Nvidia’s RTX 4090 Founders Edition has arrived and is primed for testing and benchmarks, getting ready to take on the best graphics cards and lay claim to the pole position in our GPU benchmarks hierarchy. How fast can Ada Lovelace run, and how much does she weigh? Those are not questions you’re supposed to ask a lady! Shame on you. (2186g, if you really want to know.)
Card dimensions are nearly the same as the previous generation RTX 3090 Founders Edition, 305x136x61mm. The RTX 3090 Founders Edition by way of reference was 313x138x54mm (those are my measurements), so the two designs definitely aren’t identical. Ada is apparently 8mm shorter and 7mm thicker, though the 3-gram difference in weight certainly won’t be noticed.
Along with a slight change in dimensions, the fans on the RTX 4090 Founders Edition are much larger. The “back” fan (on the side with the larger RTX 4090 logo) is 115mm in diameter, where the same fan on the 3090 FE was 110mm. The “front” fan (on the side with with all the fins and closest to the video ports) also measured 115mm in diameter on the 4090, compared to 110mm on the 3090 FE. But it’s not just the diameter that have changed, as the inner hub is smaller as well — 38mm diameter on 4090 vs 42mm on 3090. All told, Nvidia says the new fans improve airflow by 20%.
We’re not going to walk through the unboxing process, as the embedded video will do a better job if you want more detail, but Nvidia clearly isn’t skimping on packaging. Suffice it to say that the RTX 4090 Founders Edition comes in a new, larger box with plenty of padding to keep it safe during shipping.
Superficially, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that nothing much has changed with the 4090 design compared to the 3090. The card does have a larger volume, however, and there’s a slight curvature to the silver sides (top and back, mostly). That has to be for aesthetic reasons rather than something that will make the card run cooler.
One interesting tidbit is that Nvidia mentioned at one point that the 4090 FE would include a triple-8-pin to 16-pin power adapter for those that don’t have an ATX 3.0 power supply with the new 12VHPWR 16-pin connector. Opening up the packaging, however, we find a quad-8-pin to 16-pin adapter. You have to wonder if Nvidia was thinking about going with a 600W TBP and decided to tone things down, or if the extra connector is to provide overclocking headroom.
Elsewhere, the card still comes with the usual triple DisplayPort and single HDMI video outputs. We’re frankly surprised that Nvidia stuck with DP 1.4a and HDMI 2.1, rather than upgrading to DisplayPort 2.0. Except, as we noted in our Intel Arc A770 review, there are no DisplayPort 2.0 monitors yet, and the specifications have become a bit muddled. Intel opted for UHBR 10 — Ultra High Bit Rate, 10 Gb/s per lane, 40 Gb/s maximum — on it’s DP 2.0 ports, omitting both UHBR 13.5 and UHBR 20 support.
The RTX 4090 and other Ada Lovelace GPUs can still support 8K at 60 Hz, or 4K at 165 Hz, but they require DSC (Display Stream Compression) with 4:2:0 or 4:2:2 encoding to get there. UHBR 20 would have allowed up to 8K and 92 Hz with uncompressed signals and 8-bit color, or 74 Hz with 10-bit HDR color, and DSC could have pushed 8K and 120 Hz or higher. But again, we need the monitors and TVs before that would really matter, and that might not happen for several more years.
Here’s a gallery of side-by-side photos comparing the RTX 3090 FE with the RTX 4090 FE. (Don’t mind the dust on the RTX 3090 card; it’s been well-loved over the past two years!) It’s far more obvious in these shots how the fans and dimensions of the cards have changed.
If your PC already has an RTX 3090 Founders Edition (or a 3090 Ti FE for that matter), you’re probably fine with the RTX 4090 FE, unless you’re really cramped on clearance. But if you’re cramped on clearance, that’s not a good thing with cards that can consume 350W or more power. Basically, we recommend using a more spacious ATX case for extreme GPUs like the 3090 and 4090 — leave the mini-ITX stuff behind.