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

GeForce RTX 3090 4K and 1440p gaming benchmarks

Phew! That was a lot of work. Let’s see how the GeForce RTX 3090 plays. Mullet time.

We’re comparing the $1,500 GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition against Nvidia’s $700 GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition, of course. We’ve also included results for a bunch of prior-gen Founders Edition cards: Nvidia’s $800 GeForce RTX 2080, $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti, and the older $700 GTX 1080 FE. (MSRP prices for the 1080 and 2080 started at $100 less, but Nvidia charged a premium for the FE models.) We’re also including the EVGA GTX 1080 Ti SC2 in our roundup, as our GTX 1080 Ti FE gave up the ghost years ago. AMD Radeon graphics cards can’t compete with Nvidia’s enthusiast-class GPUs in gaming performance, so they’re not included here.

dsc01076 Brad Chacos/IDG

The GeForce RTX 3090 FE in our test system, with EVGA’s optional full-length 12-pin cable installed because the bundled adapter is fugly.

We test a variety of games spanning various engines, genres, and graphics APIs (DirectX 11, DX12, and Vulkan). Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets unless otherwise noted, with VSync, frame rate caps, real-time ray tracing or DLSS effects, and FreeSync/G-Sync disabled, along with any other vendor-specific technologies like FidelityFX. We’ve also enabled temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) to push these cards to their limits. We run each benchmark at least three times and list the average result for each test. We tested the older cards using Nvidia’s publicly available 452.06 Game Ready driver, the RTX 3080 Founders Edition model using a 452.16 driver provided early to reviewers, and the RTX 3090 FE using the publicly available 456.38 driver.

Overall, the GeForce RTX 3090 offers about 10 to 15 percent more performance than the RTX 3080 at 4K resolution, and less of an improvement at 1440p. We’ll present these 4K and 1440p gaming benchmarks but withhold additional commentary for our final analysis. Our RTX 3080 review already proved this even more potent card isn’t a good 1080p option, as cheaper cards are just as fast at that resolution.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Yep, Sony exclusives are hitting the PC now. Horizon Zero Dawn hit Steam with some performance issues, but the most egregious ones have mostly been cleared up, thanks to hard work from the developers. The game topped the sales charts for weeks after its release. It also seems to respond somewhat to PCIe 4.0 scaling, which will make this an interesting inclusion when we shift to a PCIe 4.0-based system in the future.

Horizon Zero Dawn runs on Guerrilla Games’ Decima engine, the same engine that powers Death Stranding. Ambient Occlusion can still offer iffy results if set to Ultra, so we test with that setting at Medium. Every other visual option is maxed out.

hzd Brad Chacos/IDG

Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics puts it own brutal, fast-paced spin on the XCOM-like genre. This Unreal Engine 4-powered game was built from the ground up for DirectX 12. We love being able to work a tactics-style game into our benchmarking suite.

Better yet, the game comes with a plethora of graphics options for PC snobs. More games should devote such loving care to explaining what flipping all these visual knobs mean. You can’t use the presets to benchmark Gears Tactics, as it intelligently scales to work best on your installed hardware, meaning that “Ultra” on one graphics card can load different settings than “Ultra” on a weaker card. We manually set all options to their highest possible settings.

Fun fact: The GeForce RTX 3080 FE is the only graphics card that doesn’t generate a “Your GPU can’t handle this” warning when enabling Glossy Reflections, and only the 3080 and the RTX 2080 Ti lack that warning for Planar Reflections. Told you these cards are monsters.

gears tactics Brad Chacos/IDG

Metro Exodus

One of the best games of 2019, Metro Exodus is one of the best-looking games around, too. The latest version of the 4A Engine provides incredibly luscious, ultra-detailed visuals, with one of the most stunning real-time ray tracing implementations released yet. We test in DirectX 12 mode with ray tracing, Hairworks, and DLSS disabled for our basic benchmarks.

metro Brad Chacos/IDG

Next page: Gaming benchmarks continue

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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