Nvidia RTX 3070 review: AMD’s stopwatch just started ticking a lot louder

Talking about the RTX 3070, Nvidia’s latest $499 GPU launching Thursday, October 29, is tricky in terms of the timing of today’s review embargo. As of right now, the RTX 3070 is the finest GPU in this price sector by a large margin. In 24 hours, that could change—perhaps drastically.

Ahead of AMD’s big October 28 event, dedicated to its RDNA 2 GPU line, Nvidia gave us an RTX 3070 Founders Edition to test however we saw fit. This is the GPU Nvidia absolutely needed to reveal before AMD shows up in (expectedly) the same price and power range.

Inside of an Nvidia-only bubble, this new GPU is a sensation. Pretty much every major RTX 2000-series card overshot with proprietary promises instead of offering brute force worth its inflated costs. Yet without AMD nipping at its heels, Nvidia’s annoying strategy seemed to be the right call: the company established the RTX series’ exclusive bonus processing cores as a major industry option without opposition, then got to wait a full year before competing with significant power jumps and delectable price cuts.

Last month’s RTX 3080 saw that strategy bear incredible fruit—even if ordering that $799 GPU is still seemingly impossible. But what happens when Nvidia scales down the Ampere 7nm promise to a $499 product that more people can afford? And how will that compare to whatever AMD likely has to offer in the same range?

Future-proofing around the 1440p threshold

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We can only answer some of those questions today. (Until Nvidia proves otherwise, we assume that availability will continue to be a massive asterisk for this and all other RTX 3000-series cards.) In good news, at least, the RTX 3070 gets off to a roaring start by rendering its 2019 sibling, the RTX 2070 Super, moot. Both debuted at $499, but the newer option typically approaches, and occasionally bests, the RTX 2080 Ti (whose $1,199 MSRP in 2018 sure feels like a kick in the ray-traced teeth nowadays).

But RTX 3070’s price-to-performance ratio comes with one significant caveat: a not-so-future-proofed VRAM capacity of 8GB, shipping in the not-as-blistering category of GDDR6. That matches the best RTX 2000-series cards but is surpassed by higher-speed GDDR6x VRAM in pricier RTX 3000-series GPUs.

RTX 3080 FE RTX 3070 FE RTX 2080 Ti FE RTX 2080 Super RTX 2070 Super GTX 1080 Ti
CUDA Cores 8,704 5,888 4,352 3,072 2,560 3,584
272 184 272 192 184
ROPs 96 96 88 64 64 88
Tensor cores 272
544 384 320 n/a
RT cores 68
68 48 40 n/a
Core Clock 1,440MHz 1,500MHz 1,350MHz 1,650MHz 1,605MHz 1,480MHz
Boost Clock 1,710MHz 1,725MHz 1,635MHz 1,815MHz 1,770MHz 1,582MHz
Memory Bus Width 320-bit 256-bit 352-bit 256-bit 256-bit 352-bit
Memory Speed 19GHz 14GHz 14GHz 15.5GHz 14GHz 11GHz
Memory Bandwidth 760GB/s 448GB/s 616GB/s 496GB/s 448GB/s 484GB/s
TDP 320W 220W 260W 250W 215W 250W
MSRP at launch $699 $499 $1,199 $699 $499 $699

The thing is, “future-proofed” for PC gaming is relative. What’s going to matter in 3D processing in the near future, both for the games you love and the systems you run them on? If you’re set on having the crispest native 4K rendering for the foreseeable future, the RTX doesn’t leapfrog over the 2080 Ti, particularly with a VRAM allotment that could stress any games that ship with 4K-specific texture packs.

But if you’re favoring a lower-resolution panel, perhaps 1440p or a widescreen 1440p variant—and Steam’s worldwide stats make that a safe assumption—then your version of future-proofing revolves more around processing power and ray-tracing potential. In those respects, the RTX 3070 currently looks like the tippy-top option for a “top-of-the-line” 1440p system… with the bonus of Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super-Sampling (DLSS) for surprisingly competitive fidelity in 4K resolutions, should gamers upgrade their monitor between now and the next GPU generation. (Until AMD shows us otherwise, Nvidia’s proprietary DLSS 2.0 pipeline remains the industry’s leading upscaling option, and game studios have started embracing it in droves.)

In other words, if you’re more interested in high frame rates on resolutions less than 4K, and you want GPU overkill for such a CPU-bound gaming scenario, the RTX 3070 is this year’s best breathing-room option for the price… at least, unless AMD announces an even more compelling proposition on October 28.

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