Tested: eVGA GeForce GTX 1070 Video Card

By Loyd Case

EVGA's take on the GTX 1070 is a winner, managing to equal or exceed performance of the top-end graphics cards from the previous generation while undercutting the price of the GTX 1080.

I'd crown the new GTX 1070 as the new God-Emperor of gaming GPUs, except that this card really the baby sister to the GTX 1080, which offers even better performance. On the other hand, eVGA's GeForce GTX 1070 SC costs $439 -- $10 shy of Nvidia's own "Founder's Edition" -- while delivering clock frequencies roughly 6% higher than the reference clocks. Audible noise levels seem slightly lower as well.

While I ran the usual set of benchmarks on the card, I've been living with with eVGA's GTX 1070 in my main system for nearly a week, running games on my 3440 x 1440 pixel Dell U3415w display. Subjectively, I could tell little difference between this card and the GTX 1080 Founder's Edition I'd been running. I did have to dial back ambient occlusion a bit in Tom Clancy's The Division. Doom, Mirror's Edge Catalyst, XCOM2, and several VR titles on the HTC Vive all seemed to run with excellent frame rates on gorgeously high settings.

So What's a GTX 1070?

Take a part that starts out life as a potential GTX 1080 GPU, disable one graphics processing cluster, and voila! You now have a GTX 1070 chip. Each graphics processing cluster consists of 5 graphics compute cores (which Nivdia dubs "streaming multiprocessors" or SMs for short). Let's break down the differences with the reference design -- er, Founder's Edition –in the table below.

The GTX 1070 uses less exotic GDDR5 memory, clocking said memory at a pretty serious 4GHz – faster than the 7gbps memory used in previous generations. So the GTX 1070 includes fewer shader cores, slightly lower clock frequencies, slower memory, and should cost roughly $300 less.

Nvidia suggests some 3rd party cards will be priced as low as $379, though all currently available 1070 cards seem to cost more than $400. Availability remains tight, but a cards from MSI and Gigabyte seem to be available. Supply will no doubt catch up with demand after several months.

Feature

GTX 1070

GTX 1080

Graphics Processing Cluster

3

4

SMs

15

20

Shader ALUs

1,920

2,560

Texture Units

120

160

ROP Units

64

64

Base Clock Frequency

1,506MHz

1,607MHz

Boost Clock Frequency

1,683MHz

1,733MHz

Memory

8GB GDDR5

8GB GDDR5X

Memory Clock

4,006MHz

5,005MHz

Memory Bandwidth

256 GB/sec

320 GB/sec

Memory Interface

256-bit

256-bit

Transistors

7.2 billion @ 16nm FinFET

Connectors

3x DisplayPort1.2, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x Dual-Link DVI-D

Power Connector

1x 8-pin

TDP

150W

180W

Let's Talk Performance

Before diving into subjective opinions, let's take a look at the numbers. I ran the benchmarks on the same system used in Tested's GTX 1080 review:

  • Intel Core i7 6700K

  • Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 7 motherboard

  • 32GB DDR4 2600 running at 2133MHz

  • Samsung EVO 850 SSD

  • 750W Seasonic PSU

  • Windows 10 Pro

This system represents the high end of mainstream gaming, which remain far more prevalent than extreme gaming systems based on Intel's X99 chipset.

Each game ran at four resolution / setting combinations: 2,560 x 1,440 high and maxed out, as well as 4K UHD high and maxed out. "High" means I used the in-game high preset, which is usually one below "ultra" for most games. If a game supported more than one setting above the High preset, I stuck with High for consistency. "Max" means I started with the highest game setting, then hunted down every graphics slider option and pushed them up to eleven. Even at the highest preset, most games don't seem to really max out everything. Here "max" means every graphics knob and lever "maxed out".

3DMark

I use 3DMark as a sanity check. I've run 3DMark enough that if anything seems off about a particular GPU, I'll likely spot it.

Nvidia's claims that the GTX 1070 slightly outperforms a GTX Titan X holds true for this synthetic test. What about games?

DirectX 11 Games

First up is Dragon Age: Inquistion, which released in November, 2014. The game seemed gorgeous at the time, but now looks a little dated. Bioware's first Frostbite engine games can still put a hurt on a system if you crank up the eye candy, though.

The GTX 1080's additional shaders and faster memory seems to make a big difference; it's so much faster than any of the other cards in this particular title.

Tom Clancy's The Division from Ubisoft represents the pinnacle of DirectX 11 gaming, with rich visuals and lots of knobs and levers to improve the look of the game while hammering hard on the graphics card.

The GTX 1070 looks like a worthy successor to the GTX 970, and equal Titan X performance. But there's that outrageous 1080 performance number again. What happens when we shift to DX12?

DirectX 12 Games

First up is Ashes of the Singularity, which made something of a splash as the first game-based DirectX 12 benchmark. This RTS includes vast numbers of units engaged in combat, with relatively limited graphics effects in play – but those limited effects are heavily used.

Now that the GTX 1070 enters the mix, AMD's Radeon Fury X Nano slips to third. The Radeon Fury mght do a bit better, but the added complexity of the liquid cooler and power constraints make that card less desirable.

Crystal Dynamics added DirectX 12 support to Rise of the Tomb Raider, which includes several fly-through benchmarks which can push a GPU pretty hard.

Rise of the Tomb Raider makes no bones about requiring more than 4GB of memory for more demanding settings at higher resolutions. Frame rates are higher when playing the game, while in-engine cut-scenes, like those used in the benchmark, demand more raw performance from the GPU.The GTX 1080 does just fine, albeit still quite a ways back from the GTX 1080.

GTX 1070 for VR

Running Steam's VR Performance Test on the GTX 1070 generated an 11 – an identical score to the GTX 1080. I ran several HTC Vive titles and found frame rates to be more than adequate. So the GTX 1070 looks like a terrific card for the current generation of VR headsets at a somewhat lower price than the GTX 1080.

Thermals and Noise Levels

I also collected some noise level data on the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 using a digital sound level meter. My office generates about 28dbA (that's A-weighted) when nothing is running. The GTX 1080 Founder's Edition operates more shader cores at higher frequencies while exhausting hot air out the rear of the card.

The eVGA GTX 1070 SC uses the company's latest ACX 3.0 dual cooling fan, which circulates the hot air inside the case, letting the case fans do the heavy lifting of pushing the air out of the case. ACX 3.0 differs from previous generations by incorporating metal support around the plastic shroud; previous shrouds used plastic throughout.

The system with the GTX 1080 installed generated 32dBA at idle and 36dBA when running the maxed out Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark at 4K UHD. By contrast, eVGA's GTX 1070 SC proved noticeably quieter, running 31dBA while idling and 33.5dBA under load. The overall pitch of the sound seemed a bit more pleasing as well to my ear.

Now let's look at the thermal output.

GTX 1080's thermal output visualized.

This photo taken with Seek Thermal's IR camera attachment for the iPhone shows a hot plume of air emanating from the back of the case. While the IR camera detected the same temperature from the GTX 1070, overall volume of hot air seemed less concentrated, which should be no surprise given the difference in cooler design.

GTX 1070's thermal output visualized.

Using a handheld laser thermometer verified this. I notice air hotspots near the rear of the GTX 1080 as high as 121 degrees F, while the hottest output I could find with eVGA's GTX 1070 SC came in at 96 degrees F. Bear in mind that these temperature readings are outside the case.

A Rose by Any Other Name

EVGA's take on the GTX 1070 is a winner, managing to equal or exceed performance of the top-end graphics cards from the previous generation while undercutting the price of the GTX 1080. At $439, this lightly overclocked card costs a bit less than Nvidia's Founder's Edition card, yet likely runs cooler and quieter. (We only compared noise and thermal data to the GTX 1080, which may not be entirely fair).

The real question becomes whether you can (or should) buy one. You can't actually find any in stock currently, so you'll have to play a waiting game, or pick up a competitor's card (which also go in and out of supply often). Recent price drops on previous generation cards make decision making tougher. For example, several companies now offer GTX 980 Ti cards for the same or lower price. If you go for a previous generation, though, you'll be giving up some advanced features, such as simultaneous multi-projection.

The other wrinkle comes in the form of AMD's recently announced Radeon RX480, with its announced price of under $200 for 4GB cards. RX480 cards with 8GB will likely cost a little more, but still be well under $300. The new AMD GPU may be more than adequate if you're running a 1080p monitor, but until I actually get one in our hands, I can't say for sure.

I personally feel it's worth waiting for a GTX 1070. The GTX 1070 consumes less power and includes more graphics memory than previous generation gaming cards (though the Titan X does offer 12GB). It's likely the GTX 1070 will outperform last generation cards in newer games as those arrive on the scene. So unless you're in dire need of a new graphics card, hold onto your wallet and wait for GTX 1070 availability to loosen up.