Why is China Getting a Slower RTX 4090?

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Why is China Getting a Slower RTX 4090?

The RTX4090D export seeks to comply with new regulations set by the Department of Commerce. Why is China Getting a Slower RTX 4090?


If you've checked the news lately, you may have heard the news about the cheaper, “downgraded” version of the RTX 4090 that's hitting Chinese markets, but what's the reason behind it?

Here we're going to sum up the events that led up to NVIDIA creating the RTX 4090D and the new trade restrictions set in place by the US to regulate the export of high-end chips to countries like China.

Big Tech Restrictions

Ever since the AI boom back in the mid 2010's, the most advanced countries in the world have been engaged in a “tech race”. And you can't just push the boundaries of machine learning on any old PC, which is why top-of-the-line processing chips from big companies like NVIDIA and Intel have soared in demand over the years.

Why is China Getting a Slower RTX 4090? rtx
Credit: The Independent

In October 2022 new restrictions were put in place by the Biden administration to keep a tighter leash on domestic companies that sell highly-advanced tech chips worldwide. This led to US tech companies needing a “license to sell” from the Department of Commerce before selling certain products.

This was followed up by the “CHIPS and Science Act”, their answer to global competition which gave a sizeable $280 billion subsidy to companies that wanted to build chip manufacturing plants on US soil.

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That being said, certain countries were quick to work around the new rules using certain loopholes concerning NVIDIA AI chip specs, which led to tighter restrictions almost a year after.

Countries included in the US AI chip trade restrictions:

  • China
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Quatar
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan,
    Republic of
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zimbabwe

In October 2023, NVIDIA published their 8-K with the SEC where they complied with new amendments, which placed a “performance threshold” on the chips they can sell. To reconcile US rules and their own net profits, the $1.2T company needed to adapt.

Why is China Getting a Slower RTX 4090?

In order to comply with a new set of US trade regulations, NVIDIA is releasing a less powerful variant of its flagship GPU called the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090D.

According to Nvidia spokesperson Benjamin Berraondo, the 4090D model is “5% slower in gaming and creating”, as reported by The Verge. Consequently, the regulations-passing GPU will come with 1,792 less CUDA cores than the original, but also cost less on average at ¥12,999 in Chinese markets (around $1,836 USD).

China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning reiterated the superpower's stance on the US trade restrictions in her press conference in October 16. “The US needs to stop politicizing and weaponizing trade and tech issues and stop destabilizing global industrial and supply chains,” the spokesperson said. “We will closely follow the developments and firmly safeguard our rights and interests.”

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Why is China Getting a Slower RTX 4090?
Paul Goño
Paul started writing for ESTNN in 2022, the same year he beat his first Souls game. An avid fan of RPGs, his all-time favorites include Baldur's Gate 3, Assassin’s Creed and Kingdom Hearts 2. Besides being a professional nerd, he still struggles to get over the broken PS2 memory card that stored years of his save files.