Nvidia RTX 40 Series vs AMD RDNA 3: The Current GPU Landscape

Nvidia launched their flagship RTX 4090 in October 2022, a behemoth of a card that set a new precedent for GPUs. It became the first card to offer a truly high refresh rate 4K gaming experience. But extreme performance comes at an extreme price, and consumers groaned at the MSRP of $1599. Not that the card was even attainable at that price, as scalpers snatched it up during launch week and we saw listings of up to $3000 on eBay.

The RTX 4080 suffered the same fate, although its eBay sales were poor in comparison to the 4090, mainly because it was even more overpriced at $1199 MSRP. Due to the lack of interest, scalpers were forced to return or sell their RTX 4080s at MSRP. Moment of silence… um, anyone? Newegg made many RTX 4080s non-refundable in response to an influx of returns from scalpers. Currently both RTX 40 SKUs are available from Newegg and Amazon.

With mining profitability at an all-time low and the worldwide chip shortage easing, GPU prices normalised towards the end of 2022 and consumers were understandably disgruntled by Nvidia’s greedy pricing. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang claimed that Moore’s Law was dead and manufacturing costs had increased, but that hardly appeased gamers.

The unveiling of the RTX 40 Series didn’t go too smoothly either. In addition to the RTX 4090, Nvidia planned to release two variants of the RTX 4080, a 16GB version at $1199 and a 12GB version at $899. This sparked outrage in the community, as the naming scheme was very misleading. The 12GB model not only had less VRAM, but it also had less CUDA cores and lower memory bandwidth. Nvidia later “unlaunched” the 12GB variant and reportedly reimbursed some AIB partners for retail packaging that had already been made. The 12GB version was eventually released as the 4070 Ti with a reduced MSRP of $799.

Nvidia is using the new PCIe 5.0 power connector (12VHPWR) on the RTX 40 Series, which is designed for ATX 3.0 PSUs. But as these PSUs are still fairly rare, Nvidia includes a 12VHPWR adapter with every RTX 40 Series card. The adapter allows you to convert three or four 8-pin PCIe connectors into one 12VHPWR connector for 450W to 600W of power delivery.

To add to Nvidia’s torment, several users experienced melting connector issues on their RTX 4090s. The 12VHPWR adapter would melt while plugged into the graphics card, and in some instances the 16-pin connector on the card itself melted. As of 18 November 2022, Nvidia were aware of about 50 cases globally. They released an official statement, suggesting that a common issue was connectors weren’t fully plugged into the graphics card. They also promised to expedite RMAs for affected users. You can find a list of cases on the 16 Pins Adapter Megathread on the r/nvidia subreddit. The current rate of failure is 0.04% of sold cards.

All issues and controversies aside, the RTX 4090 offers some serious brunt and the generational improvement is astounding. It crushes the RTX 3090 Ti by a whopping 50% and the RTX 3090 and RX 6950 XT are left in its wake by up to 70%. Nvidia abandoned the Samsung 8nm process in favour of TSMC’s 4nm process. Based on the Ada Lovelace architecture, the AD102 chip boasts 176 billion transistors, which is a 170% increase over GA102. Nvidia’s flagship packs 16,384 CUDA cores with 24GB 384-bit GDDR6X video memory. The RTX 4090 features 512 4th gen Tensor cores and 128 3rd gen Ray Tracing cores. Nvidia also introduced DLSS 3.0 which is exclusive to the RTX 40 Series.

The RTX 4090 is unbeatable at 4K (Source: TechPowerUp)

The RTX 4090 Founders Edition has mammoth dimensions of 304mm x 137mm x 61mm and will take three PCIe slots worth of space. Most AIB cards will push that size up to 3.5 slots. That’s a chunky card and you’ll need to make sure your case has enough space. While many expected the RTX 4090 to be a power hog, it comes with a power rating of 450W which is the same as the 3090 Ti and 100W more than the RTX 3090. We’re actually seeing less power draw and better efficiency than the 3090 Ti, and the card typically runs at 350W when gaming–the Founders Edition at least. Nvidia allows up to a 600W manual power limit increase, but the performance gains from overclocking is minimal.

Nvidia vs AMD MSRP

GeForce RTX 4090 – $1599
GeForce RTX 4080 – $1199
Radeon RX 7900 XTX – $999
Radeon RX 7900 XT – $899
GeForce RTX 4070 Ti – $799
GeForce RTX 4070 – $599

Nvidia’s extreme pricing on the 4080 and 4090 left an opening for RDNA 3, and the RX 7900 XTX and XT represent a more accessible entry point at the high end. The RTX 4090 is untouchable in terms of performance (and price), and the first key matchup is the RTX 4080 vs RX 7900 XTX. These two cards offer comparable framerates at 1440p and 4K, which is favourable for AMD as the RX 7900 XTX is $200 cheaper, but when you throw ray tracing and upscaling into the mix, things swing in Nvidia’s favour. On average the 4080 has a 15% advantage with ray tracing enabled, and AMD’s FSR is still no match for DLSS. Whether or not that justifies spending an extra $200 is up for debate.

The RTX 4080 is already very expensive at $1199 MSRP, so even at $999 the RX 7900 XTX won’t exactly take the market by storm. If your main requirement is good old fashioned frames and you don’t mind AMD’s less than stellar ray tracing, the RX 7900 XTX might just be worth it. The generational improvement of 30% over the 6950 XT is more than decent, and it’s one of few cards that can average over 100FPS at 4K.

The RTX 4070 Ti still feels steep at the reduced MSRP of $799, especially when you consider it only has 12GB of VRAM. The 4070 Ti vs 7900 XT is an interesting matchup, where the 7900 XT has 15% better FPS and more VRAM, but again Nvidia has the edge when it comes to ray tracing and upscaling. The 7900 XT has an MSRP of $899, but in reality it’s selling closer to $800.

The 4070 Ti’s 12GB of VRAM could become an issue in the future, as 8GB has already been shown to be insufficient for the latest AAA games. The 7900 XT has better futureproofing with 20GB VRAM. With the 7900 XT you’re getting better rasterisation and a whopping 8GB more VRAM, but Nvidia’s superior ray tracing balances the scale. You could make a case for either card, but at current prices neither one is very compelling.

The 4070 Ti’s 12GB of VRAM could become an issue in the future, as 8GB has already been shown to be insufficient for the latest AAA games

The midrange RTX 4070 is a more attractive proposition at $599, and you could even be so bold as to call it affordable–at least relative to the 4090, 4080, and 4070 Ti. This card gives you 3080’esque performance at a lower price, delivering a high refresh rate 1440p gaming experience and smooth 4K with DLSS 3 enabled. But like the Ti version, it comes with only 12GB of VRAM. This is less VRAM than AMD’s previous-gen cards like the 6800 XT and 6900 XT.

The 4070 is very competitive with the 6800 XT and 6900 XT in terms of rasterisation, and boasts a 20% advantage when you throw ray tracing into the mix. With that said, the 6800 XT is going for well below its MSRP at $500 and comes with 16GB of VRAM, so it might be better value. Where the RTX 4070 really shines is efficiency: it comes with a power rating of only 200W and offers excellent performance per watt.

None of the new GPUs are terribly appealing at MSRP, and the RX 7900 XT is the current value pick at $779. It’s still a bit too early to jump aboard the Ada Lovelace or RDNA 3 bandwagon, but things could change soon. The RTX 4060 Ti might launch at $399, which would comfortably make it the best value offering Ada Lovelace. We could also see a price drop on the RTX 4070 given its poor initial sales.


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