Custom GeForce RTX 4090 Graphics Cards Call For 1200W PSUs But Is It Overkill?

hero palit gamerock 4090
Graphics cards are usually the most power-thirsty component in a gaming system, and that's been the case for quite some time now. Things are approaching absurd levels, though. The GeForce RTX 4090 has a total board power spec of 450 watts, and NVIDIA itself recommends an 850-watt power supply to support it. Some of the GPU company's board partners have their own ideas about what kind of power supply you should use, though.

nvidia rtx 4090 thermal and power specs
NVIDIA's stock recommendations probably hold true for most AIB models.

The winner of the "most extravagant power supply specification" contest is surely Palit's GeForce RTX 4090 GameRock OC (pictured above), which wants a 1200-watt power supply. That card does boast a small overclock over the Founder's Edition model, but nothing that would seem to necessitate 350 more watts. Indeed, Palit still says the card has maintained a total board power of 450 watts, so we struggle to imagine what the justification for such a recommendation is; it could simply be to get the card free press in headlines like this one.

aorus master
Check out the high rise cooler on the Gigabyte Aorus RTX 4090 MASTER 24G.

ASUS ROG, Gigabyte's Aorus brand, and Zotac's RTX 4090 AMP Extreme Trinity model all want one-kilowatt power supplies. If the GeForce RTX 4000 series were suffering from the same sort of transient power spikes that the 3000 series does, then we could see such a recommendation on a 450-watt GPU. However, NVIDIA says that it has addressed that problem through changes in both board and chip design. Certainly overclockers will want more power, though, so we can see it.

msi suprim x
Even MSI's RTX 4090 SUPRIM X sticks to the NVIDIA PSU spec.

MSI, PNY, Galax, and Inno3D all stick to the standard NVIDIA recommendation of 850 watts. That should be enough power for even a high-end CPU like the Ryzen 9 7950X or Core i9-13900K in combination with an RTX 4090, although if you were running such a high-end system we might recommend you to grab a beefier power supply anyway for improved efficiency and longer life. Power supplies do degrade with age and usage, so an 850W unit running close to the ragged edge may wear itself out relatively quickly.

f1 2021 uhd cpus
Extra cores do very little for gaming performance.

Then again, speaking frankly, both AMD and Intel are caught up in a CPU multi-core performance arms race. This is great news for the 3D artists and software developers out there that can make use of the massive multi-core performance of modern microprocessors, but the reality for the majority of users—even almost all gamers—is that just eight cores is more than enough CPU power. Chips like the Ryzen 7 5800X3D and Core i5-12600K draw less than 100 watts of power while gaming, so even an 850-watt unit should be gross overkill for your system with its shiny new GeForce RTX 4090.

Also, contrary to what you might have read, you don't necessarily need an ATX 3.0 power supply with a 12VHPWR cable for these new cards. While that's the simplest and cleanest method to get an RTX 4090 in your system, the cards will generally include adapters to connect three or four old-school eight-pin power connectors. Just make sure you follow the instructions when plugging in the adapter—you shouldn't use 8-pin plugs from the same cable, and don't bend the 12-pin power connector from the GPU or you could end up with a spicy situation.