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The NVIDIA GTX 1070 Ti Performance Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
NVIDIA’s launch of their new GTX 1070 Ti is both senseless and completely sensible depending on which way you tend to look at things. The emotional among you are going to wonder why NVIDIA is even bothering to introduce a new product into a lineup that’s more than a year old. On the other hand people who look at things in an analytical fashion will see a yawning gap between the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 that’s just begging to be filled by a GeForce offering. In my view at least, the actual story behind the GTX 1070 Ti is a bit more complicated than either of those simple explanations.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the better part of a year, it should be more than obvious that today’s graphics card market is in a state of flux. Cryptocurrency mining has driven up pricing to stratospheric levels and even at those inflated costs, actually finding a new video card is becoming increasingly difficult. Coupled with the influx of demand propagated by the upcoming Christmas shopping season and Black Friday, this situation is creating a perfect storm that risks emptying retailers’ shelves completely. From a business perspective, NVIDIA couldn’t pass up the opportunity to introduce some fresh blood into a segment that people are ready and more than willing to buy into.

The other point I wanted to raise focuses on competition, or what AMD has that can be sort of considered a competing solution: the RX Vega 56. I won’t dwell too long on Vega’s failures since that particular dead horse has already been beaten to a bloody pulp and it’s already headed for the knackers. But despite being overly power hungry, available in laughably short supply and marked up by retailers to insane heights, the RX Vega 56 was a faint glimmer of hope in an otherwise drab AMD launch. Its in-game performance slotted in perfectly between the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 and a price of $399 was more than fair. This was a clarion call for NVIDIA to respond and respond they did…..more than two months later with the GTX 1070 Ti.


At the heart of this particular card lies a very familiar face: the GP104 core which was previously seen on the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070. Yet unlike the GTX 1070 which had five Streaming Multiprocessors (or a whole GPC) disabled, the GTX 1070 Ti only has a single SM cut off. That’s the only real change from a core layout perspective. There’s still a 256-bit memory bus spread across eight controllers and 64 ROPs alongside a completely intact L2 cache structure.

Right about now I’m sure you’re thinking exactly the same thing my brain was when I was first told about the GTX 1070 Ti’s specifications: how in the world is NVIDIA going to insure there isn’t a confusing amount of overlap between it and the more expensive GTX 1080? Well that’s a bit convoluted so hold on while I try to explain things.


Despite core layouts that are very similar, there are still some major points of differentiation between the 1080 and 1070 Ti. First and foremost among those is the GTX 1070 Ti’s truncated Boost Clock of 1683MHz (a number that can fluctuate upwards or downwards depending upon GeForce Boost’s algorithms) but perhaps the most significant shift is on the memory front. While the GTX 1080 utilizes a GDDR5X backbone that has since been updated to 11Gbps, the GTX 1070 Ti has 8GB of GDDR5 operating at 8Gbps or precisely the same speed as NVIDIA’s GTX 1070. Will that be enough to differentiate one from the other? Perhaps in bandwidth-limited scenarios but not in too many other situations.

In an effort to insure there’s less chance of the GTX 1070 Ti stepping on the toes of its firmly entrenched siblings, NVIDIA is also limiting –if not outright banning- their board partners from releasing pre-overclocked cards. This means every 1070 Ti will have a homogenous Base Clock of 1607MHz and a Boost Clock of 1683MHz. Some partners will be able to get around this by offering preset overclocks in their software suites but utilizing hardwired BIOS modifications is off the table.

End users can also overclock to their heart’s content but as with all graphics cards these days, there are TDP limits to contend with. Some AIBs like EVGA will be offering GTX 1070 Ti’s with higher TDP levels in an effort to enhance overclocking headroom on their higher tier SKUs.

Due to its expected performance, the $449 price for the GTX 1070 Ti trends closer towards the $499 GTX 1080 than the $399 GTX 1070. More importantly that’s $50 further afield than AMD’s RX Vega 56, a card that was supposed to be the Ti’s initial target. Then again, finding an RX Vega 56 for anything under $450 has been a challenge until yesterday when a few cards mysteriously started turning up at retailers for $420.

But let’s be honest here for a second; other than the preorder cost for the initial GTX 1070 Ti offerings (more on that later), all of these prices are completely fictitious. Limited supply and sky-high demand have led to every single graphics card on the market going for a premium over its initial SRP. Where the 1070 Ti will eventually land in the grand scheme of things remains to be seen.


From a physical perspective, there really isn’t much to separate the GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition from every other NVIDIA “reference” design launched in the last few years. There’s a metallic shroud that surrounds an acrylic window that gives you a peak at the headsink contained within the blower-style cooler and an illuminated GeForce logo on the outer edge.


Around back there’s the usual full coverage black backplate with some stylized imprints and NVIDIA’s logo. This whole setup remains an iconic piece of industrial design and it’s good to see NVIDIA didn’t mess with a good thing.


Power input is handled by a single 8-pin PCIe power connector which is par for the course on most sub-200W graphics cards. With that being said, many board partners will likely expand on this layout if they start offering custom cards with higher TDP values for overclocking.


The I/O area is pretty ubiquitous as well with a trio of DisplayPort 1.4 connectors, a single HDMI 2.0 output and a DVI-D connector.

At this point, every single thing I’ve said in this introduction has already been covered in one way or another since NVIDIA’s strategy for this launch is a bit different. There have been leaks aplenty, NVIDIA themselves decided to release pricing, specification details and even opened up pre orders last week. Unboxings -such as they are called- were allowed a little while later. So as they say: this load has already been blown. Today simply marks the day when we can talk about performance (spoiler alert: it’s better than the GTX 1070 but a bit slower than a GTX 1080) and show overclocking results.

Other than all of the challenges I’ve highlighted about current GPU pricing structures, actually getting your hands on one of these GTX 1070 Ti’s will be challenging as well. This will certainly be a hard launch with preorders shipping out immediately but according to our retailer contacts, pre order quantities vastly exceed Day One inventory in many cases. Basically that means get your order in now or be prepared to either wait or pay an inflated price later on. It may not be a great time to be in the market for a new graphics card but the GTX 1070 Ti already looks like a hit on all fronts.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup



Processor: Intel i7 6900X @ 4.6GHz
Memory: G.Skill Trident X 32GB @ 3200MHz 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 (4K) / Acer XB280HK (4K)
OS: Windows 10 Pro Creator’s Update


Drivers:
AMD ReLive 17.10.3
NVIDIA 388.15 Beta

*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 and its offshoot OCAT 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.


Understanding the “Lowest 1%” Lines


In the past we had always focused on three performance metrics: performance over time, average framerate and pure minimum framerates. Each of these was processed from the FCAT or Presentmon results and distilled down into a basic chart.

Unfortunately, as more tools have come of age we have decided to move away from the "minimum" framerate indication since it is a somewhat deceptive metric. Here is a great example:


In this example, which is a normalized framerate chart whose origin is a 20,000 line log of frame time milliseconds from FCAT, our old "minimum" framerate would have simply picked out the one point or low spike in the chart above and given that as an absolute minimum. Since we gave you context of the entire timeline graph, it was easy to see how that point related to the overall benchmark run.

The problem with that minimum metric was that it was a simple snapshot that didn't capture how "smooth" a card's output was perceived. As we've explained in the past and here, it is easy for a GPU to have a high average framerate while throwing out a ton of interspersed higher latency frames. Those frames can be perceived as judder and while they may not dominate a gaming experience, their presence can seriously detract from your immersion.


In the case above, there are a number of instances where frame times go through the roof, none of which would accurately be captured by our classic Minimum number. However, if you look closely enough, all of the higher frame latency occurs in the upper 1% of the graph. When translated to framerates, that's the lowest 1% (remember, high frame times = lower frame rate). This can be directly translated to the overall "smoothness" represented in a given game.

So this leads us to our "Lowest 1%" within the graphs. What this represents is an average of all the lowest 1% of results from a given benchmark output. We basically take thousands of lines within each benchmark capture, find the average frame time and then also parse out the lowest 1% of those results as a representation of the worse case frame time or smoothness. These frame time numbers are then converted to actual framerate for the sake of legibility within our charts.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
1440P: Battlefield 1 / Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Battlefield 1


Battlefield 1 will likely become known as one of the most popular multiplayer games around but it also happens to be one of the best looking titles around. It also happens to be extremely well optimized with even the lowest end cards having the ability to run at high detail levels.

In this benchmark we use a runthough of The Runner level after the dreadnought barrage is complete and you need to storm the beach. This area includes all of the game’s hallmarks in one condensed area with fire, explosions, debris and numerous other elements layered over one another for some spectacular visual effects.





Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare


The latest iteration in the COD series may not drag out niceties like DX12 or particularly unique playing styles but it nonetheless is a great looking game that is quite popular.

This benchmark takes place during the campaign’s Operation Port Armor wherein we run through a sequence combining various indoor and outdoor elements along with some combat.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
1440P: Deus Ex – Mankind Divided / The Division

Deus Ex – Mankind Divided


Deus Ex titles have historically combined excellent storytelling elements with action-forward gameplay and Mankind Divided is no difference. This run-through uses the streets and a few sewers of the main hub city Prague along with a short action sequence involving gunplay and grenades.



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.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
1440P: Doom / Fallout 4

Doom (Vulkan)


Not many people saw a new Doom as a possible Game of the Year contender but that’s exactly what it has become. Not only is it one of the most intense games currently around but it looks great and is highly optimized. In this run-through we use Mission 6: Into the Fire since it features relatively predictable enemy spawn points and a combination of open air and interior gameplay.




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
13,410
Location
Montreal
1440P: Gears of War 4 / Grand Theft Auto V

Gears of War 4


Like many of the other exclusive DX12 games we have seen, Gears of War 4 looks absolutely stunning and seems to be highly optimized to run well on a variety of hardware. In this benchmark we use Act III, Chapter III The Doorstep, a level that uses wide open views along with several high fidelity environmental effects. While Gears does indeed include a built-in benchmark we didn’t find it to be indicative of real-world performance.



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.

 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
1440P: Hitman / Overwatch

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.





Overwatch


Overwatch happens to be one of the most popular games around right now and while it isn’t particularly stressful upon a system’s resources, its Epic setting can provide a decent workout for all but the highest end GPUs. In order to eliminate as much variability as possible, for this benchmark we use a simple “offline” Bot Match so performance isn’t affected by outside factors like ping times and network latency.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
1440P: Far Cry Primal / Ghost Recon Wildlands

Far Cry Primal


It seems like every generation of our GPU testing has a Far Cry title in it and this one is no different. Far Cry Primal is yet another great looking open-ended world game from Ubisoft which takes you back to prehistoric times. This 60 second runthrough is taken from deep into the game taken within a forest in the far south of the main game map. It combines fire, substantial amounts of vegetation, animals and water into one benchmark. We have also noted that the in-game benchmark is highly inaccurate and does not give results that are properly aligned with actual gameplay performance.




Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands


While the latest Ghost Recon game isn’t compatible with DX12, it happens to be one of the best looking games released in quite some time. It also has an extensive set of in-game graphics options. This 90-second benchmark is based in the tropical jungle of Espiritu Santo as well as a vehicle drive into a slightly more arid zone. As with some other games, the in-game benchmark on this one is out to lunch and doesn’t give a good representation of what you can expect within gameplay.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
1440P: Warhammer: Total War / Witcher 3

Warhammer: Total War


Unlike some of the latest Total War games, the hotly anticipated Warhammer title has been relatively bug free, performs well on all systems and still incorporates the level detail and graphics fidelity this series is known for. In this sequence, we use the in-game benchmarking tool to play back one of our own 40 second gameplay sessions which includes two maxed-out armies and includes all of the elements normally seen in standard gameplay. That means zooms and pans are used to pivot the camera and get a better view of the battlefield.




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
13,410
Location
Montreal
4K: Battlefield 1 / Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Battlefield 1


Battlefield 1 will likely become known as one of the most popular multiplayer games around but it also happens to be one of the best looking titles around. It also happens to be extremely well optimized with even the lowest end cards having the ability to run at high detail levels.

In this benchmark we use a runthough of The Runner level after the dreadnought barrage is complete and you need to storm the beach. This area includes all of the game’s hallmarks in one condensed area with fire, explosions, debris and numerous other elements layered over one another for some spectacular visual effects.





Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare


The latest iteration in the COD series may not drag out niceties like DX12 or particularly unique playing styles but it nonetheless is a great looking game that is quite popular.

This benchmark takes place during the campaign’s Operation Port Armor wherein we run through a sequence combining various indoor and outdoor elements along with some combat.


 

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