The new Nvidia RTX 4090 seems absurdly powerful. It’s also a hot and power-hungry card, and even with no third-party benchmarks to back that up, it’s already clear that the RTX 4090 is miles ahead of even the best of previous-gen cards.
But is there any point in all this power? Sure, you can run the existing catalog of AAA games in 4K with ray tracing enabled at over 100fps, but there’s nothing on the list that’s going to really push the 4090, and that’s a problem for Nvidia. It may be a while before an exciting new game can show how much the RTX 4090 can really do.
Useless bang for all the money
According to Nvidia, the RTX 4090 is roughly twice as fast as an RTX 3090 Ti and up to four times faster in ray-traced games where DLSS 3 is enabled. That’s a huge leap that’s much more in line with the generational advances of the old generations than the recent generations, where incremental improvements and feature updates were more of a selling point.
But even from Nvidia’s own announcement, it’s clear that there’s not really anything that pushes one to buy such a card. Higher frame rates and detail settings are always welcome, but if you’ve already played through Cyberpunk 2077and explored Microsoft flight simulator To your heart’s content, the RTX 4090 is just extra horsepower with no room to gallop.
Nvidia had to create a whole new demo environment for itself, Racer RTX, even showing something new and exciting. Elsewhere, it used older AAA games almost exclusively to demonstrate the performance of its new card(s). Secure Microsoft flight simulator at 100 fps is impressive, but this game is over two years old. Cyberpunk 2077 The new RT Overdrive mode with DLSS 3 and improved ray tracing looks great, but this game was pretty disappointing at launch from a purely fun perspective, and most who loved it have already played through it.
The only upcoming game that Nvidia even mentions in its vague benchmarks for the new card is Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. Considering this is built on the same engine as 2018 vermin 2and isn’t filled with sprawling environments or particularly detailed models, it won’t be the most demanding of all games.
Even looking at the distribution of the AAA games coming this year, there isn’t really anything that will blow anyone’s mind graphically. That doesn’t really matter from a gamer’s perspective, and it certainly doesn’t matter to this mostly indie gamer, but it makes selling a new generation of extremely powerful graphics cards a real hurdle for Nvidia. Especially when it comes to increasing prices and electricity demand.
What’s new is just more power
Where the RTX 2000 Turing graphics cards promised ray tracing and DLSS support as a reward for early adopters, and the RTX 3000 series promised comfortable frame rates in the most demanding games, the RTX 4000 does just that and a bit more. DLSS 3 is the only truly unique feature.
And while it’s not really exclusive to this generation, Nvidia has said it wouldn’t run well on previous generations of RTX Tensor cores. While this claim may sound dubious to the skeptics, it at least gives the RTX 4090 a clear advantage compared to its predecessors, but if the purpose of DLSS is to deliver even more performance in the limited number of supporting games, for example the map , which is already more than fast enough for her current job, doesn’t do much to encourage early adopters. More than that, its best feature, frame generation, is exclusively for the new cards of the 40 series.
Ray tracing progress is good, because ray tracing hasn’t really been something that’s really worth the performance hit until now. But as nice as it is, ray tracing has had years to capture the gamer zeitgeist and still doesn’t succeed.
It doesn’t matter whether this is due to the performance limitations or the still relatively limited use even in large games. Ada Lovelace’s big selling point, much like Turing and Ampere before it, is that it does ray tracing really well, and that doesn’t seem to be something most gamers are excited about right now.
Maybe modders can save the white elephant
As in an appeal to the wider gaming community, Nvidia has thrown a bone to the true RTX evangelists: RTX Remix. It’s a modding tool designed to make it comparatively easy to upscale older games and add ray-traced lighting, even on outdated versions of DirectX. Considering the success of ray tracing in games like Earthquake II and MinecraftThere’s serious potential there for some of the most iconic legacy games to be given new life with an unofficial RTX remaster.
That’s a great thing, and I’m looking forward to some of my favorite older games that are still taking too long to get the RTX treatment. It’s also important to give modders credit for creating some of the most successful game genres in recent years, including MOBAs and battle royale games, so with something like this there’s potential for discovering new and exciting ways to play.
But – and this is a big but – Nvidia really hopes people will shell out $1,600 to play a ray-traced remaster of portal? I certainly wouldn’t, but then I downclocked my RX 6950XT because it was too hot and noisy, so I’m probably not the target audience for a card like this. Then again, who is?
The RTX 4090 will be the top performing graphics card for some time, unless RDNA3 is a real surprise. Most likely, sometime next year we’ll get some titles that can really push it – maybe a poorly optimized one ark 2or maybe StarCitizen will launch another alpha.
But that’s not good at the moment and ultimately leaves anyone who decides to spend as much as a high-end gaming PC on a single GPU wondering what they can actually do with it that they can’t already do with an RTX 3090 could do $500 less.
The answer isn’t much, at least for now.