- Upgrading your graphics card every few years is necessary for demanding tasks like gaming and video editing.
- The NVIDIA RTX 4070 is a top contender for upgrading from the RTX 3070, offering improved performance and 12GB of VRAM.
- The AMD RX 6950 XT is a great upgrade for content creators, with 16GB of VRAM and features designed to simplify their workload.
- The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 is the best choice for 4K gaming, with more CUDA cores, higher memory bandwidth, and 10GB of VRAM compared to the RTX 3070.
Graphics cards are one of the most important and sought-after PC components for demanding tasks, from gaming, 3D animation, and 3D rendering projects to video editing. An old or slow GPU will make it difficult — or even impossible — to run these tasks. And this is why it’s necessary to upgrade your graphics card every few years.
If you’re an owner of an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070, one of the most capable graphics cards when it comes to 1440p resolution gaming, you might want to upgrade to a card that is more capable for 4K gaming. You might also want to upgrade to the newest RTX 4070 if you want to push your 1440p monitor to the absolute furthest it can go. Maybe you want even better frame rates. If you’re in competitive gaming, FPS can make a real difference.
We’ve gone through and done the research to compare some of the best graphics card upgrades to the RTX 3070. We’ve narrowed down the choices to three top contenders, each one with a notable advantage over the RTX 3070. Let’s get into it!
#1 Best Overall: NVIDIA RTX 4070
The NVIDIA RTX 4070 is our top choice for the best GPU to replace an RTX 3070. If you are looking for a card that improves on the performance of the RTX 4070 but isn’t going to require you to upgrade your entire system, 2023’s RTX 4070 might be the best pick for you.
The RTX 4070 was first released on April 13, 2023. It’s available at an MSRP of $599, only $100 more expensive than the 3070’s MSRP of $500. But with the typical stock issues that have plagued NVIDIA graphics cards for the past few years, you may have to end up paying an extra $50 to get your hands on either a 4070 or 3070.
From a first look, the two cards look almost identical, with matching 5,888 cores, but this is offset by the 4070 having a much higher clock speed of 1920/2475 MHz compared to the RTX 3070s 1500/1725 MHz. The RTX 4070 comes with 12GB of VRAM, compared to 8GB of VRAM from the RTX 3070. This means if you are rendering or designing 3D models, the RTX 4070 will be a better pick, as many creative applications are VRAM intensive.
How Are the Benchmarks?
We’ve seen from reviewers’ benchmarks that the RTX 4070 is roughly 30% faster than the 3070, which fixes the sore spot we saw with the RTX 3070. The RTX 3070 suffered greatly with popular titles such as The Last of Us, Resident Evil Village, and the Plague Tale series.
At first glance, we assumed that this was largely due to these being games that were developed in sponsorship with AMD, so they came optimized for AMD CPU and GPUs. However, we’ve noticed that even with AMD RX, cards that only feature 8GB of VRAM or less suffer big frame drops in these games.
All-in-all, these two cards are very similar, but the RTX 4070 improves greatly on the weakest fault in the RTX 3070 — replacing the 8GB VRAM with 12GB of VRAM. While the pricing can be difficult to find at MSRP, it is a better value in 2023 than an RTX 3070. If you want a card that will upgrade your experience but won’t require an overhaul of your system’s components, look no further than the RTX 4070.
Pros and Cons
|Doubles the performance of the RTX 4070.||It is hard to find one close to its MSRP currently in 2023.|
|Comes with 12GB of VRAM for smoother rendering.||It can be a large and heavy card, depending on the manufacturer.|
Best Upgrade for Content Creators: AMD RX 6950 XT
- Video Memory: 16GB GDDR6
- Stream Processor: 5120
- Game Clock: 2226 MHz (OC) / 2116 MHz (Silent)
- Boost Clock: 2435 MHz (OC) / 2324 MHz (Silent)
- Memory Clock: 18.0 Gbps
The RX 6950 XT is a powerful graphics card with several advantages for video editors and 3D animators. Compared to the RTX 3070, the RX 6950 XT has more memory, 12GB of VRAM, a higher memory bandwidth, and better performance in professional content creation applications.
The RX 6950 XT’s 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM is twice as much as the RTX 3070. This allows you to handle larger and more complex projects, such as 4K or even 8K video editing and high-resolution texture mapping in animation programs. With a memory bandwidth of 576 GB/s, 30% higher than the RTX 3070, the RTX 6950 handles VRAM data transfers with ease, making for a smoother 3D performance.
You also get a higher boost clock speed with the RX 6950 XT, which features an OC speed of 2310 MHz. This is higher than the RTX 3070’s boost clock speed of 1725 MHz and allows the RX 6950 XT to drive higher frames-per-second and faster rendering times in both games and professional applications.
AMD has also included a host of features, with the RX 6950 XT designed to simplify the workload of content creators. There’s Smart Access Memory, which can overclock the cards’ VRAM, Infinity Cache, which is designed to speed up rendering times; and Radeon ProRender, AMD’s own physics-based rendering application.
At the end of the day, the RX 6950 XT is a better graphics card for video editors and 3D artists who want to work with large and complex projects and achieve a faster and smoother performance in graphics-intensive applications.
Pros and Cons
|It offers great performance even without ray tracing.||There’s no ray tracing performance.|
|It’s reasonably power efficient for a high-end card with a TDP of 335W.||Certain models can be very bulky.|
Best for 4K Gaming: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
If you’re looking for a graphics card that can handle 4K gaming at high settings and frame rates, it might be a better value purchase to consider upgrading to the RTX 3080. The RTX 3080 is still a powerful card that offers significant improvements over the RTX 3070 in terms of performance, features, and efficiency, and it’s significantly less expensive than the RTX 4090.
What Does the 3080 Have That the 3070 Doesn’t?
Firstly, the RTX 3080 features all-around more CUDA cores, a higher memory bandwidth, and more VRAM than the RTX 3070. The RTX 3080 comes with 8960 CUDA cores, compared to the RTX 3070’s 5,888 CUDA cores. This allows the RTX 3080 to process more graphical data and calculations per second, resulting in faster rendering times and smoother frame rates when gaming at higher resolutions.
The RTX 3080 also has a higher memory bandwidth of 760 GB/s than the 448 GB/s from the RTX 3070. What this means in real-world performance is that your textures will load faster, and you won’t have to worry about low draw distance or objects popping into view too late. You can’t take full advantage of all that sweet VRAM without sufficient bandwidth, and this card has it in droves.
Speaking of VRAM, the RTX 3080 also improves VRAM over the RTX 3070. You get 10GB of VRAM. So, this is an ideal graphics card for gamers, whereas content creators who need higher caches and VRAM amounts should look at the RTX 3090, RTX 4090, or RX 6950 XT.
Ray tracing, of course, looks great on the RTX 3080, thanks to the higher core count. All RTX graphics cards have dedicated tensor and ray tracing cores, and the RTX 3080 has nearly double the amount of both when compared to the RTX 3070, with 272 tensor cores and 68 RT cores, compared to the 3070’s 184 tensor cores and 46 RT cores.
Pros and Cons
|Top-of-the-line ray tracing support.||It’s very loud under heavy load.|
|The 3080 can handle 4K at 60 fps.||Frame rates will struggle if you have a high-refresh 4K monitor.|
|Pricing is coming down thanks to the release of the RTX 4080.|
How to Pick the Best Upgrade for an RTX 3070: Step-by-Step
Trying to find the best graphics cards can be an intimidating task if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Going in blind is a surefire way to overspend or land on the wrong choice. So, when you’re upgrading from an RTX 3070, you will have the same considerations as when you upgrade from any GPU.
Will the Rest of Your System Bottleneck Your New Card?
In other words, you don’t want to find a bottleneck somewhere in your system. A bottleneck is when one component is severely underpowered enough, that it prevents other components from working at their full potential. A common example of this is adding a powerful GPU to a system that doesn’t have much RAM. If you have less than 8GB of RAM, you should look into upgrading that first, before you worry about a GPU upgrade.
Other components to look at if you want to avoid a bottleneck are your storage devices and motherboard. If you are using an old mechanical hard drive, that will slow your system down to the point that you won’t notice any benefit from upgrading your GPU. Your best course of action will be to replace your hard drive with a faster type of storage known as an SSD or solid-state drive.
Your motherboard comes into play less frequently than these other components. But it is still worth paying attention to. If you don’t have a motherboard that supports PCIe gen 3.0 or later, you’ll be missing out on a lot of your new card’s performance.
Most importantly, you don’t want to overlook your power supply. Graphics cards in the league of the RTX 3070 require a ton of juice to operate. A power draw of upwards of 300 watts for your GPU alone is not uncommon.
Just because you have a power supply with a 500-watt rating doesn’t mean it is enough. You should have enough power to run all the components in your system, plus a little breathing room. A safe place to be in for a new GPU is at least a 750-watt or higher power supply.
How Much Are You Willing to Spend?
You also need to take your budget into consideration. The price of graphics cards fluctuates wildly. So, you might be able to score a better deal by holding out for a while.
If you are working with limited funds, it can sometimes pay off to wait before you buy. At the same time, you can often make your dollar go further by making sure the rest of your PC is up to snuff in the performance department.
Instead of spending $800 on a graphics card, you could spend less than $100 to upgrade your RAM. Conversely, you could replace your boot drive with a faster SSD. Either of these options will give you some extra performance for your money. Plus, they don’t cost nearly as much as a new GPU. In the meantime, you can budget accordingly as you save up for a higher-priced graphics card.
How Much Space Do You Have in Your PC Case?
Many buyers often forget just how massive GPUs are these days. If you have a small PC case, you might not be able to get the card of your dreams. Many graphics cards, such as the RTX 3080 or the AMD 6950X, are significantly larger than older models.
Take some time to look inside your PC case and take some measurements if you are able to. You need enough space for your card to fit. But you’ll also need to ensure you have enough room to route your power cables and any other connectors you have.
If your case isn’t roomy enough for a new GPU, you don’t need to worry too much. Fortunately, the case is one of the cheaper parts of a PC. You can often find a large PC case for under $100 to $200. The bad news is that you’ll have to disassemble your entire system and rebuild it in the new case.
What to Know Before Buying an Upgrade for the RTX 3070
When you are upgrading an RTX 3070, there are a few things you will need to know aside from what we’ve listed above. You will need to know the native resolution and the refresh rate of your monitor. Gaming will look at its absolute best when playing on a monitor that supports a 4K resolution with a high refresh rate, such as 165Hz.
While you probably don’t need to upgrade your PSU, unless you were already at the bottom requirements of the RTX 3070 when you upgrade, it’s definitely worth confirming what wattage your PSU is and what the TDP, or Total Power Draw, of the new graphics card, is. Using a power supply that doesn’t provide enough power to all your components can cause serious damage and even destroy your most expensive components.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Peter Gudella/Shutterstock.com.