Nvidia could be making a cut-down RTX 4090 GPU – but you won’t be able to buy it

An Nvidia RTX 4090
(Image credit: Future)

Nvidia has a new version of its RTX 4090 graphics card in the works which will be considerably cut-down in some way, or so rumor has it – and the GPU is tied up with the situation in China.

The purported RTX 4090 D – with the ‘D’ referring to the Year of the Dragon, most likely, bearing in mind this is a new flavor aimed at the Chinese market – was first reported on by Wccftech, and then a leaker on X brought us some follow-up information.

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As spotted by Tom’s Hardware, leaker MEGAsizeGPU observes that the RTX 4090 D will purportedly be built around the AD102-250 chip, whereas the full-fat RTX 4090 is AD102-300 (and AD102-301). The latter 301 variant indicates a slight change, but a shift to a ‘250’ chip suggests, of course, that this is going to be a seriously cut-down GPU.

Add your own seasoning to all this speculation, but the rumor makes sense in light of the US import ban preventing Nvidia selling the RTX 4090 (and other heavyweight AI cards) to China.

What Team Green could be doing here is making a flagship GPU variant that’s just under the performance threshold whereby cards are blocked for export to China, dropping it by at least 10% or more to be safe.

What we’d end up with, then, is a chip with fewer CUDA Cores, and possibly overclocking limits as well (to prevent enterprising folks from making up the core deficit by cranking up clocks via beefy cooling solutions).

Analysis: Don’t get excited about this theorized GPU

MEGAsizeGPU doesn’t have any details of the exact spec of this RTX 4090 D, saying nothing is confirmed yet, so Nvidia could be deciding how to play this one still. Or it could just be a rumor that’ll evaporate into nothing, of course, but it seems likely that Nvidia will want to keep sales flowing in a huge territory like China.

What Nvidia will need to make sure of, though, is that any such RTX 4090 D doesn’t clash with the incoming RTX 4080 Super. (Although that graphics card, too, is only rumored at this point, but it’s very strongly rumored, and quite possibly set for a CES 2024 reveal – and a potential spot on our list of the best GPUs).

If you’re thinking that the RTX 4090 D could be a compelling purchase, you might want to think again. As the ‘Dragon’ name (and the aforementioned Wccftech report) suggests, this is likely to be a graphics card only released in China, and moreover, it’ll likely be pitched at the same retail price as the RTX 4090.

Again, because you can’t buy the full-fat 4090 GPU in China any longer, that makes sense, and Nvidia will be able to charge a premium for the new cut-down flavor – demand is through the roof currently for high-end graphics cards. (And prices for the RTX 4090 have shot up outside of China, too, because of the stock pressures created by the plentiful inventory that has been shipped to Asia).

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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).