We'll start with the performance that matters most: 4K at maxed out settings. If you're using a 1080p monitor — even one with an extreme refresh rate — the RTX 4090 will almost certainly be overkill. That's less true if you're playing games with lots of ray tracing effects, but we've covered that elsewhere.
We have both stock and overclocked results for the ray traced games, while we limited overclocked testing in our standard test suite to the Founders Edition. That's because even at 4K, we start to see other factors limit performance. Across our standard test suite, the overclock on the Founders Edition only improves performance by 4% on average. In our ray tracing suite, the same settings yield an 8.5% improvement.
The Asus 4090 ROG Strix card ends up as the fastest of the options we've tested, but not by much. At stock, it's 1.2% faster than the Founders Edition and a scant 0.6% faster than the MSI card in our standard test suite. The gap's slightly larger in the DXR suite: 2% faster than Nvidia's reference model and 0.9% faster than the MSI card.
To put it bluntly, no one will actually notice less than a 2% gain in performance, and probably not even a 10% gain without running benchmarks. Speaking of which, the relatively large overclock on the Asus ROG Strix adds another 8.5% to its 4K DXR result, which makes it 10.7% faster than the stock Founders Edition card. But if we go with overclocked results on all the 4090 cards, we're back to a 2% improvement over the Founders Edition, and a 3.3% improvement over the MSI card — yes, the Nvidia model performed better than the MSI model with overclocking, though that could easily be luck of the draw.
The individual results tell a similar story. Less demanding games like Metro Exodus Enhanced show smaller gains from overclocking, while Control shows the biggest improvement overall at 11.8% (compared to factory stock).
We've only tested stock performance at 1440p, and the results are generally the same as at 4K. The Asus ROG Strix takes the top spot, offering about 1% higher performance than the Founders Edition and MSI cards. The gap is slightly larger with ray tracing, at least compared to the FE model, where Asus comes out 2% ahead. But we're largely splitting hairs and if you're after pure performance, any of the 4090 cards should more than suffice.