Undeterred by a global pandemic that’s been dominated by supply chain mishaps, scalpers, and the return of crypto, Nvidia is releasing an entire new graphics card line. Speaking at the company’s GeForce Beyond event today, CEO Jensen Huang introduced us to the RTX 4090 and RTX 4080, the opening salvo in a new line of GPUs that Team Green hopes can escape the fate of the stalled RTX 3000 series. To support that dream, the company also announced upgraded DLSS 3.0 tech that supplies more frames with less work, plus SER, a new RTX graphics engine that promises to drastically increase ray tracing performance. RTX Remix is also coming to democratize the remastering of older games.
It’s hard to say whether Nvidia’s RTX 3000 series of GPUs was a success. The cards themselves were great, but Nvidia just couldn’t push out enough supply to meet demand. As much as constantly selling out on your hottest consumer product sounds like a success, it means that the RTX 3000 line only ever existed in theory for most.
Now that world leaders are declaring the pandemic to be over and crypto is facing ‘The Merge,’ there’s reason for wishful thinkers to start planning their next upgrade. Which is good, because the RTX 4090 looks like a significant improvement over the RTX 3090, and especially over any GTX 1000 or RTX 2000 series GPUs you might still be rocking.
Released at a launch price of $1,499 (that it still sometimes sells well above due to lack of supply), the RTX 3090 rocks over 10,000 CUDA cores, 24 GB of VRAM with a bandwidth of 19.5 Gbps, and eats 350W+ of power. For context, that lets it hit over 70 frames per second in staple test games like Metro Exodus at 4K and with ray tracing on, at least when supported by the right system.
At $1,599, the RTX 4090 promises to be an aggressive upgrade to the RTX 3090 without leaning on a similarly aggressive price hike. While Huang didn’t go into details on its specs (although Nvidia’s own store did some time after the announcement), he did demo Microsoft Flight Simulator, Portal, and Cyberpunk 2077 running on the 4090. With blanket promises that the card is 2-4 times faster than the RTX 3090 Ti, which is an upgraded version of the 3090, Huang showed 4K framerates above 100 fps on both Cyberpunk 2077 and Microsoft Flight Sim, both with ray-tracing on.
We don’t know what kind of CPU or other specs the test machines for these demos had, but this kind of performance, should it pan out in real world testing, comes close to making the choice between fps and fidelity a thing of the past. According to Huang, that’s thanks to DLSS 3.0, an upgrade to Nvidia’s AI graphics engine that predicts pixels to allow your machine to pump out more frames without having to manually compute each one.
DLSS 3.0 supposedly predicts entire frames, rather than pixels, leading to a 25% increase in game performance overall and a 2-3 times bump in ray tracing performance when compared to DLSS 2.0. While this aids non ray-traced game performance as well, the RTX 4000 series will also see the introduction of Shader Execution Reordering, or SER, which more efficiently calculates ray-tracing.
Taken together with the RTX 4090's hardware, Nvidia promises its new card will be 2x faster at non ray-tracing gaming tasks and 4 times faster at ray-tracing ones. That’s a lot of power for new games to work with, but Nvidia’s also pushing out more support for older games with the RTX 4000 series, as shown by Portal RTX, a new mod that Nvidia made, which is coming free to Portal owners later this year.
RTX Remix is a new tool for AI upscaling game textures and adding RTX support into old games, so you can also do your own remaster mods. Huang demonstrated how it works with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, a game from 2002, and while we don’t know much about what kind of power it will need in addition to an RTX 4000 series GPU, RTX Remix is going to be available for modders everywhere.
Big promises mean little if you can’t actually buy an RTX 4000 series card, but if Nvidia has figured out its stock problems, which it didn’t address during the reveal, then the RTX 4090 is looking like it’ll be able to give you far more power for less than an RTX 3090 might have cost a few months ago. Still, Nvidia’s RTX 4080 is also here if $1,599 seems too costly, and Huang said the company will continue to support its RTX 3000 line as well.
The RTX 4080 starts at $899 for a 12GB model and goes up to $1,199 for a 16GB model. We didn’t hear much about the GPU aside from that (although Nvidia’s store provided more details after the presentation ended), but Nvidia promises it will deliver 2-4 times more performance than the RTX 3080 Ti.
RTX 4090 will hit the market on October 12, while RTX 4080’s release date will come in the future. Nvidia certainly made plenty of promises in the reveal, although productivity performance was largely kept to vague promises about Nvidia’s Omniverse tool and corporate AI. The company has hyped up its new AV1 encoders that promise to improve video rendering speeds by 70% while allowing for higher livestream quality, with support for AV1 coming to OBS, Discord, and video editing apps like Adobe Premiere Pro.
We’ll be keeping an eye out for stock and pricing on release, as well as hard specs and how the card performs once it actually gets in gamers’ hands.