Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070Ti review: Better than the GTX 1080?

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 Ti is a bit of a funny old thing. I’ve spent countless hours trying, and failing, to determine where this 4K-bothering card sits in Nvidia’s overall strategy,  and while its position in the Nvidia hierarchy is obvious – between the GTX 1070 and the GTX 1080 – it seems to be more of a toned-down 1080 than a souped-up 1070. It’s got hundreds more cores than the GTX 1070 – 2432 of them, compared to just 1920, but falls short of the GTX 1080 by just 128 of them. Why, then, would you not just make that tiny extra leap to a full-fat GTX 1080?

To help answer that question, I’ve got Zotac’s take, the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti AMP Extreme, while Katharine has MSI’s GTX 1070 Ti Gaming 8G. Together, we should hopefully find out how Nvidia’s newest card stacks up against its siblings.

First things first. One important thing to note about the GTX 1070 Ti is that Nvidia seems to enacted a strange rule this time round preventing its partners from setting up their GTX 1070 Tis with factory overclocks, meaning that you can only buy at stock speeds (1607 MHz base, 1683 MHz boost).

Workarounds have already been found for this (overclocking isn’t outlawed per se), but it seems an awful lot like Nvidia’s scared of the 1070 Ti sapping GTX 1080 sales. That, or they just wanted to give a central digit to AMD’s Radeon Vega RX 56 by outperforming it with a less ‘important’ card.

MSI GTX 1070Ti Gaming

The Zotac model skirts around Nvidia’s sort-of overclock ban by offering a “factory tested” 150MHz boost as a downloadable profile for the firm’s Firestrom software, but that’s still small enough for it to be broadly representative of the GTX 1070Ti as a whole. With the MSI, you’ve got to do all the overclocking yourself.

First up for testing is Doom. After comparing results, both cards (unsurprisingly) run superbly at 1080p and 1440p, holding together even when the screen’s rammed with baddies. At 1080p, we saw framerates reach as high as 100fps, while 1440p knocked that down to a maximum of around 90fps.

Upping it all the way to 4K (3,840×2160) has a clearly noticeable impact, but the GTX 1070 Ti still keeps smoothness well up to pacey shooter standards, hitting an average of 60fps on both types of card. Most importantly, it’s stable: there’s no real change between quiet scenes and massive shootouts. That’s partly a testament to Doom’s optimisations, but also a promising showing for the graphics card.

Switching to Hitman, which is routinely filled with hardware-punishing NPCs, Nvidia’s card held firm. At 1080p, there were slight drops from perfection during the busier scenes, but these were tiny slips down to around 40-50fps rather than sheer drops. 1440p had a single lurch during a rooftop scene, but it passed immediately, and wasn’t repeated during a 4K run. Again, high marks at all resolutions, comfortably hitting 60fps at 1080p and 1440p and around 45fps at 4K.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War(dor) proved to be its first big test. Ignoring the menu’s warning that we lacked the VRAM for Ultra quality textures, as well as everything else on full, we launched into 1080p to find that everything was…fine, actually, with each card hitting somewhere in the region of 75fps. 1440p saw that dip to about 50fps, but you could easily wring more frames out by turning down some settings. Still, when you’ve already got a good balance between high fidelity and smoothness, it makes sense to stick with Ultra.

It wasn’t until we tried 4K that the GTX 1070 Ti started to struggle. It still ran at what we’d consider an acceptable pace, around 40fps, but big moments like a fort siege clearly strain the GPU. Expect to wave goodbye to some luxury settings after all, if you’re going to be playing at this res.

Total War: Warhammer II ticked along well, though understandably not as smoothly as our more focused benchmarks. Zooming in to within a spear’s length of a unit can be the fastest route to stuttery misery in RTS games; not so here, with 1080p staying a suitably 60fps velvety on the battle map, while 1440p only dropped to around 45fps when we got up close and personal. 4K was the only res where maxed-out settings is anywhere near too much, dropping to an average of 20-25fps; there was noticeable jittering on both battle and campaign maps, with more distinct gulfs between highs and lows on the latter.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was basically another Doom, in that it was lovely at 1080p, still lovely at 1440p, and slightly less lovely (but still lovely) at 4K. But we know you like numbers, so here they are. At 1080p, we rarely saw it dip below 110fps; at 1440p it was more like 75-80fps; and at 4K it tended to settle around the 45fps mark.

Rise of the Tomb Raider, with all its varying weather, particle, and Lara Croft hair effects was a slightly tougher test: not at 1080p and 1440p, yet again, as both happily hit the 60fps mark, but at 4K, smoothness took a relatively big hit down to 40-45fps, but even that speed’s still perfectly playable, so it’s not a huge concern.

The Witcher III was second only to Doom in evoking the “Hey, I switched from 1080p to 1440p and could barely tell the difference” feeling, which is to say that the GTX 1070 Ti excels at both and easily hit 60fps at both resolutions. 4K was really good as well, but here only managed around 40fps; it’s not that you can’t see a performance hit, but you won’t be compelled to sack graphics quality either.

MSI GTX 1070Ti Gaming ports

Lastly, we have Assassin’s Creed Origins, which didn’t have issues conveying its particularly stabby recollection of Egyptian history. At least, not at 1080p. Here we saw a stable 60fps on both cards, with occasional jumps up to around 75fps out in the empty wilderness. 1440p wobbled a teeny bit during transitions into more open areas, dipping to around 45fps, with the same happening on a clearer scale at 4K. It still runs just about all right at 30-35fps on Ultra at 4K – certainly no worse than playing on console, for instance – but switching off some of the fancier visuals would be wise here if you want a slicker frame rate.

No surprises, then: the GTX 1070 Ti is slightly better than the GTX 1070 and RX 56, and slightly worse than the GTX 1080. That doesn’t preclude it from being a good card, mind; it would have to be to come so close to Nvidia’s original Pascal flagship, and while it can’t run every single game flawlessly at 4K, not even the GTX 1080 Ti can do that.

I should say that I’m not terribly keen on the general design of Zotac’s AMP Edition – it’s thicker than a Gears of War protagonist’s neck, and despite the massive radiator and tripled-up fans offering good cooling, the latter still go like the clappers. The MSI, meanwhile, weighs about as much as a Gears of War protagonist, according to Katharine, but at least its pair of fans didn’t make it feel like her PC was about to launch into orbit.

Here’s the real issue, though: Zotac’s GTX 1070Ti costs at least £500, while MSI’s offering costs £530 (apart from an out-of-stock £438 version of MSi’s over on Novatech, that is). When a decent partner-customised GTX 1080 costs £540, it seems a tad silly to go for a GTX 1070 Ti instead.

There are, of course, cheaper 1070Ti options out there, such as the £420 Founder’s Edition you can buy straight from Nvidia, but this doesn’t come with any of the handy stuff like easy overclocking software, and its coolers are nearly as sophisticated as other partner cards. Novatech seems to have the best deals at the moment, with nearly all of its cards coming in at under £500, but like the MSI, they’re all currently out of stock.

With prices so high and stock so thin, it all begs the same question. When you’re spending £500-odd on a graphics card in the first place, why would you not just get the GTX 1080 in the first place?

24 Comments

  1. Sp4rkR4t says:

    So I’m guessing at 4K it’s by far the better choice to pick up a 1080 instead?

    • pelwl says:

      I don’t think it’s worth getting the 1080 for 4K either. If current games can barely run at ultra settings on that then things will be a lot worse in a year or two. Better to wait for the new Volta cards if you’re thinking of buying a new graphics card specifically for 4K.

      Apart from giving the finger to AMD, Nvidia must be aware that this card has better performance for mining than both the 1070 and the 1080 as it doesn’t have GDDR5X memory.

      • Premium User Badge

        Don Reba says:

        It’s usually well worth lowering settings a bit to get higher resolution. At 4k, it’s usually the screen-space effects that kill performance.

      • Xzi says:

        Frankly a 1070 will do you just fine in 4K if you turn off AA and turn down a couple other “luxury” settings as this article calls them. Some games are far too detailed, and some are poorly optimized, but for those there’s always 1440p.

    • muro says:

      I use the 1070GTX and works for me fine in 4K. Witcher 3 was gorgeous on max, total war (rome2) needs lower settings. I don’t think a 1080 is necessary.

  2. zeep says:

    Looks like a 1080 is the easy way to go.
    What monitor were you using? I’m in the market for a new one, preferably with a sharp picture at both 1080p and 1440p.

  3. jezcentral says:

    Rats. I was hoping that there might be something interesting about the 1070Ti’s TDP, to make it a better option than the 1080 for laptops, but it seems they are rated the same. (Not sure you’d get this model in a laptop, though!)

  4. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    So a high-end version of a high-mid card is just a match for a high-end card.

    Really makes you wonder what the point of even making these is.

  5. Anvilfolk says:

    I game at 60fps, but I understand some folks are up to 120fps these days.

    It would’ve been really helpful to know whether the performance evaluation above was done around trying to keep it at 60, 75, 120 or whatever else :)

    • Junkenstein says:

      “it was lovely at 1080p, still lovely at 1440p, and slightly less lovely (but still lovely) at 4K”

      Why do you need numbers when you’ve got science like that?

  6. kerbal says:

    I am still riding a dying pony, an AMD Radeon 6870. Thinking about a change, you folks got any budget suggestions? Or should i wait till the mining hype is over and go for a second hand card?

    • ajx500 says:

      Since you’ve been happy lagging behind, I think your best bet is going to be a GTX 1060. You might be happy with the 3GB, but if you’re gonna have it for a long time like your previous card you’ll probably want to up to the 6GB version. Those are $200 and $250, and the 1070 is a big jump up at $400.

  7. Kasjer says:

    Well, the price difference between this and 1080 makes the latter less appealing for me, not the other way around. By choosing one of more sensibly priced editions, you are getting “almost” 1080 level performance for 60 to 80 pounds less. There’s also potential for overclocking, to make that gap smaller. Plenty of free OC software out there, so even nVidia model that comes without it on disc is viable choice, depending on how stock cooler will behave.

    Also, single card 4k gaming is still about compromises. Turning everything up to ultra and having to deal with below 60 fps framerate is stupid when you can save processing power by dialing down few settings which have very minor impact on overall presentation. You can also use more common internal res scalers – dropping to 80% of 4k gives visible performance benefit while image degradation is extremely hard to notice. And then, there are G-sync monitors to smooth occasional rougher patches.

    This card just makes more sense to me regarding power to price ratio than 1080.

    • malkav11 says:

      I’ve found most games (not all, and the ones that don’t are usually not the prettiest ones so don’t ask me why) work great on a 970 at 4K as long as you don’t try to push every single setting to max. Mostly all it takes is turning off AA, and at 4K you hardly need it.

      • aircool says:

        I guess it all comes down to what is acceptable. I’m still going to be using my 1080p 24″ Gsync monitor, but I really like high framerates with a minimum of 60fps.

        The more you get used to high framerates, the harder it gets to tolerate lower framerates. To me, 45fps really jars and 30fps is just horrible.

  8. aircool says:

    “when you’re spending that much in the first place, what’s an extra £60 to get the superior GTX 1080?”

    Simple, because you’re already shelling out an extra £60 to get the 1070ti over the cheapest 1070 you can find.

    Right now, the 1070i is in the same price bracket as a lot of pre-overclocked 1070’s and they 1070ti’s still about £50 cheaper than the reference board 1080’s. You’re still looking at over £500 for a 1080 with decent cooling.

    The difference between a cheap 1070 and a cheap 1080 is about £120. If you were planning on getting a 1070, scraping together an extra £60 for a 1070ti is worth it. However, if you can afford a 1080, you were unlikely to be looking at a 1070 or 1070ti in the first place.

    I think most people who are going to buy the 1070ti are already rummaging under the settee cushions so they can afford one over the 1070 because, due to currency miners who think they can earn money by spending money on electricity, 1070 prices are stupidly high.

    Playing the ‘next rung up’ game can get quite expensive. Always stick to what you can afford.

  9. Crimsoneer says:

    been considering upgrading my 970 for awhile, but still doesnm’t feel worth it, especially with the prices some people are paying…

    • Wyrd says:

      Exactly the same here. My 970 holds out just fine, specially considering I play at 1080p, and I don’t mind turning down a bit certain settings to hit those sweet 60 fps.

      So just gonna wait for a year more or so, rack up some money and then get one of the next generation’s cards along with a 4K monitor.

  10. fray_bentos says:

    ” we launched into 1080p to find that everything was…fine, actually.” and “It still ran at what we’d consider an acceptable pace.” and so on. How about some actual numbers?

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