Nvidia’s new RTX 3090 TI could be a power hog, with a hefty price tag to match. However, when underpowered to 300W, it apparently turns into one of the most power efficient GPUs in the Ampere architecture. In a recent Igors’Lab review, he tested an MSI Suprim X RTX 3090 TI that was limited in power to just 300W and unsurprisingly saw incredible efficiency gains.
From the factory, the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti comes with the highest power consumption we’ve ever recorded from an Nvidia GPU, with a benchmark spec of around 450W. ‘at 550W for some AIB partner boards (yes, that’s 100W extra over the reference).
In other words, while the RTX 3090 Ti might be the fastest gaming GPU on the planet, it throws power efficiency out the window to claim that title. In general, it seems to be around 5-10% ahead of the vanilla RTX 3090 (depending on resolution), and this card draws 100W less under load. That’s a big jump in power for a relatively small increase in performance.
So what happens when you take the RTX 3090 TI and throw away its massive power budget? Igor sets out to see what happens, and the results are impressive – although you can usually get improved efficiency from any GPU by adjusting power limits and voltages.
Igor used MSI Afterburner and adjusted the power limit to 300W, then entered the VF curve to adjust the clock speeds. For the VF curve, Igor duplicated the curve on Nvidia’s RTX A6000, which uses a 300W power limit and has the same GA102 die as the 3090 Ti (although it also uses GDDR6 instead of GDDR6X memory ).
This sees the RTX 3090 Ti peak at a maximum of 2050 MHz on the higher voltage points of the curve. For reference, this is the maximum clock speed that GPU Boost 4.0 can squeeze from the card when conditions are optimal.
For comparison, Igor used similar Suprim X builds of the RTX 3080 10GB/12GB, RTX 3080 Ti, and RTX 3090 to keep everything consistent, as MSI’s Suprim X SKUs are all heavily overclocked from the factory. For AMD, Igor used MSI’s Gaming X versions of the RX 6800 XT and RX 6900 XT, which are also factory overclocked.
10 games were tested: Borderlands 3, Control, far cry 6, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Horizon Zero Dawn, Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Legion of Watch Dogs, Wolfenstein Youngbloodand World War Z. All games tested at 4K resolution.
Comparing all of these games, the gaming performance of the power-limited RTX 3090 Ti is almost identical to that of the Suprim X RTX 3080 Ti, with an average FPS in all titles of 96.3 for the 3090 Ti and 97.7 for the 3080 Ti – a difference of only 1.4%. However, the power consumption between the two cards is a bit more drastic.
At its peak, the power-limited RTX 3090 Ti drew a maximum of 314 watts, while the 3080 Ti drew an additional 95 watts of power at 409 W. This represents an almost 30% improvement in power efficiency from the RTX 3090 Ti. The power consumption of the “300W” RTX 3090 Ti is also better than the Radeon RX 6800 XT (319W) and still manages to be 16% faster in terms of average gaming performance. Similarly, the RTX 3080 10GB drew 351 watts but came in 11% slower than the 300W 3090 Ti.
Overall, the 3090 Ti’s power efficiency at 300 W is surprisingly good and demonstrates the well-known penalty of pushing the voltage and frequency curve too far. Nvidia’s Ampere architecture can be very power hungry, especially when used in a factory overclocked configuration. But like AMD’s older R9 Nano, limiting power consumption can offer a huge boost in energy efficiency.
Of course, buying a $2000 graphics card and running it like a $1200 card just to save 100W of power doesn’t really make sense. At typical power costs, it would only take about 3,300 days of 24/7 use to make up the $800 difference. We don’t know what kind of PC hardware we’ll have nine years from now, but it will almost certainly be better than a power-limited RTX 3090 Ti.