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Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card reviewed

Pascal power at a nicer price

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 set a new high-water mark for single-GPU graphics card performance in our review, and gamers will pay for the privilege of owning one. The card has been difficult to find in stock ever since its release, and prices on the models in stock at Newegg tend to start at the $699.99 suggested sticker for the Founders Edition card. The $599.99 suggested price for custom cards is nowhere to be seen—those models are selling for well over $800 when they're available. Owning the fastest thing around doesn't come cheap.

The MSI GTX 1070 Gaming Z

The second consumer Pascal card has a different mission. When it launched the GTX 1070 at DreamHack, Nvidia promised performance greater than a GeForce GTX Titan X  for a $379.99 starting price (or $449.99 for the Founders Edition reference card). The Titan X sold for $1000 when it was still available, but a more relevant point of reference for most gamers is the other GM200-powered consumer graphics card: the GeForce GTX 980 Ti. That card listed for $650 when it first hit the market. No matter how we slice the numbers, the GTX 1070 should offer potent performance at a more accessible price point, much like the GTX 970 did when it launched alongside the GTX 980.

width (bits)
Die size
GTX 970 52 104/104 1664 4 224+32 5200 416 (398) 28 nm
 GTX 980 64 128/128 2048 4 256 5200 416 (398) 28 nm
GTX 1070 64 120/120 1920 3 256 7200 314 16 nm
GTX 1080 64 160/160 2560 4 256 7200 314 16 nm
GTX Titan X 96 192/192 3072 6 384 8000 601 28 nm

To hit that more affordable sticker price, Nvidia lopped off a full graphics processing cluster from the GP104 GPU. That gives the GTX 1070 1920 stream processors and 120 texture units, compared to the GTX 1080's complement of 2560 SPs and 160 texture units. The engineers left the chip's ROP count and memory controllers alone, so the GTX 1070 ships with GP104's 64-ROP complement and 256-bit path to memory intact. Here's a picture of what that might look like as a block diagram: 

Compared to the GeForce GTX 970 before it, the GTX 1070 has 15% more raw shading resources and 15% more texture units at its disposal. Pair those with the considerable clock boost that Pascal brings, though, and the card's theoretical performance slightly eclipses both the GTX 980 Ti and the Titan X. Nvidia clocks the GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition card at 1506-MHz base and 1683-MHz boost speeds. Custom cards from Nvidia's board partners can run even faster still. We'll examine just what that means for the GTX 1070's theoretical performance in a bit.

Nvidia also kept the GTX 1070's price in check by relying on 8GB of good old GDDR5 RAM instead of the GDDR5X memory found on the GTX 1080. In its reference design, the GTX 1070 clocks that RAM at 8GT/s, up from the 7GT/s memory speeds we saw with the GTX 980 and GTX 970. Pair that with GP104's 256-bit memory bus, and we get 256GB/s of potential bandwidth on tap.

Aside from those changes, the GTX 1070 offers the same improvements from the move to Pascal we detailed in our review of the GTX 1080. If you're not already familiar with that card and the GP104 GPU, you should brush up on those changes before moving on here. Next, let's take a look at the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming Z card we'll be using to test out this configuration of the GP104 GPU.