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Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 review: what a difference DLSS 3 makes

An efficient, forwards-thinking graphics card that excels at 1440p

It’s taken a few GPUs, but Nvidia’s RTX 40 series is finally veering away from ludicrous luxuries and heading back in the right direction: that of graphics cards you can, and maybe even should buy, even if you’re not the heir to an Emirati property conglomerate. The GeForce RTX 4070 launches with a heavier price tag than the RTX 3070, and doesn’t make the shin-splintering performance leap forward that its predecessor did, but between its high speeds, low power usage, and DLSS 3 advantage, it’s a potent upgrade regardless.

I’ve been benchmarking a relatively beefy (but dead quiet) custom model, the MSI GeForce RTX 4070 Gaming X Trio. It’s a ways above the RRP/MSRP, and if you’re lucky with stock you might be able to snatch an RTX 4070 Founders Edition for £589 / $600.

That’s £120 / $100 more than the RTX 3070 launched at, which isn’t ideal. But I can’t muster the same horrified shock for this price bump that the RTX 4080 and RTX 4090 induced so effortlessly. For once thing, the RTX 4070 is much cheaper than the last-gen RTX 3080, a card that performs almost identically without DLSS 3 – and falls well behind with the new upscaler’s frame generation feature switched on. That immediately makes it a better deal than one of the 30 series' heaviest hitters.

Second, the RTX 4070 does make improvements beyond FPS counts. Taking advantage of the Ada Lovelace architecture’s efficiency savings, it uses less power than the RTX 3070, with a maximum draw of 200W to the older GPU’s 220W (the RTX 4070 Gaming X Trio can draw up to 215W, but again, that’s less than the most efficient RTX 3070 design.) You also get 12GB of GDDR6X VRAM here, same as on the RTX 4070 Ti and a marked upgrade from the 8GB of GDDR6 on the RTX 3070. While the RTX 4080 and RTX 4090 ask for hundreds of pounds more than their 30 series equivalents, the RTX 4070 at least seems more concerned with maintaining a workable sense of value. Not to mention how much easier it is to simply install this graphics card in a mid-tower case, a real issue with the bulkier cards further up the range.

A view of the backplate on the MSI GeForce RTX 4070 Gaming X Trio graphics card.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 review: 4K performance

Despite its heightened price, the RTX 4070 is still a 1440p GPU at heart, just as the RTX 3070 was. Yet the latter could perform reasonably well as a kind of budget 4K card, a quality that carries over to the new model.

Without upscaling help from DLSS, or even AMD FSR/Intel XeSS, it’s not going to hit 60fps in every maxed-out game. The RTX 4070 Ti has a better record for this, so remains the smarter pick if you want a 40 series GPU to hook up to your 4K monitor (and that doesn’t cost four figures). Even so, the RTX 4070 ain’t half bad:

A bar graph showing how the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 performs in various games at 4K, relative to other GPUs.
A bar graph showing how the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 performs in various games at 4K, relative to other GPUs.

Of course, DLSS is still a great tool to have at such a demanding resolution. With Nvidia’s upscaler running in Quality mode, the sharpest available, 74fps in Horizon Zero Dawn becomes 103fps, and while a combination of Quality DLSS with Ultra-level ray tracing kept Watch Dog Legion averaging 49fps. Shadow of the Tomb Raider gets a particularly enormous boost from DLSS: even after adding Ultra ray tracing, Quality DLSS had it shoot up from 56fps to 87fps.

Then there’s DLSS 3. The number of games that support this is, to be sure, quite small. But it’s growing, and the RTX 4070 can make effective use of the AI frame generation feature. Cyberpunk 2077, running at native 4K and with Psycho ray tracing enabled, only averaged 16fps on this GPU: far too low to play. But with DLSS 3 on Performance mode, and with frame generation enabled, the RTX 4070 can run the same settings at 71fps – a 343% (!) improvement. Not even the RTX 4090 sped up that much. F1 22 could also rise from 43fps at native 4K to 87fps with DLSS 3’s frame generation, and that was with the upscaler’s finer Quality mode.

A bar graph showing how the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 performs in Cyberpunk 2077 with DLSS 3, relative to other GPUs.

On a tactile level, Cyberpunk 2077 admittedly won’t feel like it’s running at 71fps – aiming and driving will have a more sluggish sensation, as your PC is only treating about half of those frames as 'real' (the rest having been conjured up outside of the usual rendering pipeline). This is also one reason why the RTX 4070 is better suited to 1440p. And yet, even if you’re underwhelmed by how the RTX 3070 is only 10-20fps behind in most of these graphs, DLSS 3 does show how it can help the RTX 4070 to far, far higher levels of visual smoothness.

A close up of one of the cooling fans on the MSI GeForce RTX 4070 Gaming X Trio graphics card.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 review: 1440p performance

1440p very much feels like home for the RTX 4070: it’s guaranteed high framerates on maxed-out game settings, with or without DLSS, and won’t fall victim to CPU bottlenecking nearly as often as at 1080p. Mostly. Depending on the game.

Still, even in bottleneck-resistant games like Metro Exodus and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the RTX 4070 can keep up with the RTX 4070 Ti – a card that costs hundreds more. And on a gaming monitor with a sufficiently high refresh rate, there’s a clearly visible smoothness upgrade on the RTX 3070 in games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Total War: Three Kingdoms, and F1 22.

A bar graph showing how the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 performs in various games at 1440p, relative to other GPUs.
A bar graph showing how the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 performs in various games at 1440p, relative to other GPUs.

(Also, we don’t have enough RTX 3080 results in the books to include it these graphs, but the ones we do have confirm the RTX 4070 usually matches it within 1-3fps. And sometimes the newer card is respectably faster, with the RTX 3080 only managing 94fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and 98fps in Horizon Zero Dawn.)

Playing at 1440p also lets the RTX 4070 handle top-quality ray tracing without always needing backup from an upscaler. Adding Ultra RT effects to Metro Exodus only saw it drop to 70fps, which still looks super smooth, and although doing to same for Watch Dogs Legion forced it down to 54fps, that’s still fine and playable.

Throwing in Quality-level DLSS, however, will polish it up to 61fps, and over in Hitman 3, a combination of Quality DLSS and full ray tracing produced 80fps: a far slicker experience than the 53fps it got with un-upscaled RT effects. Yes, DLSS in general remains a strong reason to go with an Nvidia GPU specifically, and once again DLSS 3 can take its framerate improvements to a new level.

An MSI-made RTX 4070 graphics card next to an MSI RTX 4070 Ti, for size comparison.
MSI's Gaming X Trio design doesn't make for the most compact RTX 4070, but it is much smaller than their RTX 4070 Ti Suprim X 12G.

Cyberpunk 2077’s Psycho ray tracing becomes much easier to handle at 1440p, and thus even without DLSS 3’s frame generation – only Quality-level upscaling – the RTX 4070 got it running at a comfortable 62fps. With frame generation, that became 106fps.

I also tried out Cyberpunk 2077’s brand new Overdrive Mode, which replaces all the individual ray tracing effects with full-on path tracing. This is too much for the RTX 4070 at 4K, but at 1440p, it could run Overdrive Mode with Quality DLSS at a viable 42fps average. With frame generation, that ticks up to 73fps, which looks great and handles well enough (as the PC still thinks it’s running that 42fps average). Path tracing is one of the next big frontiers in game rendering tech, so it’s very encouraging that the RTX 4070 can cope with it this well.

The rear display outputs on the MSI GeForce RTX 4070 Gaming X Trio graphics card.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 review: 1080p performance

Most interpretations of current British law would say I can’t come round your house and physically restrain you from buying a £599 graphics card to use at just 1080p. But I still don’t recommend it.

Sure, 100fps will be a gentle stroll for the RTX 4070 in most games, but unless you’ve also gone overboard for Full HD by buying a high-end gaming CPU, it’s going to get bottlenecked. Our test PC has a Core i5-11600K, a very capable chip that’s not even three years old, and with it the RTX 4070 is still limited to the point where the RTX 3070 can catch up:

A bar graph showing how the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 performs in various games at 1080p, relative to other GPUs.
A bar graph showing how the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 performs in various games at 1080p, relative to other GPUs.

There’s still an advantage for the Ada Lovelace hardware when ray tracing is involved – with it on max, Metro Exodus averaged 92fps on the RTX 4070 and 79fps on the RTX 3070 – but the DLSS 3 benefit becomes questionable. Unlike at higher resolutions, deploying even the best-quality upscaling at 1080p will make the overall image look soft and blurry. And it’s not like you’d need the extra AI-generated frames anyway.

The empty power socket on the MSI GeForce RTX 4070 Gaming X Trio graphics card.

At 1440p, on the other hand, the RTX 4070 shines. Besides making the RTX 3080 effectively obsolete, it offers a decent upgrade on the RTX 3070 that becomes a gigantic one when playing with ray tracing and DLSS 3. That it does so while cutting the amount of electricity it drinks is a very pleasant surprise as well.

If, though, you can’t stomach paying this much for a Quad HD setup, it might be worth waiting to see if and when Nvidia come up with an RTX 4060 (or RTX 4060 Ti). Historically, Nvidia’s XX60 GPUs have typically been able to have a fair crack at 1440p, even if they tend to be aimed more towards superfast 1080p. Here’s hoping any they, and any other future RTX 40 series cards, take their cues from the RTX 4070: more power, smarter tech, better efficiency.

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About the Author
James Archer avatar

James Archer

Hardware Editor

James had previously hung around beneath the RPS treehouse as a freelancer, before being told to drop the pine cones and climb up to become hardware editor. He has over a decade’s experience in testing/writing about tech and games, something you can probably tell from his hairline.

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