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Nvidia RTX 3070 Founders Edition Review

After the rip-roaring success of Nvidia’s RTX 3080 which launched back on September 16th, the RTX 3090 was met with a more muted reception, mostly because of its incredibly high price tag. Now, with the RTX 3070, Nvidia is firmly back on track and has a very strong GPU on its hands that will offer much wider appeal than the RTX 3090 or even RTX 3080.

Priced at £469 here in the UK, the RTX 3070 was heralded as being faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, but for less than half the price. Based on our testing, that claim is true, but not absolutely conclusively. Of the eleven games we benchmarked today, the RTX 3070 is faster in three of them, and marginally slower or equal to the 2080 Ti in the rest.

Overall, across those eleven games we tested, RTX 3070 is on average 2% slower than the RTX 2080 Ti at 1440p and 4K. At worst, it was no more than 7% slower, and at best no more than 5% faster. In my eyes, the two are effectively as fast as each other, as the differences really are quite trivial. That’s excellent performance for a xx70 series GPU though; the RTX 2070 is about 10% slower than the GTX 1080 Ti, so to have this generation’s xx70 SKU matching the previous generation’s flagship is positive news.

Speaking of the RTX 2070, when compared to this GPU, we can see substantial gains for the RTX 3070. At 1440p, the Ampere GPU is 52% faster on average, and that climbs to 56% at 4K. Compared to the RTX 2070 Super, we’re talking gains of 32% and 36%, respectively, and then 36% and 41% when up against the GTX 1080 Ti. As a final comparison, RTX 3070 is 21% slower than the RTX 3080 at 1440p, and 25% slower at 4K.

Those numbers also raise the question as to whether this is a 1440p or 4K card. For me, I’d rather use it at 1440p, ultra settings, with frame rates almost always north of 100FPS. It can do 4K, like the RTX 2080 Ti can, but not at an always-locked 60FPS. In titles like Death Stranding or Far Cry New Dawn, keeping above 60FPS is no problem. More demanding titles like Control or Gears 5, however, will see average frame rates drop below 60FPS, with the 1% lows choppier still.

I also think the VRAM allocation makes most sense for 1440p gaming. 8GB of GDDR6 memory is fine for 1440p ultra settings right now, though at 4K we are starting to see one or two titles eat more than that. More VRAM is always going to be welcome on any particular card, but it’s always a balancing act between actual benefit and cost.

 

With the RTX 3070, Nvidia also saw fit to change the Founders Edition design. This card is about 40mm shorter compared to the RTX 3080, and has both its fans on the underside, instead of one on the topside of the card. As the RTX 3070 is significantly less power hungry than the RTX 3080, though, this new cooler is still more than good enough to tame the 220W Ampere GPU.

Temperatures, for instance, didn’t go above 72C during my testing, which means it is actually slightly cooler-running than the bigger RTX 3080 Founders Edition. Noise output is also very easy on the ears, with the two axial fans spinning at 1700rpm under load. We’d still expect custom cards from the likes of ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte to improve on this performance, but the RTX 3070 Founders Edition is a technically excellent piece of engineering.

The improvement the Ampere architecture has made to power efficiency is also more evident with the RTX 3070 than we saw from the RTX 3080. Drawing pretty much bang on 220W under load, this GPU offers 16% higher performance per Watt than the RTX 2080 Ti, and it’s even better compared to the RTX 2070, with 27% higher performance per Watt. Again, it’s not close to the jump from Maxwell to Pascal, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Enthusiasts will be glad to hear that we experienced significantly better overclocking results with our RTX 3070 sample. Right now I can only talk about this Founders Edition card, so it’s still not clear whether or not I just got lucky with the silicon lottery, but overclocking this card resulted in performance gains between 9-11%. Compared to the lacklustre overclocking capabilities of the RTX 3080, this is much more positive and means an RTX 3070, when pushed to its limit, should be faster than RTX 2080 Ti in pretty much any scenario.

In sum, Nvidia has delivered an excellent graphics card in the form of its RTX 3070. At £469, this GPU delivers unmatched value for 1440p, and even 4K, gamers. It’s about as fast as the RTX 2080 Ti, it is significantly faster than the RTX 2070, while also being more power efficient.

As I write this, we are still waiting for AMD’s RDNA 2 event on October 28, and frankly they’d be mad not to have a competing Radeon GPU around this price point. If I had £500 or-so to spend on a new GPU, I’d certainly want to wait and see what Team Red comes up with, but as with the RTX 3080, the RTX 3070 has put Nvidia in a strong position to fend off the AMD threat.

RTX 3070 is set to be available from October 29th, priced at £469 MSRP. Custom cards will also be available from Overclockers UK HERE.

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Pros

  • Effectively matches RTX 2080 Ti for less than half the price.
  • Upwards of 50% faster than the RTX 2070.
  • Current market leader in terms of cost per frame.
  • Improved overclocking compared to the RTX 3080.
  • Most power efficient GPU we’ve ever tested.
  • Founders Edition is beautiful and runs cool and quiet.

Cons

  • Some may be concerned about the 8GB framebuffer.
  • RDNA 2 is days away, so some may want to wait and see what AMD has to offer.

KitGuru says: Nvidia has taken some of the RTX 3080 magic and brought it down to a more accessible price point with the RTX 3070. It’s still not cheap at £469, but it is the new market leader in terms of cost per frame for 1440p and 4K gaming.

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Rating: 9.0.

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