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MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio review

The beefy gets beefier

MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio knocks the Founders Edition of its pedestal with stronger performance and more potential for overclocking. It's still an incredibly expensive GPU, though, and should only be considered by people with some cash to burn.

For

  • Fastest graphics card we've tested
  • RGB lighting
  • No 12-pin power connector
  • Attractive design

Against

  • RGB lighting
  • Still extremely expensive
  • Will be hard to fit in some cases
Test system specs

This is the system we used to test the MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X (16-core, up to 4.9GHz)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Masterliquid 360P Silver Edition
RAM: 64GB Corsair Dominator Platinum @ 3,200MHz
Motherboard: ASRock X570 Taichi
SSD: ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro @ 1TB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1000
Case: Praxis Wetbench

The MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio, much like its RTX 3080 sibling, looks to make the already-powerful RTX 3090 even more powerful. It does this by raising the boost clock and slightly raising the power limit, but you should temper your expectations – this is still a 3090, and not some graphics card of the future. 

This added performance does come at a cost, however. This card is supposed to retail for $1,589 (£1,799, AU$2,969). In reality, though, thanks to the widespread graphics card shortages, you're going to have a hard time finding it at that price. 

At this price point, however, a $90 price increase – again, depending on if you can actually find a card at MSRP – is much easier to swallow. You're essentially paying 6% more for a card that's around 4-5% faster. It's not perfect, but in a perfect world where graphics cards are regularly available, it would make a lot of sense to just get this card over the Founders Edition – and the fact that it uses normal cables is a bonus. 

If you want a more in-depth look at what the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 is capable of, beyond the differences this add-in card brings to the table, check out our Founder's Edition review, where we break down the Nvidia Ampere architecture. 

Thankfully, instead of going for the odd 12-pin power connector that Nvidia debuted with its RTX 30-series Founders Edition cards, this aftermarket monster has three standard 8-pin power connectors. Because we test out-of-the-box performance, we don't overclock as part of our review process, but with that extra power connector – the Founders Edition just needs 2 8-pin power connectors for its adapter – there's potential to push even more power through this GPU for extra performance. 

MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio

(Image credit: Future)
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In our testing, however, power consumption stayed about the same as the RTX 3090 Founders Edition, peaking at around 373W. But with temperatures peaking at just 74°C with the default fan curve, there's definitely some headroom there to tweak that if you're comfortable. 

Not that you'll generally feel the need to overclock the MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio right away. This MSI add-in card is around 4-10% faster than the Founders Edition in our testing, with the most extreme case being in Far Cry 5, where MSI was 10% faster. 

One of the major reasons this happens is that in our testing, the MSI card is frequently hitting 1,800-1,900MHz in-game, which is 100-200MHz higher than the Founders Edition.

We have also spent a lot of time playing games with this card in our personal machine, where it actually made Cyberpunk 2077 playable at 4K, though we did have to rely on DLSS to actually squeeze by at a non-slideshow effect. It seems like only yesterday that Nvidia was pitching the RTX 3090 as being an 8K graphics card that will effortlessly smash through everything at 4K. 

With the MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio, you're going to be able to brute-force your way through all of the pretty lights to a playable framerate, but don't expect to run the next-gen heavyweight games at 8K 60 fps without turning all of the dials down.

Now that we've caught our first glimpses of what next generation games actually look like, it seems like a lot of AAA PC games are going to be shoving more and more effects into the game, which means you may unfortunately need a card of this caliber to turn on all of the eye-candy at 4K. This would be less of a problem if 4K wasn't being pushed as the new norm for gaming as a whole – we recommend gaming at 1440p at the end of the day. 

MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio

(Image credit: Future)

Once it's in your PC, though, the MSI Gaming X Trio is an attractive design. It's essentially the same as the RTX 3080 model we already reviewed, so it measures a massive 12.71 inches long – this graphics card won't exactly fit in a mini-ITX case. In our personal rig, which we recently, uh, remodeled, it looks fantastic, and that little RGB strip fits in extremely well. Though, of course, your mileage may vary depending on the theme of your build. 

The MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio does come with a support bracket you can use to support the sheer size of the card, too, which will be extremely useful to users who have motherboards without PCIe support built-in. Though, if you're spending this much money on a graphics card, you're probably going to have a premium motherboard, too.

As far as ports go, the MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio is the same story as the Founders Edition. You get three DisplayPort and one HDMI 2.1. The latter of which is pretty much required for 8K gaming, but as with the Founders Edition, we wish there was a USB-C port, as that would be extremely useful for creative workers who need that 24GB of VRAM. 

In a perfect world, where graphics cards are readily available – and who knows, hopefully that day will come soon – the MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio is likely going to be the ideal version of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090. Performance is stronger, there's room for overclocking and, of course, RGB lighting which we all know is the most important thing in a gaming PC in 2020. If you've already decided that the RTX 3090 is the right graphics card for you, then this is probably the best version of that GPU we've tested so far. 

MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You're going to buy an RTX 3090 anyway
If you're on the market for an RTX 3090, the MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio is one of the best options available. 

You want to play next-gen games at 4K with ray tracing
If the first few "next-gen" games have proven anything, you're going to need a powerful graphics card to turn on all the pretty graphics settings at a solid frame-rate. The RTX 3090 is going to be the best option for that. 

You want a version of the RTX 3090 with some sick RGB lighting
The MSI RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio has a nice RGB lighting strip along the side, and it will look good in your case, assuming you have room for it. 

MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio

(Image credit: Future)

Don't buy it if...

You don't have a large PC case
The MSI RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio is an absolutely massive graphics card, and a lot of people with smaller cases are going to have a hard time fitting it in their chassis. 

You are on a budget
The RTX 3090 is an expensive card to start, and the MSI RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio adds an extra $90 to the asking price – assuming you can find it at retail price. If you don't want to drop nearly two grand on a graphics card, this isn't for you.