NVIDIA’s RTX 4090 is a $1600 GPU that will absolutely crush any real-world workload you throw at it. It’s unarguably packed with smart technology and absurd levels of raw power. However, even if you have the money, you probably shouldn’t buy one.
The problem with “Halo” products
The “halo” effect is when positive perceptions of one aspect of something are mixed with other aspects. It happens in all areas of life, but when it comes to brands and products, it can have a real effect on how customers perceive a product.
We see this in the auto industry, where manufacturers make a super expensive model with ridiculous performance and features, that no one can afford. They then sell entry-level cars that are part of the same product line in massive numbers, thanks in part to the cachet attached to the top model.
Halo products like this don’t exist because they will make the company a lot of money. They exist as a way to display prowess. The company is essentially showing the world the best they can do, but it has little relevance to the products most people can afford or are willing to buy.
The problem here (and it may not be a problem for everyone) is that a product that exists primarily to be a show piece and not a good product first and foremost is unlikely to be a good deal. It is likely to have many impracticalities and come with hidden costs.
If we stick to the automotive analogy a bit more, when you really buy a top-of-the-line sports car, you’ll find that it won’t go over potholes, uses a ton of fuel, uses a fraction of its potential on public roads, and has insane speed. running costs.
Poor value at the top
The way semiconductor production currently works means that some of the chips on each silicon wafer will fail. There is the ideal perfect version of the chip that offers all the performance possible for that specific design, but only a small percentage of actual chips come out perfect. Those with glitches have the affected subcomponents disabled and are sold as cheaper products down the line.
The RTX 4090, in particular, isn’t even the all-round perfect processor, but the higher up the stack, the worse the “performances” get. This is one of the reasons why high-end chips are so much more expensive, although they may not have as much additional performance compared to the next model.
The returns tend to get better as time goes on, but on a dollar per frame basis, the value at the top is generally relatively low. The GPU that sells for half the price often offers more than half the performance. This means that each product line has a price-performance sweet spot, but is nowhere near the top of the line.
Of course, the absolute performance also matters. Great value per frame doesn’t matter if the end result is unplayable. But in practice, modern GPUs are so powerful and games so scalable that subjectively you may leave little to nothing on the table when choosing a sweet spot card.
The hidden costs of owning a monster
The RTX 4090 may be the most egregious example of the hidden costs that come with Halo GPUs, but this problem isn’t new. A GPU is just one part of a system, and if you want to get the most out of that system, no other component should hold you back. This means that the CPU, RAM, chassis, power supply, storage and cooling solution must be up to the task of feeding the beast and keeping it happy.
In practice, its other components must also be at or near the top of their respective product lines, compounding the low value across the system. When you can get 60 or 70 percent of the same performance at half the total cost, it’s a hard pill to swallow.
The last part of the tag’s impact comes from the power requirements to run a computer built around a component like the 4090. If you want to get the most bang for your buck (and why not?), it’s going to be expensive, especially when energy costs are rising dramatically.
The future-proof argument doesn’t make sense.
A common argument in favor of buying the best GPU in the product line is that it will have the most longevity. Aside from the fact that the type of customer who normally buys an Apex card usually upgrades immediately when something better comes out, there are some problems with this logic.
The main problem is that next-gen mid-range cards will probably perform the same or similar to this year’s high-end cards. Not only that, they are likely to include new features and technologies that the previous card will not include. While people are still using GTX 1080 Ti cards in 2022, that older model doesn’t have new acceleration technologies like DLSS or hardware ray tracing.
An RTX 3060 Ti offers a bit more raw GPU power than a 1080 Ti, but once you factor in the new features and technologies, it will easily outperform it in modern titles.
It’s not just the 4090
While we’ve pointed to the RTX 4090 as the poster child for poor value for money Halo GPUs, it’s just one example of these products that are meant to be shown and not actually sold. That is the main reason why “no one should buy it”, because it is not a “product” in the true sense of the word.
Of course, different people value different aspects of a GPU like the RTX 4090. If you want the highest performing computer and are surprised by $100 bills, it’s the right kind of component to buy.
However if you are one of the majority you have to consider the value for money absolutely When shopping for computer components, a card like the RTX 4090 shouldn’t factor into your buying decision, as its role is to skew the perception of other cards intended for volume production and sale. Even the next GPU, the RTX 4080, is a hard sell in terms of value for money. It’s the equivalent of NVIDIA’s 60 and 70 series cards, which are real GPUs that almost everyone should consider.