Nvidia hard-launches its GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card

Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card launches this morning. First, the bad news: we don’t have an RTX 2070 in the TR labs for testing. We’re working to obtain one of those cards as soon as we can to review in depth, but my test bench (and attention) is presently occupied by Intel’s Core i9-9900K and a raft of other CPUs. Stay tuned for more details on those chips soon.

A block diagram of the TU106 GPU. Source: Nvidia

With the bad news out of the way, here’s what we know so far about the RTX 2070. The smallest Turing sibling introduces a third chip powered by Nvidia’s latest architecture called TU106. From the top, this chip uses three Turing graphics processing clusters (or GPCs), each with 12 streaming multiprocessors (SMs) for a total of 36 graphics-processing “cores.” Each of those SMs has 64 shader ALUs, or CUDA “cores,” for a total of 2304 such resources. TU106 has 144 texture units, 64 ROPs, and a 256-bit bus to 8 GB of GDDR6 memory running at 14 Gbps. Here’s how that stacks up versus some of today’s most popular graphics cards:

ROP pixels/
path (bits)
RX Vega 56147164224/11235842048410 GB/s8 GB
GTX 1070168364108/1081920256259 GB/s8 GB
RTX 2070 FE171064120/1202304256448 GB/s8 GB
GTX 1080173364160/1602560256320 GB/s8 GB
RX Vega 64154664256/12840962048484 GB/s8 GB
RTX 2080 FE180064184/1842944256448 GB/s8 GB
GTX 1080 Ti158288224/224?3584352484 GB/s11 GB
RTX 2080 Ti FE163588272/2724352352616 GB/s11 GB
Titan Xp158296240/2403840384547 GB/s12 GB
Titan V145596320/32051203072653 GB/s12 GB
RX Vega 5694330/1655.910.5
GTX 1070108202/2025.07.0
RTX 2070 FE109246/2465.17.9
GTX 1080111277/2776.98.9
RX Vega 6499396/1986.212.7
RTX 2080115331/33110.810.6
GTX 1080 Ti139354/3549.511.3
RTX 2080 Ti144473/4739.814.2
Titan Xp152380/3809.512.1
Titan V140466/4668.716.0

Other Turing architectural changes might not show up in our tables, but they’re still important. The RTX 2070 has twice as much L2 cache as the GTX 1070, at 4 MB versus 2 MB, and the total size of its register files (distributed among each SM) has ballooned to 9.216 MB, versus 3.840 MB on the GTX 1070. Keeping more data close to the execution units that can digest it is one reliable way to improve performance, and the on-chip cache of TU106 can certainly claim a much greater endowment in that regard compared to its Pascal predecessor.

Like its bigger Turing siblings, the RTX 2070 also features some resources devoted to the acceleration of certain ray-tracing operations. The RTX 2070 has 288 Turing tensor cores (eight per SM) and 36 Turing RT cores (one per SM). Compare that to the 368 tensor cores and 46 RT cores of the slightly-cut-down TU104 chip that powers the RTX 2080, or the 544 tensor cores and 68 RT cores of the modestly-gelded TU102 chip that runs the RTX 2080 Ti.

Since we don’t have any real-world applications that use these processing resources yet, it’s hard to say how the RTX 2070 stacks up in the ray-tracing department beyond the obvious point that it will be less proficient at those tasks than its larger siblings. For what it’s worth, Nvidia says the RTX 2070 Founders Edition can perform 45 RTX tera-OPS (a measurement of the performance potential of hybrid rendering with Turing GPUs), versus 60 for the RTX 2080 FE and 78 for the RTX 2080 Ti FE. Until we have applications in hand that can take advantage of those resources, we’ll hold off judgment on just how useful the ray-tracing features in the RTX 2070 will be.

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The RTX 2070 Founders Edition

Since the RTX 2070 is fabricated on TSMC’s 12-nm FFN process, its 10.8 billion transistors don’t benefit from much, if any, of an areal shrink versus the 16-nm FinFET process used to make Pascal. Consequently, the TU106 die is 445 mm², compared to 314 mm² for the GP104 chip that powered the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080. The RTX 2070’s board power is up versus the GTX 1070, as well, at 175 W for the “reference” spec and 185 W for the “factory-overclocked” Founders Edition. The GTX 1070 needed 150 W to do its thing.

From a pool of 25 games and synthetic benchmarks, Nvidia’s testing labs expect that the RTX 2070 will deliver a median 33% better performance for 2560×1440 SDR gaming over the GTX 1070 and a median 35% improvement for HDR gaming. If the RTX 2070 delivered that improvement for the same price as the GTX 1070 before it, we would be shouting from the rooftops about it. As with all Turing cards, though, Nvidia is charging more for that performance increase. The company suggests partner cards will start at $499, and the RTX 2070 Founders Edition will land for $599. That’s versus $379 for partner GTX 1070 cards or $449 for the Founders Edition when those pixel-pushers launched. Ultimately, we’ll need to put an RTX 2070 through its paces in the TR labs to see how it stacks up.

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