The GTX 1070 isn’t the best. It has its big brother the 1080 to thank for its status as “2nd best”, “almost made it”, “alternative choice”. Yet legions of fans, and; if you’ll allow me to anthropomorphize this piece of hardware; even the GTX 1070, is more than happy to take on the mantle of “2nd placer”.
Say what you will about wanting ultimate performance, but based on all the previous videocard releases from both AMD and Nvidia, the model one step lower from the top of the line will constantly outsell the top model quarter in and quarter out. The reasons are obvious – cost is primary, and more importantly, just how little you actually lose performance-wise when you go for “the little brother”.
Let’s compare the basic specs:
The Best Way to Cut Corners
For both cost reasons and market segmentation, Nvidia has trimmed the 1080 down to size. A 100Mhz and 50Mhz difference in Core and Boost clock respectively and a lower total compute power is offset by the same manufacturing process (16 nanometer fab), the same number of transistors, and an improved thermal design of only 150W. The biggest contributor to the 1070’s lower performance is probably the Video RAM type – with the 1080 using the advanced GDDR5X instead of the 1070’s plain GDDR5.
This yields a net loss of a little above 20% of the 1080’s performance, but taking into consideration how earth-shattering the 1080’s performance is in comparison to older cards, the 1070 is still plenty powerful. A quick example – The GTX 1070 matches or beats by a hair the previous champ: the GTX 980 Ti, but at only $380 – less than half the price of the 980 Ti at launch. The 1070 also consumes just 150W to the 980 Ti’s 250W max. Chew on that for a moment.
What does this mean for the interested potential buyer (like me)? Simply stated, the 1070 is the best bang-for-the-buck GPU purchase, especially if you’re coming from something 2 generations removed or longer from the current Pascal technology. I currently use an MSI GTX 770 Lightning, and it’s perfectly fine for most gaming duties if I keep my graphics settings at a sane level, but I keep getting the urge to go crazy with my settings (crazy high that is). If I do make the plunge, I’d get ready with a hankie to ward off nosebleeds; so much faster the 1070 is in relation to the 770.
Now, the observations I post in this site are all based on real life testing instead of full technical analysis. For full comparative benchmarks, charts, and deep comparisons between many different GPU models, I defer to the experts at Techradar, Anandtech, and Guru3D:
For everyone else, suffice to say that for your $380, you are getting performance unimaginable just a month ago. Take a look at these quick benchmark results:
Notes: Primary logging tool used is MSI Afterburner. Screenshots *does not* denote avg., max, or min numbers. Vsync disabled. Specifications used were a Core i7 6700K, Corsair 8GB DDR4, MSI X99A board, 1000W Antec PSU. GTA V Pass 4 benchmark numbers used. Witcher 3 default Ultra and High settings used, Hairworks enabled.
Modern benchmark: (All @ 1920 x 1080, DX11)
GTA V’s built-in benchmark.
The hardcore, number-crunching review sites will have far more detailed comparisons.
Some Really Nostalgic & Old Benchmarks(SRNOB™)
Street Fighter IV (circa 2009) – Average 361 FPS – surprising, but still somewhat expected. 500+ FPS was usually displayed (Check out AmazingFPS). A GTX Titan reaches 247 FPS, but on 2x AA only. Rank “A”, and a score of 21517.
3DMark05 (circa 2004) – The absolute best GPU of this era was the 7800 GTX than rang in at a meaty $600 SRP. It garnered oohs and aahs with its 3DMark05 performance of 7664. An SLI setup with two of these cards got an awe-inspiring, 10k bubble-bursting number of 11321. I’ll let the screenshot speak for itself:
3DMark01 SE (circa 2001) – 15 years ago, I was still enamored with chipset heatsink fans and the Duron “Spitfire” processor running @ 600Mhz. How time flies. The top-of-the-line GPU at the time was the GeForce3 and was being sold @ $530 SRP, and it performed as advertised, beating all comers in 3DMark01 with a score of 5646 Marks. But this is 2016.
[3DMark numbers courtesy of xbitlabs.] 3DMark run on default settings for comparison purposes.
Additional Technologies & Benefits
There’s a whole alphabet soup of new tech integrated into the 1070, so I’ll just zero in on a few specific acronyms that highly leverage the Pascal architecture and is of more significance for me as a gamer. SMP, or Simultaneous Multi-Projection, can be explained by simply imagining the scene you see when you look at your screen while gaming, and imagining the shapes and pixels of the objects on the screen. In most older GPUs, all of this stuff in the background had to be computed for and rendered.
SMP computes only what can actually be seen on-screen, and tells the GPU not to render anything that can’t be seen anyway. This is of course a simplified description for the enthusiast lay person.
MSI’s Dragon – cooler looking than 3DMark01’s
ACC on the other hand is harder to explain; it involves the way the GPU handles “work requests” and explained simply, makes the process more efficient and dynamic – meaning less queues and more resources working instead of idling at any one time.
Lastly, with the 1070 running on the cooler 16nm Pascal infrastructure, the overclocking and ultimately, top-end performance headroom of the 1070 in particular is loads better than the previous Maxwell2 architecture. I’m looking forward to higher-clocked and less expensive versions of the 1070. Perhaps by the time those come out, I’ll have enough funds to splurge on my PC again.
Adding to the explosive price-performance cocktail is the additional features afforded by Nvidia’s partners, in this case MSI. The GTX 1080 and the 1070 Gaming X by MSI both use the Twin Frozr VI thermal solution. With the 1070 running cooler than its big brother with a TDP of 150W instead of 180W, the cooling benefits of this technology is commensurably higher for the 1070. Twin Frozr VI is one of the quietest, best performing cooling solutions in the videocard space. It’s also smart – only turning on when temperature goes above 60 (celcius). The MSI GTX 1070 rarely hits this temperature when idling, browsing/ productivity use or even light gaming, so you can imagine how much wear and tear, power and noise is reduced.
The advantages for the MSI GTX 1070 buyer also extends to MSI’s other technologies like custom LED lighting for the theme-conscious modder, the Gaming App for controlling all aspects of your videocard, a stiff and well-designed backplate for cooling and to prevent sagging, and even a mobile app.
What else will you get with an MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X? VR readiness is now a big focus for MSI, and with the 1070, the user is comfortably flush with extra graphics processing power ready for the increasing number of VR titles. MSI has also taken into consideration how most users want to connect to their PC – 3 Display Ports, 1 HDMI and a DVI connector stand ready. The HTC Vive we used for testing also requires at least 2 different ports – for display on-screen and to run the headset itself.
The 1070 is an achiever. It’s the new point of entry for gaming and computer enthusiasts. If you’re running hardware older than the 700 series, and you’re considering a return to the cutting edge, you can’t go wrong with the 1070. It’s VR ready as well – HTC’s Vive runs perfectly on this GPU. You can feel smug saving the premium from buying the bleeding edge 1080 too (cutting edge < bleeding edge) while you enjoy all your games and VR the way they’re meant to be played. Nvidia pun intentional.
Disclaimer: 3D models uploaded to this site is not meant for precision work and is only to be used for entertainment purposes.