NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 vs. RTX 3090: Which GPU should you buy?

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 review
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 review (Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Windows Central)

NVIDIA RTX 3080 vs. RTX 3090 tech specs

These two Ampere-powered RTX 30-series NVIDIA graphics cards (GPU) have some interesting specs and features that put them both in the running for best graphics card out there. However, there's a rather large price difference that will have you asking if the RTX 3090 is really worth the cost. Let's start by taking a look at the exact specs of these GPUs.

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Header Cell - Column 0 RTX 3080RTX 3090
CUDA cores8,70410,496
Base clock1.44GHz1.40GHz
Boost clock1.71GHz1.70GHz
Memory bus320-bit384-bit
Memory clock19Gbps19.5Gbps
Memory bandwidth760GB/s936GB/s
RT cores6882
Transistors28.3 billion28.3 billion
NodeSamsung 8nmSamsung 8nm
PortsHDMI 2.1Three DisplayPort 1.4aHDMI 2.1Three DisplayPort 1.4a

NVIDIA RTX 3080 vs. RTX 3090 performance and features

Considering the specifications listed above, it's clear the RTX 3090 is the superior card in terms of raw performance. It has more CUDA cores, more ray tracing cores, more than double the GDDR6X VRAM, a wider memory bus and memory bandwidth, and a slightly higher memory clock. These are both Ampere GPUs based on an 8nm Samsung node, but the RTX 3090 is significantly larger physically and has a higher TDP at 350W.

Despite the boosted specs the RTX 3090 is sporting, dedicated gamers out there aren't going to see a big increase when gaming at 4K. In most cases, the gaming performance is only about 10% to 15% less from the RTX 3080. The fact that it also costs, in general, $800 less than the RTX 3090 should make it the right choice for those who don't plan on undertaking professional work.

If you're a gamer with an unlimited budget, you're no doubt going to go for the RTX 3090 anyway. It will deliver better gaming performance than the RTX 3080, and it's better cut out to toy with 8K.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090

Source: NVIDIA (Image credit: Source: NVIDIA)

The RTX 3090 is an absolute behemoth with 24GB of GDDR6X VRAM, making it better cut out for content creation and professional applications. It's the GPU that's unofficially taking over for NVIDIA's Titan GPU lineup, which were the cards for professionals and creators who didn't want to take the step up to workstation graphics (previously known as "Quadro").

Whereas gaming performance between the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 is quite close, you should see in some cases up to a 20% increase when working with demanding professional software. Both GPUs have support for extra RTX features like DLSS and ray tracing, but the RTX 3090 is much better prepared to deal with the heavier workload they present.

The RTX 3090 will, of course, deliver a strong gaming experience, but at $1,500, it's not going to be worth the money for most people.

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Windows Central)

Keep in mind the physical size and TDP difference between these two graphics cards. The RTX 3080 takes up two slots, while the RTX 3090 takes up three slots. The larger card should nevertheless fit into most mid-size PC towers, but be sure to reference exact dimensions before making a final purchase. Also, note that NVIDIA recommends a 750W PSU for each of these cards despite the RTX 3080 having a lower 320W TDP.

For more information about getting your PC ready for a new GPU, have a look at our guide to preparing your PC for NVIDIA RTX 30-series graphics cards.

NVIDIA's RTX 3080 is the right GPU for 4K gaming

If you're looking to game at 4K with smooth frame rates and don't want to spend the extra money on an RTX 3090, the RTX 3080 makes a whole lot of sense. It has the same features as the RTX 3090, and it's the better pick if you want raw gaming performance. Availability isn't great for either of these GPUs, so be sure to check out our guide on where to buy NVIDIA RTX 30-series GPUs.

The RTX 3090 is best for content creators and pros

Yes, the RTX 3090 will absolutely crush even the most intensive games, but it's better cut out for a professional setting. The $1,500 price tag also puts it out of realistic reach for most casual users.

Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt brings to Windows Central more than eight years of experience writing about laptops, PCs, accessories, games, and beyond. If it runs Windows or in some way complements the hardware, there’s a good chance he knows about it, has written about it, or is already busy testing it.