If you want to know how the GeForce RTX 3070 works and how it compares to other GPUs, read our GPU review first. This article is less about performance and more about the custom RTX 3070 graphics cards from Asus and MSI, which are in direct competition with Nvidia's own Founders Edition model, which we looked at days earlier.
In this case, we will focus on cooling design and thermal performance, overclocking and performance. For reference, let's start with the Founders Edition model, which is likely to be one of the smaller RTX 3070 graphics cards you'll come across. It's only 241 mm long, making it slightly shorter than the 2680 mm 2080 Ti FE card. We use this example because they both tend to deliver the same level of performance.
The RTX 3070 FE weighs only 1035 grams, making it 22% lighter than the 2080 Ti model at 1319 grams. Both are dual-slot cards with a width of 38 mm in the case of the 3070. Certainly a small card considering the power output. We have to say that like the other Founders Edition models in the GeForce 30 series, the 3070 version is very nice and has a pretty sleek design that works well for most builds.
The only thing we don't like about the FE model is the single 12-pin PCIe power connector as most of you will have to use the included (and cheap) dual 8-pin adapter. With that in mind, the power connector is in the middle of the card, which is something you usually want to avoid when you consider the appearance as running power cables across the card is one thing that neat freaks really seem to hate.
The idea here, however, is to allow Nvidia to open the end of the card to allow air to flow through the heat sink and out the back of the card. There's a fairly large 67 x 88mm opening here and a large portion of the airflow from the second fan exits here. This design means that the circuit board is extremely small with a length of only 165 mm. This is impressive as it contains the GA104 chip, eight GDDR6 memory chips, and a VRM large enough to power these components.
There is a full-length back plate on the back of the card that protects the circuit board underneath. Part of it is used to conduct the built-up heat away from the circuit board with the help of a heat-conducting pad. We would have thought Nvidia would use more thermal pads here, but apparently they'll do the job. On the I / O control panel we find the same configuration as the Founders Edition 3080 and 3090 graphics cards: a single HDMI 2.1 connector and three DisplayPort 1.4a outputs.
This is the FE model, a very compact, smart looking 3070.
Asus GeForce RTX 3070 TUF Gaming
Now let's look at the Asus TUF Gaming OC. This is a much larger graphics card that is 301mm long, or 25% longer than the FE model. It's 130mm without the PCIe connector, which makes it 34% taller. As a 2.7-inch slot card, it is 52 mm wide and 37% wider.
Given that it is slightly wider, longer and higher, you might be surprised to learn that at 1116 grams it weighs only 8% more. I know I was surprised at how light this graphics card is. Compared to the RTX 3080 TUF Gaming, it is a greatly reduced cooler and circuit board.
We like it that apart from the fans there is of course no plastic on the card. The fan cover is made of aluminum and gives it a first-class look. Asus also uses Axial Tech fans. Since there are three in total, they reversed the rotation of the external fans to reduce turbulence. The fans each have a diameter of 90 mm. We should also note that the card includes a stop fan feature that is activated when the GPU drops below 55 ° C.
The heat sink cools both the GPU and GDDR6 memory and half of the VRM, while the other half is powered by a small heat sink that is also used to reinforce the card. Asus chose a 10 + 2 power phase design. The circuit board is 240 mm long and has a pair of 8-pin PCIe power connectors.
On the back of the card is an aluminum back plate that weighs 123 grams and is used to reinforce the card. However, Asus chose not to use the back plate as a heat spreader, so we won't find any thermal pads here. While this is a stripped-down cooler for the $ 500 MSRP, it looks more capable than the FE model overall, largely because it's much larger physically.
MSI GeForce RTX 3070 Gaming X Trio
We also have the MSI RTX 3070 Gaming X Trio on hand for testing, which will retail for $ 560. This is more expensive than TUF gaming, although it is larger and should offer better thermal performance. The Gaming X Trio is 323 mm long or 7% larger than the Asus. They are roughly the same in height and 4 mm wider at 56 mm in width. The MSI is a correspondingly high-quality graphics card and also feels high-quality at 1463 grams.
MSI uses its “Tri Frozr 2” cooler, which contains three 90mm fans that rotate in the same direction. On the back we find another MSI graphene backplate that we weren't thrilled about with your 3080. It feels plastic and has very low tensile strength so that the circuit board is not supported.
At the transition to the I / O we find the same basic configuration of the FE model: a single HDMI 2.1 connector and three DisplayPort 1.4a outputs. A little disappointing as we have two HDMI 2.1 ports on TUF Gaming, but this probably won't be a problem for most.
If you take the cooler off you will see a stripped down version of what we found on the RTX 3080 version, but overall it's still substantial. The only weakness is the VRM cooling, which doesn't have aluminum plates attached to the main heat sink. That's pretty surprising. Instead, MSI built in a very small heat sink above the power levels, and if you use a few thermal pads, it will make poor contact with about half a dozen fins from the main heat sink. The GDDR6 cooling looks good, however, as do the direct-touch copper heat pipes for the GPU chip. Overall, we expect this cooler to work fine, although the VRM cooling could have been a lot better.
The circuit board is 260mm long and has a 9 + 2 phase power design. While Asus split up the VRM for better power distribution, MSI crammed the entire VRM for the GPU on the left side of the card. So it will be interesting to see how hot this gets given the poor cooling. The card is finally supplied with power via two 8-pin PCIe power connections.
That's a quick look at these new RTX 3070 graphics cards. Now is the time to see how they work, starting with the out-of-the-box performance.
Temperatures & clock speeds
As a reference, the FE model reached a maximum of 72 ° C with a fan speed of 1700 rpm and an average of 1890 MHz. The MSI Gaming X Trio, on the other hand, reaches a peak value of only 61 ° C with a fan speed of only 1300 rpm and still maintains a clock rate of 1935 MHz, which means that it runs much cooler and quieter and is faster at the same time. Then we have the Asus TUF Gaming, which peaked at 62 ° C and a fan speed of 1400 rpm and ran at 1935 MHz, which is also faster, cooler, and quieter than the FE model.
Stock (top) and Overclocked (bottom) statistics
When overclocking, the Founders Edition model runs at 74 ° C with a fan speed of 1800 rpm and an average of 1980 MHz, almost 2 GHz. The MSI Gaming X Trio clocks a little higher at 2040 MHz and is still very impressive at just 62 ° C and the same fan speed of 1300 rpm. Asus achieves an average of 2040 MHz for the maximum OC with TUF Gaming, which means that the GPU runs at up to 63 ° C at a fan speed of 1500 rpm.
The overclocking headroom is not particularly high with this GPU. With the current performance limits of the AIB cards, the average in the game was 2040 MHz, which corresponds to an increase of 5% compared to the standard clocks. When you combine this with faster storage, you get a 5 to 6% increase in FPS. That's all we need to talk about here, so let's move on.
For that extra ~ 5% FPS boost, you'll see an 11-14% increase in performance, which isn't terrible, but makes these custom RTX 3070 graphics cards less efficient. We're talking about an increase in power consumption of 30 watts.
Here you can see the GPU chip temperatures better, with both standard and normalized noise. Unsurprisingly, the MSI Gaming X Trio is the winner here as it's the larger, heavier card and therefore has more metal to dissipate heat. This means that the Asus TUF Gaming took a very close second place at 62 ° C and 61 ° C after normalizing the noise, so the GPU temperatures are a bit irrelevant from this point on. Both were a reasonable improvement over the Founders Edition model, and the MSI Gaming X Trio can do very well in the noise-normalized test.
Here's a look at the board temperature just behind the GPU. The RTX 3070 graphics cards are significantly cooler than the RTX 3080 FE. The MSI Gaming X Trio had the best results, but with all 3070s below 60 ° C, they really are all winners.
VRM temperatures are mostly good, although we can't help but believe that MSI could have done much better. A high of 74 ° C is a very acceptable result, but if they had cooled those components better with the main heat sink, the Gaming X Trio would have beaten TUF Gaming. In the end, Asus cooled the VRM better.
In terms of GDDR memory temperatures, this is another area where Asus has kept TUF gaming very well below 60 ° C. MSI could have done better, but the results are still very good and within spec.
Both the MSI RTX 3070 Gaming X Trio and the Asus RTX 3070 TUF Gaming OC are expected to cost around $ 560, which is a 12% markup over MSRP. This seems reasonable considering how much cooler and quieter they run compared to the Founders Edition board, which may only sell at MSRP for a short time and then go away forever in traditional FE fashion.
Asus has suggested that the base RTX 3070 TUF gaming (the non-OC version) start at $ 530. This seems like a better deal as you can easily overclock yourself if you need an extra 1-3 FPS. MSI will be offering the Ventus 2X OC at an MSRP of $ 500, but of course that doesn't compare to the cooling capabilities of the Gaming X Trio.
All in all, both Asus and MSI offerings are solid competitors, although we're turning to the Asus TUF in this comparison as it includes an all-aluminum design and most importantly, a dual BIOS option.
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 on Amazon
- Asus RTX 3070 TUF Gaming on Amazon
- MSI RTX 3070 Gaming X Trio on Amazon
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 on Amazon
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 on Amazon
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