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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition Review

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Category: Video Cards
Price: $449
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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition Introduction:

After the dust has barely cleared from the introduction of the GTX 1080, the GTX 1070 is poised to be the card that will be the one that everyone flocks to based on the price/performance target it hits. The GTX 1070 Founders Edition was built to deliver GTX Titan X performance levels for less than half the cost of the aforementioned card. If you think about that for a second, you start to realize that what we have here for you today is a card that easily fits into a $449 price point to make it more affordable for the gamer looking to upgrade their hardware. After tooling around a local brick and mortar store, the GTX 970 was getting a ton of recommendations from the sales staff. Selling gamers cards that eclipse the price point of $449 for what essentially is a card that just hit EOL today. At a price point of $449, with AIB cards looking start selling at $379, the value cannot be overstated for the projected performance.

Based on NVIDIA's Pascal architecture, the GTX 1070 is a scaled down version of the architecture that sees a reduction in the CUDA core count, the texture units, and a return to 8GB of GDDR5 (albeit very high speed rated) memory running through a 256-bit bus. With these specifications, this card is going to truly be the exciting one in the product stack. Let's dig in and see if AMD has a chance at overcoming the birth of Pascal.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition Closer Look:

NVIDIA's latest Pascal architecture is built around roughly the same GPC architecture that we have been seeing since Fermi. Enhancements were made at each generational shift through Kepler and Maxwell. The big changes for this go round is the move to the 16nm FinFET process and inclusion of the Simultaneous Multi-Projection Engine being incorporated into the Polymorph engine. The Pascal 16nm GP104 architecture uses four Graphics Processing Clusters of 15 Pascal Streaming Multiprocessors and eight 32-bit memory controllers. In the GP104 iteration of the Pascal architecture, each GPC ships with a dedicated raster engine and five SMs. Each SM contains 128 CUDA cores, 256 KB of register file capacity, a 96 KB shared memory unit, 48 KB of total L1 cache storage, and eight texture units.

The configuration used in the  GTX 1070 results in a total of 1920 CUDA cores, 120 texture units, and 64 ROPs. Baseline clock speeds for the GP104 core is 1506MHz with a boost clock of 1683MHz, although it may run higher depending on the power and thermal operating conditions. NVIDIA skipped HBM and went with 8GB of Micron GDDR5X on the GTX 1080. For the GTX 1070, we get some of the fastest GDDR5 memory for this implementation with a data rate of 8000MHz running through a 256-bit bus. NVIDIA used the same strategy to the dedication to improving memory trace layout and pathways. A total of 7.2 billion transistors are packed into a 314 mm² die area. The node shrink allows NVIDIA to pack more hardware in a smaller package that should help with cooling and power efficiency overall.

 

 

As we learned while in Austin for NVIDIA's launch event, the "Founders Edition" moniker takes the place of the "reference" design cards that NVIDIA builds as the spec device. The idea here is to sell the Founders Edition cards through the entire life cycle of the product as a premium product. So let's see what we have with the GTX 1070 Founders Edition. Visually, the GTX 1070 Founders Edition looks just like the GTX 1080. The one exception visually is that the card name is different. The angular design is a departure from the rugged industrial look used for NVIDIA's own builds since the introduction of the GTX 690. Instead of a clear window over the aluminum fin array of the three heat pipe-based cooling solution, NVIDIA used a tinted window that sets off the look a little better than the clear window.

The two piece back plate is an improvement over the design first used on the GTX 980. By removing a larger cross section of the back plate, you get an increase in the amount of available airflow when running cards in a close multi-card SLI configuration versus a three slot setup where the cards go in PCIe 16x slots one and three versus one and two. Measurements are pretty standard for the form factor NVIDIA has been using at 10.5 inches long using a two-slot sized angular design cooling solution. This allows the GTX 1070, much like the GTX 1080, to fit in the widest selection of chassis on the market in motherboards equipped with a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot.

 

 

 

Display connectivity includes a trio of DisplayPort 1.2 certified, 1.3, and 1.4 ready ports; a single HDMI 2.0b port; and a single Dual Link DVI port that support up to four independent displays at one time with six connector nodes. By using this configuration, the GTX 1070 supports 4K displays at 120Hz, 5K displays at 60Hz, and 8K displays at 60Hz by using a pair of cables. Pascal GPUs officially support PlayReady 3.0 (SL3000) and hardware level support of HEVC decode. The I/O panel has enough free space to allow the airflow to escape the three heat pipe aluminum fin array style cooling solution and faceted aluminum shroud when the fan speed is set to chill! Much like in previous designs, the GTX 1070 sports an intake air channel on the back end of the cooling shroud. Airflow directly from the front of the chassis can be pulled into this channel, helping cool the power circuitry at the back of the PCB. If it did not work, it wouldn't be there.

 

 

 

After seeing the performance delivered by the GTX 1080 using a single 8-pin PEG connection, there is no reason to think that the same connection on the GTX 1070 presents any problems. A single 8-pin PEG connection is used to deliver an additional 150 watts of power to the card for a total max draw of 225 watts. Looking at the 150 watt TDP, the added power supplied is there when you need it. NVIDIA recommends only a 500 watt power supply to handle the system and a single GTX 1070, much like it did with the GTX 1080. NVIDIA's SLI multi-GPU solution is supported on the GTX 1070. Two cards is the preferred solution, although three and four card solutions are supported, but not recommended.

To improve bandwidth between GPUs, NVIDIA has linked the two SLI bridge connections on the PCB to work in a high bandwidth mode to handle the data throughput with the Pascal architecture. To handle this bandwidth, NVIDIA has put together a trio of SLI bridges supporting 2, 3, and 4-way configurations. That being said, the best solution for VR gaming is a three card solution with a pair of GPUs handling the graphics, with the third card handling the audio and async compute. A trio of GTX 1070 cards may not quite deliver the 90FPS per view point, but should get close.

 

 

 

The cooling solution used on the Pascal 16nm-based GTX 1080 is a robust vapor chamber design. For the GTX 1070 Founders Edition, the cooling demands were not as robust, so NVIDIA dialed it back a bit and implemented a three heat pipe-based cooling solution using an aluminum fin array. NVIDIA has been effective at managing thermals over the past few architectural changes by using similar blower-based designs. Not only are the thermals managed, but the noise generated by the blower fan has been reduced with smart monitoring and management of the fan profiles.

Crafting a premium product was the goal with the Founders Edition cards. Improved trace layout for the high speed GDDR5 memory helped with memory bandwidth. A four phase dualFET power delivery circuit is optimized for bandwidth and phase balancing. Adding capacitance and optimizing the power delivery circuitry resulted in improved power efficiency across the board. Using an enhanced and improved design paid div-dends on the GTX 1080, so there is no doubt we see that on the GTX 1070.

 

 

As an architecture, Pascal has proven to be one hell of a jump forward in terms of performance. However, to keep up with the demands of the gaming community, NVIDIA keeps ratcheting up the ecosytem to deliver a more immersive gaming experience. Let's take a look at some of the new technology that NVIDIA has ready for the gaming community.




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