Conclusion

In our review today we took a look at NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition video card.  In the past, we have evaluated a custom add-in-board partner video card based on the RTX 3090 GPU.  This time we got our hands on the Founders Edition to check out what it is capable of, how it performs, power, temperature, clock speed, and performance.  The official MSRP for the Founders Edition is $1,499.

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition debuted as the top-end SKU for GeForce RTX 30 Series at launch.  It represented the best offering of performance out of the GeForce RTX 30 Series, so it is interesting to look at it now since the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti has also come along since that launch. 

The Founders Edition is a big video card from NVIDIA, physically, but it brings with it some phenomenal specifications that go even beyond gaming by providing 24GB of GDDR6X memory at 19.5 gbps.  This higher memory capacity, while benefiting games at high resolutions, also has merit for professional applications and workloads, giving professionals demanding workstation-class performance a unique option.  It’s a video card with a dual-purpose, a top-end gaming performer, but also has a real-world application for professionals in the workplace.

Performance

We started off by focusing on the 4K gameplay experience realm for the GeForce RTX 3090 FE.  In Dying Light 2 at 4K with the highest settings, we found this game to be playable on the RTX 3090 FE, beating out the RTX 3080 Ti slightly as well as the Radeon RX 6900 XT in performance.  By enabling DLSS performance was at an astonishing 80FPS at 4K.  Rainbow Six Extraction pulled off strong performance even without DLSS at 117FPS at 4K and the highest settings.  Though with DLSS it was even faster upwards of 167FPS.  It was on par with the RTX 3080 Ti, but 23% faster than the Radeon RX 6900 XT.  The RTX 3090 FE was also strong when TAA-2X was enabled, allowing playable performance at 4K above 60FPS, which beat the RX 6900 XT by 35%.

The tables were flipped in Forza Horizon 5, where the AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT was the faster GPU, thanks to a new driver.  Though the RTX 3090 FE and RTX 3080 Ti FE were no slouch, both were playable over 70FPS.  Enabling CAS further improved performance into the mid-’80s at 4K and the highest settings.  Far Cry 6 was playable at the highest in-game settings at 4K above 80FPS, and FSR brought performance above 100FPS.  Here the RTX 3090 FE was slightly under the RX 6900 XT, but still playable of course, and matched the RTX 3080 Ti.

Cyberpunk 2077 was ever demanding, and no card was playable at 4K and “Ultra” settings.  Even with DLSS the RTX 3090 FE struggled here at 4K.  Your best bet is going to be lowering the game quality at 4K and enabling DLSS.  Though the RTX 3090 FE was faster than the RX 6900 XT.  FSR on the RX 6900 XT was impressive with the new driver.  In MS Flight Sim 2020 all three cards were playable at 4K and the highest settings, though the RTX 3090 FE was the fastest.  In Watch Dogs Legion the RTX 3090 FE was on par with Radeon RX 6900 XT performance and RTX 3080 Ti performance and all three cards were playable above 60FPS.  The RTX cards have the advantage of DLSS in this game bringing it up in the mid-’80s.

Ray Tracing performance is just going to depend on the game, but generally speaking the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition had the best Ray Tracing performance, on par with the RTX 3080 Ti.  In Dying Light 2 this meant we could play at 1440p with Ray Tracing, and by enabling DLSS performance was super smooth into the 80’s.  Far Cry 6 was also playable with Ray Tracing at 1440p and even 4K very easily.  Cyberpunk 2077 wasn’t playable with Ray Tracing until we turned on DLSS, then Ray Tracing is possible at 1440p at 70FPS on the RTX 3090 FE.

In Watch Dogs Legion we could also play with Ray Tracing enabled at 1440p on the RTX 3090 FE.  By utilizing DLSS performance was at a very smooth 80FPS.  In Metro Exodus Enhanced we were also able to play with Ray Tracing at 1440p above 60FPS.  Turn on DLSS and again we are into the ’80s.

Overall Video Card Summary

Overall, the GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition was just slightly faster than the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, or the RTX 3080 Ti was slightly faster than the RTX 3090 FE.  They both traded places, and offer an ultra gaming experience, and this is mainly due to the higher GPU Boost clock speed that the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti maintains, which makes it very competitive due to that higher clock speed.  The GeForce RTX 3090 FE is right up there with it, and both video cards provide the same level of gameplay experience in every game, with and without Ray Tracing.

For the Radeon RX 6900 XT, the new driver has definitely improved performance across the board with it.  We found faster performance in every game and noticed improved performance with FSR.  However, it still cannot reach the RTX 3090 FE levels in terms of Ray Tracing performance.  In non-Ray Traced performance though, it can reach that level of performance at times, or at least come very close, providing a similar gameplay experience, just depending on the game.  In Forza Horizon 5, and Far Cry 6 it even took the lead slightly.

When we look at power and temperature the GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition does not consume more power than the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Founders Edition.  Both video cards are very similar in power draw, so you don’t have to think one is worse than the other in that regard, they are similar. 

However, the GeForce RTX 3090 FE does run hotter than the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti FE, it maintains a hotter GPU temp.  In terms of fan noise, you can also hear the fans on the RTX 3090 FE ramp up and run at a higher speed than the RTX 3080 Ti’s fans while gaming.  It’s not the quietest video card, and we did notice the fans run faster than the RTX 3080 Ti.  However, nothing holds a candle to how hot and loud the Radeon RX 6900 XT runs, it’s most noticeably louder and hotter.

Final Points

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition graphics card is a well-built, aesthetically pleasing video card with a certain cool factor.  It has this nice stealth design that doesn’t show any video card components, and with its all-encompassing body feels like a solid unit that is built to last.  The cooling design is also practical and does its job well. 

Though the GPU Boost is set at 1695MHz, thanks to NVIDIA GPU Boost our Founders Edition boosted to an average of 1770MHz while gaming.  At that clock speed, it is very near or at the clock speed of a factory overclocked RTX 3090 that we recently reviewed.  That means the Founders Edition is pretty much at the same performance as that factory overclocked video card.

You will need ample space in your case, both in length, width and height, and you will want very good case cooling as well.  The video card runs hotter than a GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, so keeping it cool so to stay as quiet as possible is important.  It also needs a good power supply, with a 350W TDP. 

Build a good system around this video card though, and you’ll have a top-end gaming experience able to play at 4K very well, and also utilize Ray Tracing in games.  With features like DLSS also improving performance you should enjoy high-quality settings at 4K and 1440p, and Ray Tracing as well.  When it is all said and done, the GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition video card is one powerful beast, and a worthy option if you can find them online close to MSRP. 

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Brent Justice

Brent Justice has been reviewing computer components for 20+ years, educated in the art and method of the computer hardware review he brings experience, knowledge, and hands-on testing with a gamer-oriented...

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