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MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G Review

Price: $499
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MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G  Introduction:

Just over a month ago, NVIDIA once again put the gaming world on the path to new and innovative technologies that signaled a major change in how we view the rectangular image in front of us! NVIDIA's Turing architecture in TU102 (RTX 2080 Ti) and TU104 (RTX 2080) is now joined by yet another GPU core to power the performance on the RTX 2070, TU 106. For this architecture, NVIDIA has not cut down one core type to get the downward performance scaling, but chose to build out to best utilize its available resources.

The first TU106 card I will be looking at comes from MSI in the RTX 2070 Armor 8G . A factory overclocked card that should easily perform well based on the performance of the Armor series GTX 1080 Ti I tested last year. Baseline features include a GPU Boost 4.0 clock speed of 1620MHz, 8GB of 14Gbps rated GDDR6 memory, Armor cooling package, Zero Frozr technology, Torx 2.0 fans that work with Airflow management technology, and even more. 

RTX cards have set a new standard of performance over the last month. Let's see if MSI's rendition of the RTX 2070 delivers on this expectation. We know that the deepest pockets are always going to go for the top end, but here we have an option that retails for significantly less and promises next level performance in the 1440p gaming space. Welcome to the MSI RTX 2070 Armor 8GB . 

MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G  Closer Look:

This new generation is based on an all-new core architecture called Turing. Pushing for a future with Real-Time Ray Tracing, the hardware had to be built to put the parts in consumer's hands to create the demand. Build it and they shall come, as the catchphrase goes. This new architecture delivers an up to 50% boost in delivered performance per CUDA core. To gain this kind of performance required significant architectural changes.

The first change is the Turing SM adds a new "independent integer datapath that can execute instructions concurrently with the floating-point math datapath. In previous generations, executing these instructions would have blocked floating-point instructions from issuing. Second, the SM memory path has been redesigned to unify shared memory, texture caching, and memory load caching into one unit."

NVIDIA's "TU106" GPU includes three Graphics Processing Clusters with 36 Streaming Multiprocessors. Each GPC includes a dedicated raster engine and six TPCs, with each TPC including two SMs. Each SM contains 64 CUDA Cores, eight Tensor Cores, a 256 KB register file, four texture units, and 96 KB of L1/shared memory, which can be configured for various capacities depending on the compute or graphics workloads. All of that makes for 2304 CUDA Cores, 64 ROP units, 288 Tensor Cores, 36 RT cores, and 144 Texture units overall. Ray tracing acceleration is performed by a new RT Core processing engine within each SM. Each memory controller includes eight ROP units and 512 KB of L2 cache.

The factory RTX 2070 FE has a factory Boost clock of 1710 MHz, although based on the cooling performance of the card it may run even higher as we have seen on previous generations. MSI has put together the RTX 2070 Armor 8GB that runs a factory boost clock speeds at 1620MHz putting it right in line with the reference clock speeds for the RTX 2070. As the first cards to utilize GDDR6 memory, NVIDIA built a robust memory subsystem that is 20% more efficient than the design used on Pascal. The 8GB of GDDR6 high speed 14Gbps memory on MSI's RTX 2070 Armor 8G OC goes through eight 32-bit (256-bit) memory controllers to deliver the increased memory bandwidth.



NVIDIA has the core marked on this generation and you can clearly see that it's identified as a TU106 core. This Turing core is the third core configuration put forth in as many cards with this architecture. It is not a cutdown version of TU102 or TU104, but a new configuration. Built on a 12nm process, this TU106 core has 10.2 billion transistors in a 445mm2 sized die. Boost clock speeds on the MSI RTX 2070 Armor 8G are 1620MHz, although running higher than that speed will be the norm. The 8GB GDDR6 high-speed memory is supplied by Micron and is rated to run at an effective rate of 14Gbps. That makes for a 75% increase in memory bandwidth over the GTX 1070.



MSI does not follow the packaging strategy that NVIDIA uses with the Founders Edition cards for good reason. The Armor cooling solution just would not fit. For that reason, we see the larger packaging to accommodate the size of the card  The front of the packaging shows the MSI Gaming logo, as well as having the Series this card belongs to (Armor) prominently displayed so you know what you are getting. Along the bottom is the list of supported technologies including Ansel, DX12, and Ray Tracing. The back side of the box gives the prospective purchaser a little more detail on the card, including a short synopsis on the Torx 2.0 dual ball bearing fans, the airflow management strategy through the heat sink, and the RGB LED's that can be controlled via the latest MSI Mystic Lighting application.

Much like previous generations of MSI's cards, the RTX 2070 Armor 8G  comes home in a dense closed cell foam filled box that holds not only the card but the accessory bundle, too. Gone are the days of the included power adapter and gender bender plug to connect to different style monitors. In its place are a quick user's guide, warranty card, MSI Gaming branded coasters, driver disc, and a booklet featuring the MSI Dragon, Lucky!    




The MSI RTX 2070 Armor 8G  is a large card that is full of MSI and NVIDIA's latest technology. Up front and center is a pair of 100mm Torx 2.0 fans with dispersion blades that provide the airflow blowing through the dual heat pipe-interconnected fin arrays and onto the Close Quarters cooling solution underneath. This card from MSI is built to be used in motherboard's equipped with at least a single 16x PCIe slot.

That being said, the card is pretty beefy and is slightly longer than 12 inches in length. Even so, it should fit nicely in just about any mid tower and above chassis. For your smaller chassis, you might want to check the dimensions of 300mm x 155mm x 50mm. The back side of the card has a robust backplate that sandwiches the custom PCB between it and the Close Quarters cooling solution to prevent the card from developing a case of the bends with the massive heat sink attached. The MSI and Dragon logs are front and center when you view the RTX 2070 Armor 8G  through a case window.

The side and bottom (or top) of the RTX 2070 Armor 8G OC just reinforce that this card carries a robust 2+ slot cooling solution. The top of the card, as it were, has both the MSI and GeForce RTX logos on it. The MSI logo contains RGB LEDs to allow the consumer to match the lighting of their motherboard and chassis with the click of a few buttons in MSI's newest version of the Mystic Lighting application. While the top view shows some of the dual fin arrays under the shroud, you also get a better idea just how large the cooling solution used by MSI is.




Display connectivity sees some changes on the RTX cards when you compare them to the Pascal-based 10 series. Just as we saw on the RTX 2080 Ti and 2080 FE cards, we no longer get a DVI connector. The updated connectivity package includes a trio of DisplayPort 1.4a outputs that can support displays up to 8K resolutions at 60Hz when using a single cable (with DSC 1.2), a single HDMI 2.0b connector with HDCP 2.2 support, and last but not least a single VirtualLink (USB Type-C™) connector built to drive the next generation of Virtual Reality headsets.

MSI kept the black chrome look for the I/O mounting plate and carved out enough airflow capacity to ensure the massive cooler can push the air out of the shroud to keep this card running cool. The back end of the MSI RTX 2070 Armor 8G  is openly giving the user a view of the termination points on the heat pipes. Also in view is part of the Closer Quarters cooling package used to keep the VRM cool. 

The power supplying the card comes from a pair of PEG connections on the top of the card. A single 8-pin and a single 6-pin, when coupled with the 75 watts from the PCIe slot, can deliver up to 300 watts to the PCB. MSI suggests a 185W TDP for the card and recommends that you can run a modern system with this card in it using a high-quality 550W power supply. One thing to note is that NVIDIA's multi GPU solution is not supported on this or any RTX 2070-based card. With performance metrics that would eclipse the RTX 2080 Ti for roughly less financial output, it seems that you need to step up to the top cards in the product stack to get SLI options.  



Pulling the Armor cooling solution off the card is a simple matter of removing four spring-loaded screws from around the GPU socket and disconnecting a trio of wire looms that connect to the fans and lighting on the shroud. Once under the lid, I can see the application of MSI's premium thermal compound on the TU106 core that does seem to work well, based on my thermal testing later in this review. Attached directly to the bottom of the dual fin arrays and the baseplate is a series of thermal pads that allow the thermal load from the memory, chokes, and capacitors.

MSI uses its "Close Quarters" heat sink to keep the VRM circuitry cool. This heat sink option doubles as the support mechanism for the PCB when coupled with the aluminum back plate. No broken traces here. MSI is using a 6-phase power circuit to power the card and 8GB of GDDR6 memory. MSI has used this solution on previous generations of its video cards to effect. 



The Armor cooling solution contains a pair of heat pipe-interconnected dense fin arrays that use MSI's proprietary airflow management system to direct airflow through the fin array in the most efficient way possible. A total of five 6mm copper heat pipes snake through the fin arrays and cross over the TU106 core to pick up the thermal load. The heat pipes are machined flat on the core contact surface and are tightly packed so that there are no gaps that would degrade cooling performance.

MSI is using a premium thermal compound to ensure that as much of the heat generated by the core can be transferred to the heat pipes and, ergo, the fin arrays. Thermal pads are used to handle the heat from the chokes and capacitors on the VRM and on the cooling plate over the eight Micron-based GDDR6 modules. 



While the heart of the cooling package is the massive heat sink assembly, it is nothing without the airflow to get rid of the thermal build up. MSI is using a pair of Torx 2.0 fans on the RTX 2070 Armor 8G OC to provide the airflow. MSI's Torx 2.0 fans use dispersion blade technology to provide increased airflow at a higher pressure with as little noise as possible.

This fan is made by Power Logic and is part number PLD10010B12HH. This is a 14 blade fan that is 100mm in diameter and 10mm thick using a dual ball bearing hub for reduced noise and an improved operating life cycle when compared to a sleeve bearing fan. Zero Frozr Technology by MSI allows the fans to remain in an idle state when the GPU temperature stays below +/- 60 °C, eliminating the noise signature of the card when running passively. This fan design has proven successful in each of the MSI cards I have looked at. 



Right out of the gate this is the opening salvo of the next technological wars to deliver a better visual experience. While there are still no games today that take advantage of these technologies, there is a list of 25 games that will support Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and Ray Tracing. The short version from NVIDIA on this tech is as follows, "DLSS leverages a deep neural network to extract multidimensional features of the rendered scene and intelligently combine details from multiple frames to construct a high-quality final image. This allows Turing GPUs to use half the samples for rendering and use AI to fill in information to create the final image. The result is a clear, crisp image with similar quality as traditional rendering (which typically relies on TAA in most of today’s latest games), but with higher performance."

DLSS is an easy integration for developers, which explains the 25 games on the way that supports it. Real-Time Ray Tracing support comes with a shorter list of games that are going to support the tech, but you have to start somewhere. For the bold, you can only move forward and create the changes!

MSI's RTX 2070 Armor 8G is poised to deliver the same generational shift in performance I saw with the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti. Let's see just where this factory overclocked RTX 2070 will rise to by comparison.

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  1. MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G: Introduction & Closer Look
  2. MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G: Specifications & Features
  3. MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G Testing: Setup & Overclocking
  4. MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G Testing: Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Battlefield 1
  5. MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G Testing: Ghost Recon Wildlands, Far Cry 5
  6. MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G Testing: The Witcher III, Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation
  7. MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G Testing: 3DMark, VRMark
  8. MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G Testing: Temperature & Power Consumption
  9. MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8G: Conclusion
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