The memes that spread quickly after the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090’s $1,600 price tag was announced were a result of this. Although $1,600 seems a bit steep for gamers to spend on one component, most PC build budgets are much lower than that for the entire PC. I couldn’t help but be intrigued at the potential performance improvements for my work—you know, the 3D and AI-accelerated tasks I spend most of my day doing as part of managing the EposVox YouTube channel, instead of gaming.

Spoiler alert: The GeForce RTX 4090’s content creation performance is magical. In quite a few cases, the typically nonsense “2X performance increase” is actually true. But not everywhere.

Let’s dig in.

Our test setup

My benchmarking was mainly done on this test bench.

Intel Core i9-12900k Processor32GB Corsair Vegeance DDR5 5200MT/s RAMASUSROG STRIX Z690-E Gaming Wi-Fi MotherboardEVGA G3 850W Power Supply UnitSource files were stored on a PCIe gen4 NVMe SSD. The RTX 3090 really saw minimal improvements over the RTX Titan for my use cases, so I wasn’t sure if the 4090 would really be a big leap. For some more hardcore testing later as I’ll mention, testing was done on this test bench.

AMD Threadripper Pro 3975WX 256GB Kingston DDR4 RAMASUS ECC DDR4 RAMASUS SAGE MotherboardBeQuiet1400W PSUSource files saved on a PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSDEach GPU was tested in the same configuration to ensure that results are consistent.

Video production

My day job is YouTube content creation. I wanted to find out what the benefits might be for creating YouTube video content. PugetBench, a Puget Systems workstation builder, shows Adobe Premiere Pro seeing very little performance improvement with the RTX 4090. This is to be expected at this stage.

Adam Taylor/IDG

Adam Taylor/IDG

BlackMagic DaVinci Resolve however, saw Significance Performance improvements are evident across the board, over both the RTX Titan and RTX 3090. This is because Resolve is more optimized for GPU workflows then Premiere Pro. Renders were much faster thanks both to the higher 3D compute on effects, but also the faster encoding hardware onboard—and the general playback and workflow was much more “snappier” feeling and responsive.

Adam Taylor/IDG

Adam Taylor/IDG

I’ve been editing with the GeForce RTX 4090 for a few weeks now, and the experience has been great—though I had to revert back to the public release of Resolve so I haven’t been able to export using the AV1 encoder for most of my videos.

Adam Taylor/IDG

I also wanted to test to see if the AI hardware improvements would benefit Resolve’s Magic Mask tool for rotoscoping, or their face tracker for the Face Refinement plugin. While I was hoping to see more improvements with the RTX 4090 in this area, there is an improvement which saves me valuable time and is a win. These tasks are tedious, slow, and I appreciate any time I can cut down on them. Perhaps in time more optimization can be done specific to the new architecture changes in Lovelace (the RTX 40-series’ underlying GPU architecture codename).

Adam Taylor/IDG

Adam Taylor/IDG

The performance in my original Resolve benchmarks impressed me enough that I decided to build a second-tier test using my Threadripper Pro workstation; rendering and exporting a 8K video with 8K RAW source footage, lots of effects and Super Scale (Resolve’s internal “smart” upscaler) on 4K footage, etc. This project is no joke, the normal high-tier gaming cards just errored out because their lower VRAM quantities couldn’t handle the project— this bumps the RTX 3060, 2080, and 3080 out of the running. The RTX 4090 exported the projects 8 minutes faster than the test when it was compared to the 24GB VRAM monsters. Eight minutes. This kind of time scaling is a game-changer for single-person workflows like mine.

Adam Taylor/IDG

If you’re a high res or effect-heavy video editor, the RTX 4090 is already going to save you hours of waiting and slower working, right out of the gate and we haven’t even talked about encoding speeds yet.

Video encoding

The GeForce GTX 4090 can transcode video in H.264/H.265, just like previous Nvidia GPUs. H.265 is the only area where AMD out-performs Nvidia in encoder speed (though not necessarily quality) as ever since the Radeon 5000 GPUs, AMD’s HEVC encoder has been blazing fast.

Adam Taylor/IDG

The new Ada Lovelace architecture also comes with new dual encoder chips that individually already run a fair bit faster for H.264 and H.265 encoding than Ampere and Turing, but they also encode AV1—the new, open-source video codec from the Alliance for Open Media.

Adam Taylor/IDG

AV1 is the future for web-streamed video. Most of the major companies involved with media streaming are also members of the consortium. The goal is to create a high-quality (or better quality per bit) codec that can meet modern streaming needs. This will avoid the high licensing costs and patent costs associated H.265 (HEVC), and H.266 codecs. Intel was first to market with hardware AV1 encoders with their Arc GPUs as I covered for PCWorld here—now Nvidia brings it to their GPUs.

I cannot get completely accurate quality comparisons between Intel and Nvidia’s AV1 encoders yet due to limited software support. From the basic tests I could do, Nvidia’s AV1 encodes are on par with Intel’s—but I have since found out that the encoder implementations in even the software I can use them in both could use some fine-tuning to best represent both sides.

Performance-wise, AV1 performs as fast as H.265/HEVC using the RTX4090. This is fine. However, the dual encoder chips enable both H.265 as well as AV1 to be used for 8K60 video and just as fast 4K60 video. The process involves splitting the video frames into horizontal halves, then encoding them on separate chips and then stitching the streams back together. This sounds like how Intel’s Hyper Encode was supposed to work—Hyper Encoder instead separating GOPs (Group of Pictures or frames) among the iGPU and dGPU with Arc—but in all of my tests, I only found Hyper Encode to slow down the process, rather than speeding it up. (Plus it didn’t work with AV1.)

Streaming

Because of these improvements in encoder speed streaming and recording your screen (or camera) or gameplay is now much easier. This comes with an update to the NVENC encoder SDK within OBS Studio, now presenting users with 7 presets (akin to X264’s “CPU Usage Presets”) scaling from P1 being the fastest/lowest quality to P7 being the slowest/best quality. My testing revealed that P6 and 7 had the same results on RTX 2000, 3000 and 4000 GPUs. They also competed with X264 VerySlow in terms of quality.

While game streaming, I saw mostly the same performance recording as other GPUs in Spider-Man Remastered (though other games will see more benefits) with H.264, but then encoding with AV1… had negligible impact on game performance at all. It was almost transparent. You wouldn’t even know you were recording, even on the highest quality preset. Even with enough headroom, OBS could be set to an 8K canvas. I could also upscale my 1440p game capture within OBS to 8k and record using dual encoder chips. Still, no significant impact.

Adam Taylor/IDG

Unfortunately, while Nvidia’s Shadowplay feature does get 8K60 support on Lovelace via the dual encoders, only HEVC is supported at this time. Hopefully AV1 can be implemented—and supported for all resolutions, as HEVC only works for 8K or HDR as is—soon.

I also found that the GeForce RTX 4090 is now fast enough to do completely lossless 4:4:4 HEVC recording at 4K 60FPS—something prior generations simply cannot do. 4:4:4 chroma subsampling is important for maintaining text clarity and for keeping the image intact when zooming in on small elements like I do for videos, and at 4K it’s kind of been a “white whale” of mine, as the throughput on RTX 2000/3000 hasn’t been enough or the OBS implementation of 4:4:4 isn’t optimized enough. Unfortunately 4:4:4 isn’t possible in AV1 on these cards, at all.

Photo editing

The GeForce RTX 4090’s photo editing performance shows virtually no improvement. There’s a slight score increase on the Adobe Photoshop PugetBench tests versus previous generations, but nothing worth buying a new card over.

Adam Taylor/IDG

Adam Taylor/IDG

Same applies to Lightroom Classic. Shame.

Adam Taylor/IDG

But if you’re an Affinity Photo user, the RTX 4090 far outperforms other GPUs, I’m not sure whether to interpret that Affinity is more or less optimized in this case.

A.I.

AI is a hot topic right now, and AI upscalers have high demand. Theoretically, the GeForce RTX 4090’s improved AI hardware would benefit these workflows—and we mostly see this ring true. The RTX 4090 leads the pack in fastest upscaling in Topaz Labs video enhance AI and Gigapixel as well as ON1 resize AI 2022.

Adam Taylor/IDG

Adam Taylor/IDG

But Topaz’s new PhotoAI app sees weirdly low performance in all Nvidia cards. I’ve been told this may be a bug, but a fix has yet to be distributed.

Adam Taylor/IDG

FlowFrames is used to AI interpolate 60FPS footage into 120FPS for slow-mo use. The RTX 4090 experiences a 20% speed-up compared with the RTX 4090. This is nice as it is, but I’ve been told by users in the FlowFrames Discord server that this could theoretically scale more as optimizations for Lovelace are developed.

Adam Taylor/IDG

What about creating AI Art? I tested N00mkrad’s Stable Diffusion GUI and found that the GeForce RTX 4090 blew away all previous GPUs in both half and full-precision generation—and once again have been told the results “should be” higher, even. These are exciting times.

Adam Taylor/IDG

3D rendering

Alright, the bold “2X Faster” claims are here. I wanted to test 3D workflows on my Threadripper Pro rig, since I’ve been getting more and more into these new tools in 2022.

Adam Taylor/IDG

Adam Taylor/IDG

Testing Blender: Both the Monster and Classroom benchmark scenes render twice as fast with the RTX 4090 than the RTX 3090. The Junkshop scene renders just shy of 2X faster.

Adam Taylor/IDG

This translates not only to faster final renders—which at scale is absolutely massive—but a much smoother creative process as all of the actual preview/viewport work will be more fluid and responsive, too, and you can more easily preview the final results without waiting forever.

Adam Taylor/IDG

Benchmarking Octane—a renderer used by 3D artists and VFX creators in Cinema4D, Blender, and Unity—again has the RTX 4090 running twice as fast as the RTX 3090.

Adam Taylor/IDG

…and again, the same goes for V-Ray in both CUDA and RTX workflows.

Bottom line: The GeForce ROX 4090 provides exceptional value for content creators

That’s where the value is. The Titan RTX cost $2,500 and the RTX 3090 was $1,500. The GeForce RTX4090 is now available for $100 and has a truly revolutionary impact on workflows for creators.

This might explain why the formerly-known-as-Quadro line of cards got far less emphasis over the past few years, too. You don’t need a graphics card that costs $5,000+ to get the same performance (or even more, Quadros didn’t have super fast VRAM, so they were not super fast) for $1,600.

Obviously the pricing of the $1,200 RTX 4080 and recently un-launched $899 4080 12GB can still be concerning until we see independent testing numbers, but the GeForce RTX 4090 might just be the first time marketing has boasted of “2x faster” performance on a product and I feel like I’ve actually received that promise. Is it for results in my niche, not mainstream tools or games? This is fantastic.

Pure gamers probably shouldn’t spend $1,600 on a graphics card, unless feeding a high refresh rate 4K monitor with no compromises is a goal. But if you’re interested in getting real, nitty-gritty content creation work done fast, the GeForce RTX 4090 can’t be beat—and it’ll make you grin from ear to ear during any late-night Call of Duty sessions you hop into, as well.  



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