While Nvidia’s RTX 3080 release last month didn’t quite go as planned, there’s no denying that Nvidia’s 3000 series of ray tracing graphics cards are the ones that matter. The RTX 3080 finally made 4K gaming at 60 fps possible and more affordable for the average PC gamer, and the 3000-series as a whole makes the future of computer graphics and ray tracing even more palatable—more exciting. It’s what the 2000-series aspired to do but fell short of. Consistent 4K gaming at 60 fps was out of reach of the RTX 2080 Ti, Nvidia’s now last-generation high-end graphics card, but it had solid and consistent performance at 1440p. Unfortunately, the $1,000 price tag was also out of reach for most people too. And if you bought an RTX 2080 Ti recently, or ever, I’m so sorry; Nvidia’s $500 RTX 3070's performance is near-identical (sometimes better) and half the price.
The Nvidia RTX 3070 puts 1440p on ultra gaming within mid-range budgets for most desktop builders. And I say midrange because with the 3000 series Nvidia has completely shifted the discourse of what is considered a high-end, mid-range, and budget GPU. With a single generation you’ve gone from spending $1,000 to get 1440p on ultra gaming to spending just $500. Nvidia’s changed things.
As I mentioned in my RTX 3080 review, one of the biggest changes between the 2000-series and 3000-series is the new Ampere architecture. These GPUs are 1.7 times more powerful than the previous generation and can do nearly double the amount of RT (ray tracing) calculations.
When you put that in context of the RTX 2080 Ti versus the RTX 3070 with the 50% price drop, that’s incredible. To compare, the RTX 2080 Ti has 4352 CUDA cores (aka shader counts, or kind of like the number of cores in a CPU); 1545 MHz boost clock; 11 GB GDDR6 VRAM; 260W TDP. The RTX 3070 has 5888 CUDA cores; 1730 MHz boost clock; 8 GB GDDR6 VRAM; 220W TDP.
So not only is the Ampere architecture more efficient than last-gen’s Turing architecture, it’s able to achieve equivalent performance with less VRAM, less power consumption, and less bandwidth. The extra CUDA cores and higher boost clock help too, but that’s more apparent while running programs like Blender and LuxMark. Not so much gaming.
But don’t worry, the RTX 3070 gets even better from there. With equivalent performance to the RTX 2080 Ti, that means the 3070 is faster than RTX 2080 Super, RTX 2080, RTX 2070 Super, and RTX 2070—which were all more expensive than the RTX 3070 at launch, except for the identically priced (at launch) RTX 2070 Super.
Remember when I said the 3070 didn’t seem like it would have the best balance of price and performance compared to the 3080? Forget what I said. I was wrong. Can’t argue either that when both cards have great performance per dollar. If you don’t care so much about 4K gaming but want a mid-range card that’s going to last for years to come, the RTX 3070 is it. (Unless AMD pulls out something really stellar with its RX 6000-series. We’ll have to wait and see on that.)
Speaking of performance, let’s jump into that. Our test bench includes an: Intel Core i9-10900K, Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme, 16 GB (8 GB x 2) G.Skill Trident Z Royal 2133 MHz, Samsung 970 Evo 500 GB M.2 PCIe SSD, Corsair H150i Pro RGB 360mm AIO cooler, and Seasonic 1000W PSU. The same configuration was used for comparing the RTX 3070 to the RTX 2080 Ti.
Like the 3080, the CPU does bottleneck somewhat at 1080p on ultra (or highest graphical setting). But there wasn’t a lot of difference between the RTX 3070 and RTX 2080 Ti across the 10 games in the charts above, ray tracing on and off too.
The RTX 3070 has stellar performance all across the board, rarely straying further than a 5 fps difference, whether higher or lower than the RTX 2080 Ti. That’s not a lot of frames, and in action that little difference will not matter at all, especially playing single player games that don’t benefit the same way from a higher refresh rate.
But perhaps the best thing about the 3070 is the ray tracing performance. For $500, you will get over 60 fps at 1080p on ultra no matter what, even in demanding games like Control and Metro Exodus. And as you’ll see in the chart above, the 3070 was also able to pull off over 60 fps at 1440p with ray tracing on, too. For that kind of performance, you had to pay $1,000 only two years ago. Not only is a $500 RTX 3070 way more reasonable for those kind of scores, but it makes the RTX 2080 Ti obsolete. There’s absolutely no reason to get that card now.
The RTX 3070 is also a more budget-friendly card when it comes to raw GPU compute power—and cranked out higher scores than the RTX 2080 Ti in some tests. Geekbench 4 GPU scores were not that much different, although the 2080 Ti was slightly faster. But the 3070 whooped the 2080 Ti’s butt in LuxMark rendering the same 3D image of a reflective chrome ball. Rendering another 3D image in Blender took the same amount of time with both GPUs, 4 minutes 53 seconds for the RTX 2080 Ti and 4 minutes 54 seconds for the RTX 3080.
While it’s not part of our usual testing suite, I was also curious to see how the RTX 3070 and RTX 2080 Ti compared in 3D Mark. The scores weren’t as close as I expected, but we at Gizmodo like to put a bigger emphasis on “real world results.” Synthetic benchmarks don’t always tell the entire story, and 3D Mark is much more demanding than your average game, especially running the Port Royal real-time ray tracing benchmark. But it’s an interesting comparison nevertheless.
The RTX 3070 scored higher in the 4K resolution Fire Strike test, 8538 to 8294, but lower in at both 1080p and 1440p. However, the RTX 2080 Ti scored higher in the ray tracing test than the RTX 3070 at all resolutions. This could be because of the RTX 2080 Ti’s higher amount of VRAM, which is used to store image data and acts as a memory buffer between the CPU and GPU. More VRAM means more image data the card can temporarily store, and since the 2080 Ti has more bandwidth, it makes sense it would have the faster benchmark scores in this case. But as you have already seen from the game benchmarks, in practice that translates to a very small difference in fps the majority of the time.
And a small difference is fine because the RTX 3070 is the good-enough card for most people who are looking to build their next rig from scratch or only upgrade their GPU for now. It’s a mighty-fine graphics card, and even if that $500 price tag is still not as low as you’d like, I’d say to hold out a little longer, save your money, and then get it—even though Nvidia is likely not done releasing 30-series cards to its overall line up. This is just an easy GPU to recommend especially if you skipped over buying a 2000-series cards. Nvidia’s changed the GPU space tremendously with the 3000-series and made it a lot more affordable.
- RTX 2080 Ti equivalent performance and outstanding value
- Cooler and quieter than the previous generation of GPUs
- Superb ray tracing performance at 1080p and 1440p
- CPU-bound games will likely experience bottlenecking
- Still not a fan of the power adapter