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Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition Review: Replacing GeForce GTX 1080

Conclusion

Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2070 targets gamers with QHD displays looking to run their favorite titles at maximum quality. The GeForce GTX 1080 serves a similar market, as does AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 64. Both of those boards start at $500 (or a little lower).

According to Nvidia, GeForce RTX 2070 partner boards should be available at $500 as well. How likely is that to happen? Well, GeForce RTX 2080 was supposed to start at $700, and today most third-party cards come closer to $800. We were told GeForce RTX 2080 Ti would debut at $1000. But those are all listed for $1200 or more, and universally out of stock. Further, multiple partners were supposed to send GeForce RTX 2070 samples for today’s launch, and not one was able to deliver. Pardon our skepticism, but we’re drawing from the previous rocky launch, current pricing of month-old Turing-based cards, and the inability of Nvidia’s partners to ship their own designs ahead of claimed retail availability.

It’s true that GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition is faster than GeForce GTX 1080 across the 13 games and two resolutions we tested, sometimes by double-digit percentages. The TU106-based card also beats Radeon RX Vega 64 in most performance benchmarks. Although AMD’s flagship does bag a few wins across our suite, any attempt to compare power consumption or efficiency penalizes the Radeon significantly. At $500, then, the GeForce RTX 2070 does make sense as a replacement for GeForce GTX 1080, even if its value proposition is only slightly better.

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We’re not reviewing a $500 card, though. The GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition sells for $600, which is $100+ higher than the cheapest GTX 1080s and $50 more than Nvidia’s own GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition. It’s difficult to get excited about RTX 2070 at $600, unfortunately.

Turing introduces a lot of novel functionality primed to improve the realism of gaming in the weeks and months to come. So, what’s up with the lackluster reception of Turing-based graphics cards? It’s a three-part interplay of hyped-up technology that can’t be used yet, comparisons to plentiful Pascal-based cards, and a resulting (negative) perception of value. In generations past, Nvidia gave us more performance at a comparable, if not better price. This time around, the company is mostly competing against its own cards with MSRPs reflecting a lack of competition. GeForce RTX 2070 is basically a step sideways for anyone who was previously eyeballing GeForce GTX 1080. GeForce RTX 2080 is a step sideways for anyone with a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. Only GeForce RTX 2080 Ti sets itself apart as an unrivaled winner among folks who were previously willing to pay $1200 for Titan-class frame rates. Buy Pascal or buy Turing; Nvidia wins either way.

And that’s why, so far, GeForce RTX 2000-series cards aren’t generating the same levels of enthusiasm with gamers as they are with game developers. Nvidia seems to be counting on the first round of ray tracing- and DLSS-enabled games to validate its architectural decisions. Based on our hands-on experiences with various demos, we have no doubt that anyone with a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti will enjoy their purchase. But it’s not clear yet whether RTX 2070 is fast enough to make Turing’s most newsworthy features usable. At this point, we’d hold off on a purchase unless you were already in the market for a GeForce GTX 1080/Radeon RX Vega 64-class card and can find GeForce RTX 2070 priced competitively.

It’s a foregone conclusion that we’ll have to revisit our opinions of all three GeForce RTX 2000-series cards once game developers start rolling out their Turing-optimized titles. Will ray tracing make enough of a difference to compel a graphics upgrade? Does GeForce RTX 2070 have enough RT cores to maintain playable performance in DXR-enabled games? Will broader availability force today’s inflated prices down? We sure hope so. Nvidia isn’t making any more Pascal GPUs, so the good deals on previous-gen cards are bound to run out sooner than later.


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