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

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition graphics card delivers performance on par with last generation's flagship for $700 less, but compromises on memory capacity.

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Our test system

Our dedicated graphics card test system is a couple of years old, but it’s packed with some of the fastest complementary components available to put any potential performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves.

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($300 on Amazon) overclocked to 5GHz all cores
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($105 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($355 on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($352 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($70 each on Amazon)

We’re comparing the $500 GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition against a bunch of other FE cards: Nvidia’s $800 GeForce RTX 3080, $1,200 RTX 2080 Ti, $800 RTX 2080 and the older $700 GTX 1080, as well as the “Super” upgrades for the RTX 2070 and 2080. (MSRPs for the 1080 and 2080 started at $100 less, but Nvidia charged a premium for the FE models.) Because so many owners of the $700 GTX 1080 Ti decided to skip over the lackluster performance increase in the similarly priced RTX 2080, we’re also including the EVGA GTX 1080 Ti SC2 in our roundup. We also included AMD’s $400 Radeon RX 5700 XT, which matched or even beat the RTX 2070’s performance in many games despite starting at $100 less.

dsc01148 Brad Chacos/IDG

The GeForce RTX 3070 FE in our test system.

We test a variety of games spanning various engines, genres, and graphics APIs (DirectX 11, DX12, and Vulkan). Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets unless otherwise noted, with VSync, frame rate caps, real-time ray tracing or DLSS effects, and FreeSync/G-Sync disabled, along with any other vendor-specific technologies like FidelityFX. We’ve also enabled temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) to push these cards to their limits. We run each benchmark at least three times and list the average result for each test.

GeForce RTX 3080 gaming benchmarks

Horizon Zero Dawn

Yep, Sony exclusives are hitting the PC now. Horizon Zero Dawn hit Steam with some performance issues, but the most egregious ones have been mostly cleared up thanks to hard work from the developers, and the game topped the sales charts for weeks after its release. It also seems to respond somewhat to PCIe 4.0 scaling, which will make this an interesting inclusion when we shift to a PCIe 4.0-based system in the future.

Horizon Zero Dawn runs on Guerrilla Games’ Decima engine, the same engine that powers Death Stranding. Ambient Occlusion can still offer iffy results if set to Ultra, so we test with that setting at Medium. Every other visual option is maxed out.

hzd Brad Chacos/IDG

The GeForce RTX 3070 draws equal with the RTX 2080 Ti at both 4K and 1440p resolution. In our RTX 3080 and 3090 reviews, we found that Nvidia’s Ampere architecture doesn’t seem to scale down to lower resolutions as well as older “Turing”-based RTX 20-series options. We see that again with the 1080p results, where the RTX 3070 winds up roughly 12 percent slower than the RTX 2080 Ti.

The less efficient scaling at lower resolutions is also apparent when you compare the RTX 3070 against the RTX 2070 it replaces. The 3070 is 63 percent faster at 4K, but 54 percent faster at 1440p. Regardless, that’s a stellar gen-on-gen leap.

Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics puts it own brutal, fast-paced spin on the XCOM-like genre. This Unreal Engine 4-powered game was built from the ground up for DirectX 12, and we love being able to work a tactics-style game into our benchmarking suite. Better yet, the game comes with a plethora of graphics options for PC snobs. More games should devote such loving care to explaining what flipping all these visual knobs mean. You can’t use the presets to benchmark Gears Tactics, as it intelligently scales to work best on your installed hardware, meaning that “Ultra” on one graphics card can load different settings than “Ultra” on a weaker card. We manually set all options to their highest possible settings.

gears tactics Brad Chacos/IDG

The GeForce RTX 3070 winds up a couple of frames behind the RTX 2080 Ti at all resolutions here, but again, it’s effectively a tie. Versus the RTX 2070, the RTX 3070 winds up 69 percent faster at 4K and 52 percent faster at 1440p.

Next page: Gaming benchmarks continue

At a Glance
  • The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition delivers performance on a par with last generation's flagship for $700 less, but compromises on memory capacity. It's a great graphics card for 4K or high-refresh-rate gaming.

    Pros

    • Excellent 4K and 1440p gaming
    • As fast as RTX 2080 Ti for $700 less
    • Cool, reasonably quiet custom cooling
    • Ray tracing at 1440p and (sometimes) 4K
    • HDMI 2.1, AV1 encoding, PCIe 4.0, 8K/30fps capture
    • Nvidia software: Reflex, G-Sync, Shadowplay, Broadcast, RTX IO

    Cons

    • 8GB of memory doesn't feel future-proof for 4K gaming
    • Not as quiet as other RTX 30 Founders Edition GPUs, some custom cards
    • 12-pin power adapter is ugly
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