Just one week after the shambolic launch that was the RTX 3080 graphics card, Nvidia has released yet another GPU into the chaos – thanks Nvidia! Unfortunately – or should I say unsurprisingly – the latest card to hit our theoretical shelves also has zero stock available – ladies and gentlemen, I give you the RTX 3090.
Stock levels aside, the RTX 3090 is by far the most potent GPU in today’s market. It offers up unrivaled gaming performance in modern titles, bringing 4K – and 8K gaming according to Nvidia (we’ll believe that when we see it) – at 60 frames per second to desktop gaming PCs.
Like the RTX 3080, the 3090 comes equipped with 2nd Gen ray-tracing cores, 3rd Gen tensor cores, and Nvidia’s latest Ampere architecture. However, with an additional 14GB of GDDR6X VRAM, the RTX 3090 is much more potent in other areas.
In the following guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the best RTX 3090 AIBs to see which stacks up best when it comes to gaming, thermals, aesthetics, and overall value for money.
So, with plenty to get through, let’s waste no further time and dive straight into it!
Best RTX 3090 Graphics Cards: First Look
We’ve given the MSI Gaming X Trio our top spot for best RTX 3090 for a number of different reasons. With an impressive cooling solution, high clock boost frequency, and a tasty aesthetic, this card really does tick all the right boxes.
The best RTX 3090 runner up comes in the shape of ASUS’s TUF Gaming RTX 3090 – a GPU that is both cool and extremely quiet.
Best Value RTX 3080
The Gigabyte RTX 3090 Gaming OC gets our best all-round RTX 3090 pick and for good reason. It not only displays excellent build quality, it also provides an effective cooler that’s set to stand the test of time.
Best Budget RTX 3090
The ZOTAC RTX 3090 Trinity may be one of the cheapest cards in this list, however, it still offers up everything you’d want for your high-end gaming/workstation PC.
It requires hours of product research, performance benchmarking, and user feedback to get anywhere close to a definitive conclusion. If you aren’t tech-savvy and struggle to put time aside to go through the above requirements, you may end up purchasing a GPU that isn’t right for you or your build.
Fear not though, friends! Here at WePC, we like to take the stress of all that research away and transform it into an easy-to-follow, complete buyers guide. That’s right, our team of PC enthusiasts has done all the hard work, so you don’t have to.
Testing the products we recommend is a huge part of the overall selection process in our best of guides. It’s a way to make sure what we recommend is the absolute best option in its specific category. To be sure a product is “the best,” it must show excellent performance in our tests and display better qualities over the competition it faces.
Most of the products we recommend here at WePC have gone through a strict testing process that involves everything from price and looks to performance and efficiency. Each product is pushed to the limit to see how it performs under intense stress to make sure it warrants the top spot.
Doing this enables us to provide you with the most accurate review of how the product performs and, ultimately, whether it’s worth your hard-earned cash.
When building or upgrading your PC, especially when it comes to a new GPU, there are certain factors that must be considered. By educating yourself on these fundamental factors, you will not only ensure the next GPU you purchase is right for you, but you’ll also get the best bang for your buck too.
Below are some of the key factors to consider when looking to purchase a new RTX 3090:
Performance is, without a doubt, the number one thing to consider if you’re thinking about purchasing Nvidia’s new GPU. Whilst this isn’t a huge problem when referencing the RTX 3090 – it is the world’s most potent GPU after all – it’s still wise to ensure you aren’t overspending on a product that isn’t optimized for the job.
There was a lot of noise around the RTX 3090’s launch that suggested unrivalled gaming performance and 8K gaming with DLSS + ray tracing. However, since its release, it’s been well documented that the RTX 3090 isn’t quite as impressive as we first thought – for gaming anyway.
Whilst the RTX 3090 can perform 8K gaming with DLSS (not true native 8K), the early framerates seem to suggest pretty sluggish performance. Furthermore, when dropping back down to mortal resolutions like 1440p and 4K, the RTX 3090 doesn’t show nearly enough performance gains when compared to the RTX 3080 – a GPU that is currently on shelves for under half the price of the 3090.
That being said, it isn’t all bad, the RTX 3090 is extremely efficient when it comes to 3D rendering and other workstation type workflows.
If you’re happy with the performance, the next thing to consider is the price. This GPU comes to shelves at an eye-watering $1500+, putting it into the upper echelons of the GPU pricing spectrum.
It’s not just the cost of the GPU you need to be concerned with either, there are a whole host of additional costs to factor in if you do decide to purchase an RTX 3090. That’s right, we’re talking a new case that has the capacity to hold a GPU of this size and weight. Chances are also high that you’ll need to invest in a new PSU that can power a beast of this power as well.
Keeping your internal temperatures as low as possible is something every PC user should concern themselves with. High temperatures within your PC case can cause your hardware to run inefficiently and even reduce overall life expectancy too.
The RTX 3090 is a hugely powerful card, meaning it needs a hefty cooling solution to match. Luckily, this is where most GPU AIBs excel, in the cooling department.
Lastly, we have the physical size (and weight) of the GPU. The RTX is one of, if not the biggest GPU we’ve seen – aptly named the BFGPU by Jensen himself.
If you’re happy with the price and performance that the RTX 3090 comes equipped with, the next thing you need to consider is whether or not your PC case has the capacity to accommodate such a beast.
In the following guide, we’ll be posting physical measurements of each AIB RTX 3090. Simply check to make sure your case can handle its size before finalizing your purchase.
Familiarizing yourself with a GPU’s specs should be one of the first things you learn when looking to upgrade your PC. By understanding the key specifications of a GPU, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision on what hardware to pair it with, decide whether or not this GPU is right for your needs, and ultimately, make sure you aren’t wasting money in the long run.
Below are some of the main specs that could affect you and your purchasing decision:
First up we have clock speed – or frequency. Like most hardware, the microprocessor inside a GPU comes with a predetermined clock frequency. The clock frequency is an indication of how fast your GPU performs certain tasks and processes.
Whilst a lot of companies like to flaunt their out the box clock frequencies, this shouldn’t be the defining factor when you purchase a GPU. Modern graphics cards almost always go above and beyond the listed clock boost frequency. Take the RTX 3090 for instance. Whilst manufacturers post clock boost frequencies of 1700MHz, the GPU can actually go as high as 2000MHz when under full load.
When it comes to high-end GPUs that are capable of workstation tasks, understanding VRAM and its role is extremely important. That said, VRAM also plays a big part in determining how well a GPU can run higher resolutions – such as 4K and 8K.
VRAM, in its simplest form, is your GPU’s video RAM (random access memory). It has a direct impact on how well your graphics card performs and how much data it can store and access at any one time – in any order and at any time.
VRAM works in the exact same way your system RAM does, it stores important data used by a game or application you’re running – allowing the GPU to utilize that data at any time. This means the GPU doesn’t have to go between the CPU and your primary drive to collect the data – it already has it readily stored to be used with immediate effect.
TDP (Thermal Power Draw) refers to the maximum amount of heat your GPUs cooler can dissipate when at maximum capacity. TDP is more important when looking at purchasing a new CPU – mainly because users have to purchase a standalone CPU cooler.
With a GPU, the manufacturers already supply an efficient cooler rated to deal with the heat the GPU creates. In rare cases where individuals want to overclock to extremely high levels, more efficient cooling solutions may need to be installed – water cooling for example.
TDP also gives you a good indicator of how much heat it will be adding to the interior of your case.
The Best RTX 3090 Graphics Cards in 2020 & 2021
Best Value RTX 3080
Best Budget RTX 3090
One of the most attractive RTX 3090s
Powerful cooling system
High clock frequency
Stellar build quality
On the higher end of the 3090 price spectrum
Like our RTX 3080 article, the MSI RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio gets the top spot here once again – beating rivals by showcasing better cooling, greater aesthetic appeal, and overall value for money.
The design of the 3090 is very similar to what we’ve seen in the past, utilizing an almost identical triple-fan cooling solution as previous iterations. The RTX 3090 is almost identical to the 3080 in design, only differing in size slightly (323 x 140 x 56mm). Whilst the cooling solution may look the same as previous generations, there is a clear performance difference that can be found when diving a little deeper into this GPUs design.
The Gaming X Trio comes equipped with the newly-designed MSI Tri Frozr 2 cooling solution, equipped with Torx Fan 4.0 technology and more efficient core pipes. The Torx Fan 4.0 technology is carefully designed to help focus airflow over the heatsink, providing greater heat dissipation. Core pipes have been machine-designed for maximum contact over the GPU, helping to spread the heat along the full length of the heatsink. These two design features, ultimately, have a huge impact on the thermal performance of this improved Frozr design.
Like the RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio, the 3090 also comes equipped with very good build quality. MSI has used a similar anti-bending metal strap on the 3090 which adds a tonne of rigidity to this card’s design. That being said, you’ll still want to ensure your motherboard has re-inforced PCIe lanes and a solid mounting bracket on the case. This thing is heavy.
2nd Gen Ray Tracing Cores
Extremely efficient cooling solution
One of the quieter 3090 AIBs
Not the most attractive RTX 3090
Next up we have the hugely impressive ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090. It comes to the table sporting a stylish aesthetic that hasn’t been overpowered with RGB or unnecessary design additions – we’re looking at you EVGA. Whilst the ASUS TUF Gaming isn’t the most expensive 3090 on shelves, it’s still one of the most efficient when it comes to cooling.
The new thermal design ASUS has opted to use has been carefully designed to get the highest levels of thermal dissipation from this card. The fans are newly-designed with Axial-tech which, in its simplest form, helps to more accurately direct the flow of air when it’s needed most. The fans rely on dual ball bearings to not only ensure consistent performance but also increase the longevity of the design when compared to sleeve alternatives. Furthermore, ASUS decided to utilize reverse rotation for the centre fan which provides less turbulence and a quieter experience.
Cooling aside, the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 is a 2.7 (3) slot card that measures in at 299 x 126 x 51 mm. Whilst it’s on the smaller side of RTX 3090 size spectrum, it’s still a massive card when compared to older generations. That said, with a carefully thought out design and some cool aesthetic features, this card really does look the part.
Best Value RTX 3080
Excellent build quality
Quite and efficient cooling
Decent out the box clock frequency
Subtle yet attractive RGB
Cooler is very large
Gigabyte are one of the biggest names in the GPU game, bringing high levels of build quality and performance to the table. Thankfully, the RTX 3090 Gaming OC 24G ticks both of those boxes and more. Like the other cards in this guide, the RTX 3090 Gaming OC 24G comes to the table sporting exactly the same design as its little brother, the 3080. The only additional extra is the SLI compatibility which can be found at the base of the card.
Overall, however, the Gigabyte RTX 3090 looks pretty damn good. The logo can be found on the top of the card and is the only area that accommodates any form of RGB – unlucky RGB lovers. That being said, the RGB is extremely bright and definitely adds to your build’s overall design. Like other cards on this list, Gigabyte has given both the 3080 and 3090 the exact same thermal design. That said, it has been bolstered from previous generations in order to handle the additional heat the 3090 generates.
The Windforce 3X cooling system has been equipped to this card, providing outstanding levels of heat dissipation. Like the other cards in this guide, the thermal design offers up stop-start technology, a feature that switches off the fans when the card drops below 55 degrees. Whilst this is fairly standard in modern-day graphics cards, it’s still a nice feature and brings noise levels right down.
Out of the box, the Gigabyte RTX 3090 Gaming OC 24G has been clocked to a fairly modest 1755MHz. That said, this card is more than capable of pushing past this figure when put under maximum stress. Fusion 2.0 also allows users to customize and synchronize the lighting to their exact requirements.
A metal backplate has been equipped to this GPU to give it an additional boost in the build quality department. Whilst this may seem overkill, it’s actually not. The Gaming OC is an extremely heavy card – one of the heaviest we’ve tested – and requires every bit of reinforcements it can get.
Best Budget RTX 3090
New 11-blade fan for increased airflow
Freeze fan stop technology
Excellent build quality
Can become noisy
Last but not least, is the ZOTAC RTX 3090 Trinity. This extremely attractive GPU ticks a lot of the right boxes, but most importantly, it ticks the affordability box. Whilst it might not be the fastest (out the box clock frequency), it still provides excellent cooling, great aesthetics, and pretty good build quality.
From a design point of view, it’s pretty hard to knock the ZOTAC. This thing looks fantastic. It comes equipped with the Ice Storm 2.0 cooling solution which, not only looks great but operates in a very efficient manner. This is also one of the only RTX 3090s that offers RGB on the rear of the card. Whilst it is only subtle, it definitely adds a lot to the look of this GPU.
Looks aside, the ZOTAC 3090 has been equipped with a hugely impressive cooling system. The Ice Storm 2.0 is a triple-fan configuration – like every other 3090 in this guide – which offers stop-start technology and a ‘flow-through’ backplate which is in keeping with the Founder’s Edition.
At the rear of the card, ZOTAC has installed an additional metal plate which adds a ton of extra rigidity to this card’s overall makeup. As far as inputs go, the ZOTAC brings 3 x DisplayPort 1.4a and an HDMI 2.1 to the table, giving users access to a wide array of display options.
One of the big questions individuals are asking is; how does the RTX 3090 perform compared to the RTX 3080. As we all know, the RTX 3090 offers up a huge amount of extra VRAM – great for playing 8K (sort of) titles and workstation type tasks. But, is it actually worth the extra cash?
Well, the short answer is simple, not really. There are a ton of things you need to take into consideration alongside the fact that you’re spending an additional $800 – like the need to source an 8K TV which, trust me, is easier said than done.
On paper, the RTX 3090 is better than the 3080 – by around 10%. Is that worth your additional cash? Maybe. I suppose that’s what it all comes down to, whether or not you feel you can justify the additional cost.
From a workstation and rendering standpoint, it’s a no brainer. The RTX 3090 is much better than the 3080 in these bespoke scenarios.
Another big consideration is your power supply. Unfortunately, if you are planning on getting an RTX 3090, then chances are you’ll need to invest in a new PSU. Your old one – unless it’s over 750W, definitely won’t cut the mustard.
Nvidia, and manufacturers, are recommending you go for a power supply that is at least 750W. However, when you take the efficiency curve into the equation – along with overclocking and other highly clocked system components – you might want to consider opting for something a little beefier.
You can check out our PSU calculator here which will give you everything you need to know when calculating power draw.
So, there you have it, our comprehensive breakdown of the best RTX 3090 graphics cards available this 2021.
Hopefully, this article has given you a greater understanding of the better RTX 3090 AIBs and should steer you in the right direction when it comes to purchasing time. Ultimately, I have to be honest – I would not recommend this card for gaming over the RTX 3080. It simply doesn’t offer the levels of performance you’d expect for such a large jump in the pricing. However, if you do CAD work or highly taxing workflows, the RTX 3090 could definitely be a GPU to consider.
All being said, we will have a whole host of benchmarking results coming your way in the next couple of days – so stay tuned if you want to see exactly how these cards perform. Feel free to drop us a comment in the section below if there is anything you’d like us to answer. Or better still, why not head on over to our Community Hub where you can discuss everything GPU related with like-minded individuals.