For more than one year, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 enjoyed uncontested dominance atop the high-end graphics market.
Although Radeon RX Vega 64 and 56 challenged both incumbents a couple of months ago, scarce availability and opportunistic pricing kept AMD’s solutions from generating enthusiasm commensurate with the company’s overplayed marketing.
Slowly but surely, though, both Vega cards are sliding closer to the prices AMD promised at launch: up until a day ago, Vega 64 sold for somewhere between $550 and $600, while Vega 56 was largely between $450 and $470. AMD managed some last-minute adjustments to try shifting favor in its direction, and gamers who were waiting for Vega to become more affordable should appreciate them. However, such a heavy-handed move is almost certain to be temporary.
To its credit, Radeon RX Vega 56 debuted with better performance than its principal competition, GeForce GTX 1070. And with the vanilla 1070 mostly available between $400 and $500, Vega 56 is earning deserved attention. Nvidia doesn’t want this. In fact, it’s willing to put pressure on GTX 1070 and 1080 with an in-between model to get gamers talking ahead of the holidays. GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, starting at $450, is intended as a hit on Radeon RX Vega 56.
We’d call it more of a glancing blow, though.
In roughly half of our benchmarks, the 1070 Ti does successfully land in front of Vega 56. In several others, the two cards trade jabs. Destiny 2 at 2560x1440 is AMD’s only real victory, and it’s a mere single-digit-percentage win. But rather than edge out the Radeon at a more attractive price, GeForce GTX 1070 Ti costs almost the same as Vega 56.
Granted, the GeForce enjoys big advantages in power, noise, and overclockability. But slightly better stock performance than Vega 56 at a similar cost doesn’t get our blood pumping like GTX 1080/1070 when it launched, or GTX 1080 Ti more recently. The real coup would have been nudging GeForce GTX 1070 Ti closer to $400, then moving the vanilla 1070 down to fill an almost-$150 hole between the 1070 and GeForce GTX 1060 6GB. After all, Nvidia’s partners were supposed to be selling 1070s starting at $380 back in mid-’16. It sounds like that would have required a less 1080-like approach, though. Vapor chamber-based coolers aren't cheap.
One aspect of this launch that we do applaud is Nvidia’s decision to sell its GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition card through geforce.com for $450, leaving none of the pricing ambiguity that dogged Radeon RX Vega (damaging AMD’s credibility in the process). We may not love the 1070 Ti’s positioning, but at least enthusiasts can grab one without getting gouged if their opinions differ.
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