NVIDIA nerfed its RTX 4090 graphics card for Chinese buyers, thanks to US export rules

The 4090D comes with fewer CUDA cores than its faster counterpart.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

NVIDIA is set to release a low-powered version of the GeForce RTX 4090 graphics card specifically for the Chinese market to comply with US export rules, as reported by The Verge. The RTX 4090D already has a product page on the company’s Chinese website and it boasts fewer CUDA cores than its similarly-named cousin. It also features a lower power draw of 425W instead of 450W.

Most of the other specs remain the same between the two versions, but the fewer CUDA cores and decreased power draw force a five percent reduction in speed when gaming and using creative applications, according to Reuters. Even with the performance dip, NVIDIA still says the 4090D is a "quantum leap in performance, efficiency and artificial intelligence-driven graphics.”

This is all due to US export restrictions on high-end computer chips shipped to China and Russia, in an attempt to curb both nations from developing technology that could be used in applications like weapons making and surveillance. These rules were announced back in 2022 but officially put into place this year, leaving manufacturers like NVIDIA scrambling to find a solution that met the needs of both Chinese consumers and US regulators.

We knew that the company was going to make new chips specifically for the massive Chinese market, as the restrictions prevented it from selling the original RTX 4090 and a bevy of AI-related GPUs. NVIDIA says the updated GPU “has been designed to fully comply with US government export controls” and added that it “extensively engaged with the US government” throughout development of the chip.

The RTX 4090D will be available throughout China at some point in January, at a price of ¥12,999 or around $1,836 USD. This should help lessen demand for powerful graphics cards in the country, as the aforementioned restrictions have reportedly led to the repurposing of factories to focus on AI accelerators instead of the banned RTX 4090.