NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition Review - Disruptive Price-Performance 172

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition Review - Disruptive Price-Performance


Value and Conclusion

  • The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition will retail for $499.
  • Excellent price/performance ratio
  • Faster than RTX 2080 Ti
  • Perfect for 1440p with raytracing
  • Beautiful looks
  • Capable of 4K in many games
  • Very quiet
  • Idle fan stop
  • Energy efficiency improved over RTX 3080/3090
  • Compact dual-slot design
  • 2nd generation hardware-accelerated raytracing
  • Support for HDMI 2.1, AV1 decode
  • DLSS improved
  • PCI-Express 4.0
  • New GeForce Features: Reflex, Broadcast, G-SYNC 360, and RTX-IO
  • 8 nanometer production process
  • 12-pin power connector is complicated and inconveniently located
  • Runs in power limit all the time
  • Overclocking more complicated due to power limit
NVIDIA has done it again—their new GeForce RTX 3070 is impressive, not only in terms of performance, but also pricing. Just a few weeks ago, we reviewed the GeForce RTX 3080, which finally makes 4K gaming work perfectly. Today, we have the RTX 3070 Founders Edition, which achieves the same for 1440p gamers. Every single title in our test suite exceeds 60 FPS now, and performance is improved so much that you get RTX 2070 "RTX Off" FPS with "RTX On". If you choose to enable DLSS with RTX, the RTX performance hit is basically nullified; in that case, and with games that don't support RTX, the GeForce RTX 3070 FE matches last generation's flagship, the RTX 2080 Ti, which retailed at over $1200 not too long ago.

When averaged over our whole test suite at 1440p resolution, we see the RTX 3070 Founders Edition beat the RTX 2080 Ti by 1%, let's call them equal—still a huge achievement. Against the original GeForce RTX 2070, the performance uplift is around 50%, and the difference to the RTX 2070 Super is 30%. AMD definitely needs something new, the RTX 3070 is 42% faster than the RX 5700 XT, at much more attractive pricing. GeForce RTX 3080 is 23% faster than the RTX 3070, but for this comparison, it's also important to look at 4K, where the difference is 31% because the RTX 3080 is slightly CPU limited at 1440p.

With those performance numbers, RTX 3070 is the perfect choice for the huge 1440p gamer crowd, but the card also has enough muscle to drive many titles at 4K 60 FPS, especially if you are willing to dial down settings a little bit. The RTX 3070 is also a great choice for 1080p Full HD if you want to drive a high-refresh-rate monitor with 120 or 144 Hz. For just 60 FPS, 1080p it's overkill unless next-gen titles go overboard with their hardware requirements, which is highly unlikely.

Visually, the GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition is a piece of art. It's easily one of the most well-crafted graphics cards I've played with. Actually, even my wife (as of 17 days) who's not a computer nerd, loves the design. When I was unboxing the card, she came into the lab, saw the card, and said "oh wow, that looks gorgeous," and she's been with me through several graphics card launches before. With the GeForce RTX 30-series, NVIDIA definitely found the perfect formula for a great-looking graphics card. The combined matte surfaces of various shades of gray with subtle metal highlights create a design that looks more industrial than ever and could compete with what Apple's designers are coming up with. Unlike the RTX 3080, the RTX 3070 cooler is a much simpler design, which not only helps with cost, but also makes teardowns easier for me. Taking the card apart is quite easy; I never felt like NVIDIA intentionally makes it hard to disassemble their product.

As we found out on our new "Cooler Performance Comparison" page, the RTX 3070 Founders Edition cooler is a huge improvement over the heatsink of the RTX 2070. In an apples-to-apples comparison, the RTX 3070 FE runs over 20°C cooler than the RTX 2070 while keeping the same dual-slot form factor. Against the RTX 3080 FE cooler, the RTX 3070 FE runs about 7°C warmer, but that's no problem at all because RTX 3070 also outputs much less heat. Actually, temperatures are good. With 74°C, they are better than previous Founders Editions. Noise levels are really impressive; just 30 dBA for RTX 2080 Ti performance in a dual-slot form factor—wow. It will be hard for custom designs to beat this. With Ampere, NVIDIA introduced idle fan stop on their Founders Edition, which previously was one of the biggest reasons for gamers to look at other brands. In idle, during desktop work, Internet browsing, and light gaming, the RTX 3070 will turn off its fans completely for the perfect noise-free experience.

This generation of cards sees the introduction of the 12-pin Molex MicroFit 3.0 connector NVIDIA debuted on graphics cards, which is used on the RTX 3070 Founders Edition, too. I'm not happy with this choice at all. For a 220 W power design, it looks unnecessary—a single 8-pin would have been fine, and wouldn't have taken up that much more PCB space. Just like on the other Ampere cards, placing the power connector in the middle of the board makes clean cable routing difficult. What makes things slightly worse is that the connector is facing straight upward, away from the card; on the RTX 3080 it was angled, which made routing the cable easier. What I do have to praise NVIDIA for is their inclusion of an adapter with all Founders Edition cards, so you're ready to go without an additional purchase.

RTX 3070 improves power efficiency once again—by another 10% over both Turing and RTX 3080/3090. The RTX 3070 is the most energy-efficient graphics card we ever tested, twice as efficient as AMD Vega, 50% better than Navi and GeForce 10, and 30% better than GeForce 20. Just like for previous NVIDIA generations, power efficiency is the cornerstone for a successful product. If power draw were higher, heat output would go up, which would require a louder or larger cooler and a more complex PCB design, all of which increases production cost, too.

Overclocking worked well. We gained 7% in real-life performance. GPU frequency almost hit around 2 GHz measured—similar to other Ampere cards. Overclocking the Samsung GDDR6 memory by almost 20% made me wonder why NVIDIA didn't clock the RTX 3070's memory higher in the first place—I guess that's reserved for a future product.

The GeForce RTX 3070 comes with 8 GB of memory, which will be the basis for a lot of discussion, just like on the RTX 3080 10 GB. I feel like 8 GB is plenty of memory for the moment, especially considering this card is targeted at 1440p gaming, which isn't as memory-intensive as 4K. Even with 4K, I feel you'll run out of shading power long before memory becomes an issue. Next-gen consoles do have more memory, but their 16 GB is for the OS, game, and graphics combined, which means effective graphics memory is close enough to the 8 GB offered by the RTX 3070. Nobody can predict the future; should you ever feel VRAM is running out, just sell the RTX 3070 and buy whatever card is right at that time. Personally, I rather pay less today than spend extra to solve an unknown problem—8 GB of GDDR6 memory costs around $40, so it will be interesting to see at which price point AMD's reportedly 16 GB RDNA2 Radeon RX 6000 comes in, and whether the extra memory will be able to make a difference.

NVIDIA's GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition retails at $499, which is a highly competitive price. Remember, RTX 3070 matches RTX 2080 Ti, which retailed for $1200+ just a few months ago. As of today, there are not a lot of alternatives around this price point—the GeForce RTX 3070 owns the performance segment. Nobody is going to buy any Turing cards now unless they come with a huge discount. I could see how a used RTX 2080 Ti for around $400 would let me overlook its higher power/heat/noise vs. the $500 RTX 3070 FE. Unless you absolutely can't find an extra $120, there's no reason to buy the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT either. RTX 3080 is a reasonable upgrade if you want more FPS and are willing to spend another $200+, and can find one in stock. Let's hope there is more RTX 3070 supply than RTX 3080 because the RTX 3070 is going to fly off the shelves, no doubt. AMD announces their Radeon RX 6900 Series tomorrow; it will be interesting to see whether they'll be able to compete with NVIDIA this generation.
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