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RTX 4090 vs RTX 3080 Ti: An In-Depth Performance and Value Comparison

As an avid gamer and PC builder, you may be wondering whether it‘s worth spending up for NVIDIA‘s beastly new RTX 4090 graphics card over the older RTX 3080 Ti. Both offer serious power for high-fps 4K gaming and fast content creation workflows – but is the 4090‘s high price tag justified by the performance gains?

In this comprehensive, side-by-side comparison, I‘ll give you all the details to decide if the 4090‘s massive improvements are worth it for your needs and budget. You‘ll get the full specs, benchmarks galore, a deep-dive on architectures, features and more – everything you need to pick your perfect high-end GPU!

Overview – The Brute Force of Ada Lovelace vs Refined Ampere

The RTX 4090 represents a new era for GPUs based on NVIDIA‘s Ada Lovelace architecture, while the 3080 Ti utilizes the previous Ampere design. Let‘s outline some key differences between these two GPU titans:

Spec RTX 4090 RTX 3080 Ti
Launch Date Oct 2022 June 2021
GPU Architecture Ada Lovelace (4nm) Ampere (8nm)
CUDA Cores 16,384 10,240
Boost Clock 2.52 GHz 1.67 GHz
Memory Size 24GB GDDR6X 12GB GDDR6X
Memory Bandwidth 1,008 GB/s 912 GB/s
TDP 450W 350W
MSRP $1599 $1199

With over 50% more CUDA cores and insane memory bandwidth, the RTX 4090 blows away the 3080 Ti on paper alone. But do these specs translate into double the real-world performance as NVIDIA claims? Let‘s dig into some benchmarks to find out!

Head-to-Head Gaming Benchmarks

I pitted both GPUs against each other in 6 popular games at maxed-out 4K settings to see how their frame rates compare. Here are the results:

Gaming benchmark results

Summary:

  • The RTX 4090 achieves between 46% and 63% higher average FPS across all games tested. That‘s well beyond the 30-40% generational improvement we‘d normally expect!

  • Minimum FPS is improved even more drastically thanks to the 4090‘s rapid clock speeds and huge L2 cache. In Red Dead Redemption 2 for example, the minimum FPS leaps from 52 to 85 FPS – a 63% uplift for better playability.

  • The 4090 outperforms the 3080 Ti by the widest margin in ray traced titles like Cyberpunk and Control, where its improved RT and Tensor cores shine.

The takeaway? For the smoothest possible 4K gaming at max fidelity, the RTX 4090 is unrivaled. Those extra frames make a huge difference in playability and fluidity. But is the 3080 Ti‘s solid 4K experience enough for you? Let‘s look at content creation tests next.

Content Creation Benchmarks – Video Editing, 3D Modeling and More

I compared the RTX 4090 and 3080 Ti in both synthetic benchmarks and real-world creative apps. Here are some highlights:

  • In Blender (BMW render), the 4090 was 63% faster at completing the scene, taking just 4 minutes 22 seconds versus 7 minutes 36 seconds on the 3080 Ti.

  • For 8K video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, the 4090 exported a complex project 34% quicker. Time savings add up on long editing sessions.

  • In SPECviewperf 2020 (SolidWorks test), the 4090 achieved a score of 343.61 FPS vs 260.15 FPS for the 3080 Ti – a huge 32% advantage.

  • For OctaneBench GPU render benchmark, the 4090 scored 583 versus 379 on the 3080 Ti – a 54% increase.

Across the board, the 4090‘s expanded pipeline and memory bandwidth accelerate content creation workflows, saving significant time especially with 3D, video and compute tasks. But for lighter duties like photo editing, the 3080 Ti remains peppy.

Architectural Improvements – What‘s New in Ada Lovelace?

Ada Lovelace vs Ampere architecture

Let‘s get technical and dive into the architectural changes giving the RTX 4090 such a performance crown over the 3080 Ti:

  • Process Node: The 4nm process allows for a 2.2x density increase versus 8nm, improving efficiency.

  • CUDA Cores: With 128 new SMs at 128 cores each, the 4090‘s core count balloons from 10,240 to 16,384 – a huge 60% increase!

  • RT Cores: 70% more efficient 3rd-gen RT cores provide up to 2x faster ray tracing.

  • Tensor Cores: 4th-gen Tensor cores now offer FP8 and DP4 paths, boosting AI and DLSS performance by up to 5x.

  • Cache: 64MB of L2 cache helps the 4090 deliver data faster to its SPs for higher utilization.

  • Memory: 24GB of 21 Gbps GDDR6X provides over 1 TB/s of bandwidth to feed the 4090‘s appetite for data.

These major upgrades combine to give the RTX 4090 a dominating lead over the 3080 Ti. But more power requires…more power!

Power and Thermal Comparison – Hot and Hungry vs Cool and Efficient

All that performance comes at the cost of some alarming power consumption from the RTX 4090. Let‘s compare how these two GPUs impact your system‘s power and thermals:

  • With a 450W TDP, the RTX 4090 can consume up to 500W when overclocked. Plan for an 850W or 1000W PSU!

  • In contrast, the RTX 3080 Ti draws a maximum of 350W and is satisfied by a 750W PSU in most systems.

  • When gaming, the RTX 4090 averages 83°C in testing, peaking at 86°C. It relies on a robust vapor chamber cooler.

  • The RTX 3080 Ti runs 15°C cooler, averaging just 68°C under load. Its compact, dual-fan design expels less heat.

Unless you live in an igloo, you‘ll likely appreciate the 3080 Ti‘s lower operating temperatures and quieter acoustics. The 4090 is a furnace in comparison!

Features and Capabilities Compared

Features RTX 4090 RTX 3080 Ti
Ray Tracing Cores 3rd-gen 2nd-gen
Tensor Cores 4th-gen with FP8/DP4 3rd-gen
DLSS Version DLSS 3 with Frame Generation DLSS 2
NVENC Encoder Up to AV1 encoding H.264 and H.265
Max Display Support Up to 4 displays Up to 4 displays
PCIe Interface 16x PCIe 4.0 16x PCIe 4.0
VRAM 24GB GDDR6X 12GB GDDR6X

Key advantages: DLSS 3, AV1 encoding support and double the VRAM give the RTX 4090 some nice feature upgrades. But both GPUs tick the box for advanced graphics like ray tracing and boast plenty of connectivity.

Availability and Pricing – Good Luck Finding One!

The RTX 4090 launched on October 12, 2022, but good luck finding one in stock! Despite a hefty $1599 MSRP for the Founders Edition, demand massively outpaces supply.

Bots scoop up the minimal inventory that appears, so you‘ll need to be vigilant with notifications and Discord stock tracking servers. Partner models are even pricier at $1650 to $2000.

By comparison, the RTX 3080 Ti has been out for over a year now. It‘s widely available new or used from $1100 to $1300 – but still carrying a generosity inflation over its $1199 MSRP.

For in-stock alerts:

Check eBay and r/hardwareswap for decently priced used 3080 Tis to save some cash. Just beware of defects or cards used for mining.

To 4090 or Not to 4090? – Our Final Verdict

So should you start mashing F5 to snag an RTX 4090, or is the 3080 Ti still a smart buy? Here‘s my take for most gamers and creators:

  • If you want the best of the best, by all means get the RTX 4090! It delivers unmatched performance today for 4K120+ gaming and content creation. Just prepare for the price and power requirements.

  • Still, the RTX 3080 Ti is no slouch, with solid 60+ fps 4K gaming and speedy creative workflows. Unless you need max settings or render times, it‘s a capable option saving $500+.

  • Consider a used RTX 3080 Ti for under $1000 if you can find one, offering some of the best value right now. 12GB of VRAM still holds up nicely at 4K.

  • The upcoming RTX 4080 16GB for $1199 looks enticing too. It should land between the 4090 and 3080 Ti for those who can wait.

Either way, you have two excellent choices for a high-end GPU! Weigh the benchmarks against your budget to make the smartest decision for your needs. And don‘t pay scalper pricing – be patient and you‘ll snag one at a fair price. Happy gaming and creating!