Zotac GeForce RTX 3090 Trinity– Lighter And Better Than Founders

Keeping their tradition alive of launching a new GeForce graphics architecture every two years, this year, NVIDIA introduces its Ampere GPU. The Ampere GPU is built upon the foundation set by Turing. Termed as its biggest generational leap, the NVIDIA Ampere GPUs excel past previous generations at everything.

The Ampere GPU architecture has a lot to be talked about in this review, but so does the new RTX lineup. The Ampere lineup offers faster shader performance, faster ray tracing performance, and faster AI performance. Built on a brand new process node and featuring an architecture designed from the ground up, Ampere is a killer product with lots of numbers to talk about.

The fundamental of Ampere was to take everything NVIDIA learned with its Turing architecture and not only refine it but to use its DNA to form a product in a completely new performance category. Tall claims were made by NVIDIA when they introduced its Ampere lineup earlier this month & we will be finding out whether NVIDIA hit all the ticks with its Ampere architecture as this review will be your guiding path to see what makes Ampere and how it performs against its predecessors.

 

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series Gaming Graphics Cards – The Biggest GPU Performance Leap in Recent History

Turing wasn’t just any graphics core, it was the graphics core that was to become the foundation of future GPUs. The future is realized now with next-generation consoles going deep in talks about ray tracing and AI-assisted super-sampling techniques. NVIDIA had a head start with Turing and its Ampere generation will only do things infinitely times better.

The Ampere GPU does many traditional things which we would expect from a GPU, but at the same time, also breaks the barrier when it comes to untraditional GPU operations. Just to sum up some features:

New Streaming Multiprocessor (SM)New Turing Tensor CoresNew Real-Time Ray Tracing AccelerationNew Shading EnhancementsNew Deep Learning Features For Graphics & InferenceNew GDDR6X High-Performance Memory SubsystemNew 2nd Generation NVLINK InterconnectNew HDMI 2.1 Display Engine & Next-Gen NVENC/NVDEC

The technologies mentioned above are some of the main building blocks of the Ampere GPU, but there’s more within the graphics core itself which we will talk about in detail so let’s get started.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series Pricing Per Segment

NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 30 series is made up of a diverse portfolio of graphics cards. Currently, you will only be limited to the higher-end configurations starting at $499 US for the GeForce RTX 3070, $699 US for the GeForce RTX 3080, and $1499 US for the GeForce RTX 3090. NVIDIA themselves call the GeForce RTX 3080 as the flagship graphics card and not the GeForce RTX 3090.

The RTX 3080 & RTX 3070 are both priced well and in-line with their predecessors but the GeForce RTX 3090 goes all out with a price of $1499 US. NVIDIA calls the GeForce RTX 3090 as the “BFGPU” and as per the terminology, it seems like this is a new marketing name for the Titan graphics card. It is likely that we could see a Titan based card under the Quadro branding with faster specs out of the box but the GeForce RTX 3090 is purely a gaming graphics card first with all the horsepower for intense professional and workstation workloads.

With that said, the GeForce RTX 3080 replaces the RTX 2080 SUPER at the same price point and the GeForce RTX 3070 replaces the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER at the same price point. Given this trend, we might see the more mainstream variants cost just as much as their RTX 20 SUPER series cards but with a higher performance out of the box.

NVIDIA GeForce GPU Segment/Tier Prices

Graphics Segment2014-20162016-20172017-20182018-20192019-20202020-2021Titan TierTitan X (Maxwell)Titan X (Pascal)Titan Xp (Pascal)Titan V (Volta)Titan RTX (Turing)TBAPrice$999 US$1199 US$1199 US$2999 US$2499 USTBAUltra Enthusiast TierGeForce GTX 980 TiGeForce GTX 980 TiGeForce GTX 1080 TiGeForce RTX 2080 TiGeForce RTX 2080 TiGeForce RTX 3090Price$649 US$649 US$699 US$999 US$999 US$1499 USEnthusiast TierGeForce GTX 980GeForce GTX 1080GeForce GTX 1080GeForce RTX 2080GeForce RTX 2080 SUPERGeForce RTX 3080Price$549 US$549 US$549 US$699 US$699 US$699 USHigh-End TierGeForce GTX 970GeForce GTX 1070GeForce GTX 1070GeForce RTX 2070GeForce RTX 2070 SUPERGeForce RTX 3070Price$329 US$379 US$379 US$499 US$499 US$499Mainstream TierGeForce GTX 960GeForce GTX 1060GeForce GTX 1060GeForce GTX 1060GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER

GeForce RTX 2060

GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER

GeForce GTX 1660TBAPrice$199 US$249 US$249 US$249 US$399 US

$349 US

$279 US

$229 US

$219 USTBAEntry TierGTX 750 Ti

GTX 750GTX 950GTX 1050 Ti

GTX 1050GTX 1050 Ti

GTX 1050GTX 1650 SUPER

GTX 1650TBAPrice$149 US

$119 US$149 US$139 US

$109 US$139 US

$109 US$159 US

$149 USTBA

In addition to the specs/price update, NVIDIA’s RTX technologies are being widely adopted by major game engines and APIs such as Microsft DirectX (DXR), Vulkan, Unreal Engine, Unity, and Frostbite. While there were only three RTX titles around the launch of the RTX 20 series cards, NVIDIA now has at least 28 titles that utilize their RTX feature set to offer real-time ray tracing with more coming soon.

In addition to that, with the upcoming consoles confirmed to feature ray tracing, developers can also make use of the RTX technology to fine-tune future games for the GeForce RTX hardware. Currently, NVIDIA has 13 game engines that are leveraging their RTX technologies for use in their upcoming and existing games while both Vulkan and DirectX 12 Ultimate APIs are part of the RTX ecosystem on the PC platform.

So for this review, I will be taking a look at the ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX 3090 TrinityThe Gaming X Trio comes in at the reference MSRP with a price of $1499 US. At this price, you get a triple-fan cooling solution but no factory overclock out of the box so you’re looking at reference speeds here.

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Graphics Card

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 is a force to be reckoned with. It takes the throne of the fastest PC gaming graphics card with nothing coming even close to it. It’s surprisingly much faster than the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti which is its Turing based predecessor but just being fast isn’t enough for a card of this scale or price. The GeForce RTX 3090 carries more cores, more than 2x the memory, higher performance efficiency, and also carries next-generation ray-tracing and tensor cores that make this a truly next-generation graphics card.

NVIDIA designed the GeForce RTX 3090 not just for any gamer but all gamers who want to have the best graphics performance at hand to power the next-generation of AAA gaming titles with superb visuals and insane fluidity. It’s not just the FPS that matters these days, its visuals, and a smoother frame rate too and this is exactly what the GeForce RTX 30 series is made to excel at. There’s a lot to talk about regarding NVIDIA’s flagship Ampere gaming graphics cards so let’s start off with the specifications.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Graphics Card Specifications – GA102 GPU & 10 GB GDDR6X Memory

At the heart of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 graphics card lies the GA102 GPU. The GA102 is one of the many Ampere GPUs that we will be getting on the gaming segment. The GA102 GPU is the fastest gaming GPU that NVIDIA has produced. The GPU is based on Samsung’s 8nm custom process node designed specifically for NVIDIA and features a total of 28 Billion transistors. It measures at 628mm2 which makes it the 2nd biggest gaming GPU ever produced right below the Turing TU102 GPU.

The new shader core on the NVIDIA Ampere architecture is 2.7x faster, the new RT cores are 1.7x faster while the new Tensor cores are up to 2.7x faster than the previous generation Turing GPUs. The 2nd Generation RT core delivers dedicated hardware-accelerated ray-tracing performance & features twice the ray/triangles intersection with concurrent RT graphics and compute operations.

For the GeForce RTX 3090, NVIDIA has enabled a total of 82 SM units on its flagship which results in a total of 10496 CUDA cores. In addition to the CUDA cores, NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3090 also comes packed with next-generation RT (Ray-Tracing) cores, Tensor cores, and brand new SM or streaming multi-processor units.

In terms of memory, the GeForce RTX 3090 takes a big step ahead, featuring more than twice the memory than the RTX 2080 Ti. The flagship comes packed with 24 GB of memory and that too the next-generation GDDR6X design. With Micron’s latest and greatest graphics memory dies, the RTX 3090 can deliver a bandwidth that almost hits 1 TB/s. The GeForce RTX 3090 comes with 24 GB of GDDR6X memory at speeds of 19.5 Gbps. That along with a full uncut bus interface of 384-bit will deliver a cumulative bandwidth of 936 Gbps.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 Series ‘Ampere’ Graphics Card Specifications:

Graphics Card NameNVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 TiNVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090GPU NameAmpere GA104-200Ampere GA104-300Ampere GA102-200Ampere GA102-300Process NodeSamsung 8nmSamsung 8nmSamsung 8nmSamsung 8nmDie Size395.2mm2395.2mm2628.4mm2628.4mm2Transistors17.4 Billion17.4 Billion28 Billion28 BillionCUDA Cores48645888870410496TMUs / ROPsTBATBA272 / 96TBATensor / RT Cores152 / 38184 / 46272 / 68328 / 82Base ClockTBA1500 MHz1440 MHz1400 MHzBoost ClockTBA1730 MHz1710 MHz1700 MHzFP32 ComputeTBA20 TFLOPs30 TFLOPs36 TFLOPsRT TFLOPsTBA40 TFLOPs58 TFLOPs69 TFLOPsTensor-TOPsTBA163 TOPs238 TOPs285 TOPsMemory Capacity8 GB GDDR68/16 GB GDDR610/20 GB GDDR6X24 GB GDDR6XMemory Bus256-bit256-bit320-bit384-bitMemory Speed14 Gbps14 Gbps19 Gbps19.5 GbpsBandwidth448 Gbps448 Gbps760 Gbps936 GbpsTDP180W?220W320W350WPrice (MSRP / FE)$399 US?$499 US$699 US$1499 USLaunch (Availability)October 202015th October17th September24th September

In case you want to read our full NVIDIA Ampere GPU architecture deep dive and GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition review, head over to this link.

The Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 3090 Trinity offers up the RTX 3090 at the $1499 MSRP and does so within a reasonably nice package and coming in a bit thinner than the Founders Edition. While the Founders Edition is quite wide and 3 full slots while weighing in at 2211g the Zotac Gaming RTX 3090 Trinity comes in at the typical video card width and under 3 slots filling the 2.5 slot mark and weighing almost half at 1342g.

The card features a triple fan design with 90mm fans in a row atop a large aluminum heatsink. Surrounded by a plastic shroud I can’t help but feel like the price of the card alone could demand it to be made of metal.

The back of the card features a full-length aluminum backplate with ventilation along the way including a fair bit at the end where the backplate and heatsink overhang the length of the reference designed board used. The Zotac Gaming logo on the back features full RGB controllable through the Firestorm software.

The sides of the Zotac Gaming RTX 3090 Trinity showcase wide gaps to allow heat to escape from the shrouded heatsink. the outward (when installed in typical fashion) side of the cooler displays the Zotac Gaming logo with brilliant addressable RGB lighting.

The rear I/O of the card features 3x DisplayPort connections and a single HDMI 2.1 connection. The side also reveals the simple and normal 2×8-pin PCIe connectors that are inverted for ease of access.

 

When looking at the side profile of the cooler you can see that the heatsink is dense yet spaced out enough so that the air can easily escape. There is a support brace that runs along the bottom that doubles as the heatsink for the VRMs so that the VRM and the Core/Memory cooling components are separate as to not interfere with each other.

When stripped down completely we can see the Zotac Gaming RTX 3090 Trinity is built around the reference board design with a few tweaks to allow for RGB and multiple fan headers. The PCB is surprisingly small for such a large GPU core and 24GB of VRAM.

The cooler is comprised of 7 heatpipes run along with a densely populated heatsink.  The CPU and Memory by the entire heatsink with the memory cooling connected to the nickel-plated copper base plate.

If I were to say that the rear GPU capacitors weren’t a point of contention for people these days then I’d be lying, but they are and the Zotac Gaming RTX 3090 Trinity utilizes and full 6 SP-Cap design. While there are reports of issues with this I did not come across stability issues throughout my testing. Zotac did have this to say on the subject:

We would like to reassure our customers who either have a ZOTAC GAMING GeForce RTX 30 Series graphics card on hand or have placed an order in your local retailer or etailer to continue having confidence in us and our products. Our graphics cards have undergone stringent testing and quality controls in design and manufacturing to ensure safety and great performance. At ZOTAC, product quality and your satisfaction are always very important to us.

-ZOTAC

 

RGB is all the rage, or so I’m told, so we have to give you an idea of how the card looks all lit up.

Zotac has released their latest revision of their Firestorm software for controlling the clock speeds and RGB lighting controls. I have to give the card credit because if you don’t like RGB and want to get rid of it here as you can disable it and remove the software as the card will store the settings!

The Firestorm software does feature the OC Scanner but since the card is limited to the 100% power limit already you’ll not likely find any overclocking headroom as I did with this card.

We used the following test system for comparison between the different graphics cards. The latest drivers that were available at the time of testing were used from AMD and NVIDIA on an updated version of Windows 10. All games that were tested were patched to the latest version for better performance optimization for NVIDIA and AMD GPUs.

 

Test System

ComponentsX570CPURyzen 9 3900X 4.3GHz All Core Lock (disable one CCD for 3600X Results)Memory 32GB Hyper X Predator DDR4 3600 MotherboardASUS TUF Gaming X570 Plus-WiFiStorageTeamGroup Cardea 1TB NVMe PCIe 4.0PSUCooler Master V1200 PlatinumWindows VersionLatest verion of windows at the time of testingHardware-Accelerated GPU SchedulingOn if supported by GPU and driver.

Graphics Cards Tested

GPUArchitectureCore Count
Clock SpeedMemory Capacity
Memory SpeedZOTAC RTX 3090 TrinityAmpere104961395/169524GB GDDR6X19.5GbpsNVIDIA RTX 3090 FEAmpere104961395/169524GB GDDR6X19.5GbpsNVIDIA RTX 3080 FEAmpere87041440/171010GB GDDR6X19GbpsNVIDIA RTX 2080ti FETuring43521350/163511GB GDDR614GbpsNVIDIA RTX 2080 SUPER FETuring30721650/18158GB GDDR615.5GbpsNVIDIA GTX 1080 FEPascal
25601607/17338GB GDDR5X10GbpsAMD Radeon RX 5700XTNavi 1025601605/1755/19058GB GDDR614Gbps

Drivers Used

DriversRadeon Settings 20.8.3GeForce456.16

All games were tested at 3840×2160 (4K) resolution.Image Quality and graphics configurations are provided with each game description.The “reference” cards are the stock configs.

Firestrike

Firestrike is running the DX11 API and is still a good measure of GPU scaling performance, in this test we ran the Extreme and Ultra versions of Firestrike which runs at 1440p and 4K and we recorded the Graphics Score only since the Physics and combined are not pertinent to this review.

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Time Spy

Time Spy is running the DX12 API and we used it in the same manner as Firestrike Extreme where we only recorded the Graphics Score as the Physics score is recording the CPU performance and isn’t important to the testing we are doing here.

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Port Royal

Port Royal is another great tool in the 3DMark suite, but this one is 100% targeting Ray Tracing performance. It loads up ray traced shadows, reflections, and global illumination to really tax the performance of the graphics cards that either have hardware-based or software-based ray tracing support.

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Thermals

Thermals were measured from our open test bench after running the Time Spy graphics test 2 on loop for 30 minutes recording the highest temperatures reported. The room was climate controlled and kept at a constant 22c throughout the testing.

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Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 carries on the open-world racing tradition of the Horizon series.  The latest DX12 powered entry is beautifully crafted and amazingly well executed and is a great showcase of DX12 games.  We use the benchmark run while having all of the settings set to non-dynamic with an uncapped framerate to gather these results.

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Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider, unlike its predecessor, does a good job putting DX12 to use and results in higher performance than the DX11 counterpart in this title and because of that, we test this title in DX12.  I do use the second segment of the benchmark run to gather these numbers as it is more indicative of in-game scenarios where the foliage is heavy.

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Rainbow 6 Siege

Rainbow 6 Siege has maintained a massive following since its launch and it consistently in Steams Top Ten highest player count game.  In a title where the higher the framerate the better in a tactical yet fast-paced competitive landscape is essential, we include this title despite its ludicrously high framerates.  We use the Vulkan Ultra preset with the High Defenition Texture Pack as well and gather our results from the built-in benchmarking tool.

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DOOM Eternal

DOOM Eternal brings hell to earth with the Vulkan powered idTech 7.  We test this game using the Ultra Nightmare Preset and follow our in-game benchmarking to stay as consistent as possible.

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Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics is the latest in the Gears franchise and takes things in a completely different direction with the gameplay design. It is built on a DX12 based Unreal Engine 4 build. We used the Maximum settings allowed but refrained from enabling Variable Rate Shading as all cards are not capable of supporting this feature.

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Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Ghost Recon Breakpoint is powered by the latest iteration of the Anvil Next 2.0 game engine. This is the same engine that was used in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey but in Breakpoint has been updated to support the Vulkan API. We performed our tests using the High Preset with the Vulkan API.

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Call of Duty Modern Warfare (2019)

Call of Duty Modern Warfare is back and this time on a new engine running DX12 to allow for some sick DXR Ray Traced Shadows, those results are in the RT section We tested in the ‘Fog of War’ mission. At 4K we set the settings all to High.

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Resident Evil 3

The Resident Evil 3 Remake has surpassed the RE2 Remake in visuals and is the latest use of the RE Engine.  While it does have DX12 support the DX11 implementation is far superior and because of that, we will be sticking to DX11 for this title.  We use the cutscene where Jill and Carlos enter the subway car for the first time and a 2 minute capture at that point.

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Borderlands 3

Borderlands 3 has made its way into the test lineup thanks to strong demand by gamers and simply delivering MORE Borderlands. This game is rather intensive after the Medium preset but since we’re testing the ‘Ultimate UW 1440p’ card, High it is. We tested using the built-in benchmark utility

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Total War Saga: Troy

Total War Saga: Troy is powered by their TW Engine 3 (Total War Engine 3) and in this iteration, they have stuck to a strictly DX11 release. We tested the game using the built-in benchmark using the Dynasty model that represents a battle with many soldiers interacting at once and is more representative of normal gameplay.

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Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider, unlike its predecessor, does a good job putting DX12 to use and results in higher performance than the DX11 counterpart in this title, and because of that, we test this title in DX12.  I do use the second segment of the benchmark run to gather these numbers as it is more indicative of in-game scenarios where the foliage is heavy. SotTR features Ray Traced Shadows as well as DLSS and we used both in the benchmarks with the game set to the ‘Highest’ preset and RT Shadows at Ultra with DLSS enabled.

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Modern Warfare

Call of Duty Modern Warfare is back and this time on a new engine running DX12 to allow for some sick DXR Ray Traced Shadows. We tested in the ‘Fog of War’ mission where we tested our RT performance run. At 4K we set the settings all to High with ray-traced shadows enabled.

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Control

Control is powered by Remedy’s Northlight Storytelling Engine but severely pumped up to support multiple functions of ray-traced effects. We ran this through our test run in the cafeteria with all ray tracing functions on high and the game set to high. DLSS was enabled for this title in the quality setting.

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Battlefield V

Battlefield V was one of the earlier games in the RTX 20 Series lifecycles to receive a DXR update. Battlefield V was tested on the opening sequence of the Tirailleur war story as it’s been consistently one of the more demanding scenes for ray-traced reflections that are featured in this game. DLSS was enabled for this game.

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Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus was the third entry into the Metro series and as Artym ventures away from the Metro he, and you, are able to explore the world with impressive RT Global Illumination. RTGI has proven to be quite an intense feature to run. Metro Exodus also supports DLSS so it was used in our testing. Advanced PhysX was left disabled, but Hairworks was left on.

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Minecraft

Minecraft, yup Minecraft. When it comes to ray tracing Minecraft has it all. The Minecraft with RTX update has recently been updated to DXR1.1 so it gets the latest treatment in that regard. But, we’re talking a fully path traced version of Minecraft here. We set up a run in the RTX world of Crystal Palace and set the Chunks to the maximum of 24, up from the default 8 in order to really turn the wrenches. DLSS was enabled for this game.

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Quake 2 RTX

Quake II RTX is much like Minecraft with RTX in the sense that it is fully path-traced, so no rasterization here. This one however doesn’t support DLSS so you’re going to have to brute force it to acceptable framerates. Thankfully if these numbers don’t do it for you then you can always adjust the resolution slider and enjoy a healthy performance boost.

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Boundary

Boundary is a multiplayer tactical shooter…in space. It’s not out yet so treat this one as more of a synthetic benchmark as there are likely to be quite a few improvements but for now, we had access to the benchmark and it’s a doozy to run. Featuring full raytracing effects for the benchmark as well as DLSS, we ran that in Quality mode.

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Bright Memory

Bright Memory is an action shooter that is currently in early access on Steam, will later be called Bright Memory Infinite when it fully releases. A one-man team has turned this game into a showstopper and now it features RT reflections as well as DLSS. We ran it at the High preset with DLSS set to Balanced for our testing.

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mid Evil

Amid Evil is a high energy old school shotoer that seems like an unlikely recipient of RT features, but here we are with insane DXR support in a modern retro shooter. Feature RT Reflections, RT Shadows, and NVIDIA’s DLSS support we had to put this one through the rounds and see how things went. The RTX version of this game is still in beta but publicly available for those who want to try it. We tested with all RT features on and DLSS enabled.

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Death Stranding

Sam Porter Bridges has delivered one of PS4’s most anticipated games to the PC community and opened a whole new wold of possibilities. This was the first game to feature the Decima Engine on PC and unarguably did it the best. Death Stranding may not feature ray tracing effects but it does showcase that DLSS can be used effectively even when RT isn’t around. We tested this one just like we did in our launch coverage with DLSS enabled.

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V-Ray Next

Chaos Group’s V-RAY is a commercial plugin used across various 3D Modeling suites from Maya to Cinema 4D allowing for path tracing, photon mapping, irradiance maps, and directly computed global illumination. The plugin is used from video game creation all the way to film and industrial design.

Thankfully they have their own benchmark utility so you don’t have to go into 10+ different suites to find out how well CPUs or graphics cards perform. We used just the GPU portion for our results and according to Chaos Group, there should be a linear performance improvement based on the power and scaling of the GPU.

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OctaneRender

OctaneRender is touted as the world’s first and fastest unbiased spectrally correct GPU render engine and is RTX accelerated to bring 2-5x faster render speeds to NVIDIA’s raytracing GPU. So we put the OctaneBench to test here with and without RTX Acceleration and then followed up with an actual workload (provided by NVIDIA) to test out how everything response outside of the benchmark and in a heavily loaded scene.

OctaneBench

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In the actual OctaneRender scene we measured the time to completion as well as memory allocation. We set the Out-of-System memory up to 8GB from the default 4GB and when running the final render we can measure how much of the GPUs memory is being used as well as system resource overflow. In the render time results the 0 time for the RTX 2080 and the GTX 1080Ti are results from a render failure, so they were removed from the memory results.

OctaneRender

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As a note here, the 0 measurement indicates that all memory was able to be handled on the GPU itself without having to offload to system memory during the rendered scene.

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Davinci Resolve

Black Magic Davinci Resolve is a great place to work with RED 8K Raw footage, but it is not the easiest thing in the world to work with. If you’re looking for a performance chart on here you’re not really going to find one since it’s either a pass/fail and experiential workflow experience.  We were provided an 8K Raw video sample and played around with it to find that cards outside of the Titan RTX and the RTX 3090 the experience was quite subpar resulting in much lower playback speeds and constant crashes. Being able to playback the color corrected and modified 8K Raw footage made for a much smoother workflow. And if you’re the kind of content creator that would be utilizing that kind of equipment I could easily see why you would be in the market for a 24GB capable graphics card.

Blender Render

Blender is a household name at this point for those in the 3D modeling and rendering scene and is used by many aspiring creators. They updated it last year with experimental an ongoing support for NVIDIA OptiX. Optix is an application framework for boosting ray tracing performance on the NVIDIA RTX lineup of cards. There is also an Optix AI denoiser as well so in our testing of the provided scene we did a pass using the OptiX enhancements vs the traditional CUDA based rendering with Open Image Denoiser applied. This scene did cause issues for lower VRAM cards and is signified by a 0 performance metric showing it did not finish. This is another instance where we can see that the raw performance of the RTX 3080 shown in synthetics and gaming vs the RTX 3090 just don’t hold up when there isn’t enough VRAM for these professional applications.

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Graphics cards and power draw have always been quite synonymous with each other in terms of how much performance they put out for the power they take in. Measuring this has not always been the most straight forward when it comes to accuracy and methods for reviewers and end-users. NVIDIA has developed their PCAT system, or Power Capture Analysis Tool in order to be able to capture direct power consumption from ALL graphics cards that plug into the PCIe slot so that you can get a very clear barometer on actual power usage without relying on hacked together methods

The Old Way

The old method, for most anyway, was to simply use something along the lines of a Kill-A-Watt wall meter for power capture. This isn’t the worst way, but as stated in our reviews it doesn’t quite capture the amount of power that the graphics card alone is using. This results in some mental gymnastics to figure out how much the graphics card is using by figuring the system idle, CPU load, and the GPU load and estimating about where the graphics card lands, not very accurate to say the least.

Another way is to use GPU-z. This is the least reliable method as you have to rely entirely on the software reading from the graphics card. This is a poor method as the graphics cards vary in how they report to software when it comes to power usage. Some will only send out what the GPU core itself is using and not consider what the memory is drawing or any other component.

The last way I’ll mention is the use of a multi-meter amperage clamp across the PCIe slot by way of a riser cable with separate cables then more power clamps on all the PCIe power cables going into the graphics card. This method is very accurate for graphics card power but is also very cumbersome and typically results in you having to watch the numbers and document them as you see them rather than plotting them across a spreadsheet.

The PCAT Way

This is where PCAT (power capture analysis tool) comes into play. NVIDIA has developed quite a robust tool for measuring graphics card power at the hardware level and taking the guesswork out of the equation. The tool is quite simple to set up and get going, as far as components used there are; a riser board for the GPU with a 4-pin Dupont cable, the PCAT module itself that everything plugs into with an OLED screen attached, 3 PCI-e cables for when a card calls for more than 2x 8-pin connectors, and a Micro-USB cable that allows you to capture the data on the system you’re hooked up to or a secondary monitoring system.

Well, that’s what it looks like when all hooked up on a test bench, you’re not going to want to run this one in a case for sure. Before anyone gets worried, performance is not affected at all by this and the riser board is fully compliant with PCIe Gen 4.0. I’m not so certain about those exposed power points however, I will be getting the hot glue gun out soon for that.  Now, what does this do at this point? Well, two options: Plug it into the computer that it’s all running on and let FrameView include the metrics, but that’s for NVIDIA cards only so a pass, OR (what we do) plug it into a separate monitoring computer and observe and capture during testing scenarios.

The PCAT Power Profile Analyzer is the software tool provided to use to capture and monitor power readings across the PCI Express Power profile. The breadth of this tool is exceptionally useful for us here on the site to really explore what we can monitor. The most useful metric on here to me is the ability to monitor power across all sources, PCIe power cables (individually), and the PCIe slot itself.

Those who rather pull long-form spreadsheets to make their own charts are fully able to do so and even able to quickly form performance per watt metrics. We’ve found a very fun metric to monitor is actually Watts per frame, how many watts does it take for the graphics card to produce one frame at a locked 60FPS in various games, we’ll get into that next.

Control Power

Control was the first game that we wanted to take a look at running at 1440p with RT and DLSS on, and then again with DLSS off, this is the game that NVIDIA used when showcasing the performance per watt improvements of Ampere, and well..they were right in the claim there.

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From these results for Control is shows that NVIDIAs measurements and claims of improvements were accurate, but it’s not always the case. We tested Forza Horizon 4 in a spot to test the same way again but this time at 4K and looking at when we target at 4K60 scene in this game

 

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When you can’t overclock, seriously this card will not overclock as it’s already at its 100% power limit we took time to undervolt it to see if we could save some juice. If you want to see the entire process and how to do it for yourself, feel free to follow over the article where I first explored it with the RTX 3080 Founders Edition.

After a bit of tuning, we found two levels of undervolt. We were able to go for a middle of the road undervolt with a core voltage of 850mV and a target clock speed of 1850MHz. While the low range undervolt came in at 806mV and 1800MHz target clock speed. The power savings were quite immense and we found the performance from the middle 1850MHz load to the 1800MHz load resulted in a margin of error performance difference. We were able to see a total graphics card load reduction in our run from 369w down to 280w and the temperature dropped from 77C to 71.7C

You can see in the power over time chart that there were no wild spikes in the undervolted version and in fact, it stayed very consistent. through the run as opposed to the stock run.

We also wanted to take measurements of the clock speeds and as you can see across all settings the undervolt stayed consistent from start to finish, whereas the stock run started off higher and eventually fell to the level of the middle of the road undervolt. This would indicate to me that under extended gaming sessions the middle of the road undervolt might actually net you better long-term performance.

‘Titan Class’, that’s what NVIDIA referred to the GeForce RTX 3090 as, not as the flagship but a ‘Titan Class’. What does that even mean? The GeForce RTX 3080 was called the flagship, but this is also a GTX 30 Series and before the Titans were distinguished by that, the Titan branding, so what’s the deal here? Well, it’s not a dual GPU like the 90 class of the past so why the 90? Well, from my experience with this card it’s occupying a very strange place in the market that I’m not sure would have made sense before this year. I’ll elaborate.

More than ever before are people working from home in many different industries, that’s just a fact of the world right now. Many of those people working from home are editors, designers, and modelers who also play games. Typically the Titan would come in as that between consumer and professional card, a bit less expensive than the Quadro line but carrying the higher VRAM capabilities and still being able to push the envelope as the absolute absurd top tier gaming card for those who are crazy enough to shell out for it. Well, the GeForce RTX 3090 is more along the lines of catering to that person but also doing so at a much lower price point than what they did the last go around.

What you’re getting here is an 82 SM packed GPU with 10,496 CUDA Cores, 328 3rd Gen Tensor Cores, 82 2nd Gen RT Cores, and a mammoth 24GB of GDDR6X all for a grand total of $1499. To put that in a bit of market perspective the GeForce RTX 2080Ti 11GB came to retail at $1199 and in order to get a 5-6% performance boost along with 24GB of GDDR6 you were going to spend $2499 for it. The performance jump from the RTX 3080 to the RTX 3090 in gaming applications fell between 10-15% which is modest but better than the previous upgrade and coming in quite a bit less expensive. I’ll wrap up on those concerns toward the end here.

Where the GeForce RTX 3090 shines is in the world of creative professionals who know they can put that massive VRAM pool to use for more than just gaming. Working with 8K Raw Footage in Davinci Resolve was a breeze on the RTX 3090 as well as the Titan RTX, but the RTX 3090 was able to present that experience for a savings of a smooth grand. VRAY performance on the new Ampere architecture is through the roof, same goes for OctaneRender so long as you have the VRAM to support it otherwise you’ll find yourself stumbling. Blender really benefits from the architectural improvements and shows quite the speedup over the Titan RTX when the other cards just don’t have the VRAM to keep up.

But does the Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 3090 Trinity change the story much from the Founders Edition? Not really. It’s a more traditionally designed graphics card without being the size of a lunch box, but still more than the 2 slot offerings we’re used to. The card is indeed brighter with clean and bright aRGB running down the side (at the cost of higher power draw to keep it shining). A much more common 2×8-pin connection makes it much easier to stomach when setting up in an install. But, it does pull more power, runs a bit warmer, and performs the same as the Founders Edition. That would be a problem if it cost more, but it doesn’t since it’s coming in at the MSRP.

The biggest letdown for the Zotac Gaming RTX 3090 Trinity is in its inability to have any room for increasing power for those who want it. Since it ships right at the power limit of the card you’ll have to resort to undervolting if you’re wanting to tinker. The good thing with that is you’ll in store for very little performance hit but be able to shave about 6C+ off the thermals of the card and drop the power draw down into RTX 2080Ti AIB model realm while still seeing a substantial increase in performance over the old models. Now, if NVIDIA would just give the RTX 3090 the Titan class drivers it deserves this would make for a killer work by day, game by night, professionals heart and soul graphics card.

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