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Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 tested: 5 key things you need to know

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 tested: 5 key things you need to know

Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3090 delivers exhilarating graphics prowess–the fastest possible gaming frame rates at extreme resolutions, and outstanding performance in professional applications. But it’s not for everyone. At $1,500, it’s either a hard pass or a no-brainer, depending on how you plan to use it.

You can read every nitty-gritty detail in our comprehensive review of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition. But if you don’t feel like sifting through thousands of words of technical and testing details, here are the five key things you need to know.

dsc01050 Brad Chacos/IDG

1. Most gamers shouldn’t buy it

Yes, the GeForce RTX 3090 offers the “ultimate gaming experience” that Nvidia promised. Most gamers shouldn’t buy it, though.

Why? It’s simple: The $700 GeForce RTX 3080 offers 85 to 90 percent of the gaming performance of the GeForce RTX 3090 for well under half of the RTX 3090’s cost. It’s even closer at 1440p resolution, where CPU and non-shading parts of the Ampere GPU architecture become performance bottlenecks. The GeForce RTX 3090’s 24GB of GDDR6X memory is also overkill for gaming.

rb6 Brad Chacos/IDG

Rainbow Six Siege benchmarks

The GeForce RTX 3080 is an outstanding 4K and 1440p graphics card in its own right, toppling its RTX 2080 predecessor by up to 80 percent in games, and the former $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti flagship by about 30 percent. It smokes. If you’re a pure gamer with deep pockets and a thirst for the best possible performance, cost be damned, then sure—buy an RTX 3090 if you want. Most gamers shouldn’t, though.

2. 8K gaming? Kinda-sorta

Nvidia claims the GeForce RTX 3090 is the world’s first graphics card capable of 8K gaming. That’s only kind of true.

nvidia 8k games Nvidia

Nvidia-supplied benchmarks of 8K gaming at High presets. I confirmed several of these are indeed playable.

Yes, you can definitely hit the hallowed 60 frames per second barrier at 8K resolution in some games, if you don’t mind bumping graphics settings down from Ultra to High. But you can only do so in less-strenuous games—mostly esports-class titles like Destiny 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Rocket League, and Rainbow Six Siege.

You can also hit 60 fps in games that support Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) 2.1 technology. DLSS adds an “ultra performance mode” that runs the game at 2560×1440 on your graphics card’s shaders, then uses its AI tensor cores to intelligently upscale the image 9X, to 8K. DLSS works fantastically, but it’s available in only a handful of games, including Death Stranding, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and Control. Those work just fine, too.

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