Back in its heyday, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 was praised universally as the best bang for your buck of the Maxwell generation. With an impressive 1,664 CUDA cores and a final boost clock of 1,178 MHz, this 4GB (or 3.5GB, really) card was fully capable of powering basically every AAA game at 1080p – and, in large part still is.
However, the GTX 1070 is its successor, and the Pascal follow-up has taken the crown from its value-oriented precursor. So, what’s new?
Well, there's an additional 256 CUDA cores this time round, a higher boost clock running up to 1683 MHz (1797 MHz on the MSI Variant we have in OC Mode) and an additional 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM.
Of course, it's running off of Pascal's mighty 16nm FinFET manufacturing node, enabling 6.5 TFLOPS of overall performance, or thereabouts. That's close enough to a Titan X in spec, but for half the price.
If you take a look back at our first review of the GTX 1080 that launched at the beginning of this June, you'll know our biggest complaint was with the price. The Founder's Edition looks fantastic and really does wonders to reinvigorate the now ageing metallic cooler we first saw with the launch of the GTX 680 way back in the day.
The problem with Founder's Edition cards is that you end up paying an absolute premium for the sake of what? A few weeks early access and a slightly worse cooler? Color us not convinced. Unfortunately the story rings true again with the GTX 1070.
UK-based retailer Overclockers will be selling the Founder's Edition version at £410 (around $584 or AUS$792). There is a reason to be optimistic, however, as partner cards will be coming in at a far lower price.
MSI's Aero Cooler for instance, with a default blower style cooler is priced at £380 (around $541 or AUS$734), while an aftermarket Twin Frozr will set you back 10 pounds (around $14/AUS$19) more.
X marks the spot
The GTX 1070 variant we have here is non-other than MSI's top of the line Gaming X that comes with a fully custom PCB, improved fan design, LED lighting and stock overclock as standard. And, a meaty one at that. Thanks to MSI's Afterburner software, you have access to three different modes: Silent, Gaming and OC mode.
I'm a little confused as to why these exist, as once buried in your case you'll barely hear this thing. Especially coupled with its 0dB fan technology keeping the fans entirely subdued until post 60 degree temps hit the core.
The extra megahertz on that core clock will net you a good 20% improvement to frame rates in-game. Now, we know that doesn't sound like a lot, but as far as minimum frame rates go, the higher they are the smoother your overall experience will be.
So, what separates this monster from the likes of the GTX 1080 I reviewed a few weeks back? Well, in short, a few less CUDA cores, a lower base clock and a departure from the 10GHz memory of GDDR5X. That being said GDDR5 is still a strong competitive VRAM memory specification, so it's hardly like you're going to be losing out to a huge degree, certainly not at 1080 and 1440p.
The overall aesthetic design of MSI's new Gaming X 1070 is clean. It's a nice reiteration on the last generation, but there are still a few things that bug us here – not least the inclusion of RGB LEDs on a card that's predominantly black and red, as realistically you just can't change the color on that from anything other than white, red or off. But other than that it's a fairly nice update.