Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition review: Better tomorrow and today

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition packs futuristic hardware for ray tracing and AI-enhanced graphics, but it's also faster than the competition in traditional games.

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Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition overclocking

You don’t get much extra out of overclocking the more powerful GeForce RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti, but we picked up just a bit more extra headroom with the RTX 2070 FE. Using the new one-button Nvidia Scanner overclocking tool in EVGA’s slick Precision X1 software, we achieved an easy +160 score on the card—a frankly massive amount compared to what we’ve seen with other RTX GPUs. Applying the card-customized voltage and overclocking curve brought the base clock from 1,410MHz to 1,505MHz, and the boost clock from 1,710MHz to 1,804MHz, as measured by GPU-Z.

After that, we maxed out the voltage, temperature, and power limit sliders to unleash the card as much as possible. GeForce RTX-series cards are highly susceptible to power limits. Nvidia dialed back the available power limit for the 2070 FE. Its more potent RTX 20-series cousins let you boost the power limit by about 25 percent, which left Nvidia hardware partners like EVGA and Asus little room to add more performance. The GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition limits you to 16 percent.

nvidia fe oc vs stock Brad Chacos/IDG

With all tweaks completed, we observed the card running right around the 2GHz barrier in games, usually hovering between 1,995MHz and 2,010MHz depending on the workload. Manual overclocking and memory overclocking could have pushed performance even further, but we’re happy with these near-effortless results of 4 percent to 5 percent uplift in many games. Some games showed no significant gain, however.

The new Nvidia Scanner tool comes close to the maximum overclock for your GPU. All you have to do is click a button, wait 20 minutes for the process to run, and then drag a few sliders to the right. Dig it.

Should you buy the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition?

It’s much easier to recommend the GeForce RTX 2070 than the other RTX 20-series cards.

The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti is the fastest graphics card ever released, and the first built for an era of 4K/144Hz monitors like the Acer Predator X27, but it costs a staggering $1,200-plus when you can find it on the street—a $500 increase over its predecessor. On the other hand, the $700 GeForce RTX 2080 (which sells for $800-plus in reality) goes blow-for-blow with the older $700 or less GTX 1080 Ti in traditional games, essentially asking you to pay a $100-plus premium for ray tracing and AI enhancements that aren’t even available yet and aren’t guaranteed to explode in popularity. They’re both exciting technologies that we hope are here to stay, but right now, investing more for an RTX 2080 is a gamble on what the future will bring.

[ Further reading: GeForce RTX 2080 vs. GTX 1080 Ti: Which graphics card should you buy? ]

dsc00235 Brad Chacos/IDG

With GTX 1080 prices starting around $480 on Newegg, and the GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition costing $600 at Best Buy and GeForce.com, Nvidia’s also asking you to pay more for the promise of ray tracing and Deep Learning Super Sampling. But unlike the RTX 2080, the RTX 2070 FE outperforms its last-gen $500 rival, the GTX 1080, in traditional games as well. You can expect to see a double-digit performance uplift in most games, and over 20 percent in games that love async compute capabilities, like Rainbow Six Siege. We didn’t test HDR performance here, but the RTX 20-series offers much less of a performance hit in those games, too, if you’ve bought an HDR display.

The extra frames don’t change the core capabilities of these cards. The Radeon Vega 64, GeForce GTX 1080, and GeForce RTX 2070 are all excellent 1440p graphics cards, with the ability to push 144Hz, 1080p monitors hard. The faster performance makes the RTX 2070 FE a reasonable entry-level 4K/60 option, too, especially if you’ve invested in a 4K G-Sync monitor and don’t mind dialing graphics settings from Ultra to High. That said, on a meta level, it’s leaves a very sour taste in my mouth than Nvidia’s $500 and $700 graphics card offerings deliver little to no performance improvement in traditional games, roughly 2.5 years after the GTX 1080 launched.

This testing shows that all these years later, the GTX 1070 is still a compelling (and much more affordable) 1440p/60 option for $380. We run our tests with every graphics setting cranked to Ultra, and the GTX 1070 manages to surpass 60 fps at 1440p nonetheless. In the few games where it can’t, dropping some graphics details down to High would push it over the hump.

dsc00393 Brad Chacos/IDG

We held off issuing review scores to the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti due to the delayed promise of their core ray tracing and DLSS features. We’ll issue a verdict for the GeForce RTX 2070 FE, though. With GTX 1080s still being widely available, I’d be hesitant to recommend this higher-priced card based on the promise of technologies yet to come alone. But with that noticeable bump in performance in traditional games baked in, I think it’s a no-brainer: Opt for a GeForce RTX 2070 over a GTX 1080 unless you find the latter on a smoking hot sale. The RTX 2070 is faster in today’s games, and you won’t get left behind if ray tracing and DLSS gain traction. Win-win, and not bad for an extra $100.

Actually, it doesn’t even have to be an extra $100. While Nvidia’s higher-than-reference Founders Edition pricing serves as the cost floor for custom RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti graphics cards, it’s truly a premium with this GPU. Nvidia says GeForce RTX 2070 partner cards will start at $500, and we’ve already reviewed the $550 EVGA RTX 2070 XC, which—spoiler alert—runs just as fast as Nvidia’s RTX 2070 FE, and much cooler.

It’s not quite as luxurious and sleek as Nvidia’s card, though. The Founders Edition’s all-metal, enclosed design is a joy to behold and to hold, and our review sample achieved a huge out-of-the-box overclock, though overclocking performance is never guaranteed. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition’s all-around elegance and vastly improved performance make it well worth considering at $600, but you can find comparably performing models for less.

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At a Glance
  • The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition packs futuristic hardware for ray tracing and AI-enhanced graphics, but it's also faster than the competition in traditional games. Nvidia's design is gorgeous, but similar performance can be achieved with lower-priced RTX 2070 graphics cards.

    Pros

    • Great 1440p and entry-level 4K gaming performance
    • Founders Edition is beautifully designed
    • Easily overclocked
    • RT and tensor cores for ray tracing, DLSS, and more

    Cons

    • Ray tracing and DLSS not available in games yet
    • Not a huge performance leap over GTX 1080
    • Expensive
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