Nvidia’s RTX 2070 presents an interesting dilemma for those looking to adopt the new Turing GPUs. On one hand, it boasts some pretty impressive specs for a card that lists a suggested retail price of $499 on some models. On the other hand, the namesake feature of the card - Ray Tracing - isn’t really testable right now. And with the 2070 having less Ray Tracing power than its 2080 and 2080ti counterparts, it’s hard to know exactly whether grabbing one of these cards provides decent bang for your buck.
However, that doesn’t mean the performance of the cards as the stand right now isn’t impressive - it is. MSI’s Armor edition of the RTX 2070 pits it not against the 1070 of the past architecture, but more squarely at the GTX 1080, as well as AMD’s RX Vega 64.
So, is a card that really doesn’t target 4K gaming but also boasts the Ray Tracing features that Nvidia touted on stage a few months back really worth the look? In the end, it’s hard to say anything other than “it depends.”
MSI GeForce RTX 2070 Armor 8GB OC Specs
- Memory: 8GB GDDR6
- Graphics Processing Unit: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070
- Interface: PCI Express x16 3.0
- Boost / Base Core Clock: Boost: 1740 MHz; Base: 1410 MHz
- Memory Interface: 256-bit
- Memory Clock Speed: 14Gbps
- Output: DisplayPort x 3 (v1.4) / HDMI 2.0b x 1 / USB Type-C x 1
- VR Ready: Yes
- Maximum Digital Resolution: 7680x4320
- Maximum Displays: 4
- HDCP Support: 2.2
- DirectX Version Support: 12 API
- OpenGL Version Support: 4.5
- Card Dimensions (MM): 309 x 155 x 50 mm
- Card weight: 1177 g/ 1699 g
- Power Consumption: 185W
- Recommended PSU: 550W
- Power Connectors: 8-pin x 1, 6-pin x 1
- MSRP: $549 USD (At Newegg.com)
At first glance, the MSI RTX 2070 Armor OC is an incredily sturdy card. The dual-fan layout powered by MSI’s TORX Fan 2.0 look powerful enough to keep thermals low - something as someone who lives in a desert can definitely struggle with even in October. Additionally, the body features a solid brushed metal backplate which includes thermal pads to further help with keeping temperatures down.
In fact, this is one area of the MSI RTX 2070 I found most impressive - the ability to keep temps down even under load. At idle the Armor GPU rarely hits 30 celsius, with the lowest temperatures I’ve seen being around 28C. To compare, the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Mini and my RX Vega 64 Founders editions sit above 30C at idle all the time. Under load in games I benchmarked I noticed that while the 1080 and the Vega 64 consistently broke the 80C mark, the highest I’ve recorded the MSI Armor RTX 2070 hitting is 76C.
In fact, that seems to be where the thermals plateau, with some games at 1440p and 4K showing the same results after allowing the card to completely come back to idle temps inbetween benchmarking runs.
The MSI RTX 2070 Armor OC also sports RBG lighting that can be controlled using MSI’s Mystic Light 3 program. Downloadable from MSI’s website, the program is simple enough, giving you many different profiles to choose from, such as a cascading rainbow of colors to a breathing animation.
As easy as the program is easy to use, I do say it felt a little too simplistic. Some of the aniations, such as Magic or Color Shift don’t allow you to choose the colors for the RBG to cycle through, while others do, and it is nice that the program gives you a preview of what the lights will look like, especially as someone whose desktop faces away from him.
Where’s the Ray Tracing Though?
Arguably, the main feature everyone really is interested in is the Ray Tracing support the RTX cards bring to the table. It’s in the name for goodness sake. However, like the 2080 and 2080ti reviews that hit earlier this fall, the 2070 does not enter into the market with any real-time raytracing games on the market. Many games, such as Battlefield 1, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy XV to name just a few will feature the technology in future updates, but right now as I type this review there is no way to test this feature in real time. We know that the 2070 will feature less RTX OPS (RTX Operations Per Second) than the 2080 and 2080ti, so we can expect the results to be lesser than it’s more powerful cousins, ray tracing is still a flagship feature for a card that cannot carry the flag yet.
As a result, all of the benchmarks taken are using the traditional forms of rasterization. Without any real-time ray tracing applications on the market, it’s impossible to pass judgement on a feature that will undoubtedly be a major draw to the card, but right now these reviews don’t give the full picture.
For our tests, I benchmarked the MSI RTX 2070 Armor OC against both a Gigabyte GTX 1080 Mini and the AMD Rx Vega 64 Founders Edition. Since the 2070 Armor slots right in the target price point of those two cards, it makes these comparisons the most apt overall.
Additionally, each game was tested at 1080p, 1440p and 2160p (4K) resolutions with all settings maxed out except for Anti-aliasing. Each game was benchmarked three times using FRAPS and MSI Afterburner to calculate FPS using Frametime data. The numbers reflected on the graphs represent the averages of those three numbers.
The testing environment is as follows:
- CPU: Intel Core i7-8700K @ 4.3 GHz
- RAM: Patriot DDR4 16GB @ 3200 MHz
- Motherboard: Gigabyte Z370P-D3
- PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 750W RGB
- Storage: Intel 760p 2TB m.2 SSD
When taking a look at the RTX 2070 at 1080p, it’s interesting to see similar results across some games such as The Elder Scrolls Online and Ghost Recon Wildlands as both the GTX 1080 and Rx Vega 64. It’s not until we get to games such as Battlefield 1 and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds we start to see the RTX 2070 really pull ahead, with MSI’s card towering over the Vega in Battlefield 1 by a whopping 37fps average. ESO seemed somewhat bottlenecked as well at 1080p, and Black Desert Online Remastered stays at the locked 60fps for all three cards showing identical performance.
2560x1440 is the sweet spot for the RTX 2070. We see the gap close on some titles such as PUBG and Battlefield 1. However, the interesting result is ESO with the GTX 1080 taking it with a whole 10 more frames-per-second than the 2070. I ran this test three times in the same area and got the same results as well - however like all MMOs, performance benchmarks should be taken with the understanding of the variance you get with the load on screen at any given time.
Black Desert Online Remastered keeps a deciding edge for the 2070, with Pearl Abyss’ MMO performing only 5 FPS less than 1080p here, while both the Vega and 1080 drop to the mid-fourties.
This is where my gameplay really felt at home. In the hours I spent playing each game on the RTX 2070 Armor OC card, 1080p seemed to bottleneck the GPU some, especially on ESO. However, games like BDO were completely playable with the 2070 that felt choppy on the 1080. This is the resolution I’d recommend buying this card for, as even games such as Final Fantasy XV and EVE: Online felt right at home at 1440p. Considering I’ve spent almost a year playing these same games on the 1080 at 1440p, the increased FPS really made these playthroughs more enjoyable.
However, in today’s world, 4K is the rage. So how does the MSI RTX 2070 Armor OC hold up to the scrutiny of 2160p?
I need to note: Battlefield 1 experienced some really bad issues when swapping to 4K in game. My mouse and keyboard would stop being registered by Battlefield 1, forcing me to use a controller for these benchmarks. This was the only game I experienced any issue on while benchmarking, but it did throw a wrench into getting this review finished.
However, the MSI performs at 4K in Battlefield 1 (my poor controller aiming aside). The Storm of Steel opening level of the campaign, which is what I used to benchmark each resolution, was beautiful with the 2070. You also notice the Rx Vega 64 taking second place, which makes sense since Battlefield 1 is an AMD Gaming Evolved title.
Wildlands is perfectly playable if you knock down a few settings at 4K, especially keeping Anti-aliasing off and finding that sweet spot to gain some performance. Or you can use Riva Tuner and lock the framerate at 30 to play the game at a stable 4K.
It’s again, surprising, the 1080 benchmark of ESO shows it eking out over the 2070, but again this could be down to character density and server latency after swapping cards.
Many of these titles are playable at 4K, except maybe PUBG and Black Desert Online, with the latter really going down the tube compared to 1440p. The new Remastered edition of BDO is incredibly visually demanding, though, and it’s not a shocker to see it happen.
So what does this all mean? The MSI RTX 2070 Armor OC is a good card. It can compete with the cards in its price point and more often than not outperform them. However, when you can get a EVGA GTX 1080 for around the same price on Amazon, or you can step up into a GTX 1080ti for $599 in places - a card that consistently goes toe to toe with the RTX 2080 and 2080 ti, it is hard to say the 2070 is a surefire investment.
This is compounded further by the inability to test in a real testing environment real-time ray tracing. The demos on offer by Nvidia to show off the feature are great and give you a sense of how it changes gaming visuals, but they aren’t indicative of how real world performance will be once RTX titles start releasing their updates. Without being able to adequately test the name-sake feature of the card, it’s incredibly difficult to recommend this to anyone right now.
Now, some consumers will always buy these products at launch anyway, and that’s ok. But your average consumer, my main recommendation is to wait. Wait till we know more about actual real-world performance metrics to the RTX features. Only then can we give a fully complete assessment.
However, in all other aspects, the MSI RTX 2070 Armor OC performs and impresses. It’s sturdy, it’s quiet, it’s cool, and most of all: it runs games at a higher performance than the other cards in its class overall. It’s definitely worth a look if this is your price point once the RTX numbers are completely available.
- Fans barely make a sound
- Keeps incredibly cool
- Sturdy build quality
- Fantastic 1440p performance
- Still no way to test RTX features making this review feel incomplete
- 4K performance leaves a lot to be desired for $549, especially with 1080ti prices dropping downwards