MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio review: Big GPU, big cooler, big results

And big power draw

Credit: Brad Chacos/IDG

Should you buy the MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio?

This is a more difficult question to unpack than with most graphics cards. Let’s break it down into two parts: First, whether you should even buy a GeForce RTX 3090, and second, whether the MSI Gaming X Trio is worth consideration.

msi gaming x trio bfgpu 7 Brad Chacos/IDG

Most pure gamers shouldn’t buy any GeForce RTX 3090, full stop. Yes, it’s the fastest gaming card in the world, but it’s only 10 to 15 percent faster than the $700 GeForce RTX 3080, which costs under half as much. The GeForce RTX 3080 delivers staggering gaming performance at 4K and high-refresh rate 1440p resolutions, and it rocks for 3440x1440 ultrawide, too. It’s so powerful you can even play ray traced games with DLSS on at those lofty resolutions—something you couldn’t say with high-end RTX 20-series cards. MSI’s own $760 RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio is a wonderful choice. The RTX 3080 can’t game at 8K like the RTX 3090, but even the 3090 struggles with many games at that resolution. It’s more of a mixed-bag gimmick than a viable option in most titles.

If you’re only interested in gaming, you should only opt for an RTX 3090 if you have deep pockets and don’t mind paying up for the absolute best possible gaming performance, value be damned. You exist, and the RTX 3090 will indeed rock your socks.

The GeForce RTX 3090 is a stunning value for prosumers who want to put it to work and play on the side, on the other hand. The improvements in Nvidia’s Ampere architecture makes the RTX 3090 significantly faster than previous-gen gaming flagships and AMD’s rival Radeon VII in content creation and GPU compute tasks, and its massive 24GB of GDDR6X memory lets this card perform tasks that consumer graphics cards with less VRAM simply can’t, like editing 8K video. The RTX 3090 also supports NVLink, unless the rest of the RTX 30-series lineup.

msi gaming x trio bfgpu 9 Brad Chacos/IDG

Left to right: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition, then Nvidia RTX 3090 FE, then MSI RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio.

Look: If you need the GeForce RTX 3090, you probably already know it. If you’re on the fence, check out exhaustive review of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition, where we dig deep into its content creation and 8K gaming chops as well as our standard benchmarks. And if you do need it for work, you’ll probably consider the GeForce RTX 3090 a sterling value, as it costs a whopping $1,000 less than the (slower) RTX Titan did.

Okay. So you want an RTX 3090. Should you get the MSI Gaming X Trio?

We’d recommend opting for Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition if you can snag one, actually. It delivers the same essential level of performance but uses significantly less power while running cooler and staying utterly silent. The mild factory overclock that MSI applies to the Gaming X Trio definitely makes it sweat harder—especially in power draw. The fact that Nvidia’s FE costs $90 less is the cherry on top.

You won’t be disappointed if you snag MSI’s customized graphics card, though. It’s hellaciously fast, and while it’s not as cool or as quiet as Nvidia’s Founders Edition, it’s still very cool and very quiet. This is a great cooling design; Nvidia’s is just phenomenal. And if you want RGB lighting (or don’t want to fuss with an ugly 12-pin power adapter), then you’ll prefer MSI’s card.

msi gaming x trio bfgpu 2 Brad Chacos/IDG

At $1,589, the MSI Gaming X Trio won’t be as exorbitantly priced as some many other custom RTX 3090 models. Then again, MSI’s custom offering lacks some niceties you’ll find on other models. You won’t find luxurious extras like a dual-BIOS switch or fan control headers that tie into GPU speed, and while MSI’s heavy use of plastic could be overlooked with the RTX 3080 version of the Gaming X Trio, it’s worth pointing out here. If you’re spending a solid four figures on a graphics card, details count.

Bottom line? The MSI RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio is a good version of a highly specialized GPU. Get Nvidia’s cheaper, slightly better Founders Edition if you can, but don’t hesitate to snap up the Gaming X Trio if Nvidia’s model sells out. Just make sure your workload—and your power supply—can handle it.

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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