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The RTX 3090 Ti is the halo GPU we’ve waited three years for

A new BFGPU is in town — and it’s Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3090 Ti. You may have to take out a mortgage to afford one, as well as cut a hole in the front of your case to fit it inside, but the card is finally here. PC builders have waited a long time for this moment: Nvidia finally has a true halo product in its range.

The RTX 3090 has been the champion of high-end GPUs for a year and a half, but inflated pricing and limited availability made it less of an aspirational GPU and more of a pipe dream. Now that the RTX 3090 Ti is out, Nvidia finally has a card to sit on top of its range. And at least for now, it’s a card you can actually buy at its suggested price.

Ampere’s swan song

An RTX 3080 graphics card sits among other GPUs.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends.

The RTX 3090 Ti is the culmination of Nvidia’s Ampere architecture, for every good and bad reason. It’s obscenely power-hungry and outrageously large, and it comes with a triple 8-pin connector — something so ridiculous given the 12-pin backlash that you’d think Nvidia is doing it on purpose.

At $1,999, it’s also $500 more expensive than theRTX 3090 at list price, and early reviews suggest it’s only around 10% faster. Still, I can’t help but feel giddy when I see the RTX 3090 Ti. It’s the halo product for Nvidia’s Ampere range, despite arriving nearly two years late, and it’s one PC builders can actually aspire to.

Thanks to the GPU shortage, PC enthusiasts never had that chance. The RTX 3090 sat on top of Nvidia’s Ampere lineup, sure, but the past 18 months have been a mad dash to buy any graphics, let alone the top dog. After seeing “your order was not processed” dozens of times and waiting in line for hours at Best Buy, the RTX 3090 lost its luster.

The PNY RTX 3090 Ti in a product ad.

Not the RTX 3090 Ti. Even a few hours after the cards dropped, you can still find models available at their list price. For the first time for Ampere, it’s not about if you can find a card in stock at reasonably unreasonable price; it’s about if you want the best of the best and if you’re willing to spend for it.

That doesn’t mean you should, of course, but the option is there. PC enthusiasts have waited a long time for a GPU to gawk over, as talks of inflated pricing and limited availability have drowned out the conversation. And now that the GPU shortage is coming to a close, wistfulness (or Stockholm syndrome) is starting to set in.

Back to Turing

An Nvidia RTX 2080 Super card on a table.
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Even before the GPU shortage set in, PC enthusiasts struggled to find a true halo product from Nvidia. The RTX 2080 Ti launched in September 2018, and it remained the cream of the crop until Nvidia launched the RTX 3080 two years later. Note that the RTX 2080 Ti wasn’t a late-game addition to Turing, either; it launched just a week after the RTX 2080.

The Titan RTX was setup to be the halo product for the range, launching a few short months after the RTX 2080 Ti. It was a major disappointment, sometimes even taking a back seat to the RTX 2080 Ti despite costing twice as much. Diminishing returns are always a problem for PC components, but the Titan RTX was regressive.

The RTX 3090 Ti, despite being a horrible buy from a value standpoint, is at least pushing Ampere forward. It’s the final bit of performance that Nvidia could squeeze out of the RTX 3090, and if that’s not what a halo product is supposed to be, I don’t know what is.

Should you buy the RTX 3090 Ti?

A hand holds the new RTX 3090 Ti graphics card.

Probably not. That is, unless you have been eagerly waiting to pick up an RTX 3090. I’m still waiting on my RTX 3090 Ti to arrive for testing, but the GPU hivemind has shown that it’s about 10% faster than the base model. Like any halo product, the RTX 3090 Ti is too expensive and impractical for most people.

It’s not a bad buy for staunch PC builders right now, though. Our analysis of the GPU market shows that the RTX 3090 is only selling for around $50 less than the Ti model on average. It’s possible that the price will go up as time goes on, but all signs point to GPU prices dropping. The RTX 3090 Ti is expensive, but it looks like it will be consistently expensive.

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