Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti review: the final Pascal graphics card…hopefully

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti

The Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti is almost certainly final graphics card entry into the green team’s Pascal-based line up before the next-gen Nvidia Volta graphics architecture arrives. Or Nvidia Turing, or Nvidia Ampere… whatever they call them hopefully they’ll arrive sooner rather than later. 

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With a slim market gap between the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080, Nvidia’s latest Ti-badged graphics card needs to be able to offer something special to stay atop of the wobbly price/performance tightrope.

The GTX 1070 Ti, however, is another victim of the graphics card price crisis, with the few cards available retailing for, at best, $849(£562). There is vast support for third-party cards from the usual names and faces in the business, although they won’t be featuring any factory overclocks this time around at Nvidia’s request – at least for the time being. There were rumours of Nvidia blocking overclocking beyond boost clocks altogether to prevent the GTX 1070 Ti from cannibalising their GTX 1080 card.

But the stats are in, and we can finally uncover the mysteries of Nvidia’s latest card, and whether it truly is the end for the GTX 1080, or overclocking as we know it.

Click on the quick links below to get straight into the good stuff.

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti specs

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti performance

Surely this is the last hurrah of the Pascal architecture before Volta, but then again a 1060 Ti isn’t unthinkable… The components of the GTX 1070 Ti are incredibly familiar, featuring a combo of parts from the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 graphics cards we already know and love.

At its core, the GTX 1070 Ti features a near full-fat GP104 GPU, with a CUDA core count of 2,432 – just a single streaming microprocessor (SM) short of the full-fat GP104 found in the GTX 1080.

The memory has been sliced and diced most of all with the GTX 1070 Ti, forgoing the GDDR5X memory found in the top-tier Nvidia cards – possibly due to a shortage – in favour of GDDR5 memory. The result is memory bandwidth takes a hit, down from 320GB/s on the GTX 1080 to 256GB/s on the GTX 1070 Ti.

The reference model features a single eight-pin power connector, three DisplayPort connectors, a single HDMI, and one DVI.

Base clocks begin at 1,607MHz, and so far only reference clockspeeds will be available. Say goodbye to factory overclocks – at least for the time being. The boost clock is the same as its smaller sibling – the GTX 1070 – at 1,683MHz. Of course, Nvidia’s GPU Boost 3.0 is implemented on the card, and will boost clockspeeds way beyond the top-rated boost specification.

Contrary to popular rumour, Nvidia have not blocked manual overclocking on the GTX 1070 Ti, if anything the card excels at it – and Nvidia are playing that up in their marketing with claims of the card being an ‘overclocking monster’.

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti benchmarks

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti performance

Nvidia mobile Pascal performance

Graphical performance out-of-the-box is exactly what you might expect from a graphics card between two well-established siblings, which was confirmed in early leaked benchmarks. The card sits between the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 in both price and performance. Without any manual overclocking, the card performs closer to the former than the latter.

Across our benchmarking suite, the GTX 1070 Ti at stock clockspeeds outperformed the GTX 1070 by 16%. This performance comes at a 13% price premium over the reference GTX 1070 at MSRP. No surprises there.

It’s hard to justify the cost for this card at only stock speeds, which plenty of customers will be running at due to the current Nvidia-enforced lock on factory overclocks. For the target 1440p gaming audience, you probably won’t hurt too much by forgoing the GTX 1070 Ti and picking up the cheaper GTX 1070, as both offer more than playable frame rates at 1440p, on average above 60fps.

Where the GTX 1070 Ti really shines is in overclocking headroom, where we managed to push a +225MHz offset to the GP104 core clock. While this seems fairly high, this is largely due to the fairly low reference clocks out of the box without any factory tweaking in place. We also managed to hit +455MHz memory offset on the 8GB of GDDR5. Temperature limit was increased to 92C and power limit to 120% for a little more overclocking headroom.

Overclocking GPU

With this overclock running steady on our test bench, performance is far more convincing. It’s a shame that this performance is locked behind a process that many GTX 1070 Ti owners will likely not bother with, though, resulting in rather lackluster performance overall. Factory overclocks would’ve been especially nice on this card, but here we are…

On average, performance was up 32% with our overclocked card over the reference GTX 1070, rapidly swaying price-per-frame in favour of the GTX 1070 Ti. The king-killer didn’t quite manage to pull off regicide on our test bench, even with the highest overclocks we could muster without instability, posting an average fps that was 6% worse than the GTX 1080 at reference clocks.

Limited memory bandwidth bottlenecks were expected to rear their ugly head in benchmarks that require large texture files and the like. As our benchmarks show this has seemingly impacted minimum framerates in Shadow of War at 4K and 1440p. The step down to 8Gbps GDDR5 from 10Gbps GDDR5X is likely the cause for a considerable amount of the performance degradation versus the GTX 1080.

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti verdict

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti

The GTX 1070 Ti is a modest improvement over a GTX 1070, and the out-of-the-box performance isn’t particularly game-changing. It quietly slips into the Pascal product stack we’ve been happily gaming on for nigh on a year and a half, and it performs right how you might expect, although a little extra power goes a long way. Despite the near-Halloween launch, it’s not quite the GTX 1080-consuming zombie you may have been hoping for.

Nvidia’s senior PR manager, Bryan Del Rizzo, inadvertently sums this card up in its entirety when speaking on a possible Max-Q design 1070 Ti for an interview with finder.com.au, in which he says, “We have the 1080-design MAX-Q, we have the 1070, the 1060. We could do a Ti version of it if we wanted to, but I’m just not sure if there’s a real benefit when the 1080 and the 1070 are already in the market.”

A potential Max-Q design, with its limited power and specs to meet noise and temperature targets, misses the point of Nvidia’s latest graphics card addition – and there is very little benefit over the currently-existent alternatives. The same judgement applies to the stock reference design out of the box – the GTX 1070 Ti’s potential lies entirely in overclocking.

Asus Zephyrus Max-Q design

This might seem strange considering Nvidia’s apparent ban on factory overclocks for the time being, but let’s hope this isn’t a permanent solution to a currently unknown problem. If overclocking isn’t a part of your wheelhouse, then you might want to look elsewhere. The $50 MSRP price premium (likely much more given the current market) over a reputable GTX 1070 probably just isn’t worth it for the performance boost, unless you are prepared to get into the clockspeeds and start tinkering with the memory.

With our reference Nvidia card at least, we were not able to quite push GTX 1080 performance out of the card, although it was well within 6% of the pricier card in most benchmarks. With a solid overclock, the GTX 1070 Ti manages to close the gap on the GTX 1080, yet it never bridges it. With this in mind – and the cards proclivity for overclocking – any limitation on factory overclocked cards seems needless, and only serves to lessen the price-to-performance ratio of the card for potential end-users who don’t fall into the minority with an interest in thermal limitations and voltages.

If this card had arrived one year earlier, it may have fared a little better, yet with Volta likely on the horizon, it’s hard to recommend. Thanks to the restricted memory bandwidth, it will likely age quicker than the GTX 1080 card and above, and for a card that’s arriving so late in the game, that’s not the best position to be in – especially if you’ve already squeezed out that extra overclocking performance early on in the card’s lifespan.

The GTX 1070 Ti lies with a price/performance no-man’s-land. On one hand, the card manages performance more likened to its bigger sibling, the GTX 1080, with a little clockspeed persuasion. Yet the cards pricing is closer to the MSRP of its smaller sibling, the GTX 1070. This is great, if – and it’s a big if – you can get the card at MSRP.

Stock shouldn’t be an issue with a mature tech like Pascal, and the sheer quantity of third-party cards at available at launch is a positive sign – but the last few sizable tech launches have been shaky at best for availability and pricing.

Asus Turbo GTX 1080

If pricing for this card, or any third-party designs, are above $50 or so greater than the MSRP of $449, all semblance of value for money goes out the window compared to a GTX 1080 (admittedly they are impossible to find right now at a non-ludicrous price point). On the other hand, if a GTX 1070 drops in price at all that offers much greater value for money, and its 1440p performance is nothing to be sniffed at. The pricing margin for the GTX 1070 Ti between its two surrounding cards is so slim, that any disruption to pricing, or high-cost premium third-party designs capable of tall overclocks that may launch, could deem it unworthy. For a card that was at one point potentially a threat to Nvidia’s own products, it seems that it is similarly, if not moreso, at risk of price cannibalisation by its siblings.

With that being said, if you can buy this card at MSRP, and the pricing of cards surrounding it stay the same, and you aren’t scared of a little tinkering, and Volta doesn’t arrive in Q1 2018 and blow these cards out of the water with similar pricing, then the GTX 1070 Ti offers fantastic performance, with plenty of brute power to drive 1440p at high frame rates.

When this card was first announced we wondered to its purpose, explaining it as merely a case of boredom among team GeForce. With rumours flying around like wildfire of potential cannibalisation of the GTX 1080 and Nvidia limiting overclocking on the card to prevent just that, it seemed like this card had the potential to be massively disruptive to the cards around it. Nvidia were really going to release one last ground-shaking haymaker as a last hurrah to Pascal. Yet, as it launches, it seems to have slotted back into the slot of design boredom, merely filling a gap that may at one time been fiercely fought by AMD’s RX Vega – yet this never really came to pass as AMD struggled for performance with their latest architecture.

Sadly, the GTX 1070 Ti isn’t a late-game hail mary for ever-lasting glory, it’s a great card not unlike its phenomenal Pascal siblings that came before it, and if you’ve got $50 extra in your budget, it’s going to throw you more frames for your money than you would’ve been able to muster from that budget a month ago. Thanks to its overclocking chops, it will net you another $50 worth of performance for your initial investment. Yet Nvidia have made sure it won’t be disrupting their other graphics cards too much, at least not before Volta arrives – and they’ve done a good job of ensuring that.