AMD's RX 6000 cards. SPECviewperf consists of a suite of professional applications, including CAD/CAM, medical and 3D rendering.

Asus GeForce RTX 3090 Ti: 4K Gaming Performance

This is currently the fastest and most expensive graphics card, so 4K ultra makes sense — and Nvidia even pushes 8K gaming as an option, though that will generally require DLSS support to get to reasonable framerates. We can't test 8K, as we don't have an 8K monitor, but the 4K results should at least give you an idea of what to expect when you try to render four times as many pixels.

Keeping in mind that we're dealing with a factory overclocked card compared to a bunch of reference clocked models, we're still pleasantly surprised to see a solid 10% performance uplift overall, when comparing the Asus RTX 3090 Ti TUF Gaming OC against the RTX 3090 Founders Edition. That might not seem like much, considering the $500 (theoretical) increase in price, but let's just point to the 3090 and 3080 Ti: $300 more in that case only gets you 3.4% more performance on average. Another interesting comparison of course is the RTX 3080 Ti against the original 3080 10GB, where $500 extra also bought 10% more performance. Against the RTX 3080, which remains our pick for the best graphics card, even when priced closer to $1,000 than its official $699 MSRP, the RTX 3090 Ti delivers 25% better performance overall.

Let's also not count AMD out. While there's no question the RTX 3090 Ti is faster than AMD's RX 6900 XT, it's only an 18% gap in our standard test suite on average. That's in the best-case scenario for the Nvidia GPU, testing at 4K ultra. There are even games like Forza Horizon 5 where the 6900 XT still comes out ahead, albeit by a slim 4% margin. Generally speaking, Nvidia can win via brute force, but it's using about 50% more power and costs about twice as much as AMD's top offering.

Nvidia also likes to promote DLSS, not just as a solution for games with ray tracing, but for any game. Using the Quality mode, which at 4K looks very nearly the same as native, let's check out the three games that support DLSS. Horizon Zero Dawn performance improves by 30%, Watch Dogs Legion gets a 35% boost… and Red Dead Redemption 2 only gets a 15% improvement. Not all game engines are created equal, and apparently the way DLSS was shoehorned into RDR2 — over 18 months after launch, no less — proves this point. The gains are even less at lower resolutions.

Flipping over to our ray tracing test suite, the DLSS story changes completely. DLSS might be a nice extra on a card like the Asus RTX 3090 Ti in traditional games, but if you want to run maxed out ray traced settings, it becomes absolutely necessary at 4K. The 3090 Ti barely manages to squeak past the 30 fps mark at native, and half of the games fell well short of that mark. Turn on DLSS and performance nearly doubles, from 32 fps to 60 fps.

We don't have DLSS results for all of the cards in our charts, just because they start to get very crowded, so we'll just focus on the native performance for the remaining comparisons. It's interesting to see the Asus 3090 Ti outpace the reference RTX 3090 by 14% overall, which is close to the theoretical maximum. The Asus card has a 1950MHz boost clock in OC mode, whereas the RTX 3090 Founders Edition has a 1695MHz boost clock, giving a maximum difference of 15%.

While a 14% gap might not seem like much, again look at the other cards. The 3090 is only 3% faster than the 3080 Ti, which is 16% faster than the 3080 10GB card. Note also that the overclocked MSI 3080 12GB is 12% faster than the 3080 Founders Edition, nearly matching the 3080 Ti, so memory bandwidth is certainly a big factor in overall performance at 4K. The Asus 3090 Ti still only beats the RTX 3080 by 37%, so it's very much a case of diminishing returns. Meanwhile, it's 88% faster than AMD's best — and 250% faster if we enable DLSS.

It will be interesting to see how much uptake there is for AMD's FSR 2.0 once it releases to the public in the next couple of months. It will also be interesting to see if AMD starts equipping its future GPUs with matrix hardware (i.e. tensor cores), which is something Intel is doing as well with its Arc graphics cards. Considering Intel's XeSS is more of a direct competitor to DLSS, and it will also work on non-Intel GPUs, perhaps AMD will join Intel in combating DLSS in the future. It sure would be nice if we could have one universal solution for upscaling that all three companies could get behind, but I'll eat my GPU hat if that happens.

Asus GeForce RTX 3090 Ti: 1440p Gaming Performance

Dropping down to 1440p, the advantage of the 3090 Ti relative to the competition shrinks a bit. It's now only 7% faster than the vanilla RTX 3090, 20% faster than the RTX 3080 10GB, and 6% faster than the RX 6900 XT. Without a faster CPU providing data to the graphics cards, we're already starting to see CPU bottlenecks — Far Cry 6, Flight Simulator, and Horizon Zero Dawn are clearly running out of steam.

DLSS quality mode further proves that point. The overhead associated with DLSS means it only boosts performance a small amount in some cases. Watch Dogs Legion still got a 17% uplift, but performance in Horizon Zero Dawn and Red Dead Redemption 2 only went up about 7%. Buying a card like the RTX 3090 Ti for traditional games, even at maxed out settings, doesn't make a lot of sense unless you have a 4K or perhaps ultrawide 1440p monitor.

But, if you're really into ray tracing effects and the most demanding games around, native 1440p can very much make use of a faster GPU. The Asus 3090 Ti still beat the vanilla 3090 by 13% on average, for example. It was also 30% faster than the 3080 10GB, and 75% faster than AMD's RX 6900 XT — and again, enabling DLSS pays huge dividends, improving the Asus card's results by 60% overall.

Looking at the individual charts, the Asus 3090 Ti just barely breaks 60 fps on average in our six DXR games, but it falls below 50 fps in three of the games. With DLSS enabled, all six games are comfortably above the 60 fps mark, and if you have a high refresh rate G-Sync (or G-Sync Compatible) display, you can get a very smooth gaming experience.

But who are we kidding? This card is very much overkill for most gamers. You'll be better off waiting for the next generation GPUs later this year rather than plunking down two grand on just a graphics card now.

Asus GeForce RTX 3090 Ti: 1080p Gaming Performance

Okay, we see you rolling your eyes over there. Yes, 1080p gaming on an RTX 3090 Ti represents a very imbalanced workload. It's still 5% faster than the old RTX 3090, but you could get most of that with a factory overclocked 3090 card 18 months ago. For nearly triple the theoretical price, the RTX 3090 Ti is only about 15% faster than the RTX 3080 at 1080p. It's also basically tied with the RX 6900 XT, which now claims wins in half of the games in our test suite.

Not surprisingly, DLSS can't do much here either. The best result was in Red Dead Redemption 2, where performance improved by 4%. Not that you really need DLSS at 1080p with this sort of GPU, but CPU bottlenecks are very present in nearly all of the games. Flight Simulator is particularly bad, with performance that's only slightly higher than at 1440p, meaning it's almost entirely CPU limited.