Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti review: A GPU for wild times

A decent graphics card bracketed by much better options, but you'll enjoy it if you manage to snag one.
  • Brad Chacos (PC World (US online))
  • 09 June, 2021 23:00

Nvidia’s $600 GeForce RTX 3070 Ti is a good graphics card for what it does. But if we weren’t in the middle of a crippling GPU shortage, it’d be hard to recommend.

While the ferocious RTX 3080 Ti we reviewed last week bears more resemblance to Nvidia’s flagship 3090 than the graphics card that shares its name, the spec sheet shows that the new RTX 3070 Ti wields only a slightly more powerful GPU than the vanilla 3070. That modest uplift proved true across our gaming benchmarks even after Nvidia grafted much faster GDDR6X memory to it. Considering that our roundup of the best GPUs recommends that most PC gamers should opt for the $400 GeForce RTX 3060 Ti over the $500 RTX 3070 for 1440p gaming, spending another $100 on a barely faster RTX 3070 Ti is a hard sell at that resolution. (Or at least it would be in normal times.) Conversely, spending $700 on a GeForce RTX 3080 would get you significantly faster 4K and 1440p performance.

So the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti is a bizarre creature: a very good graphics card that’s bracketed by better options. But its release helps Nvidia in key strategic ways. First, the company can slap the 'Ti' moniker on these full-GA104 dies and sell them for a sizeable premium over the very slightly cut-down 3070. That's huge for Nvidia's bottom line at a time when every high-end GPU sells out instantly. Second, this card boosts GeForce back into competition against its AMD rivals, after the $580 Radeon RX 6800 blew past the 3070 in many games. Nvidia hates to lose in benchmarks (though AMD's $580 Radeon RX 6800 still edges it out overall).

Let’s dig into Nvidia’s own $600 GeForce RTX 3070 Ti Founders Edition, which will be (sporadically) available via the GeForce website as well as Best Buy when the 3070 Ti launches on June 10.

GeForce RTX 3070 Ti specs, features, and price

Nvidia compares the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti against last generation’s GeForce RTX 2070 Super in the specifications page it provided reviewers, as you can see below. It’s worth mentioning that the price creep we’ve witnessed across all tiers of graphics card pricing (and mentioned at the end of our 3080 Ti review) continues here: The RTX 3070 Ti costs $600, while the RTX 2070 Super cost $500, while the GTX 1070 Ti cost $450. So if you’re looking to upgrade from a GTX 1070 Ti, this isn’t really an apples-to-apples comparison despite the similar branding.

3070 ti specs Nvidia

The comparison that matters if you’re buying new is against the cards bracketing the 3070 Ti in Nvidia’s product stack. With 6,144 CUDA graphics cores, the RTX 3070 Ti only has a few hundred more than the 5,888 found in the vanilla 3070, but thousands fewer than the 8,704 CUDA present in the RTX 3080. A few hundred more cores gives a little extra oomph, as you’ll see in our benchmarks, but nothing game-changing. (By comparison, the other new Ti card, the RTX 3080 Ti, wound up only a few hundred CUDA cores short of the step-up 3090, and thousands ahead of the vanilla 3080—the opposite of this scenario.)

Nvidia sweetened the pot by equipping the Ti version with 8GB of cutting-edge GDDR6X memory, which rockets the card’s total memory bandwidth to a speedy 608GB/s. The vanilla 3070 uses a standard non-X version of GDDR6 memory, which runs much slower, bringing its effective memory bandwidth down to 448GB/s. The extra VRAM speed helps the RTX 3070 Ti get a little more pep in its step in memory-constrained games, if you’re playing at the higher resolutions for which this card is built.

dsc01651 Brad Chacos/IDG

That said, Nvidia still only gave this card 8GB of raw capacity (despite giving the $330 RTX 3060 16GB of GDDR6). As with the non-Ti 3070, the decision is a bit concerning in an era when games are demanding more VRAM for high-res textures. That amount should suffice for now, for most games at 1440p resolution—though some games, like Watch Dogs Legion, already blow past that even at 1440p with everything cranked. But this modest serving of RAM may make AMD’s rival Radeon RX 6800 and its ample 16GB of GDDR6 more appealing, especially if you plan on playing at 4K. We said the following about the vanilla 3070, and it still holds true:

“The 8GB memory buffer gives me pause for 4K gaming. It holds up just fine in most (but not all) games today with all visual options cranked to Ultra, but it may hold back performance in a couple of years, especially since the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles are both moving to 16GB of VRAM when they launch in a couple of weeks. It’s hard to know what the future holds, but it’s worth considering before you make your purchase. If you plan to hold onto your graphics card for four or five years, and plan to play at 4K resolution, you might want one with more memory.”

Otherwise, this is yet another RTX 30-series Founders Edition card. Nvidia’s 3070 Ti cooler design basically splits the difference between the 3070 FE and 3080 FE setups. While the RTX 3070 FE used dual fans on the bottom face of the card, the 3070 Ti FE returns to the radical one-fan-on-top, one-fan-on-bottom “flow-through” configuration deployed by higher-end Founders Edition models. The fan closest to the rear of your PC acts like a blower-style cooler, while the top fan sucks air through the card and pushes it up into your CPU cooler and case fans, so those components can deal with the heat.

nvidia geforce rtx 30 series cooler flow Nvidia

The 3070 Ti’s proprietary 12-pin power connector peeks out through the thick metal heat fins in the side of the card in 3080 FE-like fashion, rather than being deployed horizontally. Despite the many similarities to the GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition cooler design, the 3070 Ti uses the smaller, thinner heat fins found on the 3070, rather than the bristling-thick metal found on the 3080.

dsc01641 Brad Chacos/IDG

Nvidia's proprietary 12-pin power connector

You’ll need to use Nvidia’s bundled 12-pin power adapter to connect to a pair of conventional 8-pin plugs. (It’s still ugly, and if you care about aesthetics in your build, it might be worthwhile to spring for a pricey full-size converter cable, if your particular modular power supply supports it.) The power requirements for Nvidia GPUs went up significantly this generation, and the RTX 3070 Ti drives that home. The last-gen RTX 2070 Super drew 215 watts of total graphics power, and Nvidia recommended pairing it with a 650W power supply. The 3070 Ti takes 290W and a 750W PSU.

The card comes with a single HDMI 2.1 connection and a trio of DisplayPorts, same as every other RTX 30-series Founders Edition offering. Beyond that, the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti includes everything you get with all RTX 30-series GPUs: Best-in-class ray tracing, DLSS 2.0, Nvidia Reflex’s awesome latency lowering capabilities, the sublime NVENC encoder for streaming and video creation, and so on.

Let’s get to the benchmarks!

Next page: Our test system, benchmarks begin

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Our test system

We’re using our new AMD Ryzen 5000-series test rig to be able to benchmark the effect of PCIe 4.0 support on modern GPUs, as well as the performance-boosting AMD Smart Access Memory and Nvidia Resizable BAR features (which are both based on the same underlying PCIe standard). Currently, we’re testing it on an open bench with AMD’s Wraith Max air cooler. In the future, we’ll move the setup into a case and add an NZXT Kraken liquid cooler to the mix. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the storage ourselves.

  • AMD Ryzen 5900X, stock settings
  • AMD Wraith Max cooler
  • MSI Godlike X570 motherboard
  • 32GB G.Skill Trident Z Neo DDR4 3800 memory
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply
  • 1TB SK Hynix Gold S31 SSD

We’re sticking to direct competitors from the current generation, because the RTX 30-series and its Ampere architecture are known quantities. Let’s compare the $600 GeForce RTX 3080 Ti against Nvidia’s Founders Edition models of the $500 RTX 3070 and $700 RTX 3080, of course, as well as AMD’s rival $580 Radeon RX 6800.

Time constraints prevented us from testing Resizable BAR or ray tracing performance. That said, because the 3070 Ti is essentially a 3070 with a few more cores and faster GDDR6X memory, its ray tracing and DLSS performance should be close to that card’s, just a hair faster.

This evaluation focuses purely on traditional gaming benchmarks. We test a variety of games spanning various engines, genres, vendor sponsorships (Nvidia, AMD, and Intel), and graphics APIs (DirectX 11, DX12, and Vulkan). Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets unless otherwise noted, with VSync, frame rate caps, real-time ray tracing or DLSS effects, and FreeSync/G-Sync disabled, along with any other vendor-specific technologies like FidelityFX tools or Nvidia Reflex. We’ve also enabled temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) to push these cards to their limits. We run each benchmark at least three times and list the average result for each test. The RTX 3080 wasn’t tested at 1080p, because that card is overkill for that resolution.

Because the 3070 Ti is just a bit faster than the 3070, we’re going to present these benchmark charts but save our wrap-up commentary for the end. In general, though, while the RTX 3070 Ti gets Nvidia within spitting distance of the Radeon RX 6800, AMD's card continues to hold the overall performance advantage in non-ray traced games.

Gaming performance benchmarks

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion is one of the first games to debut on next-gen consoles. Ubisoft upgraded its Disrupt engine to include cutting-edge features like real-time ray tracing and Nvidia’s DLSS. We disable those effects for this testing, but Legion remains a strenuous game even on high-end hardware with its optional high-resolution texture pack installed.

wdl Brad Chacos/IDG

Horizon Zero Dawn

Yep, PlayStation exclusives are coming to the PC now. Horizon Zero Dawn runs on Guerrilla Games’ Decima engine, the same engine that powers Death Stranding.

hzd Brad Chacos/IDG

Next page: gaming benchmarks continue

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Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics puts it own brutal, fast-paced spin on the XCOM-like genre. This Unreal Engine 4-powered game was built from the ground up for DirectX 12, and we love being able to work a tactics-style game into our benchmarking suite. Better yet, the game comes with a plethora of graphics options for PC snobs. More games should devote such loving care to explaining what flipping all these visual knobs mean.

You can’t use the presets to benchmark Gears Tactics, as it intelligently scales to work best on your installed hardware, meaning that “Ultra” on one graphics card can load different settings than “Ultra” on a weaker card. We manually set all options to their highest possible settings.

gears Brad Chacos/IDG

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Wolfenstein: Youngblood is more fun when you can play cooperatively with a buddy, but it’s a fearless experiment—and an absolute technical showcase. Running on the Vulkan API, Youngblood achieves blistering frame rates, and it supports all sorts of cutting-edge technologies like ray tracing, DLSS 2.0, HDR, GPU culling, asynchronous computing, and Nvidia’s Content Adaptive Shading. The game includes a built-in benchmark with two different scenes; we tested Riverside.

wolf Brad Chacos/IDG

Metro Exodus

One of the best games of 2019, Metro Exodus remains one of the best-looking games around, too. The latest version of the 4A Engine provides incredibly luscious, ultra-detailed visuals, with one of the most stunning real-time ray tracing implementations released yet. The Extreme graphics preset we benchmark can melt even the most powerful modern hardware, as you’ll see below, though the game’s Ultra and High presets still look good at much higher frame rates.

We test in DirectX 12 mode with ray tracing, Hairworks, and DLSS disabled.

metro Brad Chacos/IDG

Borderlands 3

Borderlands is back! Gearbox’s game defaults to DX12, so we do as well. It gives us a glimpse at the ultra-popular Unreal Engine 4’s performance in a traditional shooter. This game tends to favor AMD hardware.

borderlands Brad Chacos/IDG

Strange Brigade

Strange Brigade is a cooperative third-person shooter where a team of adventurers blasts through hordes of mythological enemies. It’s a technological showcase, built around the next-gen Vulkan and DirectX 12 technologies and infused with features like HDR support and the ability to toggle asynchronous compute on and off. It uses Rebellion’s custom Azure engine. We test using the Vulkan renderer, which is faster than DX12.

strange brigade Brad Chacos/IDG

Next page: gaming benchmarks continue

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Total War: Troy

The latest game in the popular Total War saga, Troy was given away free for its first 24 hours on the Epic Games Store, moving over 7.5 million copies before it went on proper sale. Total War: Troy is built using a modified version of the Total War: Warhammer 2 engine, and this DX11 title looks stunning for a turn-based strategy game. We test the more intensive battle benchmark.

total war Brad Chacos/IDG

F1 2020

The latest in a long line of successful racing games, F1 2020 is a gem to test, supplying a wide array of both graphical and benchmarking options, making it a much more reliable (and fun) option that the Forza series. It’s built on the latest version of Codemasters’ buttery-smooth Ego game engine, complete with support for DX12 and Nvidia’s DLSS technology. We test two laps on the Australia course, with clear skies on and DLSS off.

f1 2020 Brad Chacos/IDG

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider concludes the reboot trilogy, and it’s still utterly gorgeous a couple of years after its debut. Square Enix optimized this game for DX12 and recommends DX11 only if you’re using older hardware or Windows 7, so we test with DX12. Shadow of the Tomb Raider uses an enhanced version of the Foundation engine that also powered Rise of the Tomb Raider and includes optional real-time ray tracing and DLSS features.

sotr Brad Chacos/IDG

Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six Siege still dominates the Steam charts years after its launch, and Ubisoft supports it with frequent updates and events. The developers have poured a ton of work into the game’s AnvilNext engine over the years, eventually rolling out a Vulkan version of the game that we use to test. By default, the game lowers the render scaling to increase frame rates, but we set it to 100 percent to benchmark native rendering performance on graphics cards. Even still, frame rates soar.

rb6 Brad Chacos/IDG

Next page: Power, thermals, and noise

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Power draw, thermals, and noise

We test power draw by looping the F1 2020 benchmark at 4K for about 20 minutes after we’ve benchmarked everything else and noting the highest reading on our Watts Up Pro meter, which measures the power consumption of our entire test system. The initial part of the race, where all competing cars are onscreen simultaneously, tends to be the most demanding portion. 

This isn’t a worst-case test; this is a GPU-bound game running at a GPU-bound resolution to gauge performance when the graphics card is sweating hard. If you’re playing a game that also hammers the CPU, you could see higher overall system power draws. Consider yourself warned.

power Brad Chacos/IDG

The GeForce RTX 3070 Ti is a bit faster than the vanilla 3070, and comes with higher-powered GDDR6X memory, so it appropriately enough draws more power. The real standout here is AMD’s Radeon RX 6800, which uses significantly less power than either GeForce card despite going toe-to-toe with Nvidia’s amped-up Ti in most games. I suspect GDDR6X is behind most of the higher power draw for Nvidia’s new card.

We test thermals by leaving GPU-Z open during the F1 2020 power draw test, noting the highest maximum temperature at the end.

temp Brad Chacos/IDG

Adding GDDR6X memory to the mix stresses Nvidia’s Founders Edition cooler much more. The 3070 Ti runs a full 5 degrees Celsius warmer than the vanilla version under load, despite being equipped with the fancier flow-through cooling design from the RTX 3080 and 3090. GDDR6X not only demands more power, it also generates more heat, because energy can’t just magically disappear.

Next page: Should you buy the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti?

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Should you buy the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti?

We’ve said it in every graphics card review we’ve published this year, and we’ll say it again: You probably shouldn’t buy any graphics card right now. Prices are just plain ridonkulous. I’d recommend most people sit on the sidelines and stream their PC games via Nvidia’s GeForce Now service until the dust settles. While this card ostensibly costs $600, I’d expect the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti to go for several hundred dollars more than that until the crippling GPU shortage ends.

dsc01637 Brad Chacos/IDG

I’m also concerned about how the price of this class of graphics card has trended upward over the last couple of generations. The RTX 3070 Ti costs a full $150 more than the GTX 1070 Ti from two generations ago, going off retail pricing that means little in the real world today.

That said, even if the supply and demand situation weren’t so wack, we couldn’t give this GPU our full-throated recommendation. The RTX 3070 Ti is only about 5 to 10 percent faster than the vanilla 3070 that costs $100 less. We recommend most people with 1440p monitors opt for the even-cheaper $400 RTX 3060 Ti unless you’re looking for maximum performance on a 144Hz monitor. If you’re planning on playing at 4K resolution, dropping another $100 on the $700 RTX 3080 unlocks heaps more performance, along with a larger 10GB memory buffer that will almost certainly hold up better over the coming years than the RTX 3070 Ti’s 8GB capacity.

We’d recommend going with either of those options if you want to stick with Nvidia, or strongly consider the Radeon RX 6800 for $580 if you don’t mind giving up GeForce’s superior ray tracing performance and killer features like Shadowplay, NVENC encoding, and Nvidia Reflex. AMD’s high-end rival slugs it out with the 3070 Ti, winding up slightly faster in most games and picking up some additional wins at 1440p and 1080p resolutions thanks to the RDNA 2 architecture’s radical Infinity Cache. That GPU comes with a massive 16GB of GDDR6 non-X memory, so it’s much more future-proof. The $650 Radeon RX 6800 XT also comes with 16GB and is even faster, being an RTX 3080 rival.

Nvidia’s GPUs offer much better ray tracing performance and the company’s sublime DLSS 2.0 technology, however. AMD’s answer to that—FidelityFX Super Resolution—is slated to launch in some form on June 22.

dsc01649 Brad Chacos/IDG

The GeForce RTX 3070 Ti falls into a weird nether region between its siblings. In a sane world, you’d probably skip it for those better options with more clearly defined value propositions. But in a world where the ancient GTX 1650 Ti was pressed back into service and GPUs are going for up to double their MSRP, this might be the only option available to you.

Don’t despair if you wind up with this graphics card though. Product stack context aside, the RTX 3070 Ti is a great 1440p and darn-good 4K GPU. You won’t be disappointed in how it plays…for now. In a couple of years you may need to dial back some settings to avoid exceeding its 8GB memory buffer, especially at 4K resolution--there are already games where that’s the case today. Expect bulkier, tricked-out third-party cards from the likes of EVGA, Asus, MSI, etc. to handle the heat generated by all that GDDR6X memory better as well.