Nvidia's GeForce RTX 30 series has proven to be a bit controversial thanks to extremely low availability and inflated prices. Despite a slick launch presentation and largely favourable reviews for the high-end GeForce RTX 3080 and ultra-premium GeForce RTX 3090 GPUs, buyers have been frustrated and upset. Many are now saying they'll hold off till reviews of AMD's just-announced Radeon RX6000 series are out. No matter how good the products are, they're useless if buyers can't get their hands on them. Now, it's time for the more mainstream GeForce RTX 3070 to hit the market, and demand is naturally expected to be even higher.
The GeForce RTX 3070 GPU is still a high-end piece of hardware aimed at enthusiasts, and graphics cards based on it are not going to be considered affordable, especially in India. Nvidia continues to position its RTX series with ray tracing as premium offerings. The RTX 3070 will cater mainly to those who want to play today's games at the highest settings at 1440p, or who don't mind a few tradeoffs at 4K.
With all that in mind, I'm reviewing one of the first GeForce RTX 3070-based graphics cards to hit India, the Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3070. With a much more conventional design approach than Nvidia's own Founders Edition cards, it will be interesting to see whether Asus can stand out in a crowd, and whether the RTX 3070 GPU itself is right for gamers in India.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 architecture and specifications
As its name suggests, the GeForce RTX 3070 is a smaller implementation of Nvidia's new Ampere architecture than its siblings, the GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090. It uses all the same building blocks including Nvidia's second-gen ray tracing cores and third-gen tensor cores for AI acceleration, which includes Nvidia's DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) resolution upscaling tech. On the more traditional shader operations side, Nvidia says it has doubled the throughput of floating-point calculations.
DLSS is something that becomes more important with non-flagship GPUs since its whole purpose is to compensate for low frame rates caused by the massive demand that ray tracing can put on your hardware. DLSS essentially renders a game at a lower resolution, which is less resource-intensive, and then upscales the output to your desired target. When first introduced with the RTX 20-series (Turing architecture), it didn't have much traction, but has since been adopted by more and more game developers. Nvidia even says that DLSS can sometimes deliver sharper graphics than native rendering.
Ray tracing allows for incredibly realistic spot and area lighting, shadows, reflections and refractions, and more. This of course means that graphics are much more immersive, and in the future we might see gameplay mechanics that actually depend on ray tracing. However, the performance penalty is enormous so the benefits are out of reach for many gamers. If Ampere's generational improvements can bring better performance to lower prices, ray tracing will have a much better chance of going mainstream.
Speaking of generational improvements, Nvidia claims that the GeForce RTX 3070 delivers performance at 1440p that outshines the previous top-end GeForce RTX 2080 Ti for less than half the cost. It is also said to be as much as 60 percent faster than the GeForce RTX 2070, its direct predecessor.
And it isn't just gameplay Nvidia says its Ampere architecture brings new benefits and better performance to related activities such as streaming or broadcasting, as well as using game engines to create realistic animation. Tensor cores, for example, can be used to help improve voice and video quality as well as cancel noise and replace your background while livestreaming.
In terms of numbers, the GeForce RTX 3070 GPU is equipped with 5,888 CUDA cores, 184 tensor cores and 46 RT cores, organised into 46 clusters called Streaming Multiprocessors. The GPU runs at up to 1725MHz. All GeForce RTX 3070 graphics cards will have 8GB of GDDR6 RAM on a 256-bit bus for a total memory bandwidth of 448GBps. The official TDP for Nvidia's Founders Edition is 220W. Nvidia's partners including Asus are free to tweak speeds and some other hardware, most notably the designs of the PCB and cooling apparatus.
The HDMI 2.1 standard allows for 4K 120Hz over a single cable, and you also get DisplayPort 1.4a outputs. Hardware video encoding is also updated with support for the emerging high-quality, royalty-free AV1 codec. Another forward-looking feature is support for Microsoft's upcoming DirectStorage API which will allow games to load data directly from storage devices to a GPU's memory pool rather than going through system memory first. This could make waiting for levels to load a thing of the past, and frees the CPU from having to decompress huge textures.
Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3070 design and features
As you might have guessed by the 220W TDP, the GeForce RTX 3070 requires serious cooling. For this model in its TUF Gaming series, Asus has developed a massive three-fan assembly fitted in an all-aluminium shield with a vented metal backplate. The three fans use an axial design with the one in the centre spinning opposite to the other two to reduce noise and improve airflow. They only spin up when the GPU temperature crosses 55 degrees so you don't have to worry about noise at idle.
The heatsink itself isn't huge, but it is very wide and spread out in three sections with multiple heatpipes snaking their way around between them. You can see all of this as the sides are fully exposed rather than being enclosed in a shroud. This means also means that hot air is expelled within your PC case, not channelled out through the back.
This is gigantic card and it will occupy three slots in your cabinet Asus calls it a 2.7 slot design which leaves some room for air movement but not much else. It measures 299.9 x 126.9 x 51.7mm. It will hang over the edge of a standard ATX motherboard. It's also quite heavy and does feel very solid.
Asus has gone with a relatively demure dark grey colour. There are a few lines and creases in the metal cooler plate for effect, and if you look closely you'll see a few sections with a very light geometric pattern or brushed metal texture. There are no splashes of red or garish gamer accents the only RGB LED element is a small TUF series logo on the top with a small bar beneath it. You can of course control this with Asus' Aura Sync utility. There are a few patterns to choose from, or you can have it react to GPU temperature.
For some reason, Asus also highlights the fact that the mounting bracket is made of stainless steel, despite the fact that it will be hidden away as soon as you install this card. There's a surprise though along with three DisplayPorts, there are two HDMI outputs rather than the usual one. Only up to four can be used at a time, but this could make life easier for people with VR headsets.
You'll need two standard 8-pin PCIe power connectors and Asus recommends a 750W power supply minimum, which is probably overkill unless you have a lot of other high-end hardware. It seems that partner brands are yet to adopt Nvidia's new miniature power connector design, so you don't have to worry about an adapter. A BIOS switch near the power connectors lets you toggle between the default performance mode and a quiet mode without software tweaking.
Of course, Asus says it has used extremely high-quality components and manufacturing processes. The fans are said to be engineered for durability, and the power regulators and capacitors meet military-grade certification.
Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3070 performance
I set up the Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3070 using exactly the same hardware that I tested the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition card on, which should make direct comparison easy. This rig is comprised of an AMD Ryzen 2 2700X CPU, a Gigabyte Aorus X470 Gaming 7 Wifi motherboard, 2x8GB of G.Skill F4-3400C16D-16GSXW DDR4 RAM, a 1TB Samsung 860 Evo SSD, and a Corsair RM650 power supply. The monitor is a 4K Asus PB287Q. I installed all the latest Windows 10 updates prior to testing. Nvidia supplied a pre-release version of its 456.96 driver for testing purposes.
Starting with synthetic tests, it's clear that the GeForce RTX 3070 GPU is able to deliver roughly between 75 percent and 90 percent of the performance of the GeForce RTX 3080 which is not bad considering that it comes in at around 70 percent of its bigger sibling's cost. The DLSS feature test result shows a much wider gap in performance this time, with a surprisingly higher overall result.
|Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3070||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition||Zotac GeForce RTX 2080 Amp|
|3DMark DLSS Feature Test (off / on)||37.54fps / 88fps||50.33fps / 69.41fps||NA|
|3DMark Port Royal||8,083||10,721||NA|
|3DMark Time Spy||11,857||13,996||9,505|
|3DMark Time Spy Extreme||5,912||7,191||NA|
|3DMark Fire Strike||23,893||25,461||19,461|
|3DMark Fire Strike Extreme||15,415||17,787||12,215|
|3DMark Fire Strike Ultra||8,587||10,520||6,498|
|Unigine Superposition (4K Optimised)||11,060||13,708||NA|
As for in-game benchmarks, I started as usual with the reliable Shadow of the Tomb Raider, with the resolution at 4K and the Highest quality preset selected. First, with RTX shadows and DLSS disabled, the benchmark was able to manage an average of 55fps. Setting RTX shadows to medium quality and turning DLSS on, the average shifted to 63fps but some sections were a bit choppy.
The GeForce RTX 3070 can seemingly just about handle 4K, but you might want to step down to 1440p sometimes. In Far Cry 5's built-in benchmark, the average was 62fps at 4K but visuals were not the smoothest. At 1440p, the average rose to 65fps and there was an improvement in overall quality. Middle Earth: Shadow of War managed 70fps at 4K using the Ultra preset and that jumped up to 98fps at 1440p.
Assassin's Creed: Odyssey is a bit more demanding, pushing out just 41fps at 4K using the Ultra High preset. After multiple attempts to tweak settings, the game got up to a much smoother 58fps average at 1440p using the High preset. Playing through The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt manually, the GeForce RTX 3070 managed a very smooth 59fps at 4K with all the settings turned up to the maximum level.
Control is a great showcase of Nvidia's RTX and DLSS tech. First, with ray tracing effects set to high but rendering natively at 4K, the frame rate barely rose above 27fps, as seen using Nvidia's game overlay. Disabling ray tracing entirely caused a jump up to 47fps. With ray tracing back on and DLSS enabled, the average stayed at around 45fps and the game was perfectly enjoyable, which means that DLSS was effectively able to compensate for the performance loss while maintaining visual quality. Changing the DLSS target to 1440p (making the game actually render at 1707x960 before upsampling), my average went up to 61fps.
The Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3070 managed to remain quiet throughout all the benchmark tests and games, even when the fans were running at high speed. The size of the cooler makes sense now Asus has managed to deliver an extremely refined design that just happens to look like a beast. I could feel hot air up to about a foot above the card, which means you're going to have to consider your cabinet's cooling and airflow quite carefully, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem for enthusiasts.
Nvidia's official base price for GeForce RTX 3070 cards, including its own Founders Edition product, is Rs. 51,000 in India. That might seem excessive, but that's only because of Indian taxes and import duties. Asus has priced its TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3070 at Rs. 54,500 (plus taxes) which is definitely a premium. Of course everything depends on actual availability as we've seen over the past month, the scarcity of higher-end GeForce RTX 30-series cards has given dealers the opportunity to raise street prices by 15-25 percent.
Assuming that supply and demand don't mess up the equation too much, the TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3070 is a good buy as long as you have equally enthusiast-grade PC components to match it with. It runs cool and quiet, isn't too garish, and has that extra HDMI output.
The GeForce RTX 3070 is a great GPU to invest in if you're happy with gaming at 1440p or don't plan to push too hard if you do ever upgrade to a 4K monitor. You get the benefits of Nvidia's relatively mature ray tracing efforts, plus performance at par with last year's flagship. It might be somewhat overkill if you aren't going to play a lot of games that incorporate ray tracing. If this is still too expensive for you, it might be worth waiting for the inevitable RTX 3060.
Meanwhile, the Radeon RX6800 is also poised to offer stiff competition to the GeForce RTX 3070, if AMD's own promotional figures are to be believed. We don't know much about how AMD's implementation of ray tracing will work yet, except that it's based on the DirectX 12 standard. Of course you might also want to consider the Xbox One X or PlayStation 5 which are also just around the corner, so you really are spoilt for choice.
If you're looking to buy a graphics card right now, this is a good option that will serve you well for many years. On the other hand, waiting another month or so might make sense, since so much is about to change in the near future.
Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3070 (TUF-RTX3070-O8G)
Price: Rs. 54,500 + taxes
- Runs almost completely silent
- Understated look
- Good performance at 4K and 1440p
- Extremely large
- More expensive than Founders Edition model
Ratings (out of 5)
- Performance: 4
- Value for Money: 4
- Overall: 4