The RTX 3090 Ti is a surprisingly efficient gaming beast when limited to 300W

Nvidia’s new RTX 3090 TI might be a solid hog, at a price that fits. However, when exposed to 300W, it apparently turns out to be one of the most power efficient GPUs in the Ampere architecture. In a recent Igors’Lab review, we tested the MSI Suprim X RTX 3090 TI that was limited to just 300W and unsurprisingly saw some impressive gains in efficiency.

From the factory, the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti comes with the highest power consumption we’ve ever recorded from an Nvidia GPU, with a reference specification of around 450W. This number increases up to 550 watts for select AIB partner cards (yes, that’s an additional 100 watts above the reference).

In other words, while the RTX 3090 Ti might be the fastest gaming GPU on the planet, it throws power efficiency straight out the window to claim that title. Overall, it appears to have about 5-10% lead on a vanilla RTX 3090 (depending on resolution), and this card consumes 100W less power under load. That’s a huge jump in power for a relatively small increase in performance.

So what happens when you take the RTX 3090 TI and ditch the colossal power budget? Igor set out to see what would happen, and the results were great – although in general you can get improved efficiency from Which GPU by setting power and voltage limits.

Igor used MSI Afterburner and set the power limit to 300 watts, then went to the VF curve to set the clock speeds. For the VF curve, Igor replicated the curve found in Nvidia’s RTX A6000, which uses a 300W power limit and has the same GA102 dies as the 3090 Ti (although it also uses GDDR6 instead of GDDR6X memory).

This results in the RTX 3090 Ti peaking at a maximum of 2050MHz on the highest voltage points within the curve. For reference, this is the maximum clock speed that GPU Boost 4.0 can pull from the card when conditions are ideal.

For comparison, Igor used similar Suprim X versions of the RTX 3080 10GB/12GB, the RTX 3080 Ti, and the RTX 3090 to keep everything consistent, as MSI’s Suprim X SKUs are all heavily factory overclocked. For AMD, Igor used MSI’s Gaming X versions of the RX 6800 XT and RX 6900 XT, which were also overclocked from the factory.

Benchmark results

10 games tested: Borderlands 3And controlAnd FarCry 6And Ghost Recon Break PointAnd Horizon Zero DawnAnd Metro Exodus Enhanced EditionAnd Shadow of the Tomb RaiderAnd Watch Dogs CorpsAnd Wolfenstein YoungbloodAnd world war z. All games are tested in 4K resolution.

When comparing all of these games, the power-limited gaming RTX 3090 Ti is nearly identical to that of the Suprim X RTX 3080 Ti, with an average FPS across all titles of 96.3 for the 3090 Ti and 97.7 for the 3080 Ti—a difference of just 1.4%. However, the power consumption between the two cards is somewhat more serious.

At its peak, the limited power RTX 3090 Ti drew a maximum of 314 watts, while the 3080 TI drew an additional 95 watts of power at 409 watts. This represents a roughly 30% improvement in power efficiency for the RTX 3090 Ti. The “300W” RTX 3090 Ti’s power consumption is also better than the Radeon RX 6800 XT (319W) and still manages to be 16% faster in average gaming performance. Similarly, the RTX 3080 10GB pulls 351W but comes in 11% slower than the 300W 3090 Ti.

Overall, the power efficiency of the 3090 Ti at 300 W is surprisingly good, and illustrates the well-known penalty of pushing the voltage-frequency curve too far. Nvidia’s Ampere build can be very energy-thirsty, especially when used in an overclocked plant configuration. But like AMD’s old R9 Nano, restricting power usage can take a big win in power efficiency.

Of course, buying a $2000 graphics card and then making it work as a $1,200 card just to provide 100 watts of power doesn’t make perfect sense. At typical energy costs, it would take about 3,300 days of 24/7 use to make up the $800 difference. We’re not sure what kind of PCs we’ll have in nine years, but it’ll almost certainly be better than the limited-powered RTX 3090 Ti.