So now that a 24GB graphics card has actually gotten into the hands of reviewers, how well does that 8K gaming claim stack up?
Not that well, as it turns out. Initially, the RTX 3090 was pitched as a Titan-class replacement card rather than for flagship gaming. But during Nvidia’s initial Ampere launch, the RTX 3090 was touted as the world’s first 8K gaming card, although a heavy qualifier was applied in the form of DLSS.
That is, unless you’re specifically upsampling images from 1440p using Nvidia’s reconstruction tech, it’s not exactly an 8K gaming card in the way you might think.
So for the most part, it’s no surprise to see a bit of water thrown on the 8K gaming claims. The Aussies at Hardware Unboxed focused primarily on comparisons between the RTX 3080 and other cards at 1440p and 4K, but found only two games that ran at 8K: Doom Eternal, which is possibly the most efficient game on the market with its Vulkan implementation, and Control with DLSS support.
“It is a little bit sketchy claiming 8K gaming performance given that for the most part you will require DLSS support for it to happen,” Hardware Unboxed’s Steve Walton said.
All in all, the RTX 3090 didn’t really offer enough of an uptick in performance to justify its massive price premium. In Australia, the RTX 3090 cards are more than double the cost of the RTX 3080, and can be almost three times as much for the AIB boards. When you’re only getting around 10 per cent better 4K performance in most games — some are a little better at 15 per cent, others are closer to 5 per cent — it makes the argument hard to justify.
Tom’s Hardware made a similar point — unless the extra VRAM applies for professional workloads, it’s not going to help you in gaming scenarios, so gamers should stick to the RTX 3080. “For gamers, waiting for the dust to settle — and inventory to build up — is a better plan than shelling out $1,500 for the RTX 3090,” Jarred Walton wrote.
Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry offered a slightly different take, saying the RTX 3090 offered some strong value when compared to the Quadro workstation cards. They didn’t have an 8K monitor to test the game’s native output — using Nvidia’s in-built downsampling options to run games higher than your native resolution often comes with about a 3-5 per cent performance hit — but they were pleased by the performance in DiRT Rally 2.0, Death Stranding (which has an especially refined DLSS implementation) and DOOM Eternal.
“For my use cases, the extra money is obviously worth it. I also think that the way Nvidia packages and markets the product is appealing: the RTX 3090 looks and feels special, its gigantic form factor and swish aesthetic will score points with those that take pride in their PC looking good and its thermal and especially acoustic performance are excellent,” Eurogamer wrote.
Gamers Nexus, on the flipside, offered possibly the harshest criticism of the launch. The site said the RTX 3090 was mismarketed, botched what was an otherwise excellent RTX 3080 launch, and described their 8K gaming results as “a console experience”. Games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, GTA 5, Hitman 2, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Red Dead Redemption 2 all ran at just over 30fps averages, with stuttering in many cases and dips well below that. The frametime plot for Shadow of the Tomb Raider was so inconsistent that it was an “objectively bad experience” and “one of the worst frametime plots we’ve ever set our eyes on”.
Gamers Nexus also found a lot of games simply wouldn’t support 8K, and some games were running below 8K (after checking the pixel count in screenshots afterwards) despite claiming otherwise.
Another interesting note was found in Linus Tech Tips’ RTX 3090 review, where the Titan RTX floored the RTX 3090 in a couple of workstation tests. The Catia 3D suite ran over 40 per cent faster on the original Titan RTX, primarily thanks to driver optimisations for the original Titan that haven’t been enabled for the RTX 30-series.
“The GeForce RTX 3090 is for content creators,” Nvidia told Linus Tech Tips in a statement. “Particularly those doing rendering and video editing with large models. For these folks RTX 3090 is going to offer Titan class performance.”
So there’s a caveat for those with workstations, too. The RTX 3090 is largely for professional workloads, but not professional CAD, design or AI training workloads, because the RTX 3090 won’t get the special optimisations that the Titan-class cards get.
So if the RTX 3090 isn’t truly the Ampere-powered Titan, it makes you wonder — when’s that coming, and how expensive will that be in Australia? $4000? $5000?
Linus was kinder to the game’s 4K and 8K performance, however, and had less quibbles about 8K gaming when using the DLSS reconstruction tech. Comparing 4K native images against 8K native and 8K via DLSS showed that 8K DLSS did a solid job of bringing back lost detail — although it wasn’t perfect.
The missing part from this equation, of course, is how hard next-gen games will push these new GPUs. Watch Dogs: Legion, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Cyberpunk 2077 are only weeks away, and we already know they’re liable to be much more demanding. Are any of those games going to utilise DLSS? And how’s the ray-tracing performance in those titles? We’ll have to wait for a while to find out, but I suspect the real value of any GPU — including what AMD eventually announces with Big Navi — will become known then.
For now, however, it seems impossible for gamers to justify the extreme premium for the RTX 3090. And that’s before the price differential in Australia is factored in. The cheapest RTX 3090 on the StaticICE Australian price aggregator is going for $2699, almost $200 more than the RRP for the Founders Edition boards. And some models are well over $3000, more than what some people would spend on their entire computer.
That’s a bit much to swallow. Then again, if 8K gaming is your thing and you have a display that can run it, the premium probably won’t materially affect you anyway.