MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8 GB Review 56

MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8 GB Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • The MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X is available online for $459 - but it is out of stock at the moment.
  • Extremely quiet during gaming
  • Overclocked out of the box
  • Fans turn off in idle
  • Good performance increase over reference
  • Temperatures below 80°C - no throttling
  • Power efficient
  • 8 GB VRAM
  • Backplate included
  • New NVIDIA technologies: Ansel, FastSync, HEVC Video, and VR
  • SLI improved beyond 4K 60 FPS
  • HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4
  • High price
  • 15% reduced efficiency vs. reference design
  • Memory not overclocked
  • DVI output no longer includes analog VGA signals
Today, we are reviewing our first custom-design version of the GeForce GTX 1070, the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X. I'm sure many of you remember the drama about modified review sample BIOSes, so rest assured that all testing throughout this article has been done with the retail version of the BIOS.

The MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X comes with a sizable overclock out of the box, increasing GPU frequency from the NVIDIA default of 1506 MHz to 1714 MHz. Memory has remained untouched at default, no idea why. Our manual testing shows that there is tons of headroom left in these GDDR5 chips for a free boost to performance. Overall, averaged over all the games in our test suite, we see a performance uplift of 5% over the GTX 1070 reference board, which means the card is 16% slower than the much more expensive GeForce GTX 1080. The popular GTX 970 SLI combination is around 15% slower, just like the GTX 980 Ti and AMD's Radeon R9 Fury X.

Most people have without a doubt been waiting for custom designs to see if their coolers will offer better capabilities than the NVIDIA reference design heatsink, which looks good, but fails to keep the card from running at its full potential due to throttling beyond 82°C. MSI's new TwinFrozr heatsink scores full marks here. It keeps the card at around 71°C even during heavy gaming while its fans are much quieter than on the reference. MSI's fans are actually unbelievably quiet given the card's performance. You almost won't hear them when the card is installed in a case and running at full load. MSI has also included the idle-fan-off feature we love so much since it provides a perfect noise-free experience during desktop work, Internet browsing, and even light gaming.

Just like on the reference design, power efficiency is amazing, with huge improvements over the Maxwell architecture that is already highly efficient in the first place. However, it looks as though MSI traded some efficiency for more performance, which isn't unreasonable. Compared to the reference design, we see about 35 W more power draw in gaming, which translates into around a 15% loss in performance-per-watt. Even though this brings power consumption above GTX 1080 reference levels, I say no big deal as Pascal is so efficient the power is well spent, and a power draw of around 200 W is still extremely low for this performance class; and the card is nearly silent anyway due to its excellent thermal solution and well-crafted fan profile. The only thing that MSI could have increased a bit more is the board-power limit, which is set to 185 watts and is lower than some peaks we saw during gaming (measured faster than the power limiter can kick in). This means that a little bit of performance is lost as the ideal power limit would have been at around 200 W in my opinion.

Unlike the reference design, which only uses a single 8-pin power connector for the sake of convenience, the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X requires the 8-pin and another 6-pin connector, which seems a bit too optimistic given the board's power limit, our power consumption testing, and the overclocking potential we've seen. I'm sure a single 8-pin, which is specced at up to 225 W (not a hard limit), would have been sufficient for everything people will do with the card. On the other hand, I'm sure there is a significant number of customers who would have avoided this card had it not had the "more powerful" power configuration.

Currently, the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X is listed online for $459, which is higher than what other custom-design GTX 1070s go for, too high in my opinion. Back when NVIDIA hyped the GTX 1070, pricing was said to be $379, yet almost one month after launch, not a single card is priced like that. Rather, it seems as though pricing for custom designs is gravitating toward the Founders Edition price of $449; some cards above, some below. However, if you compare the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X to the Founders Edition, it's still not a terrible deal. For a price premium of $10, you get amazing noise and temperature levels and no thermal throttling. On the other hand, compared to the MSRP of $379, a price increase of $70 is too much. Given the huge demand and limited availability right now, companies get away with this and cash in on people who want their new graphics card now.
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