MSI RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio Review
As with any launch, the primary details are in the GPU itself, and so the first half of this conclusion is the same for both of the AIB RTX 3090 graphics cards that we are reviewing today. If you want to know specifics of this particular card, skip down the page.
Last week we saw the release of the RTX 3080. A card that combined next-gen performance with a remarkably attractive price point, and was one of the easiest products to recommend we've ever seen. 4K gaming for around the £700 mark might be expensive if you're just used to consoles, but if you're a diehard member of the "PC Gaming Master Race", then you know how much you had to spend to achieve the magical 4K60 mark. It's an absolute no brainer purchase.
The RTX 3090 though, that comes with more asterisks and caveats than a Lance Armstrong win on the Tour de France. Make no mistake; the RTX 3090 is brutally fast. If performance is your thing, or performance without consideration of cost, or you want to flex on forums across the internet, then yeah, go for it. For everyone else, and that's most of us, there is a lot it does well, but it's a seriously niche product.
We can go to Nvidia themselves for their key phraseology. With a tiny bit of paraphrasing, they say "The RTX 3090 is for 8K gaming, or heavy workload content creators. For 4K Gaming the RTX 3080 is, with current and immediate future titles, more than enough". If you want the best gaming experience, then as we saw last week, the clear choice is the RTX 3080. If you've been following the results today then clearly the RTX 3090 isn't enough of a leap forwards to justify being twice the price of the RTX 3080. It's often around 5% faster, sometimes 10%, sometimes not much faster at all. The RTX 3090 is, whisper it, a bit of a comedown after the heights of our first Ampere experience.
To justify the staggering cost of the RTX 3090 you need to fit into one of the following groups; Someone who games at 8K, either natively or via Nvidia's DSR technology. Someone who renders enormous amounts of 3D work. We're not just talking a 3D texture or model for a game; we're talking animated short films. Although even here the reality is that you need a professional solution far beyond the price or scope of the RTX 3090. Lastly, it would be best if you were someone who renders massive, RAW, 8K video footage regularly and has the memory and storage capacity to feed such a voracious data throughput. If you fall into one of those categories, then you'll already have the hardware necessary - 8K screen or 8K video camera - that the cost of the RTX 3090 is small potatoes. In which case you'll love the extra freedom and performance it can bring to your workload, smoothing out the waiting that is such a time-consuming element of the creative process. This logic holds true for both the Gigabyte and MSI cards we're looking at on launch.
But what about the MSI in particular?
Whilst the Gigabyte went for a great cooler but an otherwise no-frills approach with the RTX 3090, the Gaming X Trio is pretty famous already thanks to its exploits as an RTX 3080 variant, and indeed when we looked at the RTX 3080 version last week. It's much more like the type of graphics card that one would expect in modern times. Firstly the Tri Frozr 2 cooler shroud has a decent amount of RGB lighting onboard, for those of you who like the inside of your case to be visible from space. There is also a pretty good factory overclock, and if that isn't enough, then the MSI Afterburner overclocking software is available and has quickly become the industry standard overclocking tool. Again we need to mention that currently overclocking an Ampere card leads to lots of instability in popular gaming titles, but again, you probably don't need to overclock something like this that can run F1 2020 in 8K at over 60FPS. Even if you're going for low detail, high frame rate gaming in Fortnite or whatever is the current/next hot thing, this can handle it. Additionally, MSI has supplied the Gaming X Trio with plenty of power potential thanks to the 8+8+8 PCIe power inputs so those of you with a tendency to push for world records won't have any issues either.
On the subject of the cooler MSI's Frozr range has always been excellent and it continues to do sterling work here with the RTX 3090. It's quiet and, best of all, keeps the card cool. It's common to get one or the other, but both together and of such high quality is a bit rarer to find. The performance was also consistently a handful of frames ahead of the Gigabyte card, so if absolute performance is your watchword, then it's the one to go for, even if the price of the MSI RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio is a hair higher. What doesn't help matters is it looks exactly the same as the 3080 version, there's nothing to set them apart, and we feel like for a card that carries so much extra cost over the 3080 it needed to feel that bit more special. If you don't care about how things look then ignore us, but if you want the absolute best and that's what the 3090 is meant to be about we have a sneaking suspicion you'll understand where we are coming from. £1529 is a lot of money made even worse by the fact that for £759 which is less than half the price you could have a card that looks exactly the same.
Whether you need one is up for debate, but if you do get one, then you have what is right now the highest performing graphics card on the planet.