Rare GeForce GTX 2070 engineering sample has surfaced — the unreleased GPU has 128 fewer CUDA cores than the RTX 2070

GeForce GTX 2070
GeForce GTX 2070 (Image credit: X/Jiacheng Liu)

The GeForce RTX 2070 used to be one of the best graphics cards. Many don't know that it was internally known as the GeForce GTX 2070 before Nvidia adopted the RTX branding for products with RT cores while keeping the GTX moniker for those lacking them. X user Jiacheng Liu has shared his experience with one of these rare engineering samples.

The GeForce GTX 2070 Founders Edition looks almost identical to the GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition. The main difference is that the former carries the GeForce GTX branding on the side of the graphics card, hinting that it's an early engineering sample before the transition to the RTX branding. The GeForce GTX 2070 uses the same TU106-400A-A1 silicon as the GeForce RTX 2070, but the CUDA core count differs.

The GeForce GTX 2070 sports 2,176 CUDA cores, 128 less than the GeForce RTX 2070. We're looking at two disabled SMs on the GeForce GTX 2070 or a GeForce RTX 2060 Super. The die is different as the GeForce RTX 2060 Super employs the TU106-410-A1 silicon. Liu successfully flashed the GeForce GTX 2070's vBIOS with a 400A BIOS from a GeForce RTX 2070. Logically, it didn't unlock extra cores or anything of that sort. However, it raised the power level, allowing for manual overclocking headroom.

Liu pushed the GeForce GTX 2070 to the edge and achieved a performance of around 95% of that of a GeForce RTX 2070. The overclock represents a 16% uplift over the stock performance. In reality, 128 CUDA cores aren't a lot, so it was surprising that the enthusiast got the GeForce GTX 2070 within a hairline of the GeForce RTX 2070.

The GeForce GTX 2070 leverages the same Founders Edition cooler as the GeForce RTX 2070. It obviously didn't carry the RTX 2070 branding yet. However, the single 8-pin PCIe power connector and the mix of a DVI port, one HDMI 2.0 port, two DisplayPort 1.4a outputs, and the USB Type-C port are still present even on this prototype.

The emergence of the GeForce GTX 2070 engineering sample insinuates that Nvidia originally planned to outfit the GeForce RTX 2070 with fewer CUDA cores. Although Nvidia didn't go through with it, the chipmaker didn't throw the idea in the trash since the CUDA configuration later ended up in the GeForce RTX 2060 Super. Turing is in the past, but it's always intriguing to see the early prototypes and how they fare with the retail products.

Zhiye Liu
RAM Reviewer and News Editor

Zhiye Liu is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Although he loves everything that’s hardware, he has a soft spot for CPUs, GPUs, and RAM.

  • hotaru251
    Still say RTX was a mistake. It encouraged poor optimization and game devs relying on dlss and frame gen to be playable at decent rates.
  • jlake3
    Maybe I'm just weird... but something kinda annoys me about the overclock effort?

    You come into possession of an extremely rare prototype, and you decide to flash over the BIOS and solder resistors on to bypass the power limits and generally run the risk of something bad happening to it for... unclear reasons? I find it more interesting how the rare prototype runs in the rare prototype configuration, not how it runs once you've turned it into something else.

    On one hand, I suppose it has the same core configuration as a 2060S and the cooler is likely interchangeable with the 2070 FE and collectable on it's own, so it wouldn't be the biggest loss to GPU enthusiasts if you damage it on accident... but on the other hand, if it has the same core configuration as the 2060S, what does this achieve? Between the age and uniqueness you're not gonna set a valid record and you're probably not gonna daily it.
  • Vanderlindemedia
    Its an engineering sample; was not supposed to reach the public. Such cards are, give and take for what it's worth.
  • ezst036
    Its a shame that this person did weird stuff to the card and did not keep the engineering sample BIOS and specifications.