Zotac RTX 4090 Amp Extreme AIRO review: No melting required
The ZOTAC RTX 4090 Airo Amp Extreme AIRO might have a long name, but its performance capabilities are fantastic, but should you drop that extra $100?
The RTX 40-series is finally here. We’ve already taken a look at an RTX 4090 in a previous review, but the Zotac RTX 4090 offers something a little bit different. A large shroud has given space for larger fans, but will it all be enough to cool the RTX 4090’s incredibly demanding power spec?
The GPU also comes with a couple of really fantastic features, including an addressable RGB header to sync the GPU with your system’s lights, this GPU is chock full of premium features that you won’t see on lesser RTX 4090 cards. With the RTX 4080 16GB and presumably an RTX 4070 around the corner, it’s incredibly exciting to be shopping for a new GPU. But, is this worth your hard-earned cash?
|GPU||ZOTAC GAMING GeForce RTX 4090 AMP Extreme AIRO|
|Clock speed||2520 MHz|
|Boost clock||2850 MHz|
|Memory bus width||384-bit|
|Power input||16-pin 12VHPWR|
|Size||14″ x 5.9″ x 2.8″ (3.5 slot)|
|Display outputs||3x DisplayPort 1.4a, 1x HDMI 2.1|
In previous generations, we were huge fans of ZOTAC’s gorgeous-looking designs, and this time around it is no different. While it did take some time to get used to the sweeping curves and rounded nature of the GPU, it looks great. The Aluminum backplate has a flow-through design and is nice and thick. It also has a cutout for the retention plate, in addition to Zotac crest, illuminated with RGB. There’s also an RGB strip on the underside of the backplate, on top of the PCB, which looks great.
It’s all sandwiched in between a thick and hefty vapor chamber-equipped heatsink. in the middle, you’ll find the now-infamous 16-pin 12VHPWR connector, beside a BIOS switch button, which freely allows you to switch between the default and quiet setting. You also have an addressable RGB header here that you’re able to plug in to control lighting.
Below this is the huge plastic shroud, which has a mirror-like finish on the side, in addition to three large fans, which extend past the heatsink. It reminds us of a luxury car, only made out of lightweight plastic. RGB pulsates throughout the mirror panel, and a smart, diffused strip on the underside gives it a lovely look. We just wish that teh painted silver finish felt a little bit less brittle to the touch.
The entire thing is massive, in our Lian Li Lancool II Mesh case, the GPU barely cleared our radiator with only a few millimeters separating them.
Either way, with so much cooling onboard, we’d expect some top-notch thermals out of this graphics card.
As we stated in our other RTX 4090 review, this is going to be one of the fastest graphics cards around, however, the RTX 4090 will be limited by its DisplayPort 1.4a certification, meaning that 4K, and high framerates are still a long way off until a new standard is put into place.
There are very few games that will make full use of the RTX 4090’s pure graphical horsepower, without being CPU-bound in some way. Even if you own an Intel 13th-gen, or AMD AM5 CPU.
4K gaming performance
The Zotac RTX 4090 we reviewed is overclocked out of the box, and therefore can reach faster clock speeds at the cost of heating itself up a little bit more to reach them. However, it still managed to outperform our PNY RTX 4090, which doesn’t manage to reach those marginally faster speeds.
- Forza Horizon 5 (Ultra): 159 FPS
- Cyberpunk 2077 (Ultra, RT Ultra, DLSS Performance, Frame-Generation on): 120 FPS
- Cyberpunk 2077 (Ultra, RT Ultra, DLSS Performance): 97 FPS
- CS:GO (High, Dust II): 456 FPS
Where Zotac’s RTX 4090 didn’t manage to justify its markup from other models is when using DLSS 3 in Cyberpunk, we only managed to get four more frames out of the GPU against another model. However, DLSS 3 remains an incredible feature that can boost your framerates significantly in supported titles.
1440p gaming performance
At 1440p, we see a similar story with CPU bottlenecking issues with our aging midrange CPU. If you are running an RTX 4090, we certainly recommend that you grab yourself an Intel 13th Gen CPU or an AMD 7000 series, instead.
- Forza Horizon 5 (Ultra): 178 FPS
- Cyberpunk 2077 (Ultra, RT Ultra, DLSS Performance, Frame-Generation on): 129 FPS
- Cyberpunk 2077 (Ultra, RT Ultra, DLSS Performance): 111 FPS
- CS:GO (High, Dust II): 651 FPS
If you are looking to get an RTX 4090 for AAA gaming at high resolutions, the RTX 4090 from Zotac is more than up to the task. For esports gaming at 1440p, it’ll be an extremely good option for many gamers. Especially with 1440p, 360Hz monitors on the horizon, you’ll have more than enough power to drive a display of that horsepower in games like CS:GO and other competitive titles.
Zotac’s RTX 4090’s maximum clock speed comes a bit more into focus when testing the card in synthetic benchmarks. We can actually see the GPU reaching up to 3165MHz in our testing. However, along came with it some noticeable coil whine. This is not too much of an issue for us, however, those sensitive to it should note that this card was noticeably louder under load compared to PNY’s card.
The GPU also has a dual-bios option, where you can opt for a quieter fan profile, but since the majority of the noise was coming through on what we assume to be coil whine, it won’t make much of a difference.
- Unigine Heaven Benchmark: 6358 (252 FPS)
- Speed Way (3DMark): 10622
- Port Royal (3DMark): 23753
- Time Spy Extreme Graphics Score (3DMark): 19925
- Time Spy Graphics Score (3DMark): 24543
We did see higher scores across the board aside from in Heaven Benchmark when tested against PNY’s RTX 4090. However, it also managed to score higher versus PNY’s card by a small margin. Again, this is owed to the higher factory overclock on this particular card and the impressive cooling performance that is achieved by the GPU.
ZOTAC GeForce RTX 4090 AMP Extreme AIRO thermal performance
The Zotac GeForce RTX 4090 manages to be an impressive performer, even under 100% stress tests. The fans do spin up a fair amount as the GPU gets warmer. However, thanks to the fact that they’re bigger than usual, they remain to be relatively quiet. We found the GPU to idle at around 45 degrees. At sustained load on our testbench, we managed to top out at around 65 degrees with the default BIOS. On the quiet setting, this jumps up to around 70. These are still impressive thermals, considering that the GPU is reaching for those higher clocks that we spoke about before.
It’s worth noting that we tested this on an open-air benchmark, so once you close up your case, the thermals are bound to jump up to around 80. If you plan to pick this card up, just ensure that you’ve got enough airflow around your case to support it.
It’s noticeably louder and hotter than other RTX 4090s, so all that power and those higher clock speeds do come at a cost.
ZOTAC GeForce RTX 4090 AMP Extreme AIRO power consumption
This Zotac RTX 4090 manages to keep its power limit under the limitations of its 450W TDP. We managed to stress test the card, where it reaches 445W of total power draw. This is an extreme circumstance. In gaming workloads, we found it to be around 100W lighter, coming in at 364W of total power when under heavy strain from Cyberpunk 2077.
The 12VHPWR adaptor that this card comes with is indeed the same as the ones which have reports of melting. However, we did not experience any melted connectors, thankfully. However, it remains as ugly as ever before. We recommend that you purchase a different adapter, or purchase an ATX 3.0 PSU.
Should you buy it?
Zotac’s RTX 4090 comes at a higher price compared to the GPU’s MSRP. For that $100, you are getting a bigger cooler, and a higher clockspeed to reach for without any manual overclocking required. For those looking to eke out all the performance of their GPU with none of the efforts, this may be an attractive option.
However, the cost of that power is a higher thermal load for a GPU that is already hot and hungry. Personally, we wouldn’t opt for a factory-overclocked solution. We’d prefer to sacrifice that inch of performance for better thermals.
At $100 more than MSRP, Zotac’s RTX 4090 has an impressive cooler and factory overclock. However, in reality, you are paying for minimal real-world gains. Great features like extensive RGB and a gorgeous cooler make up that margin. But, we still can’t say that it’s $100 better than other cards in the market.
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