The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 represents the best of the best that is possible on Nvidia’s new Ampere architecture. The RTX 3090 leads the stack in terms of performance as well as pricing as it is the most expensive new consumer graphics card you can go out and buy (if you manage to find one). Availability issues have plagued the new releases not only from Nvidia and AMD but also the consoles pretty badly and it’s nearly impossible to find what you’re looking for in 2021.
While the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Founder’s Edition is a behemoth of a card with its redesigned cooling system, most of the RTX 3090’s potential buyers might not be able to get their hands on the Founder’s Edition or may just want a different experience with their choice of AIB card. This is our roundup of the Top 5 AIB Partner Cards for the RTX 3090 that we hope will be useful to buyers of the 3090 once stock and availability levels normalize.
With that out of the way, let’s get into our selection of the 5 best Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Graphics Cards to buy in 2021.
1. ASUS ROG Strix RTX 3090
Luxury Performance, Extreme Pricing
- Incredible Performance
- Huge Cooler
- Quiet under Load
- Impressive RGB
- Extremely High Price
CUDA Cores: 10496 | Base/Boost Clocks: 1890/2437 MHz | Memory: 24GB GDDR6X | Memory Bandwidth: 19.5 Gbps | Dimensions: 16 x 9.2 x 3.5 inches | Power Connectors: 3x PCIe 8-pin | Outputs: 2xHDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a
It would be nearly impossible to talk about the Top 5 AIB partner cards of any GPU without mentioning the flagship variant from ASUS. The incredible ROG Strix takes the crown once again with its extremely impressive build quality, massive heatsink, and quiet operation, as well as its tendency to overclock really well. This makes the ROG Strix a card to watch out for in overclocking leaderboards.
The ROG Strix RTX 3090 is equipped with ASUS’s new cooling system for the RTX 3000 series in which the 3 fans sit atop a large heatsink, making the card 2.9-slot in thickness. The fans use the Axial-tech fan technology which sees the middle fan spin in the opposite direction in order to minimize the turbulence of the air that is moving through the heatsink. In addition to that, the fan blades are joined together at the edges which focuses the airflow straight downwards into the heatsink and increases heat dissipation from the large heatsink with lots of directed airflow.
Speaking of the heatsink, ASUS has refined the heatsink design once again for the Strix in the RTX 3000 series. The overall thickness of the card now sits at 2.9-slots which makes case clearance somewhat of a concern as the card is fairly long and bulky. An intricate system of copper heatpipes takes the heat away from the copper baseplate which makes direct contact with the GPU die and the memory modules as well as the VRM components.
Aesthetically, the card looks fantastic and imposing with its massive size, beautiful fan shroud, and smart RGB implementation. The lighting on this card is concentrated to the side of the shroud with a large, full-length strip of RGB that can be controlled via the Aura Sync software. Moreover, ASUS has provided a metallic finish to the shroud of the fans which gives it a really good industrial look.
ASUS has increased the total board power to 480W which gives the Strix plenty of power to push its clock speeds, as well as plenty of overclocking headroom. Dual BIOS option is also present which is a nice feature for extreme overclockers. The card requires 3x 8-pin PCIe connectors so you have to make sure that your power supply can provide enough power to the Strix for maximum performance.
All in all, the Strix is one of the most premium RTX 3090 graphics cards out there, and expectedly, it comes with a huge $300 price premium as well. This may be a tough pill to swallow since the RTX 3090 already costs a whopping $1500 at base price. Still, the Strix offers a no-compromise experience for those who are looking for the absolute best of the best.
2. EVGA RTX 3090 FTW3 Ultra
Overclocking Beast at a Premium
- Impressive Thermals
- Good Acoustic Performance
- High Overclocking Headroom
- High Factory OC
- Controversial Aesthetics
CUDA Cores: 10496 | Base/Boost Clocks: 1800/2437 MHz | Memory: 24GB GDDR6X | Memory Bandwidth: 19.5 Gbps | Dimensions: 11.81 x 5.38 x 2.75 inches | Power Connectors: 3x PCIe 8-pin | Outputs: 1xHDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a
Featuring a custom-designed PCB from EVGA, the FTW3 Ultra has always been one of the best graphics card variants out there for any GPU. That is again the case with the RTX 3090 FTW3 Ultra as EVGA has again released a flagship variant that promises to deliver on multiple grounds. Not only does the FTW3 Ultra feature EVGA’s top-of-the-line cooling solution, but it also has a massive power budget that gives it plenty of overclocking headroom.
As far as the cooling system goes, the FTW3 Ultra always comes with EVGA’s signature iCX cooling system. The 3rd Generation of iCX3 cooling solution comes with an improved fan design in which the middle fan is offset by 10mm which increases the area of the heatsink exposed to direct airflow. EVGA has also included its 9 temperature sensors across the board which provide sensitive thermal information to the card in order to control the fan behavior. This allows the fans to strike the perfect balance of performance and silence.
EVGA has included a thick and hefty heatsink with the FTW3 as usual, which makes the card about 2.5-slot in thickness. The heatsink and heatpipes work in tandem to take heat away from the heat-generating components like the GPU die, VRAM modules, and VRM components that make direct contact with the copper baseplate. Moreover, the 9 thermal sensors on the board control the fan speed of the card to provide sufficient airflow over the heatsink when required.
As far as aesthetics go, the RTX 3000 series FTW3 cards have received mixed reviews from the fans. Some people do not like the offset middle fan, the curved fan shroud, and the gigantic light bar on the side. EVGA cards are known to be performance-focused with, at most, some lighting in the EVGA logo, but with this generation of FTW3 cards, EVGA has gone ahead and included a huge RGB strip on the side and front of the card. This may appeal to users who want to display the card vertically.
The massive power budget of the card is indicated by the 3x 8-pin PCIe connectors as well, so the card should be one of the better overclockers among the bunch. This can be aided by the EVGA Precision X1 software which is tailor-made for EVGA cards and takes advantage of all the sensors inside the PCB. Overall, it should be fun to overclock the RTX 3090 FTW3 Ultra.
The EVGA flagship delivers once again on multiple grounds and while it may not appeal to everyone at its steep price premium of $300, it certainly is an option for those looking for the ultimate RTX 3090.
3. MSI Gaming X Trio RTX 3090
Best Value RTX 3090
- Solid Performance
- Cool and Quiet
- Cheaper than other Options
- A Bit Lower OC Headroom
- Smaller Factory OC
CUDA Cores: 10496 | Base/Boost Clocks: 1785/2437 MHz | Memory: 24GB GDDR6X | Memory Bandwidth: 19.5 Gbps | Dimensions: 13.9 x 5.5 x 2.2 inches | Power Connectors: 3x PCIe 8-pin | Outputs: 1xHDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a
One of the more reasonable RTX 3090 variants comes our way from MSI. Although the Gaming X Trio is the flagship variant of MSI, it certainly does not rival the Strix or the FTW3 in terms of price. That makes it a great value for someone looking for a great all-rounder RTX 3090 without breaking the bank completely. The MSI Gaming X Trio includes all the usual bells and whistles you’d expect from a premium RTX 3090 and should be a decent overall performer.
MSI has included their Tri Frozr 2 cooler with the Gaming X Trio, and that means a unique design has been chosen for the fans. In this cooling system, the Torx 4.0 fans are configured in such a way that the outer edges of the fan blades form a continuous rim which helps to direct airflow directly downwards through the heatsink. This increases the efficiency of thermal dissipation by the heatsink with the help of directed airflow.
MSI has doubled down on the heatsink design for the Gaming X as it features a unique curved fin design with deflectors for an increase in surface area. There are also a couple of heatpipes in the metal backplate which is a unique and totally overkill cooling solution but is appreciated nonetheless. This makes the Gaming X substantially cooler than other cards in this category and thus it remains quiet most of the time. The acoustic performance of the Gaming X Trio is among the very best cards in its class.
Aesthetically, the Gaming X Trio is a beautiful card, with a unique RGB implementation around the central fan with 3 thin strips that run diagonally. The Gaming X Trio would look phenomenal in a vertical mounting orientation. If we consider the power budget, it is a bit constricted when compared to the FTW3 and the Strix but it still uses 3x 8-pin connectors so it has the potential to consume up to 400W if needed.
The Gaming X Trio is an excellent option overall and offers the best value among the RTX 3090 options. It runs cool and quiet, looks good, and has decent overclocking headroom as well, all while costing less than the FTW3 or the Strix.
4. ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3090
A More Affordable Offering from ASUS
- Impressive Cooling for a Midrange Variant
- Only 2x 8-pin PCIe Connectors Required
- Minimal RGB
- Low Factory OC
CUDA Cores: 10496 | Base/Boost Clocks: 1725/2437 MHz | Memory: 24GB GDDR6X | Memory Bandwidth: 19.5 Gbps | Dimensions: 16 x 9.2 x 3.5 inches | Power Connectors: 2x PCIe 8-pin | Outputs: 2xHDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a
One of the more mid-range offerings from ASUS, the TUF Gaming strips some of the bells and whistles from the Strix and promises to deliver a great RTX 3090 variant while keeping the price close to the MSRP. The TUF Gaming is ASUS’s offering aimed at the mainstream RTX 3090 buyers who want efficient cooling, reliable components, and quiet operation without breaking the bank entirely.
Cooling-wise, ASUS has opted for a similar system as the Strix but it is toned down a bit as expected. The TUF is still using the Axial-tech fan technology in which the middle fan spins in the opposite direction to reduce turbulence. The blades of the fans are also joined together to form a rim that directs airflow directly downwards through the heatsink. The fans stop rotating under 55 degrees so the TUF Gaming delivers a silent experience at idle or under low loads.
ASUS is using a 2.7-slot thick heatsink for the TUF which is plenty for efficient heat dissipation from the RTX 3090 components. The power budget on the TUF has been reduced as it now uses only 2x 8-pin PCIe connectors and therefore cannot boost as high as the other options. Overclocking headroom is also reduced on the TUF Gaming due to the lower power limit. Moreover, the TUF Gaming looks rather plain with only a small dash of RGB in the TUF logo in an overall uninspiring looking graphics card.
But that does not mean that the TUF is not a compelling buy. It still delivers excellent cooling performance at a lower price point than the flagship offerings like the Strix, which makes the TUF Gaming a viable choice for mainstream buyers. Combining efficient cooling performance, low noise levels, and reliable components, the TUF Gaming makes more sense to buy than some of the higher-priced variants if you don’t need all the extra bells and whistles.
5. ZOTAC Trinity RTX 3090
Decent but Room for Improvement
- Acceptable Performance
- Nice RGB
- A Bit Loud
- Low Boost Clocks
- Controversial Aesthetics
CUDA Cores: 10496 | Base/Boost Clocks: 1695/2437 MHz | Memory: 24GB GDDR6X | Memory Bandwidth: 19.5 Gbps | Dimensions: 17.01 x 11.61 x 3.9 inches | Power Connectors: 2x PCIe 8-pin | Outputs: 1xHDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a
Our final pick of the day comes from Zotac in the form of the Trinity RTX 3090. The Trinity is a custom PCB that offers some unique aesthetic choices along with a good cooling solution in a thin but long form factor.
Zotac has included their Ice Storm 2.0 cooling solution with the Trinity, which is specially designed for the RTX 3000 series from Nvidia. The fan design has been improved and the fans now include 11-blades each for improved airflow as well as pressure. The fans also stop spinning in idle conditions to improve the acoustics of the card.
The heatsink of the card includes seven densely packed heatpipes that directly contact the GPU in the baseplate to ensure maximum heat dissipation, although the total thickness of the heatsink is 2.5-slots which is a little less than other RTX 3090 AIB models. This makes the card pretty thin, although it is exceptionally long as well at 317 mm to compensate for that.
Zotac has opted for 2x 8-pin PCIe connectors in the Trinity which somewhat limits the boosting potential and the overclocking headroom of the Trinity. Aesthetically, the card is somewhat controversial as many people did not like the thin and long fan shroud with unorthodox fan design, but the RGB on the Zotac Trinity was almost universally admired. The lighting can be controlled via the Spectra 2.0 software, while the Firestorm utility can be used for overclocking and changing the fan curve etc.
All in all, the Zotac RTX 3090 Trinity is a viable alternative to the other more expensive RTX 3090 variants. It does have some minor setbacks in terms of cooling potential or overclocking headroom but it is still a good variant at a competitive price point that may be attractive to buyers looking for an RTX 3090 experience without forking out heaps of cash.