The RTX 2070 may find it easy beating up on low-spec GTX cards, but what happens when it faces something its own size, something, say, like…the GTX 1080 Ti? By all accounts, these cards should stack up fairly evenly against one another. The 1080 Ti is up with the cream of the GTX crop; the 2070 is only a mid-range RTX GPU, but it’s the product of more advanced technology.
We already have some serious love for the GTX series. The 2070 is nearing two years of age as we write this, so it’s by no means nascent. With the price tag it currently carries, it’s got a ways to go before we’re convinced of its worth.
The biggest excuse that we can think of for that hefty price tag is the RTX 2070’s TU106-400A-A1 variant of Nvidia’s most recent architectural foray, the Turing design. We know the 1080 Ti has some serious clout, but architecturally speaking, it’s not too dissimilar to any other GTX GPU.
Built using GP102-350-K1-A1, a Pascal microarchitecture variant, the PCI-e 3 1080 Ti features an intimidating 3584 CUDA cores. The 2070 (also PCI-e 3) only has 2304, but due to advanced command execution in Turing architecture, each core can supposedly accomplish far more.
The 1080 Ti also contains far more transistors, 1 billion extra to be exact, which foreshadows a faster frame rate performance, but more on that later. The 1080 Ti continues its spec spree with a greater amount of shader, texture, and render units. Interestingly though, the RTX 2070 has 36 SMs for the 1080 Ti’s 28.
Each SM is made up of a large number of registers that are then split into a series of threads that execute CUDA kernels which are essentially command controls, so in theory, the RTX card should be able to handle heavier, more complex workloads.
It’s common knowledge that the RTX 2070 can run a little hot at times, and with a thermal capacity of 89°C it makes sense to focus on a decent fan system when shopping around. It’s also a good idea to try and optimize your case flow as it’s an open air GPU, meaning it vents heat into, rather than out of, your case. Depending on the ambient temperature of the room, you could also try an open case format. It only pulls 175 watts, which is pretty light, but it can still be pretty loud.
The 1080 Ti can also hit some pretty steamy temperatures, but it makes a little more sense as it’s pulling a hefty 251 watts, and it has a higher 91°C capacity to make up for it. With stock fans, it’s not unheard of for the Ti to stabilize between 80 – 84°C, which is fine, but if you enjoy some peace and quiet and a cool room, you could use Afterburner to dial in some undervolting or even get adventurous with a vertical mount.
There isn’t much difference to talk of between the dimensions of these GPUs. The RTX 2070 is fractionally smaller overall which you’d expect considering it has a 445mm2 die size compared to the 471mm2 die size of the Ti.
Lengthways, at 9”, the RTX card is only 1.5” smaller, but if you like to run a really tight ship and keep things minimal, you’re going to really appreciate that fractional difference. In terms of height, the RTX is actually slightly larger, but only by 2.54mm, and they’re both 2-slot cards.
Killing off the spec trash talk for a while, let’s get down to what really matters, some full-throttle gaming in different resolutions.
The 1080 Ti comes on top for some good old high def 1080p gaming, but from game to game, there’s hardly anything in it, and the 2070 does pull in a few narrow victories of its own. The RTX runs titles such as PUBG and League of Legends at a 1 – 2% faster frame rate, but it’s by far the better card for Minecraft, enjoying a 15% average win.
The 1080 Ti flips it for World of Warcraft, earning a symmetrizing 15% victory, then continues the streak with variable 3 – 9% wins over CSGO, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Battlefield 1, Overwatch, and GTAV.
The GTX card’s overall average 8% 1080p victory is reduced to 6% during gameplay at 1440p, so across a wide range of titles, performance is very close, and the 2070 seems to be drawing in. That said, it did average out just shy of the 100fps mark, which isn’t ideal for an expensive GPU.
In 4K, both GPUs will average frame rates in the low 60s, but the 1080 Ti will still outperform the 2070 in terms of pure speed, maintaining that 6% performative gap.
Here’s where things get interesting. The 2070 is stacked with all the specialized new Turing RT cores that basically completely redefine the way light is rendered in games. Ray tracing creates hyper-realistic lighting graphics by mimicking or ‘tracing’ the natural path of light.
It only takes a quick search online to find a side by side comparison of RT and traditional rasterization to realize how big of a step this really is.
Ray tracing isn’t an inherent ability of the GTX series, but using a special Nvidia driver, you can turn it on with a GTX card as long as a game supports it. Normally general performance drops under the RT workload, but if there’s one GTX card that can shoulder the weight, it’s the 1080 Ti
When we look at VRAM configurations in these two GPUs, we get another insight into just how efficient and streamlined Turing architecture really is. The 2070 does have a GDDR6 buffer, one better than the Ti’s GDDR5X format, but other than that, the numbers seem to suggest it’s slightly lacking.
It features a 256-bit bus memory interface, while the Ti boasts a 352-bit bus interface. It also lags ever so slightly behind the 1080 Ti, with its 448GBps bandwidth; the Ti offers 484GBps. But after all that, it still has a way faster 1750MHz memory clock speed, with an overall effective rate of 14GBps. The Ti clocks out at 1376GBps amounting to an effective rate of only 11GBps.
Well, that’s that cleared up, gamer gods. The GTX 1080 Ti is objectively faster than the RTX 2070. It’s really close though! It’s hard to decide which we’d pick if we were choosing between the two. The 1080 Ti is definitely best for competitive gamers for whom every frame is valuable, but for leisurely gamers, the advanced cores and shading capabilities of the 2070 will provide a truly enthralling experience.
That said, on games that don’t support ray tracing, the 1080 Ti still really shines, offering up better texture detail and faster peak complex splatting. It is, however, quite expensive for a card released nearly four years ago, but then again, the 2070 came up only a year later and has a similar price tag.
It certainly doesn’t make sense to upgrade from the 2070 to the Ti, and the same is true in reverse. If you’ve got one or the other, you may as well stick with them until you set your sights on something with a bigger performative leap. If you’re considering which of these to upgrade to, we’d go with whichever suits your case format best.