Colorful RTX 4090 Vulcan OC Review: The Kitchen Sink

Lots of extras with the fastest current GPU

Colorful RTX 4090 Vulcan OC
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

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(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The Colorful RTX 4090 Vulcan OC has a lot to offer, including a decent factory overclock of 105 MHz along with a programmable LED display and a graphics card support stand. The question, as with all of the RTX 4090 cards, is whether it can justify its price premium over the reference 4090 Founders Edition.

For most people, assuming you could actually find the 4090 Founders Edition in stock for $1,599, that would be the most sensible choice. It's nearly as fast as any other 4090 card, offers decent overclocking headroom, and it has a large cooler and relatively quiet fans. The Colorful RTX 4090 Vulcan OC bumps the theoretical price up by $170 based on what we could find, but all of the 4090 cards are currently out of stock or selling at more than $2,000.

Perhaps a bigger issue for Colorful is that its graphics cards simply aren't widely available in the U.S. or the American continents in general. If you're reading this wondering if the Colorful 4090 card is worth buying, we don't have any serious complaints other than the somewhat high noise levels. If the card has a reasonable price compared to other options, it's as fast or slightly faster than most other models in our testing.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Looking at the wider graphics card market, the RTX 4090 sits at the top of our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, and all indications are that the only potential competition for this generation will come from a future RTX 4090 Ti. Even then, you're probably going to need to wait a year and the overall performance improvement from a fully enabled AD102 chip will likely be 10% at most.

AMD's RDNA 3 based RX 7900 XTX and 7900 XT deliver a somewhat comparable value proposition, as does the RTX 4080, but the cost savings scale almost in direct proportion to the performance loss. Looking at our 4K results and the current MSRPs, the RTX 4090 delivers 0.054 FPS/$, the RTX 4080 offers 0.053 FPS/$, AMD's RX 7900 XTX delivers 0.058 FPS/$, and the RX 7900 XT gets 0.055 FPS/$. And if you're wondering, the RTX 3090 Ti (at $1,099, which you can no longer find in stock) is 0.049 FPS/$ and the RX 6950 XT at $799 also gets 0.049 FPS/$.

How's that for a change? The fastest and most expensive cards aren't a substantially worse value than slower and less expensive cards — at least when we're only looking at the very top of the performance stack. It almost feels like we need a clip of Nvidia's CEO saying, "The more you buy, the more you save!" Sorry, not sorry.

Getting back to the Colorful RTX 4090 Vulcan OC, if you like the extra LED display, that's probably the biggest draw. Other 4090 cards include a support bracket or stand or whatever, but none of them have a display mounted on the side of the card. Or, you know, just buy your own little external LED display and call it a day.

The Colorful RTX 4090 ends up delivering similar performance to all the other 4090 cards, and tries to add value with some extras that probably aren't necessary. If you can find one in stock at a price you're willing to pay, it's a good card and worthy of consideration. But for most gamers, the price is going to be far too high for quite some time. 

Jarred Walton

Jarred Walton is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on everything GPU. He has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.

  • OldWalter____IsMyDog
    You folks should do an article on how to buy Colorful products in the US - it seems super confusing and risky! Colorful makes some nice stuff, and the iGame Neptune OC 4090 is cool too, but for folks in the US (and Europe?) a review on a card like this is about as relevant as reading a review on a Chinese domestic market car when you're car shopping.
  • Vanderlindemedia
    In all the tests, none of the recent released 7900XTX / series of AMD are included, except for the noise test. There you'll see the 7900XTX in those graphs. Why is that? Now it looks like Nvidia is twice as fast as the whole AMD generation?
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    Vanderlindemedia said:
    In all the tests, none of the recent released 7900XTX / series of AMD are included, except for the noise test. There you'll see the 7900XTX in those graphs. Why is that? Now it looks like Nvidia is twice as fast as the whole AMD generation?
    Page 3:

    "Please note that testing of the Colorful card was conducted on our standard test bed, a few weeks ago (around the time the RTX 4080 launch took over my free time). This is the same as the other 4090 cards, and not the new and improved test bed we used in the RX 7900 XTX / XT review. This was also before Fortnite broke our benchmarks and changed its settings, and the same for Forza Horizon 5 and Total War: Warhammer 3."

    It's a third-party AIB card, and our standard is to mostly compare it to the reference card with the same GPU as well as any other AIB cards using the same GPU. The other cards are just there for reference.

    So why does noise have the 7900 series? Well, first because I apparently forgot to not include them and used an updated spreadsheet that had those results. Oops. But also because the noise (and power) testing hasn't changed with drivers and such. I don't have truly "comparable" results from 12900K testing for the new AMD cards in a couple of games, or alternatively I don't have comparable data from all the other 4090 cards if I were to swap testbeds and retest.

    But all of that misses the point that I'm really just evaluating the Colorful 4090 against the other 4090 cards. It's better in some cases (though the VRAM is likely just luck of the draw), but worse on noise levels. If you don't want a quieter 4090 card, and you can find it in stock, it's not a bad option.