Nvidia’s RTX 3070 Is A Nice GPU With A Brutal Australia Tax

Nvidia’s RTX 3070 Is A Nice GPU With A Brutal Australia Tax

Remember when the RTX 2080 Ti dropped a couple of years ago and everyone’s eyes immediately widened at the thought of Nvidia charging almost $2000 for a top tier GPU? Spin forward a couple of years, and that’s basically what the RTX 3070 offers: the equivalent performance of a last-gen $2000 card for around $900 Australian.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070: Specs, Price, Release Date

rtx 3070
The RTX 3070 FE sports a similar heatsink design to the FE 3080 model, but there’s no rear exhaust fan. It’s a pretty looking card. Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku Australia)

The RTX 3070 was pitched as a card “faster than 2080 Ti”, and around 60 percent faster than the original RTX 2070. Of course, Nvidia’s not the only ones in the race anymore. AMD’s “Big Navi” RX 6800 is a genuine competitor, especially at 1080p and 1440p resolutions. If you’re looking to push 4K gaming a little more, however, or the thought of a bit of ray traced Control or Cyberpunk 2077 is your jam … well, that’s where things get a little hairier.

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
  • Process Node: Samsung 8nm
  • Base/boost clocks: 1.5GHz/1.73GHz
  • CUDA Cores: 5888
  • Memory: 8GB GDDR6, 256-bit bus
  • TDP: 220W
  • Price: $809 MSRP (Founders Edition, reviewed), $809-1299 (third party models)

Buying the RTX 3070 at $809 is a very different prospect to, say, $900 or more. But with the lack of availability in Australia right now, the more expensive RTX 3070 models are all that’s available. And even most of those are sold out or on back order. It doesn’t help that the RX 6800 and 6800 XT are all sold out too, which limits any hope of some downward price pressure in the short term.

So in reality, the RTX 3070 is basically the same price as AMD’s RX 6800.

Nvidia RTX 3070 Test Bench

It hasn’t been that long since rolling out the test bench, so naturally the hardware remains the same. There’s been no changes in the release drivers either.

rtx 3070
Image: Nvidia
  • CPU: Ryzen 5900X
  • CPU Cooler: Corsair H115i RGB Platinum
  • RAM: 32GB DDR4 3200MHz GSkill Trident Z (14-14-14-34)
  • GPUs: RTX 3070 Founders Edition
  • PSU: Corsair CX750M 750W 80 Plus Bronze
  • GPU Drivers: Nvidia 457.30

Worth noting that while the Founders Edition RTX 3070 has Nvidia’s custom 12-pin connector — seen above — third party models will use regular PCI-e 8-pin connectors.

Nvidia RTX 3070 Benchmarks: 3D Mark

rx 6800
Image: 3D Mark

I’ve spent so much time looking at these robots battling over the last few weeks that I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if someone turned it into an actual game. Maybe along the lines of Rising Thunder. That’d be nice.

Either way, it’s worth noting that 3D Mark has gotten an interesting update lately. Along with the synthetic figures, 3D Mark results will now give you a rough indication of what that score translates to in actual video games. A score of, say, 30,000 in the base Fire Strike test will be enough to get over 120 FPS in Apex Legends at 1440p, for instance.

Anyway, onto the figures.

rtx 3070
Image: Kotaku Australia

I’ve included the Smart Access Memory results for the RX 6800, since any AMD user would naturally be using it with their Ryzen gear (the same way Nvidia owners would turn DLSS on in just about any scenario possible).

In 3D Mark SAM doesn’t really make any difference at all. That said, it doesn’t need to, because the RX 6800 has a really solid lead here at all resolutions.

RTX 3070 Benchmarks: Shadow of the Tomb Raider

rtx 3070

As previously, this round of tests is without DLSS and without the ray traced shadows. And at those settings, all three cards here can manage playable 4K frame rates just fine. You could bump up the RTX 3070 a fair bit more by using DLSS too, although it’s up to you whether you want that hit to image quality.

Ray tracing is where the RTX 3070 really starts to gain more ground over the RX 6800, however.

For these tests, the game’s preset was set to Ultra, with the ray traced shadows then changed to Ultra as well. You can run the ray traced shadows at a lower setting, but in my experience with the game you really either want the shadows on full blast, or not at all.

rtx 3070

The RTX 3070 and RX 6800 are on par here under optimal conditions for both — although SAM doesn’t make an enormous difference in this particular game anyway. But as we get into games that utilise ray tracing more heavily, you’ll see the RTX 3070 climb ahead.

RTX 3070 Benchmarks: Total War Three Kingdoms

rtx 3080 review
Image: Total War Three Kingdoms

Ah, Total War, the franchise that hates all hardware equally. As before, all tests are done at the Ultra preset. There’s no ray tracing in Three Kingdoms — given how brutal it already is on the highest settings, adding ray tracing into the mix would just turn the whole game into a slideshow.

rtx 3070
Image: Kotaku Australia

Given that all of these cards are pitched as 1440p and 4K cards, the gap at 1440p isn’t really that significant. What stands out to me here is the RTX 3080. And considering the gap between the RTX 3080 and the RTX 3070/RX 6800 really isn’t that much — when you consider what cards you can actually buy, and for how much — I’d consider whether the RTX 3080 wasn’t the better buy here.

RTX 3070 Benchmarks: Forza Horizon 4

rtx 3070
Image: Reddit (u/Spoggi99)

Forza has always been extremely kind to AMD cards and AMD hardware — Turn 10 and Playground Games have some supremely talented engineers — so just brace for a bit of impact here.

As always, tests were run at the Ultra preset with dynamic resolution disabled.

rtx 3070
Image: Kotaku Australia

Even ignoring the part where Forza is already good for AMD hardware, the Smart Access Memory boost just rubs salt into the wound. Nvidia says they’re working on a SAM-esque feature of their own, based on the resizeable BAR feature in the PCI-e spec.

Who knows when that feature will actually be released, but Nvidia have said the feature is working on Intel motherboards and should also work on AMD — provided there’s no artificial restrictions or gatekeeping on AMD’s end.

Competition is always good for the consumer, folks.

RTX 3070 Benchmarks: Control + Ray Tracing

Image: Kotaku Australia

As much as watching the 3D Mark robots battle does my brain in, I have to say: benchmarking Control is fun as all hell, thanks to the Ashtray Maze. Thanks Remedy, you’ve made at least one person’s life a lot easier.

So as before with the RX 6800 series, these tests are done by replaying the Ashtray Maze mission (courtesy of the SHUM Arcade machines introduced in Control‘s second expansion, AWE). Figures are collated by running the test over 180 seconds, started from the moment the music starts playing.

rtx 3070
Image: Kotaku Australia

Control also provides us with another good use case of how AMD handles ray tracing. The game simply refused to load the Ashtray Maze mission at 4K when ray tracing was enabled — regardless of setting. The only way to consistently load the level at 4K was to disable ray tracing, then change the settings once the mission had loaded, but the game returned a sub-30 FPS result without any action on screen.

That’s obviously unacceptable, although the crashes are something that I think could partially be on Remedy’s side as much as AMD. Regardless of that fact, the 1440p results — and the benefit DLSS provides even to the RTX 3070 — showcase just how much of a difference Nvidia’s longer history with ray tracing makes. The 4K / Medium RTX 3070 results are very good here, but for my money I’d rather drop the resolution to 1440p and up the ray tracing for better image quality.

Nvidia cards can play games with ray tracing at playable frame rates — AMD cards, not so much. The maximum I’d consider would be enabling one ray traced feature — reflections, shadows, global illumination — but nothing more. The support, and hit to performance, just isn’t worth it.

The Nvidia RTX 3070 is in a real interesting spot. In years past, the 3070 would have been an easy recommendation because AMD wasn’t at the point where they could fully compete with this part of Nvidia’s GPU stack.

But how times have changed. We’re now at the point where feature set is increasingly becoming the big differentiator, and whether that matters at all comes down to your individual use case and what games you play. If you’re playing titles that don’t make use of DLSS, and they haven’t incorporated ray tracing, it becomes much harder to justify the RTX 3070. And that’s especially true for Australians: if the 3070 was consistently available for its actual MSRP, then there’s a solid value argument.

Sadly, this is 2020. And locally, the Australia Tax has pushed the 3070 to basically the same price as the RX 6800 MSRP — and there are more third-party boards adhering to that MSRP.

That doesn’t mean Nvidia doesn’t still have an advantage though. I’ve written before about features like Nvidia Broadcast, or their excellent NVENC encoder and its support for programs like OBS, their Shadowplay (now Share) recording technology, and things like Nvidia Ansel. NVENC and OBS especially are genuinely game-changing tools used by many content creators, writers, and people who just like to save their own gameplay.

AMD still hasn’t really matched Nvidia in supporting this side of the gaming community, and that can be a genuine dealbreaker. The CUDA core support can’t be ignored either, especially for any game developers who dabble in programs like Blender. Not having those CUDA cores makes a huge difference — but if you’re doing more production work, you might be considering the higher end GPUs anyway just for more VRAM support. And I should note: Nvidia’s drivers have been flawless throughout, which can be a major quality of life factor. That’s not been the case entirely with AMD, as the Control issues I ran into showed.

Of course, you’d have to be able to actually buy those GPUs. But you can’t. Everyone is sold out just about everywhere. I found two RTX 3070 cards available on Mwave, for instance, but the cheapest one was a staggering $1069. Don’t buy that. PC Case Gear had cheaper models, but were out of stock of everything. Scorptec actually had an RTX 3070 available for $969, but that’s still about $160 above the Founders Edition MSRP. That’s hard to swallow.

And that premium really stings. At its original MSRP, you would have gotten a 4K-capable card with very solid performance at 1440p. That would have been an easy recommendation, even for 20-series RTX 2060 or RTX 2070 owners. Even compared to the RTX 2080 Ti the RTX 3070 holds its own. So if you wanted that kind of performance, and you’re jumping up from the 1000 series or an RTX 2060, you’re getting good results here.

But they’re just not as far ahead of the competition as they used to be. Now, things are close enough that you have to really stop and ask yourself: what games do you play the most? Do you care about ray tracing — would you rather play Cyberpunk 2077 with all the ray tracing bells and whistles on, or just the highest frame rate possible? And would you trade 5 or 10fps in games for add-on features like automated noise removal, or better OBS/recording support?

Add the Australia Tax on top of that, and it’s easiest to just wait it out until 2021. By then, stock should hopefully be a lot less limited — and prices should come down to better levels as a result. The RTX 3070 is still a good card, especially at $809 — but not so much when it’s inching closer to $1000, and definitely not when it has a competitor so hot on its heels.

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