ZOTAC GEFORCE RTX 4090 AMP EXTREME AIRO REVIEW || Absurd price, absurd performance

 The first graphics card of the new Ada Lovelace generation, better known as the RTX 40xx, is here. NVIDIA starts as usual with the high-end cards, in this case, the RTX 4090, to presumably work its way down over the coming months, starting with the RTX 4080 in November. In the meantime, we have finally been able to get hold of a test copy, namely the noble model from Zotac with a slight factory overclocking and an exorbitant price from 2,379 euros upwards. Uff. Not the only shock the card gave us.


The shock of the prices of the new RTX 40 graphics cards is probably still in everyone's bones. Although it was relatively clear that the high-end models would not be bargains, 2,000 euros and more is an announcement that probably not very many players will take advantage of. This makes it immediately clear that the RTX 40 cards are not to be seen as a replacement, but as an addition to the previous line-up, at least for the time being. At least until smaller models come that break into the price range of the RTX 30 cards.


The EVGA Kingpin RTX 3090 Ti
The EVGA Kingpin RTX 3090 Ti

The GeForce RTX 4090 Amp Extreme Airo for 2,379 euros is Zotac's luxury model and therefore significantly more expensive than the Founder's Edition from NVIDIA, which is given a UVO of 1,948 euros. But you also get your own cooling solution, an independent design, and a few other extras, such as 5-zone lighting with Zotac's Spectra 2.0 system and factory overclocking, which is relatively small. More on that later.

ZOTAC GEFORCE RTX 4090 AMP EXTREME AIRO REVIEW

We got the first shock when unpacking the card. Faced with such a chunk, even confident motherboards will cower in the furthest corner of the case for fear of having their PCIe slot ripped out alive. With 355.5 x 149.6 x 72.1 mm, the RTX 4090 from Zotac is not only gigantic but also weighs around two kilograms. phew, The monster in the 3.5-slot design is then logically attached to the case with three screws, and two different supports are also included in the scope of delivery, which are intended to prevent the PCIe slot from being damaged by the (unbalanced) weight of the card.


Works well though, fitting into our monster cases was no problem. If you want to squeeze the part into a midi tower, you should swing the ruler properly beforehand. Oh, a look at the power supply can't hurt either, because with a 450W TDP, the RTX 4090 is quite hungry. In any case, Zotac recommends a 1000W power supply. No problem, we have an ASUS Thor with 1,200W in our test computer. lucky.


An adapter is included because the RTX 4090 uses the new 12VHPWR connection, which has to be powered by the power supply with four 8-pin plugs. Incidentally, our 12VHPWR connector has not shown any signs of smoldering through. That's just a side note. Time will tell whether the new 12-pin connector was a good choice. NVIDIA is currently investigating a few reports of burned-through connectors. Speaking of connections: on the back are the usual ports for connecting a maximum of four monitors - 1x HDMI 2.1a and 3x DisplayPort 1.4a. Surprises weren't to be expected with the connections anyway.


The Zotac card comes in a rather unusual, but very elegant design that shows the courage to use curves. The bulky design consists primarily of plenty of aluminum heat sinks, heat pipes and three 110 mm fans with relatively large dimensions and plenty of surface area. More on cooling later. A solid die-cast metal backplate gives the whole construction the necessary stability and contributes to the overall weight of the card. The rest of the case is kept fairly open to allow for airflow in pretty much every direction.

ZOTAC GEFORCE RTX 4090 AMP EXTREME AIRO REVIEW

The 5-zone RGB lighting gives the card a chic look in the case, if your side walls allow it. Configuration is done using Zotac's free FireStorm Utility, which you can also use to control various other features of the card. If you want something a little fancier, you can also stuff an LED strip with the right lighting into the housing thanks to a built-in 3-pin header. As if the power consumption of the Zotac car wasn't high enough. Whereby ... at 450W it doesn't matter that much anymore.


It is clear at first glance that Zotac has attached great importance to the cooling of the Amp Extrem Airo. The massive heatsinks and heatpipes are immediately noticeable, as are the large fans, the middle one of which works in the opposite direction to generate even more airflow through the turbulence. Also on board is an additional vapor chamber, which is supposed to distribute the heat evenly over the heat pipes.


The cooling named IceStorm 3.0 proves to be very effective. Even under full load, the RTX 4090 could not be persuaded to exceed the 70-degree mark. Even the hotspot measurement was excellent with a maximum of 75-80 degrees. Fortunately, no thunderstorm sounds from the case, the cooling can be heard, but considering the heat that has to be scooped away, it works extremely quietly. No jet plane taking off, no hair dryer on full blast. That's a good thing, because thanks to the dual bios with the "Quiet" and "Amplify" modes, the cooling is sometimes put under a lot of pressure. By the way, the fans also switch off completely in idle mode, which wasn't the norm with Zotac cards in the olden days.


Inside the card lurks the first representative of the Ada Lovelace architecture in the 4nm process, named AD102. The board is crammed with top performers. 16,384 CUDA cores hum for your visual delights, supported by 24 GB of GDDR6X RAM, which with a memory clock of 1,313 MHz and 384-bit interface beats out an impressive bandwidth of 1,008 GB/s. 512 Tensor Cores of the 4th generation take care of the AI ​​performance, which is necessary for DLSS 3, among other things. 128 RT cores of the 3rd generation are supposed to conjure up beautiful ray tracing effects on the monitor.


ZOTAC GEFORCE RTX 4090 AMP EXTREME AIRO REVIEW

When it comes to GPU clocking, Zotac has increased it a bit compared to NVIDIA's Founder's Edition. The base clock is identical at 2,230 MHz, but the boost clock is 2,580 instead of 2,520 MHz. Not a huge increase, but every little bit helps. In view of the good cooling, there could be more, but you should leave that to the professionals, who don't mind if their three-year guarantee goes over the Jordan.


When it comes to gaming performance, the RTX 4090 sweeps the floor with its predecessors, and thoroughly. Of course, it should be clear that gaming in 1080p with the card is basically equivalent to pearling before swine. The RTX 4090 only really unfolds its full splendor under 4K or at least in 1440p wide format. Even the standard benchmarks from the 3DMark portfolio thoroughly show where the hammer hangs. Although our comparison values ​​are not 100% accurate, since we no longer have most of the older cards available and some things have been improved by the drivers, it is at least generally clear how far the RTX 4080 is ahead.


The frame rates that are achieved under 4K speak for themselves anyway, all with maximum graphics settings and without DLSS or RTX. The Division 2 runs at a fluffy 92 fps (RTX 3090: 71 fps), the open-world chunk Assassin's Creed: Valhalla even manages 105 fps (RTX 3090: 78 fps). In Borderlands 3, the card is also stable with a clean 82 fps (RTX 3090: 67 fps). Even the frugal Watch Dogs: Legion finally clears the 60 fps hurdle and Cyberpunk 2077, still one of the most greedy titles on PC, runs at a comfortable 67 fps. Each at maximum settings to emphasize it again.


The fact that the RTX 4090 hardly has any problems reaching the magical 60 fps limit with games below 4K at maximum settings, especially with DLSS switched on, is of course a fine thing in itself. However, the new DLSS 3 with its AI-supported frame generation shoots down the bird. With DLSS 3, in addition to the natively rendered frames, AI-calculated frames are always alternately interposed, which increases the frame rate and thus makes the games appear smoother without pulverizing the computing power.

ZOTAC GEFORCE RTX 4090 AMP EXTREME AIRO REVIEW

The result is almost perverse. Although only a few games currently support DLSS 3, the list should fill up quickly, especially since DLSS in general does not seem to be too difficult to implement. We've recently been able to test the new feature with Plague Tale: Requiem and Marvel's Spider-Man and the results are impressive.


Plague Tale: Requiem (at least in the scene we chose for comparison) already ran stable on 4K Ultra at 69 fps. With DLSS switched on in performance mode, the number climbed directly to 104 fps without us being able to detect any visual losses. The activated frame generation under DLSS 3 shot the bird and catapulted the frame rate to a whopping 176 fps. Here, too, without any noticeable losses when playing. If you scan the graphics frame by frame, you will probably find one or the other quirk, but this is simply not noticeable during the course of the game.


Marvel's Spider-Man was noticeably more power-hungry swinging through New York, causing even this monster of a graphics card to only play at a mere 38-40 frames in 4K Ultra. With DLSS, the frame rate then immediately climbed to 50-55 fps, with DLSS 3 frame generation it was a strong 95-100 fps. This shows directly how valuable the new upscaling technologies are to enable smooth gaming even in the highest resolutions with maximum settings.


Of course, this is not intended to devalue the “old” DLSS that is still used on the RTX 30 cards. We couldn't help but check out Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 with the RTX 4090 - in campaign mode. There, the card smashed a whopping 80-100 fps at 4K Ultra on the monitor even without DLSS. With DLSS 2 enabled, the number climbed to a whopping 120-150 fps, depending on the section of the missions. Brutally.


A small note by the way: in order for Windows 10 to really use the DLSS 3 features, especially the frame generation, you have to activate the “hardware-accelerated GPU planning” option in the Windows graphics settings, otherwise the feature is not available. Otherwise, you only get the “classic” DLSS.


CONCLUSION

Luxurious performance beast

I'm still among those who were pretty unimpressed by the previous-gen RTX 3090, as the performance jump over the RTX 3080 seemed small compared to the price difference. The RTX 4090 is already a different caliber, it's just stupid that the leap in performance of the new generation also entails a corresponding jump in price, which probably only makes the luxury card really interesting for a few players.


But what the card thunders out in terms of performance is enormous. Although no miracles happen, even the RTX 4090 struggles a bit with some games in 4K at maximum settings in some scenes, but the best possible 4K60 is no longer an illusion. Apart from that, the technologies used, especially DLSS 3, provide an enormous boost in frame rates, so that 4K60 can be handled absolutely smoothly, even if you switch on the computationally intensive ray tracing effects. The fast 24 GB RAM is also certainly future-proof for now.


Or to put it more clearly: the gaming performance of the card is already brute, but DLSS 3 finally makes your jaw drop in terms of the frame rates achieved, especially since DLSS 3 will certainly be further optimized to further reduce the already hardly noticeable reductions in image quality to reduce and further improve performance. It is to be hoped that DLSS 3 will catch on as quickly as its predecessor, even if it is reserved for the RTX 40 cards.


Of course, the strong performance comes at the price of monstrous dimensions and heavy power consumption - although it must be admitted that the RTX 3090 was not much less hungry. The Zotac model also scores with excellent cooling, which never really made the card sweat. For most, however, the RTX 4090 will probably remain a wet gamer's dream, almost 2,500 euros, just so that the games run more smoothly and look prettier, hardly anyone will be able to afford it. But: it's a damn nice dream and this graphics card test was really fun.


Pro

  • brutal gaming performance
  • lots of VRAM
  • attractive design
  • excellent cooling
  • pleasingly quiet
  • pretty RGB lighting
  • dual bios

Cons

  • brutally expensive
  • high power consumption

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