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The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
NVIDIA has being flying high lately with the announcement of their GTX 1080 and its obviously impressive performance capabilities. However, while everyone loves looking at the framerates that a $699 (or over $900 here in Canada) graphics card brings to the table, the vast majority of gamers end up purchasing something much more affordable. That’s where the GTX 1070 gets factored into the equation; it includes all the benefits of NVIDIA’s Pascal architecture but at a substantially lower price point than the flagship card.

Even though the accolades for the GTX 1080 were wide-ranging there were a few elements which prevented it from being a slam-dunk. First and foremost it represented one of NVIDIA’s first paper launches in a long time and while it does command a hefty premium, the GTX 1080 Founders Edition fell a bit short of expectations when it came to performance retention over extended gameplay sessions.

The reason I bring this up is because the GTX 1070 will be launched in very much the same way as its bigger brother was. Even though this review is going live today, actual availability will be pushed back to June 10th or thereabouts and the dual-pronged approach of the Founders Edition alongside (supposedly) less expensive board partner versions will be repeated as well.

In the short term there may be some questions about the viability of these new Pascal cards but they’re here to stay and the GTX 1070 is arguably the more enticing of NVIDIA’s two launches. With a price of $449 for the reference version….errr Founders Edition....and board partners’ offerings starting at $379, there’s a lot to be excited about, particularly when you take into account promises of GTX 980Ti-matching performance. I also have to mention feature sets here too since the Pascal architecture packs a in boatload of tertiary updates. Since we’ve covered those in the initial GTX 1080 review, they won’t be repeated here for brevity’s sake. I recommend heading over to it for some background information since the article goes in-depth about the architecture and what makes Pascal unique among today’s GPU offerings.


At the GTX 1070’s heart beats a slightly cut-down version of NVIDIA’s 16nm GP104 core. Instead of the quad GPC, 20SM monster we’ve already become accustomed to, this one has a single GPC completely disabled and with it a quarter of the SMs were nuked as well. The end result is a core with 1920 CUDA cores and 120 texture units but a lower TDP of 150W and hopefully better yields than NVIDIA’s fully enabled version.

While raw graphics processing horsepower has been essentially cut by a quarter, several backend structures have remained completely untouched by this hacksaw approach. Like the GTX 1080 the GTX 1070 receives a full array of 64 ROPS, 2MB of L2 cache and eight 32-bit memory controllers which is expected since, like previous architectures, all of these elements are tied together. Thus, if NVIDIA decided to eliminate a memory controller they would also have to disable its associated ROP partition and L2 cache. In order to keep the GTX 1070 as competitive as possible that course of action was understandably avoided.

Despite all of these minor changes, the Pascal architecture is inherently quite scalable and there are numerous load balancing algorithms built into its structure to support a three-GPC setup. In addition, features like next-generation color compression, asynchronous compute / shader optimizations and the Simultaneous Multi-Projection capabilities are carried over from the GTX 1080 en-masse.


When you combined the above-mentioned items into a cohesive whole you get a graphics card that may be marketed as a replacement for the GTX 970 but it seems to be so much more. Aside from the updated architecture the GTX 1070 simply has more cores, TMUs and substantially higher clock speeds despite boasting a TDP increase of just 5W.

Another area that NVIDIA addressed is memory. While it doesn’t use the GTX 1080’s expensive next generation GDDR5X modules, the GTX 1070’s GDDR5 interface includes 8GB of 8Gbps modules operating across a 256-bit bus. This is a key differentiating factor from the GTX 970 which included an odd 3.5GB + 500MB partitioning setup which didn’t really impact performance in most situations but proved to be excessively poor optics for an otherwise great card. This time around the full 8GB layout is being utilized along with the aforementioned ROPs and L2 cache.


Even though there are some flashes of absolute brilliance in all of this, the GTX 1070’s launch may be tempered somewhat by the Founders Edition’s pricing structure. Historically speaking the x70 series of cards has been released under the $400USD mark with the reference GTX 470, GTX 570, GTX 670, GTX 770 and GTX 970 being available at $349, $349, $399, $399 and $329 respectively. The $449 GTX 1070 Founders Edition certainly won’t quiet criticisms of price creep into NVIDIA’s lineup but before you get too far down the proverbial rabbit hole, at least wait for the performance numbers. In addition, provided partner cards hit that claimed $379 mark, the GTX 1070’s costing certainly isn’t without precedent given that previous cards like the GTX 670 and GTX 770 were more expensive.

Much of NVIDIA’s push for premiums likely comes from the fact that AMD doesn’t have anything (for the time being at least) that can match the GTX 1070 from any perspective. However, from a purely competitive analysis standpoint, finding something on the AMD side that could match this new card’s performance isn’t all that hard. The liquid cooled Fury X is one option. Unfortunately, it costs significantly more than what NVIDIA is offering so if the GTX 1070 does match those cards in raw gaming output, we’ll hopefully see AMD reply with some judicious price cuts.

With the GTX 1070 NVIDIA is hoping to replace the GTX 970 in their lineup while also offering a substantial upgrade path for owners of even earlier cards. The Founders Edition itself may be an expensive Hail Mary play that attempts to slap a premium badge on a reference version that very few people wanted to begin with but at launch, it once again may very well be the only option available to buyers. Where you stand on that particular slippery slope is your own business but as you will see over the next few pages, despite some controversial decisions on NVIDIA’s part this is a phenomenal graphics card.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the GTX 1070 Founders Edition

A Closer Look at the GTX 1070 Founders Edition



In many ways the GTX 1070 Founders Edition can play a doppelganger for its bigger brother, the GTX 1080 Founders Edition. It uses the same machined aluminum silver / black heatsink cover with and heat-resistant acrylic window, measures the same length at 10.75” so fitment within smaller cases (read: SFF market) may be challenging and is designed in such a way that it exhausts all hot air outside the chassis.

One thing to note is that even though this particular Founders Edition card commands a pretty hefty premium over some board partners’ designs, it doesn’t include some of the advanced thermal management characteristics of the GTX 1080. Gone is the vapor chamber cooler and in its place is a basic setup with a few heatpipes, a copper contact plate and a large fin array. So what are you paying a premium for? Well, the chance to own one of these before the board partners’ versions are available of course! Unfortunately, sarcasm can’t be conveyed well over writing….


Around the back edge there’s a small opening within the shroud which facilitates air movement over the PWM components and increases the amount of fresh air available for the fan if there’s another GTX 1070 installed within close proximity.


As is usual for these reference cards (or Founders Edition if you buy into NVIDIA’s new lexicon) there’s a glowing green logo on the GTX 1070’s side which advertises to the world that you do indeed have a GeForce GPU within your system.


Contrary to popular belief, there’s no mission critical components located on the back of Pascal cards thus far. That makes the backplate on the GTX 1070 absolutely pointless but it does actually look really good, particularly when you have a windowed case.


Power input is done via a single 8-pin connector which bodes well for the amount of input capacity left for overclocking. Expect board partners’ cards to be equipped with slightly higher end setups but any that are based upon the reference design may still be power limited when overclocking.


Video output connectors are standard for this generation with three DisplayPort 1.4 outputs and single connectors for HDMI 2.0b and dual link DVI. That means the maximum resolution would be 7680x4320 at 60Hz and 4KHDR is fully supported.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup



Processor: Intel i7 5960X @ 4.3GHz
Memory: G.Skill Trident X 32GB @ 3000MHz 15-16-16-35-1T
Motherboard: ASUS X99 Deluxe
Cooling: NH-U14S
SSD: 2x Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Dell U2713HM (1440P) / Acer XB280HK (4K)
OS: Windows 10 Pro


Drivers:
AMD Radeon Software 16.5.2
NVIDIA 368.14 WHQL


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings


The Methodology of Frame Testing, Distilled


How do you benchmark an onscreen experience? That question has plagued graphics card evaluations for years. While framerates give an accurate measurement of raw performance , there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes which a basic frames per second measurement by FRAPS or a similar application just can’t show. A good example of this is how “stuttering” can occur but may not be picked up by typical min/max/average benchmarking.

Before we go on, a basic explanation of FRAPS’ frames per second benchmarking method is important. FRAPS determines FPS rates by simply logging and averaging out how many frames are rendered within a single second. The average framerate measurement is taken by dividing the total number of rendered frames by the length of the benchmark being run. For example, if a 60 second sequence is used and the GPU renders 4,000 frames over the course of that time, the average result will be 66.67FPS. The minimum and maximum values meanwhile are simply two data points representing single second intervals which took the longest and shortest amount of time to render. Combining these values together gives an accurate, albeit very narrow snapshot of graphics subsystem performance and it isn’t quite representative of what you’ll actually see on the screen.

FCAT on the other hand has the capability to log onscreen average framerates for each second of a benchmark sequence, resulting in the “FPS over time” graphs. It does this by simply logging the reported framerate result once per second. However, in real world applications, a single second is actually a long period of time, meaning the human eye can pick up on onscreen deviations much quicker than this method can actually report them. So what can actually happens within each second of time? A whole lot since each second of gameplay time can consist of dozens or even hundreds (if your graphics card is fast enough) of frames. This brings us to frame time testing and where the Frame Time Analysis Tool gets factored into this equation.

Frame times simply represent the length of time (in milliseconds) it takes the graphics card to render and display each individual frame. Measuring the interval between frames allows for a detailed millisecond by millisecond evaluation of frame times rather than averaging things out over a full second. The larger the amount of time, the longer each frame takes to render. This detailed reporting just isn’t possible with standard benchmark methods.

We are now using FCAT for ALL benchmark results in DX11.


DX12 Benchmarking


For DX12 many of these same metrics can be utilized through a simple program called PresentMon. Not only does this program have the capability to log frame times at various stages throughout the rendering pipeline but it also grants a slightly more detailed look into how certain API and external elements can slow down rendering times.

Since PresentMon throws out massive amounts of frametime data, we have decided to distill the information down into slightly more easy-to-understand graphs. Within them, we have taken several thousand datapoints (in some cases tens of thousands), converted the frametime milliseconds over the course of each benchmark run to frames per second and then graphed the results. This gives us a straightforward framerate over time graph. Meanwhile the typical bar graph averages out every data point as its presented.

One thing to note is that our DX12 PresentMon results cannot and should not be directly compared to the FCAT-based DX11 results. They should be taken as a separate entity and discussed as such.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
DX11/1440P: Ashes of the Singularity / Fallout 4

Ashes of the Singularity


Ashes of the Singularity is a real time strategy game on a grand scale, very much in the vein of Supreme Commander. While this game is most known for is Asynchronous workloads through the DX12 API, it also happens to be pretty fun to play. While Ashes has a built-in performance counter alongside its built-in benchmark utility, we found it to be highly unreliable and often posts a substantial run-to-run variation. With that in mind we still used the onboard benchmark since it eliminates the randomness that arises when actually playing the game but utilized the PresentMon utility to log performance




Fallout 4


The latest iteration of the Fallout franchise is a great looking game with all of its detailed turned to their highest levels but it also requires a huge amount of graphics horsepower to properly run. For this benchmark we complete a run-through from within a town, shoot up a vehicle to test performance when in combat and finally end atop a hill overlooking the town. Note that VSync has been forced off within the game's .ini file.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
DX11/1440P: Far Cry 4 / Grand Theft Auto V

Far Cry 4


This game Ubisoft’s Far Cry series takes up where the others left off by boasting some of the most impressive visuals we’ve seen. In order to emulate typical gameplay we run through the game’s main village, head out through an open area and then transition to the lower areas via a zipline.




Grand Theft Auto V


In GTA V we take a simple approach to benchmarking: the in-game benchmark tool is used. However, due to the randomness within the game itself, only the last sequence is actually used since it best represents gameplay mechanics.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 1440P: Hitman / Rise of the Tomb Raider

Hitman (2016)


The Hitman franchise has been around in one way or another for the better part of a decade and this latest version is arguably the best looking. Adjustable to both DX11 and DX12 APIs, it has a ton of graphics options, some of which are only available under DX12.

For our benchmark we avoid using the in-game benchmark since it doesn’t represent actual in-game situations. Instead the second mission in Paris is used. Here we walk into the mansion, mingle with the crowds and eventually end up within the fashion show area.





Rise of the Tomb Raider


Another year and another Tomb Raider game. This time Lara’s journey continues through various beautifully rendered locales. Like Hitman, Rise of the Tomb Raider has both DX11 and DX12 API paths and incorporates a completely pointless built-in benchmark sequence.

The benchmark run we use is within the Soviet Installation level where we start in at about the midpoint, run through a warehouse with some burning its and then finish inside a fenced-in area during a snowstorm.[/I]


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 1440P: SW Battlefront / Division / Witcher 3

Star Wars Battlefront


Star Wars Battlefront may not be one of the most demanding games on the market but it is quite widely played. It also looks pretty good due to it being based upon Dice’s Frostbite engine and has been highly optimized.

The benchmark run in this game is pretty straightforward: we use the AT-ST single player level since it has predetermined events and it loads up on many in-game special effects.





The Division


The Division has some of the best visuals of any game available right now even though its graphics were supposedly downgraded right before launch. Unfortunately, actually benchmarking it is a challenge in and of itself. Due to the game’s dynamic day / night and weather cycle it is almost impossible to achieve a repeatable run within the game itself. With that taken into account we decided to use the in-game benchmark tool.




Witcher 3


Other than being one of 2015’s most highly regarded games, The Witcher 3 also happens to be one of the most visually stunning as well. This benchmark sequence has us riding through a town and running through the woods; two elements that will likely take up the vast majority of in-game time.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 4K: Ashes of the Singularity / Fallout 4

Ashes of the Singularity


Ashes of the Singularity is a real time strategy game on a grand scale, very much in the vein of Supreme Commander. While this game is most known for is Asynchronous workloads through the DX12 API, it also happens to be pretty fun to play. While Ashes has a built-in performance counter alongside its built-in benchmark utility, we found it to be highly unreliable and often posts a substantial run-to-run variation. With that in mind we still used the onboard benchmark since it eliminates the randomness that arises when actually playing the game but utilized the PresentMon utility to log performance




Fallout 4


The latest iteration of the Fallout franchise is a great looking game with all of its detailed turned to their highest levels but it also requires a huge amount of graphics horsepower to properly run. For this benchmark we complete a run-through from within a town, shoot up a vehicle to test performance when in combat and finally end atop a hill overlooking the town. Note that VSync has been forced off within the game's .ini file.


 
Last edited:

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 4K: Far Cry 4 / Grand Theft Auto V

Far Cry 4


This game Ubisoft’s Far Cry series takes up where the others left off by boasting some of the most impressive visuals we’ve seen. In order to emulate typical gameplay we run through the game’s main village, head out through an open area and then transition to the lower areas via a zipline.




Grand Theft Auto V


In GTA V we take a simple approach to benchmarking: the in-game benchmark tool is used. However, due to the randomness within the game itself, only the last sequence is actually used since it best represents gameplay mechanics.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 4K: Hitman / Rise of the Tomb Raider

Hitman (2016)


The Hitman franchise has been around in one way or another for the better part of a decade and this latest version is arguably the best looking. Adjustable to both DX11 and DX12 APIs, it has a ton of graphics options, some of which are only available under DX12.

For our benchmark we avoid using the in-game benchmark since it doesn’t represent actual in-game situations. Instead the second mission in Paris is used. Here we walk into the mansion, mingle with the crowds and eventually end up within the fashion show area.





Rise of the Tomb Raider


Another year and another Tomb Raider game. This time Lara’s journey continues through various beautifully rendered locales. Like Hitman, Rise of the Tomb Raider has both DX11 and DX12 API paths and incorporates a completely pointless built-in benchmark sequence.

The benchmark run we use is within the Soviet Installation level where we start in at about the midpoint, run through a warehouse with some burning its and then finish inside a fenced-in area during a snowstorm.[/I]


 
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