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Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 review: Still the best 1440p graphics card in 2018?

Money, money, money

For many PC gamers, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 is the next logical step up from the excellent GTX 970. While not as powerful as the beefy Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, it still offers significant gains over its lesser sibling, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060, providing a smoother, more flexible gaming experience at both 1080p and 1440p alike, and even a teeny bit of 4K. The problem is, graphics card prices have currently sky-rocketed beyond all reasonable consideration at the moment, putting potential GTX 1070 buyers in a bit of a tough spot.

In fact, we wouldn't recommend buying any mid-to-high-end graphics card at the moment until this crypto-mining business settles down again. You can read more about other options in our guide to the best graphics cards, but provided you can actually find one in stock and don't mind paying through the roof for it, then read on. After all, when Nvidia claims it can outperform its £1,000 Titan X mega beast, that's reason enough to sit up and take notice.

Sharing the same GP104 GPU / chip / thinger as the GTX 1080, the GTX 1070 is a true performance graphics chip. It's got a decent 256-bit memory bus to the 1060's rather cheapo 192-bit affair, and it's also got 8GB of memory to the GTX 1060's 6GB and 3GB options. Of course, it's cheaper than the 1080, so something has to give. That something involves turning parts of the chip off. Specifically, the shader count drops from 2,560 on the GTX 1080 to 1,920 for the GTX 1070. The clock speeds are down a smidge, too.

Things get even more complicated when you bring Nvidia's GTX 1070Ti into account, too. You can read our Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070Ti review for the full low-down on how it compares to both the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, but essentially, the GTX 1070Ti is actually closer in spec to the GTX 1080 than its GTX 1070 namesake. Here, the GTX 1070Ti has 2432 cores (that's just 128 less than the GTX 1080), but clock speeds are a rigid 1607 MHz base and 1683 MHz boost due to a weird rule Nvidia's enforced to prevent its partners from setting factory overclocks.

All told, Nvidia reckons the computational clout drops from 8.9TFLOPs on the GTX 1080 to 6.5 TFLOPs on the GTX 1070. TFLOPs are, of course, a theoretical metric with naff all relevance to gaming. But the measure does give a rough idea of the overall scale of loss in the transition between the two cards. And it certainly looks like the sort of hit you might actually feel in games.

In that sense, the GTX 1070 sounds a little underwhelming, but it still performs admirably in practice - so much so that I had a hard time telling it apart from the GTX 1080 without the aid of a frame rate counter. The MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G we've got here is, admittedly, a pretty fancy pants variant of the GTX 1070 - it comes with another 100 MHz in terms of stock clock speeds and the promise of much more overclocking headroom thanks to its improved power delivery and superior cooling. Right now, it's an eye-watering £550 in the UK and an even more wallet-breaking $1000 in the US due to stock shortages and demand from those pesky crypto-miners.

Here's what Jeremy said about the GTX 1080 when he played The Witcher 3: “As for The Witcher 3, at first I thought the GTX 1080 had its measure at 2560x1440. But knock things down to ‘1080’ and there’s a tangible uptick in smoothness and response. It’s subtle, but it’s definitely there. Speaking of response, that remains a relevant issue for the GTX 1080. There’s definitely noticeably more input lag running Witcher 3 at 4K than lower resolutions. Of course, some games, like Shadow of Mordor, simply have laggy interfaces at any resolution. But the new 1080 doesn’t banish input lag to history.”

And that's completely true of the GTX 1070, too. Of course, if the GTX 1080 wasn't quite a single-card 4K solution, the GTX 1070 was never going to be either. But more important is the fact that the GTX 1070 feels subjectively every bit as effective as the GTX 1080 at 2560x1440.

That's a general trend. The GTX 1070 will handle relatively undemanding games like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor at 4K very nicely indeed. Tougher titles run well, if not always absolutely faultlessly at 2560x1440. We tried knocking down some settings from Ultra to merely High in a few titles, but in truth, the subjective impact in terms of both image quality and performance was minimal.

This puts those of you looking for a card for 2560x1440 gaming in a tricky spot - regardless of today's current price hikes. Even if this card cost somewhere nearer £300/$400 like it should do, the cheaper GTX 1060 and the AMD Radeon RX 580 are also very compelling options at the same resolution. Plus, they don't cost nearly as much, either.

As a result, the GTX 1070 is quite hard to justify compared to the competition, especially when you can pick up a 6GB GTX 1060 for around £380 these days, such as the Asus GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Dual OC (US folk are sadly looking at something closer to $600 for a 6GB card). 8GB versions of AMD's Radeon RX 580 are a little more at £400 / $700, but that's still a whole lot better than forking out another £150 / $300 for the GTX 1070.

As we said at the beginning, we'd very much advise waiting until prices return to something vaguely near normal before taking the plunge on a higher-end card like this, but even if prices do suddenly drop back down to something reasonable, we'd probably still recommend the RX 580 as our 1440p card of choice. The GTX 1070 is a good bet for those hoping to push into 4K and can't afford the GTX 1080, but those after the best graphics card for 1440p should stick with the RX 580.

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