RTX 4090 real-world clock speed revealed, and it’s faster than expected

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4000
(Image credit: Nvidia)

Nvidia will be shipping us our review unit of the RTX 4090 very soon, so we’re naturally very excited to get our hands on it and find out whether or not it justifies its lofty price tag. In the meantime, Nvidia was gracious enough to treat us to some test footage of Cyberpunk 2077 running on the new GPU, specifically to show off the new power of DLSS 3.

The demo was run at 1400p resolution and maximum graphical settings (with Ultra Ray Tracing turned on), and Nvidia helpfully displayed some active GPU metrics on screen during the showcase, which revealed some nifty facts about how well the RTX 4090 was running the game.

The first - and potentially the most interesting - nuggets of information we got was that this RTX 4090 was running at boost clocks at high as 2,850MHz, which is actually 330Hz higher than the originally reported ‘official’ boost clock of 2,520MHz. Nvidia had previously mentioned that the GPU breached 3,000MHz when overclocked during internal testing, so this isn’t entirely shocking, but it’s good to see the card running at a strong overclock.

In terms of actual performance in-game, the RTX 4090 ran Cyberpunk 2077 at an average framerate just shy of 60fps when using native resolution and with DLSS 3 turned off. Turning on DLSS 3 (in the Quality preset) gave a huge performance leap, taking the average framerate up to 171fps and lowering power consumption by more than 110W.

That’s a massive performance-per-Watt improvement, which is heartening to see given that the new RTX GPUs are fairly power-hungry components. It goes beyond just framerates, too; enabling Nvidia’s third-generation upscaling tech also lowered the average latency by 29%, and also slightly lowered the maximum operating temperature of the card, which sat between 50C and 53C during the DLSS 3 demo.

Cyberpunk 2077

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Analysis: DLSS 3 will be most useful for lower-end cards

DLSS 3 won’t be necessary (or supported) for a lot of games, and if you’ve got an RTX 4090 you definitely won’t need it for most titles given the sheer raw power of the GPU. It’s actually the lower-spec GPUs, like the suspiciously underpowered 12GB RTX 4080, and any potential future cheaper cards such as the RTX 4070, that will benefit from it the most.

DLSS has made huge strides since its introduction, to the point where it now enables lower-spec graphics cards to run demanding games at higher resolutions without massively sacrificing framerates. It’s also practically a must-have for games with resource-intensive ray-tracing processes, like Cyberpunk 2077 (which is presumably why Nvidia chose that game to demo DLSS 3).

We’re a bit disappointed to see that DLSS 3 likely won’t be coming to older RTX cards; at least, not anytime soon. Some of the best GPUs, like the RTX 3070 and 3060 Ti, could be seriously elevated by third-gen DLSS, but it looks like Nvidia wants to keep it as a key RTX 4000 selling point for now.

With RTX 3000 and older cards getting cheaper and cheaper, though, the RTX 4090 launch may signal the perfect time to snap up a good graphics card deal - especially if you’re not planning on playing at 4K Ultra. If you’re still rocking a 1080p monitor, grabbing a 3000-series GPU once the 4000 series arrives and the price drops follow could be a smart move. Black Friday is looming, after all…

Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.

Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.