MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio Review 36

MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio Review



MSI Logo

The MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio is the king of the hill for the company, based on the top-dog NVIDIA RTX 3090 "Ampere" GPU with an astounding 24 GB of GDDR6X memory. The Gaming X brand represents MSI's finest combination of performance, cooling, and noise-optimization, along with the right aesthetics for DIY high-end gaming PC builds. In this MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio review we'll check how well it can unleash the RTX 3090 out of its "stock" comfort zone by letting you tap into higher power limits. The Gaming X board design also sees the company's latest triple-slot, triple-fan cooling solution. With this generation of the MSI design, you'll see much of the RGB embellishments relocated to the backplate and towards the top edge of the card. MSI figured out that you're more likely to revel upon your graphics card from this angle.

NVIDIA changed its approach to the higher-end of its product stack with the GeForce RTX 30-series "Ampere." The RTX 3080 launched last week has already been proclaimed the new "flagship" product by NVIDIA, in marketing material that also contains the RTX 3090. This means the company intends for the RTX 3090 to address a different market—halo premium. While the RTX 3080 was shown beating the previous-generation flagship, the RTX 2080 Ti, the RTX 3090 was extensively compared with the TITAN RTX—a $2,500 halo product based on Turing. Much like the TITAN, the RTX 3090 is designed to transcend market segment barriers between gaming and professional visualization. Helping matters here are NVIDIA's highly capable Studio drivers. The 24 GB memory amount, NVIDIA believes, helps in various creator use cases.

This doesn't necessarily mean the RTX 3090 doesn't bring anything to the table with gaming. On the contrary, this is the SKU with which NVIDIA wants to take a stab at the 8K gaming frontier. 8K is no joke; it's four times the pixels of 4K, and sixteen times those of Full HD. To accomplish this, NVIDIA developed the new DLSS 8K feature, which leverages AI and deep learning to perform a bold 9X AI upscaling of 1440p rendering on supported games. 8K gaming monitors haven't yet arrived, but target buyers for RTX 3090 could be early adopters of 8K TVs. Helping matters here are NVIDIA's implementation of HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 1.4a, which enable 8K HDR 60 Hz with a single cable.

NVIDIA leveraged a common silicon for the RTX 3090 and RTX 3080, so only a single kind of ASIC has to be built for this relatively low volume market segment. The 8 nm "GA102" is a mammoth piece of silicon with over 28 billion transistors, which is almost maxed out on the RTX 3090 by enabling all but one TPC (two SM) on the silicon, resulting in 10,496 CUDA cores, 328 tensor cores, 82 RT cores, and a 384-bit wide GDDR6X memory interface holding 24 GB of memory that ticks at a blistering 19.5 Gbps—940 GB/s of bandwidth.

The 2nd generation RTX technology with Ampere sees NVIDIA introduce a new double-throughput CUDA core that can process concurrent FP32+INT32 operations; the 2nd generation RT core has fixed-function hardware to process temporal elements of raytracing, enabling new RTX effects, such as raytraced motion blur, an effect that was until now post-processed and inaccurate; and the new 3rd generation Tensor core that shares much of its design with the heavy-duty Tensor cores of the A100 Tensor Core AI HPC processor NVIDIA launched this Spring, which leverages the sparsity phenomenon in deep-learning neural nets to increase AI inference performance by an order of magnitude.

The MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio is designed to unleash the RTX 3090 GPU, which even in its reference avatar comes with 350 W typical board power. As you'll see in the next page, the card introduces the Tri Frozr 2 cooling solution with many segment-first features. The card also ships with factory-overclocked speeds of 1785 MHz GPU Boost (vs. 1695 MHz reference). MSI is pricing the RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio at $1590, a $90 premium over the $1,500 baseline pricing for the RTX 3090. In this MSI RTX 3090 Gaming X review, we put the card through its paces against our vast selection of graphics cards and games, and test the card's overclocking capabilities.

GeForce RTX 3090 Market Segment Analysis
GTX 1080 Ti$6503584881481 MHz1582 MHz1376 MHzGP10212000M11 GB, GDDR5X, 352-bit
RX 5700 XT$3702560641605 MHz1755 MHz1750 MHzNavi 1010300M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2070$3402304641410 MHz1620 MHz1750 MHzTU10610800M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2070 Super$4502560641605 MHz1770 MHz1750 MHzTU10413600M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
Radeon VII$6803840641802 MHzN/A1000 MHzVega 2013230M16 GB, HBM2, 4096-bit
RTX 2080$6002944641515 MHz1710 MHz1750 MHzTU10413600M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2080 Super$6903072961650 MHz1815 MHz1940 MHzTU10413600M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2080 Ti$10004352881350 MHz1545 MHz1750 MHzTU10218600M11 GB, GDDR6, 352-bit
RTX 3070$5005888641500 MHz1725 MHz1750 MHzGA10417400M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 3080$7008704961440 MHz1710 MHz1188 MHzGA10228000M10 GB, GDDR6X, 320-bit
RTX 3090$1500104961121395 MHz1695 MHz1219 MHzGA10228000M24 GB, GDDR6X, 384-bit
MSI RTX 3090
Gaming X Trio
$1590104961121395 MHz1785 MHz1219 MHzGA10228000M24 GB, GDDR6X, 384-bit


Package Front
Package Back

The Card

Graphics Card Front
Graphics Card Back
Graphics Card Front Angled

The MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio is a large piece of hardware, a no-holds-barred implementation of the RTX 3090 with a hearty triple-slot, triple-fan cooling solution. Unlike past generations, the bulk of the card's RGB bling has been moved towards the top-edge of the card, near the backplate, as those parts of the card are more readily visible to you in a typical windowed case than the front end with the fans. There are still some ARGB streaks near the fans.

Graphics Card Dimensions

Dimensions of the card are 32 x 14 cm.

Graphics Card Height
Graphics Card Back Angled

Installation requires three slots in your system.

Monitor Outputs, Display Connectors

Display connectivity options include three standard DisplayPort 1.4a and one HDMI 2.1. Interestingly, the USB-C port for VR headsets, which NVIDIA introduced on Turing Founders Editions, has been removed—guess it didn't take off as planned. The DisplayPort 1.4a outputs support Display Stream Compression (DSC) 1.2a, which lets you connect 4K displays at 120 Hz and 8K displays at 60 Hz. Ampere can drive two 8K displays at 60 Hz with just one cable per display.

Ampere is the first GPU to support HDMI 2.1, which increases bandwidth to 48 Gbps to support higher resolutions, like 4K144 and 8K30, with a single cable. With DSC, this goes up to 4K240 and 8K120. NVIDIA's new NVENC/NVDEC video engine is optimized to handle video tasks with minimal CPU load. The highlight here is added support for AV1 decode. Just like on Turing, you may also decode MPEG-2, VC1, VP8, VP9, H.264, and H.265 natively, at up to 8K@12-bit.

The encoder is identical to Turing. It supports H.264, H.265, and lossless at up to 8K@10-bit.

Graphics Card Power Plugs

Unlike the NVIDIA Founders Edition card that introduces the new 12-pin power input, MSI sticks to industry standard 8-pin PCIe power inputs, but there are three of them. Combined with PCIe slot power, this configuration is rated for 525 W. MSI's own typical board power number for this card is 370 W, or 20 W higher than reference, which would have been too close to maxing out a dual 8-pin with slot-power setup.

Multi-GPU Area

The GeForce RTX 3090 supports SLI and features a newer-generation NVLink bridge interface, which means you can't use your NVLink bridge from your Turing cards. Be warned that with Ampere, NVIDIA isn't supporting SLI as in implicit multi-GPU (SLI as you know it), but explicit multi-GPU that's developed and supported by game developers. With multi-GPU game support pretty much non-existent, this basically means SLI is dead. Perhaps creative and 3D modeling applications that support explicit multi-GPU can benefit from SLI.


Graphics Card Cooler Front
Graphics Card Cooler Back

Disassembling the MSI Gaming X Trio is a breeze, no guitar picks needed. You simply undo a bunch of screws to remove the backplate and then turn a second set of screws to pull out the cooling solution. The cooler comes out in one clean piece, leaving behind the PCB and a base plate.

A small base plate is used as a heat spreader for some of the VRM MOSFETs. This plate also counteracts PCB bending.

Unlike the RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio, the RTX 3090 features memory chips on even the reverse side of the PCB, and so MSI used a metal backplate for better cooling. On the RTX 3080 Gaming X Trio they used a plastic backplate with graphene composite core. The backplate also features a pair of flat copper heat pipes that pull heat from the memory chips and spread it across the length of the backplate.

High-resolution PCB Pictures

These pictures are for the convenience of volt modders and people who would like to see all the finer details on the PCB. Feel free to link back to us and use these in your articles or forum posts.

Graphics Card Teardown PCB Front
Graphics Card Teardown PCB Back

High-res versions are also available (front, back).

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