It’s time to get to know NVIDIA’s new graphics flagship. Peak performance and an impressive 24GB of storage make the GeForce RTX 3090 usher in a new era of gaming. Earlier we talked about the architectural and technical features of the new generation of GeForce RTX. Now let’s see what the most powerful video adapter of the new family is capable of using the non-reference GeForce RTX 3090 video card from MSI as an example.
Let’s evaluate the efficiency of the cooling system, check the overclocking potential and compare the performance of MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio with GeForce RTX 3080 and GeForce RTX 2080 Ti.
MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio 24G
The MSI graphics card comes in a medium sized box.
It is completed with a special support bar and a bunch of additional printing with instructions, carefully packed in a separate envelope.
An example of using a support bar is shown below.
The GeForce RTX 3090 combines outstanding performance with high TDP. To cool such a «monster» you need a powerful cooling system. And even NVIDIA itself releases Founders Edition reference products with a three-slot cooler of a special design, where the fans are located on both sides of the board. MSI adopts a classic parallel fan design.
The total length of the video card is 32.5 cm. The cooler occupies three expansion slots and is cooled by three fans. Visually, this model is identical to the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio 10G.
The reverse side of the board is covered with a plate.
In the corner there are three power connectors for eight pins.
The side stripe, logos and decorative inserts on the body are multi-colored RGB-backlit.
The rear panel has three DisplayPort 1.4a connectors and one HDMI 2.1.
Unlike the MSI RTX 3080 Gaming with a plastic-graphene backplate, the older model uses a metal plate. Also on the plate there are two flat heat pipes that are in contact with the memory chips.
The design of the main cooler for MSI RTX 3090 Gaming and MSI RTX 3080 Gaming is the same. This is a massive heatsink with heat pipes that cools not only the processor and memory, but also all the components of the power unit, for which there are many contact pads and thermal pads.
Direct contact of heat pipes with the surface of the graphics chip is implemented, and it is implemented quite competently — the pipes cover the entire area of the GPU chip and are carefully adjusted to each other to avoid unnecessary gaps.
For better contact with each other, the tubes at the base have a rectangular shape, which increases the efficiency of heat dissipation.
Three fans with a total impeller diameter of about 92 mm are installed on a massive radiator.
The new TorX Fan 4.0 fans are used with a unique impeller design — a special blade curve is combined with a discontinuous outer ring. This shape enhances the air flow and improves the ventilation of the radiator.
For better airflow, additional design features are provided — special deflectors at the plates and a wavy surface of the upper faces.
MSI engineers have not only tried to maximize the heat dissipation area by increasing the volume of the heatsink, but also optimized its design for efficient heat dissipation at low fan speeds.
The board has an additional stiffening rib.
MSI RTX 3090 Gaming and MSI RTX 3080 Gaming use similar PCB designs. The older model has more memory, so the microcircuits are located on both sides of the textolite.
The total number of power phases has been increased to 18.
24 GB of GDDR6X memory is recruited by Micron chips marked OPT77 D8BGX. Full GPU marking: GA102-300-A1. It operates with 10496 streaming CUDA cores, the memory bus width is 384 bits.
The standard specifications call for a base core clock of 1395MHz for the GeForce RTX 3090 with an average Boost Clock of 1695MHz. MSI Gaming X Trio Boost Clock increased to 1785 MHz. The effective data exchange frequency for GDDR6X memory is at the level of 19500 MHz.
Testing was conducted inside an open Antec NX800 case at a room temperature of 24-25°C. In such conditions, in many heavy games, the Boost frequencies were kept in the 1800-1950 MHz range. This is illustrated below in the monitoring screenshots during the load of the Bright Memory benchmark: Infinite RTX and Horizon Zero Dawn in 4K.
The most severe drops in 3D were in The Division 2. In 4K, the game dropped from 1900 MHz to 1620-1650 MHz. That is, the permissible operating frequency range is quite wide. It is no coincidence that NVIDIA indicates a low Boost Clock, although most of the time video cards operate at higher frequencies.
In terms of temperature and noise characteristics, the differences from the MSI RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio are minimal. The processor warms up to 76°C with fan speeds up to 1400-1500 rpm. And this is a great result for a monster with a TDP of 350W!
Now let’s talk about overclocking. There are several nuances here. The power limit for non-reference GeForce RTX 3080/3090 is blocked. Overclocking GDDR6X memory at some point leads to a drop in performance, so you need to constantly monitor the results. We managed to speed up our copy by 100 MHz at the base frequency and by 800 MHz at the memory frequency.
We got a small increase in Boost frequencies, in many games the lower frequency bar increased by 50-100 MHz. To maintain stability (especially for memory), the fan speeds had to be increased to ensure overall lower operating temperatures.
The biggest spread in GPU frequencies was still observed in The Division 2. At peak values up to 2115 MHz, there were drawdowns up to 1650 MHz.
The overall acceleration is small, and given the increased speed of the fans, the practical value of overclocking is minimal. But we are interested in revealing the overall potential of the GeForce RTX 3090. If we talk about the constant use of overclocking on such a powerful video card, then in the case of the GeForce RTX 3090, water cooling is indispensable.
It should be noted that with the release of the GeForce RTX 3090, NVIDIA begins to focus on 8K resolution. This applies to both video content and the gaming potential of the video card. We already wrote that the new GeForce RTX series for the first time offer hardware accelerated decoding and encoding of 8K video, including the new AV1 standard. You can comfortably watch 8K movies at 60fps with minimal CPU usage, and you can record your gameplay or stream in 8K.
Gaming in 8K seems like a fantasy, but the powerful potential of the GA102 GPU and the high memory capacity of 24 GB make it a reality. We are not talking about playing at maximum settings, and in some cases the DLSS mode will help speed up games. But the GeForce RTX 3090 is capable of delivering over 60 frames in Apex Legends, Destiny 2, Death Stranding, Rainbow Six Siege, Forza Horizon 4, World of Tanks and more.
We don’t have the technical ability to test the new flagship in 8K yet, but we’ll be sure to check it out in the future.