Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition review: Blistering performance gets $700 cheaper

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition graphics card delivers performance on par with last generation's flagship for $700 less, but compromises on memory capacity.

Credit: Brad Chacos/IDG

GeForce RTX 3070 ray tracing performance

The Ampere GPUs inside Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 30-series graphics cards include upgraded versions of the dedicated RT and tensor cores that debuted in the RTX 20-series, helping them process ray tracing faster and enable Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS).

We’ve already determined in our RTX 3080 review that the upgraded hardware doesn’t make ray tracing more efficient in games that only activate one or two ray tracing effects, like the titles benchmarked below. You should see bigger differences in games that more fully embrace the technology, like Minecraft RTX and Quake II RTX, which are fully path-traced, and the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, which supports a wide range of ray tracing effects.

Nonetheless, we feel it’s useful to benchmark these titles to see what you can expect by turning on ray tracing and DLSS. Even with DLSS on, activating ray tracing sent most RTX 20-series graphics cards to their knees, but the raw firepower of Ampere helps the RTX 30-series maintain more playable frame rates at higher resolutions. Ray tracing may not be more efficient in these titles compared to the RTX 20-series, but the Ampere GPUs are pumping out frames so fast, it’s a lot easier to hit 60 fps-plus with all the eye candy cranked up. For more information about ray tracing and DLSS, check out our Nvidia RTX retrospective from the end of the RTX 20-series’ lifespan.

We test these games using the same settings discussed in the previous section, but with DLSS enabled and all ray tracing options cranked to Ultra. We’ll include two charts. The first shows standard performance with ray tracing disabled, while the second shows results with ray tracing active, so you can also see the performance impact imparted by flipping it on.

First up: Metro Exodus, which includes ray-traced Global Illumination and the first-gen DLSS technology.

metro exodus Brad Chacos/IDG
metro exodus ray tracing Brad Chacos/IDG

The RTX 3070 can’t quite match the RTX 2080 Ti’s pace with ray tracing and DLSS off, so it’s no surprise to see it lagging slightly behind here. But the more practical takeaway is that even with ray tracing and all visual options cranked to the max, you can still get very playable experiences at 1440p and 1080p resolution. Nvidia’s former $500 option, the RTX 2070, was significantly slower with ray tracing enabled, and could basically only deliver a smooth 60 at 1080p resolution.

Both the RTX 3070 and 2080 Ti fall behind the 60-fps mark at 4K resolution with ray tracing enabled, but 45 to 50 frames per second isn’t terrible in this slower-paced shooting adventure, especially if you have an adaptive-sync (G-Sync or FreeSync) display to help smooth things out.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider was one of the first games to support Nvidia’s RTX endeavors. It includes ray-traced shadows and DLSS 1.0. This game doesn’t let you play at 1080p with DLSS 1.0 on, so you won’t see those results here.

sotr Brad Chacos/IDG
sotr ray tracing Brad Chacos/IDG

The older RTX 2070 couldn’t get to 60 fps in any situation with ray tracing turned to ultra, even with DLSS enabled. The RTX 3070 far exceeds that mark at 1080p, and comes within spitting distance at 1440p. Given the slower nature of this adventure game, the RTX 3070 and RTX 2080 Ti’s results are definitely playable at 1440p. The RTX 3070 is a bit slower than the RTX 2080 Ti, just like it is with ray tracing off, but turning on the strenuous lighting effect amplifies the difference.

Wolfenstein Youngblood includes ray-traced reflections, as well as Nvidia’s faster, better DLSS 2.0 technology that will be powering the next generation of RTX-enabled games. We’re only including 4K results here, as at lower resolutions, enabling ray tracing wound up delivering a hard, uniform 135-fps cap across these cards. We’re still investigating why that is, but 4K resolution is strenuous enough to show performance differences.

wolfenstein Brad Chacos/IDG
wolfenstein ray tracing Brad Chacos/IDG

As you can see, turning on ray tracing with DLSS 2.0 doesn’t result in a major performance impact, and the RTX 3070 and 2080 Ti once again deliver similar results. Ray tracing and the ability to push a 4K, 120Hz monitor to its fullest? Yes please. Again, though, note the performance change generation over generation. The RTX 3070 is 50 percent faster than the RTX 2070 with ray tracing on.

But you don’t need to have ray tracing turned on to get DLSS 2.0’s delicious performance-boosting benefits. F1 2020 supports DLSS 2.0 but not ray tracing, and activating it (as an antialiasing option) delivers a healthy speed bump with no noticeable visual downgrades.

f1 2020 Brad Chacos/IDG
f1 2020 dlss Brad Chacos/IDG

Once again, the RTX 3070 and RTX 2080 Ti are in a dead heat, while Nvidia’s new card winds up a whopping 50 percent faster than its RTX 2070 predecessor.

Bottom line? The $500 RTX 3070 lets you play ray traced games at playable frame rates at 1440p, and sometimes at 4K if you don’t mind falling slightly below 60 fps, or tinkering with some graphics settings. You couldn’t say that about the RTX 2070, nor most of the RTX 20-series lineup.

Next page: Creative benchmarks

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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