Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition: It works hard, it plays hard

The 24GB of VRAM makes it a stunning value for prosumers.

Credit: Brad Chacos/IDG

Our test system

Our dedicated graphics card test system is a couple of years old, but it's packed with some of the fastest complementary components available to put any potential performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves.

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($300 on Amazon) overclocked to 5GHz all cores
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($105 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($355 on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($352 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($70 each on Amazon)

GeForce RTX 3090 content creation benchmarks

Our graphics card test system was designed for maximizing pure gaming performance, but because so much of the GeForce RTX 3090’s value proposition lies in its prosumer chops, we also wanted to test its content creation capabilities.

We don’t have any Titans on hand, so we’re comparing Nvidia’s $1,499 RTX 3090 Founders Edition against other gaming flagships. We’ve included the step-down $699 GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition with 10GB of GDDR6X in the charts below, along with the $1,200 GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition. The former flagship packs 11GB of GDDR6. The 3-year-old $700 GeForce GTX 1080 Ti includes 11GB of GDDR5X. Finally, AMD’s bizarre and short-lived $800 Radeon VII was beloved by content creators thanks to its 16GB of HBM2 memory, so we tested that as well. (It’s screaming loud compared to Nvidia’s cards.) We ran three runs of each benchmark and averaged the results.

It’s worth noting that while Nvidia offers creator-focused Studio drivers now, tied to updates to creative applications, some of these tools realize their greatest potential on Nvidia Quadro graphics cards, which get enhanced support for specialized professional applications. They cost a whole lot more, though. Your system configuration also matters for many of these tests, so your exact mileage may vary.

Let’s start with Geekbench 5. This quick cross-platform benchmark measures GPU compute performance “using workloads that include image processing, computational photography, computer vision, and machine learning.” Higher results are better, and we’ve included both OpenCL and CUDA results. Any GPU can run OpenCL, but CUDA requires specialized hardware and software from Nvidia--hence the “zero” score for the Radeon VII on that metric.

geekbench Brad Chacos/IDG

It’s a massive win for the GeForce RTX 3090 here, especially once you flip on CUDA.

Moving on, Luxmark 3.1 is a pure OpenCL benchmark based on the LuxRender v1.5 engine. It offers three different scenes to test. The “simple” Luxball HDR renders 217K triangles; the “medium” Neumann TLM-102 Special Edition renders 1,769K triangles; and the “complex” Hotel Lobby renders 4,973K triangles. Higher scores are better.

luxmark Brad Chacos/IDG

AMD’s Radeon VII holds its own against the GTX 1080 Ti and even the RTX 2080 Ti, but these new RTX 30-series GPUs wipe the floor with it.

Nvidia’s software stack is a key ace in the hole. Many developers swear by CUDA software optimizations. Now that RTX is here, Nvidia’s been rolling out “OptiX” technology that leverages all those RT and tensor cores for creative purposes.

Blender is a very popular free and open-source 3D graphics program used to create visual effects and even full-blown movies. In 2019, Blender integrated Nvidia OptiX into Cycles, its physically based path tracer for production rendering, to tap into GeForce’s RT cores for hardware-accelerated ray tracing.

We tested Blender using the Blender Open Toolkit. We tested two scenes: Classroom and Victor, with the latter being the most strenuous scene the benchmark offers. AMD’s Radeon VII consistently crashed when trying to run Victor, but worked fine with Classroom. We tested each graphics card with the best-performing GPU acceleration possible for that card. That’s OpenCL for the Radeon VII, CUDA for the GTX 1080 Ti, and OptiX for the trio of GeForce RTX cards. The results show total rendering time, so lower is better.

blender Brad Chacos/IDG

The Ampere GPU architecture inside the GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090 smash all prior options, especially in the more difficult Victor scene. Even the RTX 3080 explodes far ahead of the former RTX 2080 Ti flagship, though the 3090 starts to flex its muscles as complexity ramps up.

Next page: Content creation benchmarks continue

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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