GTX 1070 review roundup: invincible performance per dollar

— 1:31 PM on May 30, 2016

Today's the official launch day for the GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition graphics card (although these cards aren't actually expected at retail until June 10). This card's Pascal-based processor is the little brother of the GeForce GTX 1080 that everyone has been raving about since its release two weeks ago. If you're reading this article, though, you probably already knew that.

What you might not have realized is that the GTX 1070 runs games as well as a 980 Ti, yet costs almost a third less. That sentiment gets echoed time and time again in reviews of the new card across the web. In fact, the value proposition of the GTX 1070, even considering the more expensive Founders Edition card, is good enough for [H]ardOCP's Brent Justice to award the card the site's coveted Gold award. That rare award was given based on strong performance at 2560x1440 in everything he tested, including Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Witcher III, and even Ashes of the Singularity.

Those titles were mainstays across the majority of reviews published this morning. Techspot's Steven Walton tested those games along with Doom and Overwatch, finding the latter eminently playable in 4K resolution, even at the "Ultra" quality setting. Doom was more taxing and barely playable in 4K, but averaged over 90 FPS with "Nightmare" settings in 2560x1440. Hilbert Hagedoorn at Guru3D found similar results with the new shooter. Hilbert actually tested a whole litany of games, including Anno 2205, Thief (2014), and a 5120x2880 run of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, alongside the usual suspects. Spoilers: 5K is hard going for graphics cards.

The general consensus among reviewers is that the card is near-optimal for 2560x1440, but not especially suited for anything higher. No one's figured out VR benchmarking quite yet, but Marco Chiappetta at HotHardware ran the SteamVR performance test on the GTX 1070. It earned a perfect score of 11 alongside the GTX 1080 and the GTX 980 Ti. He also tested the card in LuxMark, one of the few compute-focused benchmarks present in this round of reviews. The GTX 1070 put in a fair showing overall, matching the Titan X—a much larger chip—in the three OpenCL tests.

Of course, we here at TR are always happy to see frame-pacing tests in graphics card reviews. Chris Angelini at Tom's Hardware provided a wealth of frametime data, and his analysis of the 1070 does show the new GeForce with slightly worse frame variance than the older Maxwell parts, which we believe may be attributed to immature drivers. PC Perspective's Ryan Shrout never disappoints with his frametime testing, and his data agrees with Chris'. We noticed this frametime issue in reviews of the GTX 1080 as well.

Nvidia apparently did some good work with reducing Pascal's power usage when compared to Maxwell. The previous architecture was already fairly efficient, but the new GPUs benefit further from being manufactured on a state-of-the-art FinFET process. As a result, the GTX 1070 has a quoted 150W TDP, and Ryan at PC Perspective used his specialized rig to test that claim. What he found is surprising: even though the GTX 970's rated TDP is lower than the GTX 1070's by 5W, the newer card actually draws less power during gameplay (by around 5W).

That power efficiency contributes to the card's cool running. Despite the presence of a typically-noisy blower-style cooler, none of the reviews we read complained about excessive noise. The GTX 1070 eschews the GTX 1080's vapor chamber for a more traditional heatpipe-and-fin heatsink, though, so it isn't really any quieter. It doesn't overclock any better either, although complaining about a GPU core clock of 2.1Ghz—the number that [H]ardOCP and the Guru of 3D both achieved—seems trifling. Doubtless custom board designs and non-reference coolers will see that number increased further.

It's worth mentioning that the value proposition of this card is worsened somewhat by the Founders Edition pricing. Nvidia is fond of comparing the card to the GTX 970, but the GTX 970 premiered at $329, below even the given MSRP of $379 for non-Founders GTX 1070 cards. At $449, the GTX 1070 Founders Edition seems to be a considerably worse value. However, as Brent at the [H] pointed out, the proper performance-wise comparison is to the GTX 980 Ti, which the GTX 1070 consistenly matches or beats. That GPU launched at $650, so in that context, the GTX 1070 is a step forward in its price segment. Suddenly, my GTX 580 feels mighty inadequate.

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