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Thursday, 7 July 2016


MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G Graphics Card Review

A couple of weeks back nVidia took the market by storm with its much awaited yet unexpected launch of the new Pascal GPU architecture in the form of GTX 1080 and GTX 1070. Both these engineering marvels promise a huge performance boost, up to 30% for the 1080 and 11% for the 1070, over their previous gen top dog the GTX 980Ti using substantially lower power making them a dream card for anyone out there.
Today not only are we going to review our first ever Pascal based video card but also its in the form of the MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G 8GB DDR5 graphics card! It doesn't get any better than this for sure and I would like to thank MSI India for providing us with the sample at such a short notice.

The GeForce GTX 1070 uses the new Pascal GP104 graphics processor, with 1920 enabled shaders and 120 texture units. There are 64 ROPs on the 8GB GDDR5 memory which works at a 2 Ghz frequency. This kind of specification not only puts the GTX 1070 ahead of the GTX 980 Ti but also ahead of the Titan X lagging behind only in terms of Shader units!

Packing and Accessories

The packing from MSI is still the same but with a little bit more red color and a larger product image.
The front sports the product name and the actual card's picture occupying most of the real estate. Mention to features such as VR Ready and TwinFrozr VI technology are clearly highlighted.

At the back nothing special is mentioned and we again hear about the new cooler and the revamped MSI Gaming App.

Inside we get a set of accessories neatly packed in a thin cardboard box under which you find the actual card safely wrapped in an anti-static bag perched in a thick styrofoam cavity. Accessories are humble in number and include a Driver DVD, stickers and decals for the cases, user guide and a leaflet reminding you to register your product online for effective warranty support.

Closer Look and Features

MSI stuck to their conventional design and color scheme with the GTX 1070 but have added some small but noticeable changes that makes the GTX 1070 Gaming X an entirely new offering from grounds up. The unit measures in at 279x140x42mm.

The card is black and red equipped with the new TwinFrozr VI cooler which make the plastic shroud a bit more angular on the right side. This not only makes it look a bit more aggressive but also gels in well with the entire dragon theme. Left side is entirely black with red scale like highlights that actually light up in red color by default when the card is powered on.

At the back MSI added a solid black aluminum backplate that imparts great tensile strength to this large unit. The stenciled dragon is still there but what's new is that the perforations are no longer round holes but more like a dragon's scales. I few brownie points to MSI for adding such small but important detail.

The new TwinFrozr VI coolers comes with the newly designed TORX 2.0 fans which helps to push and dissipate 22% more air in and off the card for effective cooling. These fans don't spin at all as long as the temperatures are under 60°C after which they gradually spin wrt the temperature. MSI calls it their Zero Frozr mode which delivers pin drop silent performance.

Double Ball Bearings give the unique MSI TORX 2.0 Fans a strong and lasting core for years of smooth gaming. They also remain virtually silent while spinning under load, keeping your graphics card cool during intense and lengthy gaming sessions.

It is a double slot card with a DL-DVI-D connector, three DisplayPort connections (v1.4), and an HDMI port (v2.0) putting out a maximum resolution of 7680 x 4320. NVIDIA also updated DisplayPort to be 1.2 certified and 1.3/1.4 ready, which enables support for 4K at 120 Hz and 5K @ 60 Hz, or 8K @ 60 Hz with two cables.

The card unlike the reference model which requires a 6-pin connector rated at 160W feeds upon a 6+8 pin PCIe power connector which gives it an upper power limit of near 300W. This ensures enough overclocking headroom for this unit.

SLI support is now restricted to just two way SLI for gaming and no support for tri or quad SLI is supported in games. Also if you are going for 4K at 60 Hz and above, NVIDIA recommends a new high-bandwidth SLI bridge called "SLI HB," which occupies both SLI fingers. The old bridges will work fine at lower resolutions.

Pop the hood open and you find the card to be constituted of three layers namely as the backplate, PCB and heatsink with cooler.

The heatsink is composed of a thick aluminum mesh and the baseplate is made of nickel-plated copper to move the heat to the smoothed and flattened heatpipes, one 8mm and four 6mm, which will maximize heat transfer from the base plate.

PCB comes shielded by its own armor like protection that protects the memory chips and a heatsink to keep the VRM cool. The PCB is MSI custom design and follows the Military Class 4 standard that ensures durable and constant performance under extensive load conditions of gaming or overclocking.

The Pascal based 16nm GP104-200-A1 GPU sits in the middle surrounded by GDDR5 memory chips that are covered by thermal pads to enhance cooling.

MSI uses Samsung Memory IC for the GTX 1070 Gaming X and are model no K4G80325FB-HC25 rated for 8000Mhz effective at 1.35v

A massive 10-phase power delivery system constituted of Hi-C Caps, Super-Ferrite Chokes, and Japanese solid caps drives the card. Considering the power consumption capacity of this model MSI has rightly chosen the components for the power delivery system.

Benchmarks and Overclocking

Installing this 1.1Kg card was easy and it powered up like a breeze once we booted up the system.
GPUZ reported the correct frequencies with 1607Mhz on the clock and 2027Mhz on the memory.

For the benchmarks we used the following test setup configuration --

CPU: Intel Core i7 5930K OC at 4.5Ghz on all six cores
Motherboard: Gigabyte X99 Gaming 5P
RAM: Kingston HyperX Predator 16GB DDR4 (4x4) 3000Mhz Memory Kit
Cooler: Corsair H100i GTX
Graphics Card: MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming X 8GB DDR5
Storage: Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB SSD
Power Supply: Corsair AX860i 860W 80+ Platinum
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
GPU Driver: NVIDIA ForceWare 368.69

Overclocking the MSI GTX 1070 was one of the easiest we've ever had. Using the latest edition of our trustworthy MSI Afterburner we managed a stable 1727Mhz on the clock and 2102Mhz on the memory, anything ahead of this was not stable for extreme benchmarks.
Edit: Due to the very limited time we had to review this card I couldn't transfer the latest titles Rise of the Tomb Raider and Hitman 2016 from my SkHynix SL300 500GB SSD to my Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB SSD which we generally use for reviews. The SL300 has Windows 10 Pro 64-bit installed to utilize the DX12 functionality of such titles.

AIDA64 Extreme Edition GPGPU

The AIDA64 GPGPU test not only calculates the read, write and copy speed of the graphics card and processor but is also very useful in observing the SHA-1 Hash and AES-256 score. These are indications of how well the GPU can handle number crunching or real life image or video rendering. Higher score shows a better card.

The scores that the MSI GTX 1070 put up are really noticeable since at its stock frequency the card surpasses the fastest GTX 980 and even some of the third party GTX 980ti out there in the market!

Unigine Heaven 4.0 and Unigine Valley 1.0

A compilation of 26 beautiful scenes rendered and run via the raw GPU power of the system. It emulates any game or graphical work that you'll perform on the system scoring it on various parameter. We ran the test on Custom preset and settings at 1920x1080 resolution, quality to ultra and extreme tessellation.

One drawback over here is that Unigine Heaven & Valley benchmarking suits can't recognize more than 4GB of VRAM so the results are much lower than what they could've been in real life. Thank god there are games to test that!

3D Mark Fire Strike

Fire Strike by 3D Mark is a test suit that plays a cinematic scene to determine the FPS, GPU temperature and CPU temperature scaling everything via a cumulative score. It is a great tool to benchmark your GPU since the render is GPU dependent.

3D Mark 11 Professional Edition

Another variant of the Fire Strike by 3D Mark, used mainly for scoring the GPU performance.

Crysis 3

I can't start gaming benchmarks without running my all time favorites Crysis 3 but its a game that no system loves! The CryEngine 3 behind this scenic beauty can bring down any system to its knees and I mean any system. I set everything to Ultra at 1920x1080 resolution with MSAA 4X and motion blur high.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

The latest installation of Lara Croft in the spectacular Rise of the Tomb Raider 2016 with stunning graphics and rich location makes it a great game to benchmark with while enjoying in the due course! We used DX12 and settings were at Ultimate on full HD resolution.

Alien Isolation

Its a great game for people, like me, who love to hunt down Xenomorphs or aliens with guns blazing all over the place. The game is highly optimized for PC and supports DirectX 11 with Tessellation, real-time Direct Compute radiosity, and shadows making it an ideal game to benchmark with settings at Ultra.

Batman Arkham Knigh

Since the game is powered by Epic's Unreal Engine 3 and supports DX11 tessellation so playing this game on 1920x1080 resolution with all settings maxed out can be any modern system's 'worst nightmare'!
In this case I dared to set hardware acceleration physx to high and even anti-aliasing to GeForce TXAA high!

Battlefield 4

Based on the DICE's Frostbite Engine 3 this game not only taxes a CPU and GPU both by reproducing lush details on the screen but also utilizes the DX11 and DX11.1 features coupled with 64-bit binaries! Settings were at Ultra with antialiasing deferred at 2x MSAA and ambient occlusion enabled.

Fallout 4

Fallout 4 takes place in post-apocalyptic Boston in the year 2287, 210 years after a Nuclear war. Bethesda's Creation Engine drives the game's strong first- and third-person presentation. The game takes advantage of DirectX 11 and can be highly taxing on most of the PC hardware. At full HD resolution shadow and godrays quality was set to high along with everything else cracked to max.

Far Cry Primal

A game that takes the concept of going back in time a bit too far, set in pre-historic central Europe where man is still fighting the forces of nature to become the dominant species on Earth. Based on Ubisoft's latest Dunia Engine, the game takes advantage of DirectX 11 and is heavily taxing on high-end GPUs. We used Very High preset at 1920x1080 resolution since that's what is considered the sweet spot for this game.

Middle Earth : Shadow of Mordor

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an action role-playing video game set in The Lord of the Rings universe, developed by Monolith Productions and released by Warner Bros. The game takes place during the gap between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings saga. Not very taxing but due to its wide variety of scenes and ever changing topography it becomes a reliable game for benchmarking. We used Very High preset at full HD resolution for our testing.

Hitman 2016

Agent 47 is back and in this sixth installation of the infamous Hitman series everything is notched up ranging from gameplay to graphic engine. The game uses an in-house game engine by IO Interactive called the Glacier game engine that is one of the first to leverage DirectX 12. The sole purpose of including this game in our benchmark today was to see how the GTX 1070 performs in DX12 mode.
Settings are at Ultra on full HD resolution.

Noise & Temperature

The fan on the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X doesn't spin till the card doesn't reach 60°C or more. We recorded the maximum temperature in Celsius that our card hit during extensive gaming & sound was measured in decibels from a distance of 3 feet. This was performed for both stock and overclocked speeds.

My Verdict

The Pascal launch was underlined by the motto of unprecedented performance gains at much lower power consumption & after testing the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X I can vouch for every word that nVidia had then said!
Coming in at $459 or Rs 41,000 the MSI GTX 1070 is a graphics card that hangs between the boundaries of mainstream and enthusiast grade cards beating the Titan X in almost all the gaming benchmarks and trading blows with some of the third party 980Tis. Due to the 16nm Pascal GPU, the GTX 1070 is now able to deliver higher clocks at much lower power consumption and hence much lower heat generation. Though I haven't tested this card in SLI but by looking at the single card performance we might very well be looking at the next 970 SLI wonder that will blow the GTX 1080 out of waters!
MSI has done a fantastic job with their new TwinFrozr VI cooler which not only looks serious but also keeps the card well within 70°C under extensive load even when we overclocked it. TORX 2.0 fans are indeed efficient and are as quiet as it gets. When almost every other brand went the RGB LED way to boast about 'fresh' products MSI build the GTX 1070 Gaming X from ground up improving what they already had & innovating upon what they lacked.
On the downside pricing could've been a little more tighter and MSI only tweaked the clock on the card leaving the memory at stock frequency which in our testing showed had enormous headroom left for plenty of good OC.
I recommend the MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X 8GB DDR5 graphics card to every system builder of today who is looking for a product in the near Rs 40,000 range that looks awesome, performs awesome and will stay awesome for a couple of years to come!
I give it 9/10

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  1. Vishvesh, the entire line-up has had supply issues. Even performance-wise, Direct X 12 titles remain an issue: this thing is nor more than 15% faster than my Fury X. And the whole clocks resetting to lower values remains a problem.

    I honestly feel Nvidia dropped the ball on this one.

    1. DX12 titles do remain a issue and that is quite true but I can't really say anything about the GTX 1070 vs Fury X since I've not reviewed any Fury X card.
      But you are correct the GTX 1070 is not & cannot be faster than the Liquid Cooler Fury X when its 4GB to 4GB VRAM competition simply due to the higher bandwidth that the HBM1 on the FURY X has to offer but when raw VRAM rally matter that's the place where we'll have to see how these two fair off.
      Indeed Pascal has this issue that when temperature rises the clock speed automatically comes down to balance things out which leads to grave drop in performance but in case of the MSI GTX 1070 I didn't notice any such issues since the TwinFrozr VI is very very efficient kind of an overkill since its a 300W TDP cooler fitted ontop of a 160W TDP card so the temps were always low, the same cannot be said about other brands and definitely not about the reference model.

  2. How many kidneys did you have to sell to buy this one?

    Can you include AIDA64 Single Precision score?

    1. Hahaha! Thankfully none!
      Well the AIDA64 Single Precision Score for stock was 1433 FPS and for OC was 1447 FPS