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Don‘t Buy an Nvidia RTX 4090 Until You Read This

Hi there! With the launch of Nvidia‘s brand new GeForce RTX 4090 graphics card, you may be wondering if now is the time to upgrade your GPU. I totally understand the temptation – the 4090 promises truly mind-blowing speeds that can take gaming and creative work to the next level. However, this GPU also comes with a staggering price tag of $1,599, making it the most expensive consumer graphics card ever released.

Before you pull the trigger and drop a small fortune on the 4090, let‘s carefully analyze whether it‘s the best choice depending on your needs and budget. I‘ll provide detailed benchmarks, compare it to other GPUs, and offer some insider advice on when it is (and isn‘t) worth buying the RTX 4090.

RTX 4090 Overview: Blazing Fast, But Extremely Pricey

The RTX 4090 is the new flagship GPU in Nvidia‘s Ada Lovelace lineup, succeeding the previous gen RTX 3090 Ti. It‘s built using an optimized 4nm manufacturing process and packs some seriously impressive specs:

  • 16,384 CUDA cores
  • Up to 2.52 GHz Boost Clock
  • 24GB GDDR6X memory
  • 21 Gbps memory speed
  • 384-bit memory bus
  • 84 RT cores
  • 336 Tensor cores
  • 450W power draw

Looking at those specs, it‘s clear the 4090 cranks every aspect of the GPU to the max. The 24GB of cutting-edge GDDR6X memory and boosted clock speeds help unlock much higher levels of gaming and creative performance.

However, all that power comes at a cost – literally. The 4090 has an MSRP of $1,599, while most custom models are selling for $1,800 and beyond right now. That‘s more than most people‘s entire PC budget, making this a GPU only accessible to enthusiasts who need the absolute best.

To put the pricing in context, here‘s how the 4090 compares to Nvidia‘s last two flagship GPUs:

  • RTX 4090: $1,599
  • RTX 3090 Ti: $1,999 (now ~$1,100)
  • RTX 3090: $1,499 (now ~$950)

While the 4090 offers more power than ever before, its launch price is surprisingly lower than the 3090 Ti. However, the 3090 Ti has since dropped to around $1,100. The RTX 3090 can now be found for under $1,000 in many cases.

This means you‘re paying a huge premium of about 60% over the previous gen flagships for what amounts to only a 25% performance improvement in most games. For the average gamer, it‘s tough to justify unless money is no concern.

Now let‘s take a closer look at where exactly the 4090 excels – and where it falls short for the price.

Killer 4K Gaming Speed, but Excessive for Lower Resolutions

Without a doubt, the RTX 4090 delivers unmatched gaming performance if you‘re playing at 4K resolution. It averages around 50-90% higher frame rates versus the RTX 3090 Ti depending on the game and settings. Here are some examples of average 4K benchmark results:

  • Cyberpunk 2077: 95 fps (RTX settings on)
  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare II: 190 fps (max settings)
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator: 90 fps (ultra settings)
  • Fortnite: 215 fps (epic settings)

As you can see, the 4090 demolishes 4K gaming, hitting well beyond 100+ fps in many titles. Compared to AMD‘s new Radeon 7900 XTX, it still leads by 15-25% on average. Clearly, this is the world‘s fastest 4K gaming GPU by a wide margin.

However, the 4090 starts to show diminishing returns for lower resolutions. Here‘s how it compares to the RTX 3090 Ti and Radeon 7900 XTX at 1440p on average:

GPU Average 1440p FPS
RTX 4090 190
RTX 3090 Ti 150
Radeon 7900 XTX 160

You‘re looking at a much smaller 20-25% performance lift over the previous gen. The 4090 is still the fastest option, but no longer by a massive margin like in 4K.

If you‘re still gaming on a 1440p monitor, the 4090 is harder to justify based on these benchmarks. The 4080 16GB releasing in November will provide nearly equivalent speeds for over $1,000 less. Unless you plan to upgrade to 4K very soon, it makes more sense to go with a cheaper high-end GPU in the $800-1200 range.

Ray Tracing Beast – But Only in 4K

One area where the RTX 4090 completely dominates is ray tracing performance, thanks to its upgraded RT and tensor cores. With DLSS 3.0 enabled, it can hit a smooth 60 fps even in extremely demanding scenes.

But again, this is only at 4K resolution. At 1440p and lower, ray tracing hits diminishing returns since lower resolutions are less taxing on the GPU. You can achieve decently high frame rates with ray tracing on cheaper cards.

Let‘s look at some ray tracing benchmarks:

Game Avg FPS with RTX 4090 at 4K Avg FPS with RTX 3080 Ti at 1440p
Cyberpunk 2077 86 56
Control 90 44
Metro Exodus 78 38

As you can see, the 4090 allows you to max out ray tracing settings even in the most demanding titles. But at lower resolutions, you can still achieve very playable frame rates with mid-range Ampere cards.

The takeaway – the RTX 4090 only makes sense for ray tracing if you have a 4K monitor. You won‘t gain any meaningful benefit in 1440p or lower.

Unmatched Creative App Performance

For 3D rendering, video production, game development and other creative professional workflows, the RTX 4090 is an absolute beast.

It delivers up to 2-3x faster performance in many content creation applications that can take advantage of CUDA, RT cores, and Tensor cores. Here are some real-world examples:

  • OctaneRender – Up to 2x faster than previous gen
  • Blender – Up to 2x faster path tracing
  • Premiere Pro – Up to 3x faster encoding with NVENC
  • DaVinci Resolve – Up to 2x faster effects rendering
  • Unity – Up to 2x faster scene loading and lighting builds

The 4090 provides an enormous productivity boost and time savings for graphics pros. The expanded 24GB VRAM also gives headroom for working with large assets and complex production pipelines.

If your work relies on GPU acceleration in apps like these, the upgrade to a 4090 is easily justifiable based on the huge speed increases. It‘s overkill for light hobbyist use, but not for demanding professional workflows.

For most creators, the 4090 delivers where it counts – exponentially faster creative applications.

Extreme Power Requirements

If the 4090‘s sky-high cost wasn‘t concerning enough, you also need to be prepared for its monstrous power requirements. You can‘t just stick this in any old PC and expect it to work properly.

Here‘s an overview of what you‘ll need:

  • 850W+ high quality power supply – Don‘t even think about trying to use anything less. A top-tier 1000W+ unit is recommended for stability.
  • High airflow PC case – The 4090 outputs a staggering 450W of heat under load. You need excellent airflow and cooling to avoid thermal throttling.
  • PCIe Gen 4 or Gen 5 motherboard – For full bandwidth, go with a X670E or Z790 motherboard and 13th Gen Intel CPU.
  • 850W+ high quality power supply – Don‘t even think about trying to use anything less. A top-tier 1000W+ unit is recommended for stability.

According to hardware reviewers, the RTX 4090 can consume over 700 watts total system power when fully stressed. That means everything in your system needs to be robust and up to the task.

Many PC builders reuse their existing components like power supplies when upgrading GPUs. Do not do this with the 4090! It will crash and shut down with lesser PSUs.

To avoid headaches, only buy the RTX 4090 if the rest of your system is already high-end and can support it.

PCIe Gen 5 – Nice to Have, Not Essential

Nvidia recommends using the RTX 4090 with a PCIe Gen 5.0 CPU and motherboard to take full advantage of its capabilities. PCIe 5.0 has double the bandwidth of PCIe 4.0 – up to 128 GB/s.

However, real-world testing found PCIe 5.0 only provides a small improvement – average gains were under 5% versus Gen 4.0 at 4K resolution.

The 4090 is absolutely still compatible with PCIe 4.0 systems. You‘ll lose a tiny bit of performance, but it‘s not worth rushing out to upgrade your CPU and motherboard for unless you were already planning to.

DLSS 3 Is a Game Changer…for Now

The RTX 4090 introduces DLSS 3, Nvidia‘s latest AI upscaling tech. It can double frame rates in supported games by generating entirely new frames. This provides up to a 2x FPS boost at high resolutions and graphics settings.

However, DLSS 3 is only available in a limited number of games right now. Support needs to become more widespread for it to be a true selling point. But it offers a glimpse into the future of leveraging AI for significant gaming performance gains.

DLSS 3 alone isn‘t yet reason enough to upgrade to the 4090. But it‘s an innovation that will pay dividends as more games integrate it. Consider this a nice bonus rather than a core feature at this point.

Should You Buy the RTX 4090? It Depends…

We‘ve covered a ton of benchmarks and specs. Now, is upgrading to the Nvidia RTX 4090 right for you? Here‘s a summary of the key pros and cons:

Pros

  • Jaw-dropping 4K gaming speed
  • Handles ray tracing with ease
  • Massive creative app performance
  • 24GB VRAM for future-proofing
  • Efficient and quiet cooler design
  • Easy to achieve high overclocks

Cons

  • Extremely expensive at $1,599+
  • Overkill for 1080p or 1440p gaming
  • 450W TDP requires top-tier components
  • Only two video outputs
  • Low value per dollar compared to lower-end RTX 4000 cards

The bottom line:

The RTX 4090 makes sense for a small niche – hardcore gamers with 4K 120+ Hz monitors or graphics professionals with demanding workloads. For everyone else, it‘s serious overkill and not a smart use of money.

If you‘re still on 1440p, a GPU like the RTX 4080 16GB will offer nearly as good performance for hundreds less. I‘d only recommend upgrading to the 4090 if you have an advanced setup ready to take advantage of its full potential.

For most gamers, it‘s smarter to wait 6-12 months until prices start coming down. The RTX 4090 delivers astounding power, but at a luxury price reserved only for enthusiasts right now.

I hope this detailed breakdown gives you a clearer idea of whether it‘s the right time to upgrade to Nvidia‘s latest flagship GPU. Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m happy to offer my insight as an experienced system builder. Enjoy your future graphics upgrades!