MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Suprim X Review 111

MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Suprim X Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • The MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Suprim X is currently listed online or $1750.
  • 16% faster than RTX 3080
  • 60 FPS 4K gaming a reality now
  • High power limit, 420 W default, up to 450 W manually
  • 24 GB VRAM
  • Extremely quiet
  • Overclocked out of the box
  • Idle fan stop
  • Adjustable RGB lighting
  • Fantastic memory overclocking potential
  • Dual BIOS
  • Low temperatures (with Gaming BIOS)
  • Second-generation hardware-accelerated raytracing
  • Support for HDMI 2.1, AV1 decode
  • DLSS improved
  • PCI-Express 4.0
  • SLI support
  • New GeForce Features: 8K, Reflex, Broadcast, G-SYNC 360, and RTX-IO
  • 8 nanometer production process
  • Very high price
  • High heat output
  • Efficiency lost
  • Overclocking complicated due to power limit
  • SLI useless without implicit multi-GPU
Last week, we brought you the review of the MSI RTX 3080 Suprim X—today, we have its bigger brother, the RTX 3090 Suprim X. Suprim is a new graphics card line by MSI that's positioned above the "Gaming" series. Many of you have doubts about the name, I'm not convinced yet either, but it might actually work out in MSI's favor. A good name should be easy to remember, which MSI definitely achieved. Whether everyone will actually type it right, I'm not sure, but Google will "did you mean?" it anyway, so it's all good. The name is also sufficiently distinct to be associated with MSI only, unlike "Gaming," which MSI invented and everybody else picked up eventually because it had MSI selling a ton of graphics cards, and competitive analysis showed that it would help them move more products as well.

MSI has given the Suprim X a large factory overclock. Out of the box, the card runs at a rated boost of 1860 MHz, which is 165 MHz higher than the NVIDIA Founders Edition. This is a large overclock—only the EVGA Kingpin is clocked higher, and there's only three more models that share the 1860 MHz boost, all other RTX 3090 customs designs are clocked lower. When averaged over our test suite at 4K resolution, we see the Suprim X a whopping 6% ahead of the RTX 3090, quite a big improvement. This makes the card 14% faster than the RTX 3080 and 19% faster than the Radeon RX 6800 XT. The AMD RX 6800 is 29% behind, and the performance increase vs. the RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 3070 is over 50%. AMD has announced that the Radeon RX 6900 XT will bring the fight to the GeForce RTX 3090, but we don't know all the details yet. Compared to other RTX 3090 cards, differences are slim as it is 1% faster than the MSI Gaming X, 2% faster than the EVGA FTW3 Ultra, and 2% slower than the ASUS STRIX.

Such performance numbers definitely make the RTX 3090 suitable for 4K resolution gaming. Many games will run at over 90 FPS. At highest details at 4K, nearly all games settle in at over 60 FPS, only Control is slightly below that, which DLSS easily fixes. At lower resolutions, you'll often run into CPU bottlenecks with even a fast processor. Still, for 1440p, I could imagine high-refresh-rate gamers considering the RTX 3090 to drive their monitors at 120 FPS and beyond.

With RTX 3090, NVIDIA is introducing "playable 8K," which rests on several pillars. In order to connect an 8K display, you previously had to use multiple cables. Now, you can just use a single HDMI 2.1 cable. At a higher resolution, VRAM usage goes up, but the RTX 3090 has you covered, offering 24 GB of memory, which is more than twice that of the 10 GB RTX 3080. Last but not least, on the software side, they added the capability to capture 8K gameplay with Shadow Play. In order to improve framerates (remember 8K processes 16x as many pixels as Full HD), NVIDIA created DLSS 8K, which renders the game at 1440p native and scales the output three times in each direction with machine learning. All of these technologies are still in their infancy—game support is limited and displays are expensive, we'll look into this in more detail in the future.

MSI has done a great job with their cooler. In our direct heatsink shootout against the RTX 3090 FE, it won by a small margin, which is a great achievement; the RTX 3090 Founders Edition cooler is one of the best we've ever seen. Noise levels are minimal. Even with heavy gaming loads, we measured only 31 dBA, which is almost whisper-quiet. Hard to imagine for a card in this performance class, but it's true. This makes the RTX 3090 Suprim X the quietest RTX 3090 we've tested so far, quieter than even the EVGA FTW3 Ultra. Temperatures are higher, though. However, I find 80°C a perfectly acceptable trade-off for the super-low noise levels. Should you want lower temperatures at higher noise levels, you can switch to the "Gaming" BIOS, which runs a more aggressive fan curve. In that mode, you're getting low temperatures of 71°C, but noise levels are higher at 34 dBA—still good. This is a nice dual-BIOS implementation because it gives you meaningful choices. NVIDIA introduced fan stop on their Founders Edition with Ampere, which means all board partners are expected to adopt this crucial feature, too. Outside of gaming, the fans on the Suprim X will shut off completely for the perfect noise-free experience.

MSI has increased their card's power limit to 420 W, which is the highest of all the RTX 3090 cards we've tested so far, same as the EVGA FTW3 Ultra. This helps unlock additional performance as NVIDIA's Boost algorithm has more headroom to boost to higher frequencies. The manual adjustment range for overclockers goes up to 450 W, which is great, but the ASUS STRIX and FTW3 Ultra with the XOC BIOS give you more. Maybe, MSI will release such an XOC BIOS with higher limits, too; it could help establish Suprim as a desirable brand for overclockers.

Unlike other RTX 3090 cards we've reviewed, the MSI RTX 3090 Suprim X consumes considerably more power than the RTX 3090 Founders Edition. We measured 436 W average gaming power, which is over 70 W higher than the 365 W on the FE. Of course, you get 6% higher gaming performance in return, but the power cost is almost 20%. That said, if you're in the market for an RTX 3090 in the first place, power consumption is probably secondary to you anyway. All this electricity will heat up your room, though, which will be nice right now, but could be less enjoyable in the summer months.

24 GB VRAM is definitely future-proof, but I doubt you will really ever need that much memory. Sure, more is always better, but unless you are using professional applications, you'll have a hard time finding a noteworthy performance difference between 10 GB and 24 GB. Games won't be an issue because you'll run out of shading power long before you run out of VRAM, just like with older cards today, which can't handle 4K no matter how much VRAM they have. Next-generation consoles also don't have as much VRAM, so it's hard to image you'll miss out on any meaningful gaming experiences if you have less than 24 GB VRAM. NVIDIA demonstrated several use cases in their reviewer's guide: OctaneRender, DaVinci Resolve, and Blender can certainly benefit from more memory, as can GPU compute applications, but these are very niche use cases. I'm not aware of any creators who were stuck and couldn't create because they ran out of VRAM. On the other hand, the RTX 3090 could definitely turn out to be a good alternative to Quadro, or Tesla; that is, unless you need double-precision math (you don't).

The GeForce RTX 3090 is the only graphics card in the Ampere family that features an NVLink interface for SLI. Implicit multi-GPU (the classic SLI you know) is not available—only explicit multi-GPU is supported. Explicit multi-GPU requires that game developers invest their own time and money to add support for the technology, which simply isn't going to happen because of the tiny market size for the feature. Only a handful of games and benchmarks support explicit multi-GPU. To use even this mode, you'll need to buy a new-generation NVLink bridge separately. The NVLink cable from your RTX 20-series cards won't physically fit, and with NVIDIA reportedly stopping the development of SLI profiles for newer games from 2021 for GPUs that support implicit multi-GPU, we can safely conclude that the age of multi-GPU gaming is over. Buying a pair of RTX 3090 cards for multi-GPU would cater to a very tiny niche, mostly professionals.

Pricing of the RTX 3090 is just way too high, a tough pill to swallow. At a starting price of $1500, it is more than twice as expensive as the RTX 3080, but not nearly twice as fast. MSI's RTX 3090 Suprim X is listed online for $1750, which is a lot of money—the price increase is very large. $250 extra for the Suprim X seems a bit much even though the card's physical design is super impressive. The Gaming X is $1600 right now, that's $150 less. I would personally be willing to spend maybe $150–$200 more over the MSRP, mostly for the very quiet gaming experience and awesome power limit, and the VRM that can handle it. NVIDIA emphasizes that the RTX 3090 is a Titan replacement—Titan RTX launched at $2500, so $1500 must be a steal for the new RTX 3090. Part of the disappointment associated with pricing is that the RTX 3080 is priced much more competitively. Both the RTX 3090 and RTX 3080 are all sold out, so apparently, there are people out there who are willing to pay these prices and more. AMD just announced their Radeon RX 6900 XT for $999, which hopefully will bring the fight to the RTX 3090, so things could change a lot in this segment in the coming weeks. We'll tell you more as soon as we can.

In this context, our "Recommended" award obviously is not addressing the average gamer. Rather, it means you should consider this card if you have the money to spend and are specifically looking for an RTX 3090.
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