The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Review



Author: SKYMTL
Date: May 29, 2016
Product Name: GTX 1070 Founders Edition


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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