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Christmas definitely came early for PC gamers this year. AMD has yet to show its hand with its next-gen graphics cards, but Nvidia and even Intel already have, and there's a lot to talk about. Different approaches, yes, but extremely interesting nonetheless. Nvidia, true to form, has gone right for the jugular with its new flagship, the GeForce RTX 4090.

We're running out of cliches to use when describing whatever Nvidia does next in GPU tech. The RTX 30 series was already pretty incredible, from the low end right up to the massive, power-hungry RTX 3090 family. The RTX 4090 is something else, though.

Naturally, the new generation is more powerful than the old. But the promises made of gains over the previous generation are mind-blowing. The new architecture promises to be another monumental leap forward. For years we've been talking about ray tracing and 4K gaming, and the RTX 4090 has arrived to make both of those the norm, and to provide a GPU unlike anything we've seen before.

Games have never had it so good.

About this review: This review was conducted using the RTX 4090 Founders Edition, provided by Nvidia for the purposes of testing. Nobody at Nvidia has had any input on the content of this review.

The undisputed heavyweight champion of consumer graphics cards, nothing else comes close to the RTX 4090
Nvidia RTX 4090 Founders Edition
Nvidia RTX 4090 Founders Edition

Nothing comes close to the performance on offer here, with team green's newest destroying the last generation.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 pricing and availability

  • The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 is available at major retailers
  • It starts at $1,599 in the U.S. for the Founders Edition and some third-party cards with extra features

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 went on sale on Oct. 12, 2022, at major retailers such as Amazon, Newegg, and Best Buy. Prices start at $1,599 in the U.S. for the Founders Edition and a selection of third-party cards.

Some third-party versions with extra features like custom cooling or factory overclocks cost more than the base price, but this will vary. As a high-demand item, the early stocks sold very quickly, but restocks will continue to happen.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 specs, hardware, and design

  • The graphics card is so big it might block slots on your motherboard
  • Despite its size, there wasn't any noticeable sagging
  • It has lighting, but we're not sure what triggers it


Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090


Ada Lovelace | AD102

GPU Cores


Base Clock

2235 MHz

Boost Clock

2520 MHz



Memory Bandwidth

1,018 GB/s

Memory Interface Width


RT Cores




Required System Power (W)


Everything about the RTX 4090 is huge. The spec table is huge, the price is huge, and the actual graphics card is huge. The Founders Edition actually seems to be the smallest of the bunch, but don't let that fool you.

As we discovered when comparing it to a selection of other items, the size is potentially a problem. It takes up officially three PCIe slots in a PC case, and depending on your motherboard layout, you may lose the use of actual PCIe x16 slots. On my ASUS Prime Z690-P, for example, with the RTX 4090 in the top slot, I lose the use of a full-sized PCIe 4.0 expansion slot simply due to this card's thickness. And custom coolers on third-party versions could be even worse.

The depth is also an issue, though not entirely just down to the size of the card. Coupled with the necessity (for many of us, at least for a while) of using the 16-pin to 4 x 8-pin adapter cable to provide power, well, you need a deep case. In my Lian Li Lancool 205 Mesh, I simply cannot get the glass side panel on when using the adapter. With a dedicated cable, I might, but realistically, Cablemod's right-angled adapter is going to be the way for a lot of us.

RTX 4090 and banana for scale

The PCB itself isn't particularly large. It's just all heatsink. The Founders Edition is essentially one giant piece of metal with fins on both sides to help airflow. It's got two big fans at opposing ends and on opposing sides of the card. One thing it doesn't suffer with, surprisingly, is sag. Despite its overall size and weight, it's remarkably rigid. Indeed, my old MSI RTX 2080, which is significantly smaller than the RTX 4090, suffered much, much worse. I was expecting a support bracket to be necessary, but that hasn't been the case. I still have one, just in case, but I am very surprised.

Despite being massive, the Founders Edition doesn't suffer from any sagging.

The Founders Edition also has very subtle lighting, but I'm not entirely sure what triggers it. The GeForce RTX logo lights up, as does a strip between the fan and the RTX 4090 logo. But the logo lighting was sporadic and would turn off randomly, and the strip never came on at all until I installed Corsair iCue for something completely unrelated. Regardless of how it turns on, it looks quite nice when it does.

RTX 4090 adapter cable

Rectifying the power adapter mess doesn't necessarily require a new power supply. While there are ATX 3.0 units starting to appear from brands such as MSI and Thermaltake, many more are already starting to offer a 12VHPWR to 8-pin cable that you can use on your existing unit. Check with your power supply manufacturer to find out more.

The RTX 4090 also falls behind a little in its lack of support for the latest display outputs. While it does have HDMI 2.1, it doesn't have DisplayPort 2.0. That's not a huge deal right now, but it's not like you can add it down the road when it does become more relevant. This is a graphics card that could and should last for many, many years, and it's a little hamstrung by not having the latest and greatest. Even Intel has DisplayPort 2.0 on its sub-$400 graphics cards.

Gaming performance

  • Literally nothing else on the market compares to the RTX 4090 right now in terms of performance
  • It's so powerful that it practically demands you play games at 4K
  • You can even play games at 8K — if you have a display that can support it

The RTX 4090 is part of the GeForce family, which means it's targeted primarily at gamers. However, I would question whether your average PC gamer would ever need to consider one of these graphics cards.

The performance is ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous. I love it, but I'm not sure I need it. I'm not sure anyone's really ready for it.

The performance from the RTX 4090 is ludicrous and I love it.

When talking about the RTX 4090's performance, there's absolutely nothing to compare it to. Everything we've seen so far suggests as much as a 70% performance gain over the RTX 3090 in some scenarios. AMD will have to throw some serious heat to keep up, and until the RTX 4080 arrives, the 4090 is almost in a vacuum.

Either way, let's look at some benchmarks. The tables below show what kind of performance you'll get from the RTX 4090 in a range of games at both 1440p and 4K. In all cases, every single graphics setting was set to its highest, and we identified where ray tracing was involved. In some cases, you'll see comparison data from the Intel Arc A770 16GB, a recently reviewed 1440p graphics card. The two aren't remotely competitive, but it's an indicator of just how far out front the RTX 4090 really is.


Intel Arc A770 16GB

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 Founders Edition

Fire Strike Ultra



Time Spy (DX12)



Time Spy Extreme (DX12)



DirectX Ray Tracing

31.5 FPS

136.73 FPS

Toss in scores of 9,921 in the new 3DMark Speed Way test and a whopping 25,520 on the Port Royal ray tracing test, and the GeForce RTX 4090 is just making all the numbers go brrr. It's without equal right now, and the DXR test between the A770 and the RTX 4090 shows that if you actually care about ray tracing at all, you still need to go for a high-end GPU. On that same test, the RTX 4090 is about 10x better than the old RTX 2080, the original high-end ray-tracing graphics card. So you can see how far we've come.

Next, let's examine some games.


RTX 4090 Founders Edition (1440p)

RTX 4090 Founders Edition (4K)

Intel Arc A770 16GB (1440p)

Forza Horizon 5

  • 180 FPS
  • 153 FPS
  • 71 FPS

Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered

  • 94 FPS (max RT, no DLSS)
  • 190 (max RT + DLSS 3.0)
  • 78 FPS (max RT, no DLSS)
  • 159 FPS (max RT, DLSS 3.0)
  • 68 FPS
  • 49 FPS (w/ RT)

Gears 5

  • 161 FPS
  • 125 FPS
  • N/A

Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition

  • 113 FPS (w/ RT max settings)
  • 130 FPS (w/ RT + DLSS)
  • 72 FPS ( w/ RT max settings)
  • 114 FPS (w/ RT + DLSS)
  • 61 FPS (w/ RT normal settings )

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

  • 205 FPS (w/ RT)
  • 234 FPS ( w/ RT + DLSS)
  • 121 FPS (w/ RT)
  • 198 FPS (w/ RT + DLSS)
  • 87 FPS
  • 106 FPS (w/ XeSS)

Hitman 3

  • 116 FPS (Dubai w/ RT)
  • 141 FPS (Dubai w/ RT + DLSS)
  • 92 FPS (Dartmoor w/ RT)
  • 110 FPS (Dartmoor w/ RT + DLSS)
  • 64 FPS (Dubai w/ RT)
  • 118 FPS (Dubai w/ RT + DLSS)
  • 55 FPS (Dartmoor w/ RT)
  • 93 FPS (Dartmoor w/ RT + DLSS)
  • 114 FPS (Dartmoor)
  • 125 FPS (Dubai)
  • 119 FPS (XeSS Ultra, Dartmoor)
  • 55FPS (China, XeSS Ultra, RT)

Cyberpunk 2077

  • 159 FPS
  • 85 FPS (w/ RT Ultra)
  • 128 FPS (w/ RT Ultra + DLSS 2.0)
  • 121 FPS
  • 77 FPS (w/ RT Ultra)
  • 121 FPS (w/ RT Ultra + DLSS 2.0)
  • N/A

Watch Dogs Legion

  • 99 FPS (w/ RT)
  • 61 FPS (w/ RT)
  • 99 FPS (w/ RT + DLSS)
  • N/A

The RTX 4090 almost makes 4K mandatory. I game at 1440p, and I have a really fantastic Dell 165Hz 1440p gaming monitor that I see no reason to part with. And yet, it's completely beaten by the RTX 4090. There are games, such as Hitman 3, where you can really crank up the ray tracing, or leave DLSS off, and you're within that 165Hz at 1440p. But most of the time, the RTX 4090 is crying out for more pixels to push.

Forza Horizon 5

It also makes 8K gaming a reality for the first time. Not just that it can do it, but it can do it at frame rates you might actually want to play at. I don't have an 8K display to test on, and I don't intend to buy one soon, but the information is out there.

Thermals and performance tuning

What is somewhat surprising is how well, the Founders Edition at least, handles, everything. Thermals, memory speed, fan speed — everything is great. OK, it draws plenty of power, but on stock settings, I haven't seen it rise above 400W.

But there is so much headroom. The stock power limit is the 450W you see on the box, but the actual maximum power limit of the Founders Edition seems to be a ridiculous 600W — even with that sketchy looking, but I'm sure still perfectly safe, adapter. Tools like MSI Afterburner will allow the usual tweaks, increasing memory speed, core speed, and the power limit within whatever boundaries your particular card allows.

No matter what I've tried, on stock settings, temperatures will peak around 60-65 degrees Celsius, even when pulling 420W and using as much of the GPU as it can. Those two big fans and the giant heatsink do a pretty good job of keeping things cool without sounding like a jet engine. On past Nvidia graphics cards, I've often found the stock fan curves to be great for keeping the noise down but useless at cooling the GPU, but the RTX 4090 seems to have struck a happy medium. The fans will also stop turning at idle because the GPU will run cool enough that it just doesn't need them. When you're working for the day, you won't hear endless fan noise in your ears.

There does seem to be some mileage that can be extracted from the RTX 4090, though. The graph below shows a set of results from the Unigine Superposition benchmark on the 8K optimized preset. In this instance, the core clock was fixed, but the memory speed was increased.

Unigine Superposition

The almost linear scaling indicates that while Ada Lovelace seems to be memory bandwidth starved when GPU bound, there are performance gains to be had. At the minimum, we'd expect all RTX 4090 cards to be able to add between 1,000 and 1,500 offset with as much as 2,100 possible. Rough estimates in the same test put performance up to 75% improved on the RTX 3090. But that's also taking into account a seriously overclocked, liquid-cooled RTX 3090 and a fresh-out-of-the-box RTX 4090.

For gaming, you can increase your benchmark scores and average FPS in the same way. For example, adding +1,000 to the memory added about 10 FPS average to Borderlands 3, while taking its power up to 450W. It will be up to you if you think that's worth it. The unit I have seemed to run into stability issues when increasing the core clock up to 3 GHz, though its gains up to that point were minimal in games anyway. Even so, the Founders Edition didn't come close to the 600W absolute limit, nor did temperatures ever exceed the low 70s. So if you're into tinkering, you've got a playground to enjoy yourself in.

DLSS 3.0

Spider-Man on the RTX 4090

The launch of the RTX 4090 isn't just about the gargantuan power of the hardware. Nvidia has also launched the latest iteration of its DLSS upscaling technology, which requires a 40 series GPU to even run. There's plenty to get into with it, but the tl;dr is more frames per second — sort of. According to Nvidia:

Building upon DLSS Super Resolution, DLSS 3 adds Optical Multi Frame Generation to generate entirely new frames, and integrates NVIDIA Reflex low latency technology for optimal responsiveness. DLSS 3 is powered by the new fourth-generation Tensor Cores and Optical Flow Accelerator of the NVIDIA Ada Lovelace architecture, which powers GeForce RTX 40 Series graphics cards.

The DLSS Frame Generation convolutional autoencoder takes 4 inputs – current and prior game frames, an optical flow field generated by Ada’s Optical Flow Accelerator, and game engine data such as motion vectors and depth.

Some have questioned whether it's a true FPS increase or some kind of trickery. All I can say is that if you go on the results, then it works as intended. If you look really closely side-by-side with DLSS 3.0 on and off, you will be able to find faults. Edges can be softer, there can be a little more flickering akin to a DLSS performance mode, and you can probably pick out areas where detail has suffered. But here's the kicker: You can only find these issues if you scrutinize really hard.

DLSS 3.0 seems capable of doubling frame rates, which is astonishing.

But if you play a game like a normal person, it's almost indistinguishable, in part because you're going to be getting some serious FPS. I haven't tested Cyberpunk 2077 yet because it was only available as a pre-launch update through Steam, and it hasn't been made available in the GOG version yet, but it has been added to Spider-Man Remastered, and the results speak for themselves. The visuals are still excellent, but the reported frame rates double. And when you're stepping up to 4K (or even 8K) and using ray tracing, this kind of magic is welcome.

The list of titles getting DLSS 3.0 is currently fairly small, but there's a good selection, including everyone's favorite, The Witcher 3. I'm not really sure The Witcher 3 needs DLSS 3.0, at least not for the RTX 4090, but never turn down a little help in the performance department.

Encoding performance

  • This card has an NVENC encoder and an AV1 encoder
  • We found the RTX 4090 can render out a 4K60 clip at a 40,000 bitrate in under two and a half minutes
  • The 24GB VRAM makes using any piece of software a breeze
Nvidia RTX 4090 ICAT comparisons

As a gamer rather than a content creator, I can appreciate the sheer monstrous power of the RTX 4090, but also that I could probably live happily without it. But its professional applications place this graphics card in a league of one. OK, so does the gaming performance, but it's still mind-blowing.

For starters, besides the excellent NVENC encoder that many have become reliant upon, the RTX 4090 takes it up a notch with a hardware AV1 encoder. Decoding has been possible on RTX cards for a while, but this is the first time we've been able to go the other way. Our explainer on AV1 will help you understand why it's a big deal. But what you're not necessarily getting from AV1 on the RTX 4090 is faster encoding, since it's about the same as regular old h.264 using NVENC.

Whether using AV1 or NVENC, the RTX 4090 is an encoding juggernaut.

That's not to say the encoding performance of this thing isn't supremely impressive. In DaVinci Resolve 18 Studio, the RTX 4090 can render out a 4K60 clip at a 40,000 bitrate in under two and a half minutes. Comparing the h.264 and AV1 exports in ICAT, it's impossible to tell the difference in quality. The AV1 export is, of course, a much smaller file.

Beyond just exporting, the combination of the GPU power and the massive 24GB of VRAM makes using software like Resolve 18 a breeze. Even with high-resolution footage and timelines, there's no sign of slowdowns or sluggishness. It simply devours everything as if it were nothing.

I also tried out AV1 encoding in OBS Studio. The feature is coming in a future update but can be tried out early in the version 28.1 beta. The sample clip below was captured at the "indistinguishable" quality setting (for the sake of a smaller file than a true lossless capture) at 1440p using AV1. Since the hardware encoders are separate from the bits of the GPU pushing the game, there's no noticeable impact on its performance. And the RTX 4090 is such a beastly thing that it has absolutely no problem juggling both tasks.

The end result is fantastic as well. The file is smaller than a comparable non-AV1 encode but still retains all the detail.

Those are just two applications that make good use of the non-gaming parts of the RTX 4090. Others to add AV1 support soon include Discord, while XSplit also supports it. The simple explanation is that if you already use NVENC, the RTX 4090 will turn that performance up a good few notches. For content creators, this is a serious but smart investment. What may have taken more than one PC before can easily be achieved by a single machine with an RTX 4090. Just the horsepower alone makes workflows easier and quicker.

Should you buy the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090?


I know that you want to buy an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090, but should you? That's more complicated than a simple yes or no answer.

You should buy the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 if:

  • You're an enthusiast looking for the best of the best
  • You're into overclocking
  • You're a content creator or professional who can leverage GPU power
  • You intend to game at 4K or even 8K

You shouldn't buy the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 if:

  • Your sole purpose is gaming
  • You aren't gaming at 4K
  • The price is offputting

There are plenty of reasons to buy an RTX 4090 but those aren't necessarily reasons why you should buy one. To most people reading this, I can quite confidently say you don't need one. You could spend the money more wisely and build an entire PC for the same price. As exciting as it is, it's completely overkill.

You have to game consistently at 4K if you're entertaining buying one. There are still times that you can trip it up mildly at 1440p with a lot of ray-traced reflections. But largely, if you play games on this below 4K resolution, it's just going to laugh at you. Nothing you can throw at this graphics card right now will truly phase it.

Moving to an RTX 4090 is like getting out of a Volvo and into a Lamborghini.

It's also not necessarily the smartest buy if your sole purpose is gaming. It's just so ridiculously powerful. Enthusiasts and those who enjoy overclocking and pushing hardware to its breaking point will absolutely love it, and largely need no justification to buy one. But even if it is up to 70% better at times than the RTX 3090, no games exist right now that are remotely challenging to it.

The RTX 4090 makes the most sense when combined with something else, whether you're leveraging GPU acceleration in machine learning or creative work, or you're looking for something to game and stream with on a single machine. When you step back from just gaming and appreciate everything else you get with this graphics card, it's easier to make it make sense.

Generation on generation, the RTX 4090 is a huge leap and hasn't come with a huge price increase. But it's still very expensive and quite probably not what you need. But if you fall into owning one, you'll have an insane experience. It's like getting out of a Volvo and into a Lamborghini. Nothing can touch this graphics card right now. We'll have to wait for Nvidia to do that to itself.

The undisputed heavyweight champion of consumer graphics cards, nothing else comes close to the RTX 4090
Nvidia RTX 4090 Founders Edition
Nvidia RTX 4090 Founders Edition

The untouchable king of consumer graphics, or at least until the RTX 4090 Ti comes along.