Should you buy the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition?
If you’re on the hunt for a graphics card capable of feeding a 4K monitor, or high-refresh rate 1440p or 1080p display, the $500 Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition is a spectacular option. It looks great, runs cool, and keeps reasonably quiet.
The RTX 3070 isn’t always faster than the RTX 2080 Ti, the $1,200 flagship from the former generation, but they’re always in the same ballpark. It’s just as fast from a practical standpoint, and if you dabble in creative tasks, the upgraded Ampere architecture helps the RTX 3070 blow past the RTX 2080 Ti in rendering benchmarks, all while drawing materially less power. The GeForce RTX 2080 Ti’s bigger 11GB memory capacity might give it the edge in 4K games and creative applications that stress your VRAM buffer, though.
Compared to the GeForce RTX 2070 that preceded it for the same $500 price point, the RTX 2070 winds up 45 to 69 percent faster in GPU-bound scenarios. Generation-on-generation it’s a massive step forward (though to be fair, the RTX 2070 wasn’t much faster than the GTX 1080 that cost a similar amount). Better yet, the increased firepower in the RTX 3070 means you can play games with ray tracing turned on at 1440p or even (sometimes) 4K resolution and still achieve playable frame rates—something you definitely could not say with the RTX 2070.
Unlike the pricier GeForce RTX 3080 and RTX 3090, the GeForce RTX 3070 sticks to 8GB of traditional GDDR6 memory rather than upgrading to the much faster GDDR6X. That gives it an identical memory configuration to the RTX 2070, and an inferior one to the RTX 2080 Ti.
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. The 8GB VRAM capacity shouldn’t be a concern for high-refresh-rate 1440p gaming, though.
That’s not the only unknown worth considering. Nvidia’s embargo for this GeForce RTX 3070 review is on October 27. Tomorrow, on October 28, AMD will reveal its hotly anticipated “Big Navi” Radeon RX 6000-series graphics cards, powered by the company’s upgraded RDNA 2 architecture. AMD already showed an unnamed Radeon RX 6000 GPU keeping neck-and-neck with the pricier RTX 3080, but stressed it didn’t say which card powered the preview. Rumors also suggest that AMD’s graphics cards could pack much more memory capacity than Nvidia’s RTX 30-series.
The looming specter of the Radeon RX 6000-series makes it hard to give the GeForce RTX 3070 a firm “yes or no” recommendation today. I’d counsel waiting to see what AMD has to offer before making a decision.
Take AMD’s potential counterpunch out of the equation, though, and there’s no question that the $500 GeForce RTX 3070 is a fantastic graphics card. It’s remarkably faster than its direct RTX 2070 predecessor, delivers gaming performance effectively on a par with last generation’s $1,200 flagship (and much better creative rendering performance) while drawing less power, and runs very cool without getting too noisy. Nvidia’s Founders Edition design continues to rock my socks aesthetically too. I wish Nvidia included more memory capacity in the RTX 3070 for people wanting to play at 4K resolution, but other than that, there’s not much to complain about. The GeForce RTX 3070 will melt your face for a stunning $700 less than you used to have to pay for this level of performance.
But you should still wait to see what AMD has on tap before buying one. The sky-high rating we awarded this card might not prove long-lived. Fortunately, while reviews are going live today, the RTX 3070 doesn’t actually hit the streets until October 29, the day after AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 reveal. We don’t expect AMD to hard-launch its new-look Radeon GPUs immediately, but regardless, the timing of all this means you should be much better informed before being asked to plunk down your hard-earned cash on the RTX 3070.