RTX 4090 review: Spend at least $1,599 for Nvidia’s biggest bargain in years


Enlarge / The Nvidia RTX 4090 founders edition. If you can’t tell, those lines are drawn on, though the heft of this $1,599 product might convince you that they’re a reflection of real-world motion blur upon opening this massive box.

Sam Machkovech

The Nvidia RTX 4090 makes me laugh.

Part of that is due to its size. When a standalone GPU is as large as a modern video gaming console—it’s nearly identical in total volume to the Xbox Series S and more than double the size of a Nintendo Switch—it’s hard not to laugh incredulously at the thing. None of Nvidia’s highest-end “reference” GPUs, previously branded as “Titan” models, have ever been so massive, and things only get more ludicrous when you move beyond Nvidia’s “Founders Edition” and check out AIB options from third-party partners. (We haven’t tested any models other than the 4090 FE yet.)

After figuring out how to safely mount and run power to the RTX 4090, however, the laughs become decidedly different. You’re going to consistently laugh with, not at, the RTX 4090, either in joy or excited disbelief.

The RTX 4090 is the biggest holy-cow jump in GPU performance compared to its contemporaries in recent history. It arguably exceeds even the Nvidia 1000-series Titan X in that regard. Think of any current PC gaming workload that includes “future-proofed” overkill settings, then imagine the RTX 4090 faking like Grave Digger and crushing those tests like abandoned cars at a monster truck rally.

You’d hope for results like that from a $1,599-and-up GPU, but remember, at its launch, Nvidia’s Titan-like RTX 3090 disappointed on a price-to-performance front compared to the RTX 3080. What’s more, the RTX 3090 only got away with its inflated price due to the Great GPU Shortage. (Emails I sent to many desperate friends during the Dark Times amounted to “if you have to spend over $1,000 on a new GPU, see about getting a 3090 at MSRP.”)

For anyone even considering the 4090 at its bonkers price tag, you’re at least getting what you pay for (AIB markups notwithstanding). The RTX 4090 is as impressive as it is fairly priced—at least until the competition at AMD tries to catch up. But this review is also for anyone wondering what the “Ada Lovelace” generation of Nvidia GPUs may eventually deliver at lower price tiers—in particular, a bold new flavor of Nvidia’s “DLSS” system—and whether the 4090’s staggering successes will trickle down to the rest of us. Because for those customers, hoping for higher performance and fair, realistic pricing is no laughing matter.

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