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4 ways the Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti struggles, and 1 way it’s great

Nvidia’s review embargo for the RTX 3090 Ti has lifted, and that means we finally know how good this behemoth of a graphics card truly is. But now that the writers’ hands are unfettered and the truth is out there, what do people think of this card? Is it the best GPU on the planet, or should you steer well clear?

Well, in general, the GPU’s performance received praise, but there were some major caveats around — well, pretty much everything else. Let’s dive in to see what’s hot and what’s not about Nvidia’s beefiest card.

It’s incredibly expensive

Nvidia previews RTX 3090 Ti GPU at CES 2022.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

For a lot of people, spending $1,999 on a PC may be about what they’d expect to pay for the combined total of every component. For others, it’s way more than they’d like to spend when building a PC. If you’re either of those types of people, I’ve got some bad news: The RTX 3090 Ti costs $1,999 by itself.

And that’s just Nvidia’s reference version. Third-party editions, which have overclocks and custom cooling setups out of the box, run even higher. The way current GPU prices are going, don’t be surprised to see some manufacturers’ cards hitting $3,000 a pop.

What makes it worse is the minimal performance increase you get over the RTX 3090. For instance, Dominic Moass at KitGuru put the MSI Suprim X model of the 3090 Ti through its paces and found it only topped the RTX 3090 by 12% at 4K resolution. At 1440p, that decreased to 10%. Compared to AMD’s RX 6900 XT, things look even more bleak: The RTX 3090 Ti outperformed it by a mere 6% at 1440p.

That’s despite the RTX 3090’s suggested retail price of $1,500 and the RX 6900 XT’s $999 starting price — both far lower than the RTX 3090 Ti. Of course, you’ll be hard-pressed to find those cards at those prices, but the point remains that the tiny performance gains granted by the 3090 Ti are hardly justified by the enormous levy you’ll pay to get one.

It’s big and heavy

A Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti sits on a silver table.

The RTX 3090 Ti might not outperform its nearest rivals by much, but it is still the most powerful GPU you can buy right now. And like a megalomaniacal overlord, a card with that much performance is going to be incredibly power-hungry. The RTX 3090 Ti is no exception.

Before its launch, rumors had swirled for months that the card was going to require a huge amount of power, and that’s proved true in the reviews. TechPowerUp’s review, for example, found it to be one of the most demanding cards it has ever tested, often by some distance. Its gaming power draw of 469 watts and maximum draw of 511W was far and away the most out of any card the website had tested, while during video playback and multi-monitor usage, it was only surpassed by AMD’s trio of the RX 6800, RX 6800 XT, and RX 6900 XT.

So, if you’re thinking of selling a kidney for the RTX 3090 Ti (you didn’t need the second one anyway, did you?), you’ll also need to factor in the increased electricity costs that kind of power is going to set you back.

You’ll probably need a new power supply

An Aorus P1200 power supply on a blurred background.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Speaking of power demands, there’s a knock-on effect of the 3090 Ti’s ravenous needs. Just to keep it going, there’s a distinct possibility you’re going to have to get a new power supply — and maybe even a new case.

For instance, after Igor Wallossek at Igor’s Lab tested the card, he determined you should set aside 550W to 600W of power consumption just for the graphics card (accounting for the occasional spike in power draw). Demands like that are going to require a power supply offering around 1,000W, which is likely going to be a step up for most people.

It’s never nice to get a nasty monetary surprise, so if you’re thinking of taking the plunge and buying an RTX 3090 Ti, make sure you check that your existing power supply can handle it. And if you’re building a new PC from scratch, don’t make the mistake of getting a power supply that isn’t up to the task.

Time to upgrade your PC case

Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti in a PC build.

And there’s another issue: The RTX 3090 Ti is an enormous card. Indeed, if any graphics card could justifiably be called a “heckin’ chonker,” it is surely this one.

We recently covered how chunky third-party versions of the GPU are, but suffice it to say that some take up as many as four slots in your case. For some people, it simply will not fit in their existing case, requiring another costly upgrade.

Jackie Thomas at TechRadar, who tested MSI’s take on the 3090 Ti, described how the card’s massive cooler, metal shroud, and metal backplate all contribute to making it both incredibly bulky and heavy. And like the power supply issue, that could mean you need to upgrade your case just to fit the card in without the sides bloating out like a medieval king after a showstopping banquet.

In other words, buying an RTX 3090 Ti might mean you’ll incur a greater financial cost than you were expecting, so make sure you do your research before pulling the trigger.

The absolute best performance

Nvidia's Jeff Fisher presenting the RTX 3090 Ti.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

However, it’s not all doom and gloom in 3090 Ti land. Sure, you might have to get a new power supply and a new case, pay through the nose for electricity, and file for bankruptcy, but buying an RTX 3090 Ti has its benefits.

The most obvious upside is that it is an absolute beast when it comes to performance. According to Anthony Garreffa at TweakTown, Nvidia’s latest “tops the benchmark charts without a problem, besting the previous RTX 3080 Ti and RTX 3090 graphics cards we’ve looked to for the best performance from a GeForce GPU.”

In almost every game TweakTown tested, the RTX 3090 Ti offered the best performance around. Indeed, in some cases, it makes 4K ultra gaming at 120 frames per second (fps) easily within reach. Even 8K gaming at 60 fps, as silly as it might sound, is doable with this monster of a card.

So, if you’re after the absolute best gaming graphics card on the planet and don’t care about the price (or the power draw, or weight, or size, or … you get it), then the RTX 3090 Ti is undoubtedly the top option. For everyone else, though, it’s likely to be a hard pass.

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Alex Blake
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