We get our hands on an ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090, so we decided to put it to the test against the Gigabyte RTX 3080 Gaming OC. The winner? The consumers!
On September 1, 2020, NVIDIA announced its new Ampere architecture-based cards, the RTX 3000 series. The initial launch event introduced three new graphic cards: the mainstream, mid-market RTX 3070, the high-end gaming RTX 3080, and the RTX 3090, set to succeed the Titan card series.
Since the RTX 3080 blew the previous gaming king, RTX 2080 Super, out of the water, we decided to put the new king of gaming to the test against the biggest, baddest, competition NVIDIA has to offer – the RTX 3090. To achieve this, we put our ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 review unit in our test bench to compare against the Gigabyte RTX 3080 Gaming OC.
So how much extra performance does the RTX 3090 offers over the RTX 3080? Is it worth your money, or is the RTX 3080 good enough for you? Stick with us to find out.
Gigabyte RTX 3080 Gaming OC
The main threat from NVIDIA’s own lineup comes in the shape of the Gigabyte RTX 3080 Gaming OC. On top of its 8704 CUDA cores, it is armed with 68 new, second-generation Ray Tracing (RT) cores, 272 third-generation tensor cores, and 10GB of the newer, faster, GDDR6X memory with a 320-bit bandwidth. It can sustain a base frequency of 1440MHz and a boost frequency of 1800MHz (The Founders Edition only goes as high as 1710MHz).
ASUS TUF RTX 3090
This generation’s monster GPU, and the subject of our review, is the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090. Like its opponent, it comes equipped with the same three types of cores and fast memory, but in larger quantities.
NVIDIA’s Founders Edition RTX 3090 has 10,496 CUDA cores, 82 RT cores, and 328 tensor cores, which is a serious 20.6% increase over the core count of the 3080 for every single type. The frequencies are somewhat similar, with 1400MHz base and 1700MHz boost frequencies, respectable clock speeds considering the higher number of cores. But where this card really steps it up is in the memory department, where the RTX 3090 has a whopping amount of 24GB GDDR6X memory with a 384-bit bandwidth.
However, the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 is not a reference card. It has a higher boost frequency of 1725MHz, a beefy, tough-looking, blacked-out cooling system with an impressive radiator, and three fans. Interestingly enough, the central fan rotates in the opposite direction to the side fans. ASUS claims that this feature reduces turbulences that can hinder airflow.
Just an FYI: unlike previous generations of NVIDIA GPUs, boost frequencies are far less meaningful for the RTX 3000 series. The entire new line of graphic cards, the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 included, is designed to raise its boost frequency to the highest your system, or its own silicon, can sustain.
The ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 is a rather large GPU, coming in at 300mm length, 127mm width, and 52 mm height, but surprisingly, it is still smaller than Gigabyte’s RTX 3080. But worry not, the dimensions are nothing too crazy that will send you looking for a new case (or your Dremel, if you’re into mods).
On top of the very impressive technical specifications, the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 doesn’t disappoint in the looks department. It comes equipped with RGB illuminated TUF logo that can be adjusted to your liking using a dedicated software from ASUS – the Armory Crate.
It’s also important to note that unlike the NVIDIA RTX 3090 FE, which has a new, proprietary 12-pin connector, the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 has dual 8-pin connectors in a traditional location for power delivery purposes, just like most other graphics card available on the market today. And as far as power delivery is concerned, it’s recommended to use a power supply with at least 750W to power your system with this GPU in it properly.
Another great feature to note is that just like all recent high-end gaming cards, ASUS added a dual BIOS chip, allowing two different work profiles – one for Performance Mode and the other for Quiet Mode. The only caveats are that switching between the modes requires a full shut down of your PC, and the switch itself is located on the GPU, which requires physical access to the card to engage.
Before we go over the benchmarks, it’s important to note that both GPUs are factory overclocked versions of the reference NVIDIA cards. This means that their boost clocks are higher than the NVIDIA RTX3090 FE card. However, this will not be detrimental to the testing due to the new RTX lineup’s ability to push the highest boost frequency possible on a given system.
Our test bench:
- Ryzen 3700X processor with a base frequency of 3.6GHz.
- Gigabyte X470 AORUS Ultra Gaming motherboard.
- G.Skill 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4 3200MHz TridentZ RGB memory.
- Corsair RM750X power supply.
- Samsung 970EVO 512GB m.2 SSD storage.
- Corsair H115i Platinum 280mm cooling.
- Windows 10 operating system.
Final Fantasy Benching Tool
For the first test, we used the Final Fantasy benchmark tool. We tested at 1080p, 1440p and 4K resolutions, all set to high quality.
As you can see, the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 offers about a 5% improvement over the Gigabyte RTX 3080 Gaming OC when it comes to 1080p and 1440p resolutions, and about 10% improvement for 4K.
The differences in this benchmark are rather marginal. If we ignore the 4K results, the performance is virtually identical.
The second benchmark used Wargaming’s World of Tanks enCore, a demo of the graphics engine for World of Tanks. We tested at 1080p and 1440p resolutions set to ultra quality with Ray Tracing (RT) on and off.
This time, the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 gets a performance gain of about 10% for 1440p, and even less than that for 1080p, similar to the previous benchmark. So far, it seems that unless you are planning on gaming at 4K (or higher), the RTX 3090 is absolute overkill.
On the Ray Tracing front, the results are quite impressive. Though turning RT on results in a performance loss of about 25%, this is still a very respectful result for NVIDIA’s new-gen cards, considering how heavy the Ray Tracing load is in this test.
3DMark & Superposition
The next test consisted of several benchmarks and was meant to examine the cards’ performances under computational, graphical, and physics loads.
In this set of benchmarks, the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 wins every single time. However, just like before, these victories are characterized by 5%-10% margins.
The DX12 based Time Spy and DX11 based Fire Strike are benchmarks designed to test GPU performance under heavy loads. Our results indicate that both cards weren’t even phased.
The Port Royal benchmark is designed to put the Ray Tracing capabilities of GPUs to the test. Like in the enCore benchmark, both cards’ performance is impressive, with the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 beating the Gigabyte RTX 3080 Gaming OC by approximately 12%.
The Unigine Superposition is meant to stress test GPUs by running many parallel physics calculations over an extended period of time. We ran this benchmark at 1080p and 1440p resolutions, and once again, the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 emerged victorious by slightly more than 10%.
3dMark’s DLSS Benchmark
Our last non-gaming benchmark used 3DMark’s specialized DLSS test. This test was designed to compare performance and image quality with and without DLSS processing. It allows testing for two different use-cases: maximizing quality and maximizing performance. Both use-cases are presented below.
First thing’s first – the performance gain from using DLSS is substantial. Compared to DLSS off, “quality mode” shows an FPS increase of about 65%, while “performance mode” shows a whopping 125% FPS increase. The differences between DLSS on and off are nothing short of impressive, and it seems like NVIDIA really hit the nail on the head with DLSS in the RTX 3000 series.
Notice that percentage-wise, the FPS scales similarly for both cards, but the RTX 3090 is edging the RTX 3080 out by about 10% in all use-cases, yet again.
We used World War Z, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, and Far Cry 5 for our gaming benchmarks. In all cases, we tested at 1080p and 1440p resolutions, with all settings set to ultra.
All three games are very demanding in the graphics department, though for different reasons. While Far Cry 5 and Ghost Recon: Breakpoint have detailed textures and long view distances, World War Z has a plethora of moving objects that require a lot of computational power.
In Far Cry 5, the differences are marginal at 1080p, with the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 edging out the RTX 3080 by a mere 2 FPS (less than 2%), on average. At 1440p, the results are still pretty close, but this time the RTX 3090 pulls forward with a 7 FPS (or 6.5%) advantage, on average.
In World War Z, ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 wins in a more decisive fashion. While in 1080p in wins by about 8%, on average, it really shines with its 1440p performance, beating the Gigabyte RTX 3080 Gaming OC with a 47% higher average FPS count.
In Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, we see some mixed results and a first case (or an anomaly?) where the RTX 3080 comes out on top. The 3090 destroyed the 3080 both in 1080p (by 46% on average) and 1440p (by 56% on average) using DX11. However, it got beaten by the Gigabyte RTX 3080 Gaming OC when using Vulkan.
Bonus Benchmark – Control
As a bonus benchmark for the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 only, we decided to test it with one of the best games to come out in the last couple of years – Control. We ran the game at 1440p, with the quality set to the highest settings for graphics and Ray Tracing.
Control is notorious for its demanding graphics, yet the ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 delivered excellent results. Looking at the graph, it’s evident that the game can run on the highest quality settings at very high refresh rates, especially with DLSS turned on.
RTX 3090 – do you really need it?
Well, it’s not really surprising that the RTX 3090 is more powerful than the RTX 3080. Across our testing, it had an average performance advantage of about 10%, with the gap in performance increasing with the resolution.
The ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090 is a very powerful card indeed. In fact, it’s so powerful that unless you are planning to pair it with a 1440p, or better yet, a 4K monitor, and run games at these resolutions, this card’s abilities would simply be wasted. In other words – if you are gaming at 1080p, this card is absolute overkill.
For those interested in playing at 1440p or 4K, this card will allow you to maintain high and stable performance, even with the highest settings enabled, where the RTX 3080 might have some trouble keeping up.
The MSRP for this card is $1499.99, but just like many other RTX 3000 cards, it’s currently very hard to find in stock.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.