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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 Founders Edition Review

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The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 is finally here, nearly 6 months after the ultra-expensive RTX 4090 hit the market. This generation of graphics cards has been marked by high performance and even higher prices, but the RTX 4070 gives us the first glimpse of what a truly mid-range graphics card might look like in 2023. And, given that AMD hasn’t released any mid-range graphics cards at all this generation, it seems like Nvidia might be pulling ahead in the value game – at least if you can call a $599 graphics card “value”.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 Founders Edition – Photos

Mid-range at Last?

The biggest pitfall for the Nvidia RTX 40-series cards has been the high asking price. The Nvidia RTX 4080 launched at $1,199 when its last-gen counterpart launched at $699, and the 4070 Ti launched at $799 when its last-gen counterpart launched at $599. Across the board Nvidia has been raising the price on graphics cards, sometimes even drastically.

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 is a little bit guilty of this as well, coming out at $599 to the RTX 3070’s $499 launch price. But when you look at the new graphics card in the context of both Nvidia and AMD’s current lineups, the RTX 4070 looks like a true mid-range graphics card.

That price will go up a bit if you go for an aftermarket card design from the likes of Asus, MSI, or one of the myriad companies that make graphics cards, but if you can find an RTX 4070 at around $599 – $699, it’s a great graphics card.

As I’ll get into a bit later, the RTX 4070 delivers performance that is on average about half the speed of the $1,599 RTX 4090, but is a full thousand bucks cheaper. For the first time in Nvidia’s Ada Lovelace GPU lineup, Team Green has delivered something that’s genuinely a decent value. It’s something I honestly didn’t think would happen, given the awful price-to-performance ratio of the RTX 4080, but I’m at least happy there’s finally a graphics card I can recommend to friends in good conscience.

RTX 4070 – Design and Specs

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 is built on the same Ada Lovelace graphics architecture as the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090, which means it packs the same fourth-generation Tensor Cores and third-generation RT (ray tracing) cores.

The RTX 4070 itself has 46 Streaming Processors, each of which has 1 RT core, 4 Tensor Cores and 32 CUDA cores. That all combines to a total of 5,888 CUDA cores, 46 RT cores and 184 Tensor cores. All told, it’s one powerful graphics card in its own right, even if it does pale in comparison to something like the RTX 4090.

Out of the box, the RTX 4070 will boost up to around 2.4GHz in games, but does so with a TBP (total board power) of only 200W. This is great for a graphics card of this caliber. Not only does it mean games go fast, but it allows for the absolutely tiny size of the RTX 4070 Founders Edition board. I can’t think of a single PC case I have ever seen that won’t have space for this baby. The graphics card is 9.5 inches long and just 1.5 inches thick. After the triple-slot monstrosities that were the RTX 4090 and RTX 4080, it’s nice to see Nvidia still has some restraint in its graphics card designs.

But even with a tiny cooler, the RTX 4070 stays pretty cool, reaching only 72°C in our benchmark suite. That’s because the RTX 4070 Founders Edition has a similar fan layout to the other RTX 40-series cards, with two fans on opposite sides of each other that suck air through the bottom of the card and then blow it out towards the top of your PC case.

To make room for this design, though, Nvidia had to yet again take a different approach to designing the GPU board itself, meaning that even with this modestly-powered card, you’re going to need a power adapter unless you’re one of the three people in the world with a power supply with a PCIe 5 cable.

A power adapter does come in the box, but we’re still in this weird transitionary period between cable standards, and it’s not like AMD is going to be following suit any time soon – ye olde 8-pin PCIe power cables probably aren’t going anywhere, no matter how much Nvidia pushes these new connectors.

RTX 4070 – Performance

No matter how pretty a graphics card may be, it lives or dies by its gaming performance, and the RTX 4070 is absolutely incredible for the price.

To be clear, it’s not about to take the performance crown from the RTX 4090 or anything – far from it actually – but it delivers performance that is quite a bit better than I had expected for a budget graphics card, if you can call it “budget”.

Just looking at synthetic benchmarks, the RTX 4070 is about 20% slower than the RTX 4070 Ti in Port Royal, which is a benchmark that looks at raw ray tracing performance. Then, in the 3DMark Speed Way test, which tests DirectX performance more broadly, the performance gap narrows to just 18%. Mind you, the RTX 4070 is 25% cheaper than the RTX 4070 Ti, so the math is on the weaker card’s side.

But it gets even more impressive when you compare the RTX 4070 to the RTX 4090. The RTX 4070 manages about 43% of the performance of the RTX 4090 in Port Royal, despite having dramatically less RT cores. The gap is similar in Speed Way too. But when you look at the cost of the two cards, the RTX 4070 is $599 to the RTX 4090’s $1,599. So you get 43-48% of the performance of the 4090, but you’re only paying around 37% of the cost.

When the RTX 4080 came out and was just miles behind the RTX 4090 despite costing nearly as much, it was a slap in the face to gamers that just wanted an affordable graphics card to throw into their PC. From the numbers I’m looking at, it looks like the RTX 4070 is a step in the right direction, though it is still more expensive than the RTX 3070 or 2070 were.

Synthetic benchmarks only tell part of the story, though. At 1440p, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 absolutely shines, delivering high-framerate gameplay, even with ray tracing enabled.

In the gaming benchmarks, I enabled DLSS for Nvidia cards and FSR for AMD cards, but didn’t test any game that only supported DLSS, as this would skew the results too heavily. DLSS and FSR were enabled in performance mode at 4K and balanced mode at 1440p. My thought process here is that if you’re playing a game that supports one of these modes, you should be enabling it to get a better framerate anyways, so testing in this way provides a realistic look at how these GPUs will perform in real-world gaming.

With that little disclaimer out of the way, the RTX 4070 delivers more than 100 fps at 1440p in 3 of the games I tested, and is far above 60 fps in all of them. Even in Cyberpunk 2077, the heaviest game I tested, the RTX 4070 manages 82 fps at 1440p with ray tracing enabled and DLSS on balanced.

That’s 62% of the RTX 4090’s performance at the same resolution and settings and 83% of the RTX 4070 Ti’s performance. In fact, the RTX 4070 punches above its weight class in every gaming benchmark I tried, even at 4K.

In Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K, the RTX 4070 managed 53 fps to the RTX 4090’s 106 fps, and in Forza Horizon 5, the 4070 managed 100 fps to the 4090’s 166 fps. So while the RTX 4070 is only theoretically 45% as fast as the RTX 4090, in actual games, it’s closer to 50-60%. And when the RTX 4070 is almost a third of the price, it’s hard to justify saving up for months for the more expensive flagship.

DLSS is Back

As with any other Nvidia card, the RTX 4070 supports DLSS, but new with this generation is DLSS 3.0. This technology uses machine learning to generate extra frames while waiting for the CPU, essentially raising frame rates even higher, though artificially.

In Cyberpunk 2077, DLSS can raise frame rates by up to 40%


This tech does add a bit of latency to the game, but nothing noticeable. In Cyberpunk 2077, it can raise frame rates by up to 40% in my testing. This new version of DLSS is best used for frame rates above 100 fps, which is going to be music to any esports gamer’s ears. DLSS frame generation is exclusive to Nvidia’s latest 40-series cards, so you won’t be able to use it with your RTX 3000 or 2000 cards.

Beyond the new hotness, though, the RTX 4070 naturally supports DLSS 2.0, which is what I used for most of my testing – alongside FSR for AMD cards. DLSS makes the RTX 4070 into an actual 4K contender, which hasn’t really been the case for any xx70 Nvidia cards in the past. And even if you’re sticking to 1440p, you’re going to make the high frame rates this graphics card naturally manages even higher. The technology really has never been better, and has changed a lot since it debuted in Battlefield V – remember that grainy mess? I promise, it’s better now.

Verdict

At $599, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 is the first graphics card of this generation that actually provides decent performance for the money. The fact that the RTX 4070 is able to provide such stellar performance, hitting around 50-60% of the RTX 4090 at nearly a third of the price, means that anyone who gets the RTX 4070 won’t be losing out on a high-end gaming experience just because they don’t have a fat bank account. With the RTX 4070 being as good as it is, I can’t wait to see what the RTX 4060 and 4050 are going to be able to do – whenever it is Nvidia will grace us with their presence.

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