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Mobile RTX 3070 Reviews Show Performance Variations in Gaming

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If you’re shopping for a gaming laptop, it’s important to check reviews before you buy. We’ve discussed this issue before in a CPU context, but it’s just as important in GPUs. A recent set of reviews from our sister site PCMag offer an illustrative example of why.

PCMag just reviewed the Alienware m15 R4 and the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC. Both of these systems are built around the Intel Core i7-10870H. Both feature an RTX 3070 — the Gigabyte system has the Max-Q version of the card, while the Alienware has a standard RTX 3070. We would normally expect the Gigabyte system to outperform the Alienware thanks to its use of a Max-Q card. Max-Q cards are binned for high efficiency in a given power envelope, not maximum performance. A Max-Q GPU is typically slightly slower than a full-sized equivalent.

PCSpecs-PCMag

The CPU-centric benchmarks PCMag ran show the Alienware m15 R4 narrowly losing to the Gigabyte Aero in most tests, though it wins Handbrake. There’s only a little variation between the two. The GPU tests are more interesting:

These results collectively show some interesting trends. The ROG Zephyrus 15 is only equipped with an RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q), but it clearly punches well above its weight class. The RTX 3070 is faster in Fire Strike but loses Sky Diver. In Far Cry 5, the gap between the RTX 2080 Super and the RTX 3070 Max-Q is 3.2 percent and 5.6 percent in favor of the RTX 3070 in the Gigabyte system. The fact that the R4 is only a little faster suggests that RotR is CPU-bound at this point in any case.

PCMag gives high marks to both of these gaming laptops, so I want to say up front that I’m not trying to trash the RTX 3070 or imply that the Max-Q version is a bad card. Even the fact that the RTX 2080 Super outperforms the RTX 3070 Max-Q isn’t an automatic problem in and of itself, especially when we haven’t factored price into the equation.

What’s interesting about the performance of the RTX 2080 Super versus the RTX 3070 Max-Q versus the regular RTX 3070 is the impact different thermal solutions can have on the laptop’s performance. PCMag didn’t run any ray tracing benchmarks, unfortunately, so it’s not clear how the Turing-equipped laptop would have fared against Ampere in that test. Our guess is that the architectural improvements in the architecture would still deliver a boost even if the RTX 2080 Super seems to have more room to stretch its metaphorical legs overall.

Each of the laptops in PCMag’s review offers a different balance between weight, performance, display resolution, refresh rates, and thermals. In this case, both the Asus ROG and the Alienware are able to target higher performance levels due to the specifics of their respective implementations. The Gigabyte system offers excellent gaming performance, but it doesn’t always match either of its competitors.

One of the best ways to maximize long-term performance is to check the performance of the specific system model you want to buy, with an eye towards how it lands in various 3D benchmarks. While there’s always test-to-test variation, you can typically pick out a pattern across a series of tests.

If I had to choose between the RTX 2080 Super-equipped system and an Ampere system at the same price, and performance slightly favored Turing, I’d still choose Ampere. Over time, newer games are more likely to favor Nvidia’s newer architecture over the older one, especially given how popular Ampere has been. Ampere also should offer efficiency gains in ray tracing, even if Turing is more competitive in other tests.

If you want to maximize your long-term performance when you buy a gaming laptop, there’s no substitute for reading reviews of the specific systems you’re interested in.

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MSI’s Nvidia RTX 3070 Gaming X Trio Review: 2080 Ti Performance, Pascal Pricing

There are two things you should know about the RTX 3070. First, this is a fabulous GPU by any measure. Nvidia has been claiming that this $ 500 GPU could match its $ 1200 RTX 2080 Ti Founder’s Edition. That claim has been demonstrated as broadly true with the release of the Founder’s Edition earlier this week — the RTX 2080 Ti can still pull ahead by a whisker in some 4K games, but in the vast majority of titles, the two are neck-and-neck.

Second: As great a GPU as the RTX 3070 is, you may still want to hold off a bit before purchasing a new card. It may not be able to buy one in any case — Nvidia has warned would-be customers to expect limited supply through the end of this year and into 2021. Separately from this, AMD will launch its own Big Navi cards in a matter of weeks. It may be prudent to see how the two compare before pulling the trigger.

GA102 and the MSI RTX 3070 Gaming X Trio

The MSI RTX 3070 Gaming X Trio is built around Nvidia’s GA104 GPU, while the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 use the larger GA102 processor. Nvidia has been building multiple die at the high end for its recent launches as opposed to fusing off parts of the same design to create lower-end parts. When Turing launched, the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 each used a different GPU design (TU104 and TU106, respectively). This time around, the RTX 3090 and RTX 3080 share a common GPU core (GA102), while RTX 3070 is built around its own unique chip (GA104).

Like its Turing and Pascal predecessors, the RTX 3070 retains the same 8GB RAM capacity Nvidia has used in this price segment since 2016. The company had plans to launch high VRAM variants of the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, but those plans have been canceled or at least put on hold until overall availability improves.

The RTX 3070 packs 5888 cores, 96 ROPs, 14Gbps GDDR6, and a 1.725GHz boost clock. The GPU’s massive number of cores — more than 2.5x as many as the RTX 2070 — is why Nvidia is so confident in its ability to match the RTX 2080 Ti with a much cheaper card. The chip is a 17.4B transistor-design and its built on Samsung’s 8nm process. Computationally, the RTX 3070 has ~30 percent less compute power than the RTX 3080, and 41 percent less memory bandwidth. In addition to using slower RAM (16Gbps, down from 19Gbps on the RTX 3080), the RTX 3070 also has a smaller, 256-bit memory bus.

That’s the GA104 GPU itself. What has MSI brought to the table with the Gaming X Trio?

The Gaming X Trio uses a tri-axial cooler design, with additional bracing included to strengthen the GPU and prevent bending during transport.

I’ve seen more than one GPU shipped with inadequate packaging around it in the last few years, and I suspect the underlying problem is that people don’t appreciate just how heavy these cards have gotten. MSI’s strengthening bracket is a nice touch.

RGB support is provided via MSI’s “Mystic Light” system, and the default RGB is quite pretty if you like that sort of thing. The RGB lighting is designed to be controlled from MSI’s Dragon Center application, which functions as an all-in-one stop for controlling RGB, overclocking, and managing various system functions.

For those of you concerned about the power cabling situation, the MSI RTX 3070 Gaming X Trio uses twin 8-pin connectors, not the specialized Nvidia cable.

The Competition

Our competitive selection against the RTX 3070 is a bit more limited than I’d like — I don’t have an RTX 2080 Ti to compare against. We’ll be comparing the RTX 3070 against the just-launched RTX 3080, the older RTX 2080 (non-Super), and the Radeon VII from AMD. The RTX 2070 Super and the RTX 2080 perform quite similarly, so the RTX 2080 does double-duty representing both SKUs.

I chose the Radeon VII over the 5700 XT because AMD’s highest-end consumer GCN product often outperformed the newer RDNA chip last year, even if it was only by a few percent. The fact is, AMD doesn’t have a great GPU to compare in this bracket at the moment. The 5700 XT is currently selling for ~$ 390, which is quite a bit less than the RTX 3070’s $ 500 baseline MSRP, and the Radeon VII isn’t on the market at the moment.

For this review, I’ve decided to put AMD’s overall best foot forward. In a matter of weeks, we’ll have competitive figures from the Radeon 6800 and 6800 XT, and will be able to give you a much better estimation of what Big Navi does and doesn’t bring to the table. Regardless, the AMD figures are here for reference. Until Big Navi debuts, Nvidia is competing against itself. If you want to estimate RX 5700 XT performance, assume it’s close enough to the 5700 XT that you’d never actually notice in reality, but factually a bit slower if you ran the numbers.

All testing performed on an Asus Maximus XII Hero Wi-Fi with 32GB of DDR4-3600 installed. Intel’s Core i9-10900K was used for all testing, with Windows 10 2004 and the latest set of updates and patches installed.

Benchmark Results:

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation shows the RTX 3070 pulling ahead of the RTX 2080 by 1.2x at 1080p, though the gap actually shrinks a bit as we go up. Ashes doesn’t bring GPUs to their knees quite the way it used to.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has the dubious distinction of having the worst MSAA mode I’ve ever seen, as far as its impact on performance. I’ve kept it around as a benchmark mostly for this reason. The RTX 3070 holds its 1.2x improvement over the RTX 2080 at 1080p but extends the lead to 1.26x at 4K.

At 4K, the RTX 3080 is 1.31x faster than the RTX 3070 and 1.4x more expensive. We expect price-performance curves to begin to bend out of a 1:1 curve at these price points, and the ratio isn’t bad — provided either of these GPUs are available for MSRP. The Radeon VII fully matches the RTX 2080 here, but it’s clearly a last-gen card.

The gaps between the GPUs are a little smaller here, but we’re using somewhat lower detail levels, which means the CPU is in play a little more than typical. The RTX 3070 continues to impress. While $ 500 is a great deal to spend on a GPU, the high performance of the RTX 3070 at $ 500 implies good things about the GPUs that will follow farther down the stack.

AMD’s Radeon VII would have benefited somewhat from DX12 here, but it wouldn’t be enough to change the big picture. Nvidia is nothing if not consistent here, with regular bands between each GPU.

I threw Strange Brigade into the mixture to see what a Vulkan title might look like. Nothing much to see here, except an interesting performance by the Radeon VII, which lags the RTX 2080 by about 17 percent in 1080p, roughly the same amount at 1440p, and just 3.4 percent in 4K. Every Nvidia GPU loses much more performance from 1440p – 4K than 1080p – 1440p, implying this may be a quirk of the engine.

At the risk of sounding boring, you’ve seen this graph already. Remember that the RTX 2080 is also standing in for the RTX 2070 Super — the gap with the standard RTX 2070 would be larger, and the performance per dollar gains are considerable.

No surprises here.

Final Fantasy XV doesn’t run well on the Radeon VII — this is a test where we suspect RDNA would turn in better results. With Big Navi launching soon, it’s not a big deal either way.

Three different Metro Exodus graphs here, to highlight three different takeaways. First, we have Ultra ray tracing enabled at Extreme Detail on the RTX 3070 versus the RTX 2080. This is a worst-case scenario, with 200 percent supersampling active — and the RTX 3070 still manages to turn in a 1.31x higher framerate at 1080p. Interestingly, the gap is smallest without ray tracing enabled — and here, the RTX 3070 isn’t all that much faster than the RTX 2080.

Big Picture Takeaways

At $ 500, the RTX 3070 is an objectively great GPU. As I expected, it solves all of the problems I initially had with Turing. Ray-tracing support is beginning to show up in games, and the higher-end cards in the family are now powerful enough to enable it at ultra-quality without needing to bother with tricks like DLSS 1.0. (DLSS 2.0 is much nicer). With Turing, I wasn’t comfortable recommending the family as a long-term investment into ray tracing given that the performance hit for enabling it could be 60-80 percent.

But most of all, with Ampere, Nvidia has returned to a Pascal-ish GPU pricing model. When it launched Turing, the RTX 2080 was 1.28x faster than the GTX 1080 on average, and cost about 1.28x  more. The RTX 3070, meanwhile, is about 1.25x faster than the RTX 2080, while costing about $ 200 less than that GPU did at launch.

If you know you’re Team Green forever, and you’ve got $ 500 to throw at a GPU upgrade, this is a great card to choose. Nvidia powers the majority of gaming PCs, which means game developers will build their titles to target whatever amount of VRAM Nvidia GPUs offer. It’s going to be interesting to see if AMD’s 16GB cards can offer performance advantages, but 8GB cards aren’t going to be outdated in a year or two. MSI’s version of the GPU doesn’t put a lot of english on the ball, but there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken, and this GPU most emphatically isn’t.

The RTX 3070 is the true successor to the value proposition Nvidia debuted with the GTX 1080, assuming one can snag a GPU at MSRP. Whether that’s going to be possible is anyone’s guess, and the impact of bots has been ugly enough this year that I feel obligated to leave a bit of a question mark on this claim.

If you are willing to wait and see what AMD will bring to the fight, I recommend doing so — it’s always a good idea to see what the competition has in store — but only if $ 579 is still within your price range. Either way, the RTX 3070 is a huge leap forward for gaming, and a great value for gamers that can afford it.

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Report: Nvidia May Have Canceled High-VRAM RTX 3070, 3080 Cards

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Not long after the RTX 3080 and 3090 debuted, rumors surfaced of high VRAM variants that would supposedly appear in-market by December. The reasoning was obvious — AMD is expected to launch GPUs with more VRAM than Nvidia’s equivalents. This is a known strategy for Team Red, and they’ve deployed it consistently with the Polaris GPU family against the GTX 1050 and 1060.

One reason a high VRAM version of an Ampere GPU is so interesting is that it opens up a realm of additional possibilities in AI work. According to our sister site PCMag, this plan has been at least temporarily scuttled. They state: “Two independent sources have confirmed the new RTX cards are no longer coming to market.”

Nvidia, however, isn’t the only company to blame for this production problem. Micron’s yields on GDDR6X are also reportedly poor. The difference between GDDR6 and GDDR6X is shown below:

GDDR6X is faster-clocked GDDR6, with higher RAM bandwidth per pin and per placement, and a much smaller power consumption benefit than the jump from GDDR5 to GDDR5X (Presumably pJp stands for picoJoules per bit). With GDDR5X, Micron cut what I’m assuming is per-bit power by 11.12 percent. With GDDR6X, the company only managed to reduce power by 3.5 percent.

The major innovations of GDDR6X are its new encoding scheme and the long-term potential to double bandwidth per pin compared with existing GDDR6, but these improvements come with their own difficulties as far as hitting effective yield. Up until now, we’ve focused on the Nvidia side of the equation, but Micron may be playing a part here as well. If yields on the RAM chips are low, and each RTX 3080 / 3090 high-VRAM GPU needs twice as much, that would effectively slash Nvidia’s already-limited ability to get cards into market.

I would go so far as to argue that it makes more sense that this is a VRAM shortage issue than an RTX GPU issue. We don’t have any reason to believe the qualification issues are on Nvidia’s side of things. Dividing a limited number of Ampere GPUs between SKUs will make it harder to find parts. But needing to divert twice as much VRAM to each card could choke production even further if demand is higher for those cards. While we have no insight into the particulars of the situation, it could easily be playing a part.

If rumors are true, AMD will dodge this shortage by relying on ordinary GDDR6 at lower total bandwidth compared with cards like the RTX 3090. This is not necessarily a bad thing — higher memory bandwidth is only useful to a GPU if the card is bandwidth-bound in the first place.

It wouldn’t surprise me if these cards eventually do become available, once the production-line issues are solved. A high VRAM Ampere would be a lovely part to own for certain workloads.

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Nvidia RTX 3070 Beats the RTX 2080 Ti, Costs $700 Less

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When Nvidia announced Ampere, most of the attention was focused on the RTX 3090 and RTX 3080. It’s the RTX 3070, however, that I suspect will be the most enduring and impactful card in the family.

Last generation, Nvidia raised the price of the RTX 2080 Ti to $ 1,200, nearly double the price of the GTX 1080 Ti. Now, the company is promising an RTX 3070 that can match the 2080 Ti and costs just 42 percent as much. According to new data released by the company and helpfully tabulated by VideoCardz, we can see exactly what improvements Nvidia is claiming:

First, here’s Nvidia’s graph:

Here’s the VideoCardz summary:

GTX3070-vs-2080TI

How accurate is this information likely to be? Pretty accurate. Companies don’t typically bother to show incorrect results they know reviewers will be able to disprove. What’s more typical is that they show accurate benchmark results, but cherry-pick the test and settings to showcase products in the most favorable light.

What do we see here? The RTX 3070 appearing to fully match the RTX 2080 Ti’s overall performance. At worst, the two GPUs are the same speed. At best — mostly in applications — the RTX 3070 can be 1.23x faster than the older card.

If we compare the specs of the RTX 3070 with the RTX 2080 Ti, this ranking makes sense. The RTX 2080 Ti has 4,352 GPU cores, 272 texture units, and 88 ROPs. The RTX 3070 has 5,888 cores, 184 TMUs, and 96 ROPs. On paper, we’d expect the RTX 3070 to potentially be even faster over the RTX 2080 Ti than Nvidia is claiming. So on the question of “Is Nvidia presenting cherry-picked tests?” I doubt it. The RTX 3070 is, on average, about 1.6x faster than the RTX 2070, so the upgrade value here is pretty strong, especially if you’re coming from a GPU like the GTX 980 or GTX 1080.

Of course, whether you’ll be able to buy one is anyone’s guess.

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Nvidia Pushes RTX 3070 Launch Back 2 Weeks to Avoid Bot Debacle

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Nvidia’s RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 sales were the worst examples yet of how badly online bots are damaging product launches, and the company wants to prevent a similar event from happening when it launches the RTX 3070. To that end, Nvidia will delay the RTX 3070 debut by two weeks, from October 15 to October 29, in order to build inventory and ensure an adequate supply of cards.

Nvidia-Announcement

This is going to be an interesting stress test of the bot armies, OEM manufacturing, and retailer attempts to identify real orders versus scalpers. I’m not terribly optimistic about the outcome. As I wrote earlier this week, Nvidia has every reason to crack down on bots and scalpers, but other companies in the distribution chain don’t necessarily see things that way.

According to Rob Fahey at GamesIndustry.biz, Amazon apparently took no action to prevent people from buying pre-order stocks before immediately re-listing those exact same products for sale at a substantial markup compared with previous listings. Companies like eBay have no reason to attempt to block preorder scams and scalping, given that they literally make their money from online auctions and will earn more from an inflated sales price than a normal one.

Fahey writes:

Up front, we have to acknowledge that the first come, first served paradigm is a disaster; it’s meaningless in the age of the Internet, when even a tech company with the prowess of Amazon can’t build store pages that keep up with the speed of traffic at a popular launch. The result is confusing, contradictory and frustrating for consumers who add the product to their cart only to see it disappear a screen later, or go out of stock while they’re choosing a delivery address, or flicker in and out of availability as they refresh browser pages. Using this kind of hare-brained system only gives the advantage to the scalpers, who can afford to set up bots and web crawlers to secure stock for themselves.

Fahey suggests the use of lotteries as one method to create a more fair distribution system. I’ve suggested either validated pre-orders or a return to retail distribution as a means of fighting scalping, though the latter obviously depends on the degree to which your state is open for business and how comfortable you feel shopping in it.

Image credit: Twitter

After the RTX 3080 debut/debacle, screenshots surfaced of individuals successfully ordering 18 to 42 GPUs for themselves. We don’t know if Nvidia or any other reseller successfully caught these orders and terminated them. If they did, then waiting an extra two weeks to build inventory might be sufficient to keep the market fed for longer than 2-5 minutes, which is how long Ampere stocks lasted in some online stores. If, on the other hand, the bot detection methods were less successful than previously believed, no reasonable amount of additional stock is going to solve the problem.

If the customer who bought 42 GPUs was an outlier, Nvidia is fine. If he represents the median bot purchase — or is even within one standard deviation of it — then we’re talking about bots sucking down 1-2 dozen cards apiece. If 1,000 to 2,000 bots can account for 12,000 to 48,000 video cards, it’s going to be much harder to overwhelm the collective credit limits and resources of the botters. Some scammers might take whatever profits they earned from the first wave of RTX 3080 and 3090 order abuse, then pour those profits into buying more RTX 3070s in the hopes of pulling the same trick again.

I’m glad to see Nvidia taking the situation seriously and I hope retailers and manufacturers do the same in order to make certain hardware gets into the hands of customers attempting to buy it as opposed to flipping it for profit, but the bots have definitely won Round 1 of our metaphorical match-up. Here’s hoping better detection methods and more inventory can hand a win to the good guys in Round 2. Nvidia has claimed the $ 500 RTX 3070 will outperform the $ 1,200 RTX 2080 Ti, and that’s going to have a lot of people eyeing the RTX 3070 as a potential upgrade.

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