A couple of weeks ago Nvidia launched the RTX 3070, 3080 and 3090. Reviews are now out for the RTX 3080, and the tightly limited supply sold out instantly. After that, the $1499 RTX 3090 is due to launch next week. With no sign of immediate restocks of the RTX 3080, the titanically expensive RTX 3090 may be the only option for a few weeks. Therefore, some gamers might be wondering, should I sell my kidney for an RTX 3090? I think the answer is no, and this article aims to set out why. [Editor’s note: This is Michael’s opinion on the Nvidia launch. Play3r obviously does not condone the sale or purchase of body parts.]
Yes, I Know No-One is Literally Selling a Literal Kidney for an RTX 3090
First, let’s get something out of the way. There are presumably a great many medical and ethical reasons not to sell organs. This article is not about those. Hopefully no-one is planning to actually sell an actual organ for a high-end GPU. [Ed: Oh… I’ll cease with the obligatory warnings then.]
However, people do make sacrifices in the pursuit of the most expensive hardware. In the past many have saved up for months to afford a high-end GPU, and it’s not uncommon to see builds that compromise on components like motherboards and storage to maximise the GPU.
This isn’t everyone. Plenty of people spending four figures on a GPU will just have that kind of money lying around. After all, PC gaming enthusiasts still find themselves spending far less than those who are into cars or motorbikes. There are some good reasons to buy an RTX 3090, and we’ll talk about that. However, there are also good reasons not to.
Reason 1: An RTX 3090 Would be Too Fast
Of course, this may seem a little odd. Everyone wants a fast gaming PC. Therefore, fast is good – what’s the problem?
The problem is that a GPU can only work as fast as the CPU can feed it with work. Now that the RTX 3080 has released, reviews such as the one over at techpowerup have shown fairly muted performance gains in a lot of scenarios. At 1080p, an RTX 3080 seems to be CPU bottlenecked in many current games. This means that for someone with a 1080p setup, even the old RTX 2080Ti is close to as fast as it gets. Paying hundreds and hundreds of extra dollars for an RTX 3090 would just be money down the drain until faster CPUs surface.
Reason 2: Price to Performance
The price difference between the RTX 3080 and the RTX 3090 at MSRP is $800 – $699 to $1499. The RTX 3090 is more than twice as expensive.
The spec gives the RTX 3090 20% more cores and a 20% wider memory bus. We can predict the performance gain, assuming a high enough resolution to avoid bottlenecks, to be around 20%.
Over 2x the price for only 1.2x the performance is, on the face of it, pretty clearly bad value. Now, to be fair, you can look at it another way. A really really high-end setup, costing thousands, might reach a point where an extra $800 is less than 20% of the current price. That would mean that taking this hypothetical top-end build from an RTX 3080 to a 3090 would improve performance by 20% for less than 20% more money. However, you’d need to be looking at spending $4000 already before another $800 was only 20% more. Even by the standards of top-end PC gaming, that’s a lot of money.
Now, price to performance isn’t necessarily the best metric. Realistically, what matters is getting a good experience. This is likely part of why Nvidia have underlined 8K gaming as a use case for the RTX 3090 – something where the huge 24GB of memory would become relevant. However, when it comes to a good experience, there’s a lot more that $800 can go on. Good peripherals, a good chair, a good monitor – and, of course, games themselves. Playing a shiny new game on a cheap GPU will be a much better experience than imagining how many FPS your expensive GPU might get if you could afford the game.
Reason 3: What Happened to the RTX 2080Ti
When Nvidia first announced Ampere GPUs, the reaction was pretty strong on one particular point. That point was “wow, it sucks to be you if you just got an RTX 2080Ti”. GPUs that previously fetched four figures crashed in value immediately.
If you had – metaphorically – sold your kidney for an RTX 2080Ti then you’d be feeling pretty foolish seeing Jensen Huang claiming the RTX 3070 would be faster for just $500. Moreover, this has happened consistently for a long time. The first GTX Titan came out in 2013 for $999. 8 months later the $549 AMD R9 290X was hailed as a “Titan Killer” and Nvidia responded with the GTX 780Ti, beating the Titan at $300 less. Technology progresses, every generation is the fastest yet, and every generation will be supplanted.
Overall the RTX 3090 is great for performance now, but at some point it too will be brutally dethroned. If you sell your kidney for an RTX 3090, in a couple of years you might be looking at an RTX 4090 and not have any kidneys left that you can actually spare.