Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition review: Blistering performance gets $700 cheaper

“Faster than the 2080 Ti.” That’s the promise Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang made while revealing the GeForce RTX 3070 in September, and it’s a scintillating one. The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti sat atop Nvidia’s RTX 20-series graphics card stack, offering performance as scalding as its $1,200 price tag. Could the $500 GeForce RTX 3070 and its new-look Ampere GPU really go toe-to-toe with the last generation’s luxurious flagship for a whopping $700 less?

Spoiler alert: Yep. It wins some and loses some, but on the whole, the GeForce RTX 3070 is effectively just as fast as the RTX 2080 Ti in gaming (and much more so in some creative tasks) for well under half the price. And it absolutely smokes its RTX 2070 predecessor. That’s a massive step forward for PC gamers—but AMD’s counterpunch looms, with the Radeon RX 6000 series scheduled to be unveiled Wednesday. Whether the GeForce RTX 3070 continues to rock  oursocks in the wake of AMD’s announcement remains to be seen, but at least for one day, Nvidia’s new graphics card rules the school.

Let’s dig in.

Brad Chacos/IDG

The backplate of the RTX 3070 Founders Edition.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070: Specs, features, and price

First, the technical info, as the RTX 3070 Founders Edition differs quite a bit from previously released RTX 30-series graphics cards.

While the GeForce RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 use Nvidia’s biggest “GA102” Ampere GPU, the new GeForce RTX 3070 is built using the smaller “GA104” GPU. This GPU supports up to 48 streaming multiprocessors in its full incarnation, but the RTX 3070 pares that back slightly with 46 SMs, presumably to help compensate for potential defects during the manufacturing process. Check out our RTX 3080 review or Nvidia’s own Ampere whitepaper for a deeper look at the most significant architectural changes, as we won’t be rehashing those GPU-level technical details here.

Here’s a high-level look at the $500 GeForce RTX 3070’s insides and outsides, compared against the tech specs for its predecessor, the $500 RTX 2070, and the $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti that Nvidia is so keen to compare it against.

rtx 3070 vs 2080 ti vs 2070Brad Chacos/IDG

The “Ampere” GPUs in the RTX 30-series sport a new design that effectively doubles the CUDA core count compared to the older generation. Not all of those can be used at once in most games, however, so performance doesn’t scale linearly. Likewise, the RTX 3070 packs more advanced RT and tensor cores—the dedicated hardware used for ray tracing and AI tasks like DLSS, respectively—than the last-gen GPUs, so don’t be scared off by the lower counts there. This card handles real-time ray tracing on a par with what the RTX 2080 Ti could handle, and it’s clocked much higher.

Memory is the biggest difference here. The RTX 3080 and 3090 upgraded to much faster, much more efficient GDDR6X memory, which gives those cards hefty bumps to overall memory bandwidth. The GeForce RTX 3070 doesn’t. It comes with the same 8GB of GDDR6 memory as last-gen’s RTX 2070, over the same 256-bit bus. That’s a disadvantage compared to the RTX 2080 Ti it usurps, both in raw capacity (8GB vs 11GB) and overall memory bandwidth (448GBps vs. 616GBps). It shouldn’t make a difference at 1440p resolution, but you have to wonder if 8GB of GDDR6 will be enough for 4K gaming in a couple of years, especially because the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles are both moving to 16GB of VRAM when they launch in a couple of weeks. Today, though, it’s fine for the vast majority of 4K games.

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