The long-awaited NVIDIA Pascal architecture was released a few weeks ago in the form of the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080. It was worth the wait! The new GPUs sport large performance increases (up to 30% for the 1080 and 11% for the 1070) and lower power consumption compared to the mighty 980Ti. Even though we did not get a Founders Edition sample from NVIDIA, we have the opportunity today to look at MSI’s GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G GPU. This card features an improved TwinFrozr cooler with its Torx 2.0 double ball bearing fan design, better than reference power delivery (additional 6-pin required!) including MSI’s Military Class V parts, and its Zero Fan technology which shuts down the fans until the GPU hits 60 °C. Features aside, it’s time to dig in and see what all of the fuss is about!
Since we did not dive into architecture details in a reference card review, visit our extremely knowledgeable friends at Anandtech.com.
Specifications and Features
Below is a list of specifications from the MSI website for the Gaming X 8G. The GTX 1070 has a total of 8192MB of GDDR5 (not 5X) which runs on a 256-bit bus. The memory comes in at 8108 MHz GDDR5 which yields 256 GB/s bandwidth. Base clock speed for the Pascal core comes in at a whopping 1582 MHz by default with a 1771 MHz boost clock…which we all know they end up boosting much higher. In the case of this card, we hit 1987 MHz out of the box (using the OC Mode).
This story gets interesting though for our friends at MSI and ASUS. Techpowerup.com reported receiving samples with their BIOS flashed to the higher OC Mode while retail cards would get Gaming Mode clocks by default. This caused the review sample to put its best foot forward without the reviewer having to change modes to do so. Since it really isn’t a “true” representation of the retail sample, without downloading and installing their software, we can see how there can be some frustration. However, if we take a step back and look at the big picture, the difference between Gaming Mode and OC Mode are typically minor (note; it did not affect all cards, see TPU article). On top of that, many reviewers do not install these secondary applications. MSI put out a statement a few days ago in response to the article as follows:
“Retail cards are set to ‘Gaming Mode’ by default, which offers the best Performance per Watt, while still giving close to ‘OC Mode’ in-game performance. In order to enjoy the best performance and all features of MSI GAMING products, we highly recommend to use the MSI Gaming App which is available for free on MSI.com and the driver CD. The MSI Gaming App allows you to apply one of three performance profiles with a single click, instantly giving you the desired performance.
As several reviewers have stated, software like the MSI Gaming App is often not used in reviews. This is why review samples of the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 GAMING X graphics cards are set to ‘OC Mode’ to ensure that reviews demonstrate the same performance available through the MSI Gaming App. The award winning TWIN FROZR VI cooling is designed to handle each performance profile flawlessly, giving you the lowest noise in the industry and consistent performance so gamers can focus on their gameplay.
For those who prefer not to use the MSI Gaming App but still want to enjoy the same ‘OC Mode’ performance by default, we have released an alternative vBIOS with ‘OC Mode’ enabled by default.”
You can find the link to the “OC Mode” as default BIOS for both the 1070 and 1080 below in case you would like to flash it and leave it:
That long aside out of the way, the 1070 Gaming X 8G can support a maximum of four displays, a max resolution of 7680 x 4320 with three Displayports (v1.4), HDMI (v2.0), and DL-DVI-D for connectivity. You are able to SLI up to four of these cards for your gaming and benchmarking pleasure. If you decide to go the SLI route, you won’t be using as much power as previous generations, but you will get the same performance gains. The 1070 has a power grid sipping 150W TDP! When you see its performance compared against a GTX 970 with the same TDP, I think you will be surprised at just how much faster it is for the same amount of power used.
|MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G|
|Graphics Processing Unit||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070|
|Interface||PCI Express x16 3.0|
|Memory Size (MB)||8192|
|Boost / Base Core Clock||1797 MHz / 1607 MHz (OC Mode)|
1771 MHz / 1582 MHz (Gaming Mode)
1683 MHz / 1506 MHz (Silent Mode)
|Memory Clock (MHz)||8108 (OC Mode)|
4 Max displays
DisplayPort x 3 (Version 1.4) / HDMI (Version 2.0) / DL-DVI-D
Max Resolution: 7680 x 4320
|Power consumption (W) / Power Connectors||150W / 6-pin x 1, 8-pin x 1|
|HDCP / HDMI / DL-DVI Support||Yes (all three)|
|Accessories||6-pin to 8-pin Power cable x 1|
|DirectX / OpenGL Version Support||DX12_1 / Open GL 4.5|
|Card Dimensions (mm)||279 x 140 x 42 mm (11″ x 5.5″ x 1.6″)|
|Weight||1100g (2.42 lbs)|
Below is a look at several features from the MSI website. They have updated their TwinFrozr cooler to the TwinFrozr VI with this release. This includes the TORX 2.0 fan which is said to add 22% more air pressure to help get get that air through the heatsink and off the card. The two fans now are of the double ball bearing variety to help keep noise down and provide longer life. Another feature that helps fan life is the Zero Frozr mode… the fans stay OFF until temperatures reach 60 °C! This means for browsing the web, multimedia, and even light gaming the card will not make a sound!
Speaking of the heatsink, MSI has engineered it to move more air to/through where the heatpipes are located to help with improved efficiency. The baseplate on the heatsink is made of nickel-plated copper to move the heat to the smoothed and flattened heatpipes, up to 8mm in size, which will maximize heat transfer from the base plate. MSI also said it uses a premium thermal paste as well. That should keep the Military Class 4 components running plenty cool I would imagine! One cannot forget the addition of the LEDs that were put on the TwinFrozr VI cooler. They are RGB and can be controlled through the MSI Gaming App.
See these features and more at the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G website!
Below is our gratuitous picture of what GPU-Z looks like when it’s reading from the card. We can see the process shrink to 16nm with the die size coming in at 314mm squared. This die has 7.2 billion transistors. The core has 64 ROPs and TMUs on the backend of 1,920 Shaders. With the clock speeds, this yields a 102.8 GPixel/s and 192.8 GTexel/s throughput. As you will also note below, the card, by default comes in at 1607 MHz clocks, the OC Mode clock speeds on the core as well as a slight bump in Memory from 2002 MHz (8004 GDDR5) to 2027 MHz. See? Not a huge increase there (I tested this bump and it was 1% or less improvement in our testing suite).
Photo Op – Retail Packaging and Accessories
MSI’s retail packaging has changed a bit from the Maxwell cards to what you see in the slideshow below. There is seemingly a bit more red overall for the gaming theme fading to black at the bottom. There is a picture of the card sporting its TwinFrozr VI cooler placed prominently on the front. Also on display is the make of the card and the “VRREADY” up towards the top. The back of the box talks about some of the features and specifications of the card we are familiar with already.
When you open up the box you are presented with a slim box which contains the included accessories. In this case, we received a couple of stickers, driver DVD, and users guide. Below the small box and a thin piece of foam padding is where you will find the card sitting firmly inside its own form fitting foam.
A Closer Look – Meet the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G
With our first shots of the card itself we can see the updated TwinFrozr VI (TFVI, moving forward) heatsink shroud has some slight changes from the TwinFrozr V on previous models like the MSI 980Ti Gaming 8GB we reviewed. You still see red on the left side except it is a bit more angular, like it’s trying to avoid radar almost! The right side is black again with red lines on the top and bottom however, on the TFVI, those red lines are translucent with a LED below them. By default they glow a nice red color. On the fans we see the MSI Gaming dragon on the hubs of those Torx 2.0 fans.
MSI included an aluminum backplate on the Gaming X 8G. It is matte black in color, matching the black PCB it protects, and has the Gaming dragon stenciled on it towards the back. They also carved some grooves in the back plate to aid in heat dissipation and for aesthetic purposes. Overall a pretty good looking card. If the TFVI performs as well as its previous version we should have a well-cooled, silent GPU on our hands.
The outputs on the card vary from the DL-DVI-D connector, three DisplayPort connections (v1.4), and an HDMI port (v2.0) putting out a maximum resolution of 7680 x 4320. MSI has added a 6-pin PCIe power connector to the existing 8-pin for additional power to the overclocked card.
The next picture shows the main heatsink removed and the cooling for the memory and VRM area. The heatsink picture shows that nickel-plated base along with the flattened heatpipes snaking their way throughout the fin array.
This next picture shows a close up shot of the 10-phase power delivery area. MSI has used their Military Class 4 type parts on the Gaming X 8G such as the Hi-C Caps, Super-Ferrite Chokes, and solid caps. For 150W card stock, these parts shouldn’t be taxed too hard considering the reference model is a 5-phase.
Last up are pictures of the GPU die showing the GP104-200-A1 Pascal chip and the Samsung Memory IC (K4G80325FB-HC25). Those particular parts are rated for 8000 Mhz at 1.35V.
Monitoring/Overclocking Software – MSI Afterburner, MSI Gaming App
Our good old standby, MSI Afterburner, is still doing a great job managing your MSI (and other brand) GPUs. The latest version is v4.3.0 Beta 4 (latest ‘stable’ is 4.2.0) as pictured below. MSI AB controls the core and memory clocks, power limit, voltage, and even fan speed and profiles. The monitoring portion can monitor anything under the sun it seems from the GPU and even the CPU as well. This is my go to choice for overclocking most cards and monitoring them.
The other app they have is named, appropriately, the MSI Gaming App. This small footprint app allows you to change clock speeds from three different presets with one touch. OC Mode (which is how this card arrived), Gaming Mode (which is how retail cards will land), and Silent Mode. You are also able to change fan speeds and control any LEDs on your device with this application. It also displays a current clock speed so you can see where you are at. It is great for the average user which may be intimidated by the MSI Afterburner software.
|CPU||Intel 6700K @ Stock (for the motherboard – 4.0 boost to 4.2 GHz)|
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme|
|RAM||2×4 GB DDR4 GSkill Ripjaws4 @ 3000 MHz 15-15-15-35 2T 1.35 V|
|Graphics Card||MSI GTX 1070 Gaming 8X 8G|
Stock (OC Mode): Core: 1607 MHz, Boost 1797 Mhz (actual 1987 MHz)/ 2027 MHz Memory
Overclocked: Core 1659 MHz, Boost (actual) 2062 Mhz / 2128 MHz Memory
|Solid State Drive||OCZ Trion 150|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic SS-1000XP (80+ Platinum)|
|Operating System||Windows 10 x64 (Fully Updated)|
Other cards used for comparison are as follows (links are to their reviews):
Note all testing below uses 1920×1080 screen resolution (settings also carry over to 2560 x 1440 and Surround/Eyefinity testing if applicable).
All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings, with game benchmarks at noted settings:
- 3DMark 11 = Performance Level
- 3DMark Fire Strike = Extreme, default setting.
- Unigine Valley Benchmark v1.0 – 1080p, DX11, Ultra Quality, 8x AA, Full Screen
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) – Extreme setting
- Crysis 3 – Very High settings with 8xMSAA/16xAF (2nd level when you procure and use the Crossbow to get across the level and kill the Helicopter)
- Metro:LL – DX11, Very High, 16xAF, Motion Blur – Normal, SSAA Enabled, DX11 Tessellation – Very High, Advanced PhysX – Disabled, Scene D6
- Battlefield 4 – Default Ultra setting (Tashgar level – ‘on rails’ car scene)
- Dirt: Rally – 1080p, 8x MSAA, everything on Ultra that can be, enable Advanced Blending
- Grand Theft Auto V – 1080p, high settings (see article below for details).
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor – 1080p, everything Ultra that can be (Lighting quality High), FXAA and Camera + Object Blur, DOF/OIT/Tessellation enabled.
- More detail is in our article: Overclockers.com GPU Testing Procedures
Our first benchmarks show pack leading performance in both 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) and in an oldy, but goody, 3dMark 11 beating out a highly overclocked MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G by 3% in Fire Strike and almost 9% in 3D11. Looking good so far in these synthetics!
Moving on to Unigine Valley and Unigine Heaven, we are seeing more of the same here with the MSI 1070 Gaming X 8G barely getting past that mighty 980Ti. This time by almost 2% in Valley, and almost 3% in Heaven.
Moving on to our games suite we start out with some easy benchmarks for this level card. Battlefield 4 shows the 1070 reaching an average of 136.6 FPS, beating out the 980 Ti by nearly 7 FPS (about 5%) here and smoking the 980 and 970. In Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor this card managed an average of 118 FPS falling almost 2 FPS short of the 980 Ti here. Last up, in GTA V, the 1070 Gaming X averaged 109.4 FPS while the 980 hit 107 FPS. So far the card appears to be on par with this overclocked 980 Ti we have.
Moving on to some games which are a bit more stressful for the 1070, we start with Crysis 3. In our testing we just about hit the magic 60 FPS number so many people strive for at 59.9 FPS with our Ultra settings. In our racing game, Dirt: Rally, the MSI 1070 Gaming X 8G hit 85.9 FPS again just barely beating out the 980Ti Gaming 6G. Last, in the Metro: Last Light benchmark, it averaged 82.1 FPS beating out the 980 Ti by around 3 FPS.
Overall it seems like, in our testing, the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G is just a few percent faster than its previous generation card the MSI GTX 980 TI Gaming 6G. The 980Ti version is clocked much higher from reference compared to this card, but in the end, it seems like it will at least match, but more often than not beat, an overclocked 980 Ti. Did I mention it is a 150W card? How about an MSRP of $379? Amazing performance for the power and price!
Before I let you go, we may be changing up some of our review suite and I wanted to add some of the games we were thinking about adding in Tom Clancy’s The Division and Ashes of the Singularity. For AOTS, I used the “Crazy” preset and for The Division I chose the Ultra preset and forced Vsync off, both at 1080p resolution. For now I will put these in a table as additional results. They will get graphs when I have more relevant data sets and may be a permanent fixture in the future. Enjoy!
|Other Game Results (in FPS – Average)|
|GPU||Ashes of the Singularity||The Division|
|MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G||52||89.5|
|MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G||50||88.2|
2560×1440 and 5760×1080 Results
Here we cranked up the resolution, added a couple of monitors, and brought you results at 1440p and a triple 1080p monitor setup (5760×1080). For 1440p, everything was above 30 FPS here with out intense settings in these games with Crysis 3 being the lowest at 38.1 FPS. This card can easily pound through this resolution. Stepping up to even more pixel pushing, not one test breaks 60 FPS at 5760×1080, but all titles not named Crysis 3 are most certainly playable at our tested settings with FPS ranging from 35.2 in Metro: LL, up to 58.6 in BF4. Again, all while using 150W!
Temperatures and Power Consumption
Temperatures using the TwinFrozr VI were well within the safe range and prevented any temperature related throttling. Even in the OC mode when temperatures reached the 70 °C peak we list here, the fan hit 49% and was dead silent in doing so. The TFVI cooler really showed its strength when overclocking. When I pushed the limits below, I had the fan set on 80% and temperatures never reached above 55 °C when I looped the benchmarks for 30 mins. There is plenty of cooling overhead here on the TFVI.
As far as power consumption, here is where Pascal and the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G really shine. In our testing at stock clocks, the system peaked at 281W at the wall in 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme). When overclocked it managed to peak at 295W. Simply stunning when compared to the 250W GTX 980 Ti (the ROG Matrix hit 401W at the wall). AMD is really going to have their hands full trying to match the performance per watt in this class. Here is to hoping Polaris and Vega pull a rabbit out of their hat and get some better competition in all classes.
Pushing the Limits
After finding the small 24/7 overclock above, its time to really put it on the card and see what we can come up with. I was pretty low with the power % in MSI afterburner so I raised the power to 75% to see what would happen. My starting core voltage according to GPU-Z was 1.03V. My ending voltage after applying settings was 1.06V… that is within a typical spread to me. It appears the voltage didn’t change. Either that or GPU-Z isn’t reading it right and MSI AB doesn’t seem to read it either (v4.3.0 Beta 4). Bummer. So assuming I didn’t have any voltage control and hearing things about the card topping out between 2000-2100 MHz I didn’t have high hopes for it, considering it already boosts to 1987 MHz very consistently in my testing and gameplay. On this sample I was able to overclock the core to +125 MHz from 1607 MHz base clock (OC Mode) boosting to 1987 MHz, to a final boost clock of 2126 MHz. The memory boosted up over 200 MHz to 2230 MHz or 8290 MHz GDDR5. Much beyond these numbers, for the core mainly, I ran into a bit of stability issues on these more stressful benchmarks. NVIDIA’s implementation of GPU Boost 3.0 really runs a bit closer to the edge of the card’s ability already so the headroom on the core for the enthusiast to pick at isn’t as much as Maxwell.
You may have noticed in the MSI Afterburner monitoring window the power limit never even touched 100% (~90% I think was a peak) much less the 26% overhead built into this BIOS. I hope we are able to control the voltage on these things as I think it could really be pushed farther. Temperatures in this testing barely broke 50 °C for the short duration these tests are and the TwinFrozr VI fan was only at 80%. This sample (remember, YMMV!) seemed to do a bit above average with the core and memory.
The release of NVIDIA’s Pascal based video cards into the market has been much talked about and in quite a positive light. The power to performance ratio has really seen significant improvements from Maxwell. In our case 150W for slightly better performance as the previous 250W card along with pricing surely set to entice even last generation GTX 970 users over to the GTX 1070. We didn’t quite see the difference many sites saw (like TPU at the 11% we referenced earlier), but we were comparing overclocked cards and not reference. MSI’s Gaming class of card has improved upon the reference edi…errr “Founder Edition” cards from NVIDIA. Its additional power phases are able to deliver extra, cleaner power to the GPU, the TwinFrozr VI cooler to help manage thermals quietly and looking good while doing so, and the increase of base and boost clocks are all positives the MSI Gaming X 8G brings to the table. It is much improved.
Pricing on these cards on release were slated to be $379/$449 for the aftermarket and Founders Edition respectively. Yes, the FE costs more than aftermarket, though I am sure the gap will close as we get into the more high end models. At the time of this writing, pricing on Newegg.com has the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G coming in at an inflated $459.99. And, believe it or not, is in stock…which is part of the reason the price is so high. At this price, especially before the GTX 980 Ti’s dropped (currently they are $450+), these flew off the shelves. Until there is a counter punch from AMD, last generation prices drop, or more supply of these cards hit the market, prices will likely remain in that ballpark. The most inexpensive 1070 on the market is MSI’s Armor line coming in at $429.99 so the pricing really isn’t too far off in the artificially inflated environment it is in.
NVIDIA really dropped a bomb on the market with the release of its Pascal cards and partners like MSI have again taken the base design and improved upon it for better thermals, performance, and noise levels, to bring cards like this MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G. It’s one of the better ones out there so far, and it’s available. If you are waiting for a 1070 now, go grab this one!
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)