Overall and Final Verdict
Every new generation of cards launched is exciting, but something about the launch of the Ada Lovelace-based 4000 Series from Nvidia feels different. I think it is because the 3000 series came out in the middle of the heart of the pandemic and before and after that we had card shortages that for a lot of people made the possibility of getting new cards impossible. This is the first time in a while where we have a new card coming out where it feels like if you are willing to spend the money you might be able to get a card without a fight. On top of that Nvidia has moved to the 4N manufacturing process and alongside the 4000 Series, they are also introducing DLSS 3 which has been long awaited. Now we still have a little while to wait for the new RTX 4080 cards but tomorrow the RTX 4090 becomes available so today's review has been focused on it. The RTX 4090 Founders Edition is Nvidia’s flagship card and much like with the RTX 3090 and RTX 3090 Ti the RTX 4090 Founders Edition stands out as that flagship on its size alone. Nvidia called the 3090 their BFGPU and that is the case here once again. The 4090 Founders Edition is three slots wide and is the only card that Nvidia brings out that they don’t keep restrained to a “standard” card size. The crazy thing though is that the Founders Edition card, as big as it is, is the small card compared to the aftermarket RTX 4090 lineup. So if you are hoping to run this card be sure to make sure to double check that it is going to fit in the case that you are planning.
Even with its crazy size, the RTX 4090 Founders Edition looks amazing. It shares the same styling as the previous generation of cards with the dual fan design split across two sides and a blow-through design. Nvidia has redone the cooling inside to be able to accommodate everything and the exterior does have touches here and there that are different like the slightly concaved shape around the edge and the 3090/3090 Ti were a little thinner where this card now fills out the full three slots completely. Being a Founders Edition card, the quality is still off the charts as well with everything being solid metal. The styling is still the cleanest and best-looking design out there in my opinion as well.
As far as performance goes, this is the biggest generation-to-generation jump in performance that I have ever seen. That performance jump was big enough that in a lot of our graphs, especially synthetic tests, it broke out graphs making it hard or impossible to see the performance numbers are cards on the lower end of the charts. This also lead to another issue in our in-game testing which was there somewhat on the RTX 3090 Ti as well, the RTX 4090 made everything tested at below 4k CPU limited which is impressive given the 12900K used for the CPU on our test bench. The reality is this is more video card than you need if you are gaming at 1080p or 1440p. It is just that big of a monster. But for situations like Blender, the 4090 nearly outperformed all three of the combined results of the RTX 3090 Ti with just its first render performance.
Alongside the 4000 Series, Nvidia is launching DLSS 3 and the DLSS 3 performance in all three games that I tested was impressive. DLSS Super Resolution in the past has managed to give 1440p-like frame rates or better while getting 4k detail levels but the addition of frame generation alongside it means that when running DLSS 3 the AI-focused tensor cores (which have been improved this generation even more) handle ¼ of rendering one frame and then the frame after is fully handled. In A Plague Tale, I saw the average FPS jump from 84 up to 192, and in Cyberpunk it from 93 up to 139. All of that is impressive, especially with the detail when looking frame by frame still looks great. But what I’m the most excited about is that because of frame generation, CPU-limited games see an even bigger jump which is an area in the past that no matter how powerful your video card is wont help. F1 2022 was a great example of this with it going from 92 up to 225 FPS and in Cyberpunk 2077 when I forced it to be CPU limited I saw a jump from 195 to 345. DLSS 3 will be helpful on the RTX 4090 for those CPU-limited situations and as we check out more of the 4000 Series in the future it will help even more.
Given just how impressive the performance of the RTX 4090 Founders Edition has been, its power draw does show that it is significantly more efficient than the last generation of cards. The Founders Edition also has improvements in smoothing out some of the peak power draw which put the RTX 3090 Ti at a higher peak draw but overall this thing is a monster and you are going to need a big power supply to power everything, especially once you combine it will a CPU powerful enough to keep from having everything CPU limited. Along with that, the new ATX 3 power supplies are finally coming out and they have the 12VHPWR cable needed to finally drop the dongles. Given that the RTX 4090 Founders Edition uses a four 8-pin to 12VHPWR dongle, being able to drop the dongle will mean less of a power cable mess.
Pricing, of course, plays a big role in how we look at things, and the MSRP of the RTX 4090 Founders Edition is set to be $1599 and aftermarket cards will be higher than that. Like with the power situation, the RTX 4090 FE improves here compared to the launch MSRP of the RTX 3090 Ti which was $1999 and the original RTX 3090 was $1499 but pricing at that point was all over the place with much lower-end cards selling for those prices as well at the peak. Make no mistake, at $1599 the RTX 4090 Founders Edition is expensive and frankly more than I would most likely ever be able to afford. But I also don’t know that I would call it a bad value. That said, it makes me even more excited to see what the performance of 4000 series cards will look like as we eventually get down into the prices that the average person would be able to afford, especially once you add DLSS 3 into the mix.
Live Pricing: HERE