Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti review: The best 1440p graphics card in weird graphics card times

We review the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition and Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition vs. Radeon Vega.

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GeForce GTX 1070 Ti vs Radeon Vega 56

How does the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti compare to the Radeon Vega 56? The answer’s complicated, and made more so by cryptocurrency miners driving up prices in this market segment.

Nvidia met its goal. The GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition ($450 on Nvidia) matches or beats the Radeon Vega 56 in every game we tested except Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, which skews heavily towards AMD hardware. And it bests the AMD card heavily in Rise of the Tomb Raider and Ashes of the Singularity. But power and heat are a wash and the performance victories are minimal in most situations we’ve tested. Given that AMD’s glorious, tear- and stutter-killing FreeSync variable refresh rate monitors are much more affordable than Nvidia’s comparable G-Sync displays, and the GTX 1070 Ti starts at $50 more than the Radeon RX Vega 56’s $400 suggested pricing, you can make an argument for these cards being of roughly equal value.

At least in theory.

geforce gtx 1070 ti 5 Brad Chacos/IDG

In reality, the Radeon Vega 56 has barely come close to approaching its suggested pricing since five minutes after the card launched in August. Sure, there’s a Sapphire Vega 56 for $400 at Microcenter right now, but that’s in-store pickup only and on “sale” from $530. As I’m writing this on November 1, there’s a single XFX Vega 56 available for $400 on Amazon and $420 on Newegg, but all others cost more than $500... and it just turned up at those prices today. I’ve been tracking Vega 56 prices on Newegg since the GTX 1070 Ti’s announcement last week, and most sold for $470—$20 more than Nvidia’s Founders Edition card, and the same price as the superior EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition.  

The GTX 1070 Ti probably wouldn’t exist if Vega 56 didn’t exist, but it’s cards like the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition that make Vega 56 moot in today’s bizarre market. The world is still waiting for custom cards month after Vega’s launch. In the meantime, the Radeon Vega reference cooler sounds like a damned hurricane. That alone makes it impossible to recommend over EVGA’s (in reality) identically priced GTX 1070 Ti, which delivers more performance while staying cool and running awfully quiet.

If Radeon Vega 56 ever hits its suggested price and custom Vega cards become available for $450 or less, the FreeSync variable may tip the scales back in AMD’s favor. But that’s not the way of the world today.

Should I buy the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti?

So should you buy the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti? Even though we recommend it over the Radeon RX Vega 56, it’s still a complicated question influenced by the cryptocurrency problem, as miners drive up prices. Why do men decide?

If you look at PCWorld’s guide to the best graphics cards—or the benchmarks in this very article—you’ll see that the vanilla $380 GTX 1070 already excels for 60-fps gaming at 2560x1440 resolution. The GTX 1080, on the other hand, is best for high refresh-rate 1440p gaming. It can handle entry-level 4K gaming if you turn down some graphics settings, but true single-card 4K/60 gaming requires the beastly $700 GTX 1080 Ti.

geforce gtx 1070 ti 6 Brad Chacos/IDG

The EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition uses a custom ACX 3.0 cooler.

But most full-sized versions of the GTX 1070 are selling for $430 or more on Newegg right now. (Damned miners!) The significant performance increase offered by the GTX 1070 Ti is well worth the $20 to $30 extra. But saving up even more pennies for the $500-plus GTX 1080 makes less sense. The GTX 1070 Ti is plenty fast for 1440p gaming, and the biggest performance differences between the GTX 1070 Ti and GTX 1080 in our 4K tests are only about 5 fps. If you’re already turning down graphics settings to play games at 4K with the GTX 1080, you could save $50 and just turn anti-aliasing options down another notch on the GTX 1070 Ti instead.

In an ideal world—where the GTX 1070, GTX 1080, and Radeon RX Vega 56 all sold for suggested pricing, and custom Vega cards were on store shelves—the GTX 1070 Ti would be a weird and largely irrelevant release, hampered by the crap Nvidia’s pulling with the clock speeds of custom cards. But here in the real world of today’s graphics card market, it’s the best 1440p graphics card option around. Unless cryptocurrency miners drive up its prices too, of course.

The slick-looking EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition ($470 on Amazon) easily justifies its modest $20 upcharge thanks to its excellent ACX 3.0 cooler and the one-touch ease with which Precision XOC negates Nvidia’s ugly, artificial clock speed lockdown in customized graphics cards. But be sure to download that overclocking software to get the most out of your hardware.

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