Zotac GTX 1070 AMP! Extreme Review
The other day I had the luxury of time to look back at our graphics card reviews for the last few months and a certain trend emerged. With the exception of launch-day coverage of NVIDIA’s GTX 1060 and AMD’s Polaris twins –the RX 480 and RX 470- our pages have been pretty much focused on premium top-level products. There’s been the awesomely expensive TITAN X and GTX 1080’s like MSI Gaming X, EVGA’s Superclocked and Gigabyte's G1 Gaming. While it’s certainly nice to ogle at each card’s amazing performance, GTX 1070’s have been very much ignored and, if my inbox is any indicator, our readers have noticed. Well, the lack of GTX 1070 coverage ends today with the Zotac GTX 1070 AMP! Extreme, and what a card it is!
Zotac’s AMP! Extreme may seem like an odd starting point for our deluge of GTX 1070 reviews but I figure we may as well start at the top of the heap and work our way down. You see, historically the Extremes lie well above other cards in Zotac’s lineup and this time is no different. These are big, brutish cards that do away with the niceties of sleek heatsinks or conservative clock speeds and throw caution into the wind by simply being marketed as the fastest, coolest running GPUs in their respective ranges.
With Zotac talking about this thing like it was the Second Coming, I had some understandably high expectations and on paper at least the Extreme is epic for a GTX 1070. Not only is its Base Clock within spitting distance of NVIDIA’s Founders Edition average Boost speed, but it should hit well north of 1800MHz on a regular basis. This results in one of the fastest air-cooled GTX 1070’s available right now and that memory overclock of 200MHz could push performance even higher. Actually, Zotac is just about the only board partner that has increased GDDR5 speeds frequencies on their premium offering. Kudos to them for taking the path less travelled.
Alongside those impressive frequency numbers comes a hefty price tag, though one that is still substantially lower than the least expensive GTX 1080. At $469 (or a staggering $615 here in Canada) the GTX 1070 AMP! Extreme is a good $20 more expensive than NVIDIA’s Founders Edition but still quite a ways away from the likes of MSI’s Sea Hawk, EVGA’s Hybrid and MSI’s Gaming Z. Despite its price, the AMP! Extreme hasn’t been saved from NVIDIA’s chronic GTX 1070 shortages but the situation does seem to be improving since this card is back in stock at several retailers as I write this. Along with the slightly lower-tier AMP! Edition, it also happens to be one of the more popular GTX 1070’s on etailers’ shelves.
I have a special place in my heart for Zotac’s Extreme Editions since they are unabashedly oversized and make no qualms about putting cooling performance above compactness. That extremely efficient GTX 1070 core which could end up being carried forward en masse to the notebook sector? Forgetaboutit! This is all about excess regardless of what’s beating at its heart.
This one also looks pretty damn good with its simple black, grey and white exterior which is rather stealthy regardless of the epic 12 ľ” length. Another thing to take note of is the heft and size of this particular GPU could add to shipping costs versus the competition. It really is that big.
The GTX 1070 AMP! Extreme is graced with the presence of Zotac’s updated Icestorm cooler which is designed to offer the most thermal dissipation mass on the market. While this approach may look slightly ridiculous and ham-fisted compared to the designs backing current ASUS, EVGA and MSI cards, there’s a method behind Zotac’s madness: more mass combined with an efficient cooler design could lead to fans operating at lower RPMs. Could this be the quietest high end card we have reviewed to date? Maybe…
About those fans, they utilize Zotac’s proprietary EKO design which adds secondary fins to reduce any dead spots caused by the central hub while also improving airflow by 30% over more conventional units and reducing noise. They will also completely shut off in idle and low load situations, provided the temperatures remain under the 70°C mark.
Below the cooler’s shroud lies a vast heatsink with copper heatpipes that makes direct contact with everything from the core to PWM components. Its fins have been engineered to reduce static pressure requirements from the fans while optimizing heat dissipation as well.
In addition to all of this, Zotac is using a completely custom PCB with heavily upgraded components. As we’ve seen in the past, if a decision has been made to stick to NVIDIA’s preset Power and Voltage limits, all of these additions may be for nothing since they won’t have any positive impact upon overclocking.
As you have already guessed, there are two pretty significant tradeoffs with Zotac’s gargantuan heatsink: its height and length. Not only does the Icestorm heatsink eat up about an inch of extra length as it overhangs the AMP! Extreme’s PCB but it also contributes to a triple-slot height. Make special note of this when selecting a case or, if SLI is in your future, a suitably compatible motherboard.
Flip the card over and the clean, almost timeless design of the front side gets lost in a cacophony of colors, catch-phrases, logos and cut-outs. Personally, I absolutely love the gunmetal grey with yellow highlights look but the illuminated “Push the Limit” sign is a bit much in my books. Who knows, maybe some folks will be sold on this look but I’m not.
The golden rectangular Power Boost outcropping is actually a so-called “supercapacitor” and feels like a blast from the past since ASUS used to used something like this on their higher end graphics cards a few generations ago. Back then it an NEC / Tokin Proadlizer but Zotac has removed or capped any sourcing information. Nonethless, this extra solid state capacitor is meant to further regulate voltage fluctuations and reduce ripple which should, in theory at least, extend the life of the AMP!’s components. http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum...-review-3.html
Pretty much everything about this particular GTX 1070 is extreme, right down to the power input which is handled by a pair of 8-pin connectors. What kind of Pascal card (other than the TITAN X that is) could possibly need over 300W of current? Zotac obviously doesn’t want mere mortals asking these pointless questions, so who cares…
Regardless of the countless upgrades made to this card, the I/O plate is pretty much bone stock. There’s a trio of DisplayPort 1.4 outputs, a single HDMI 2.0 and one dual link DVI.
Zotac’s cooler has a number of tastefully integrated LEDs around the perimeter which aren’t fully RGB compliant due to software limitations but their color pallet should cover most people’s needs.
Around back there’s the oddball “Push the Limits” LED which can’t be turned off individually but it nonetheless provides a bit of ambience.
Zotac’s Firestorm software has gone through several evolutions over the years and this version is not only the most straightforward but it also happens to be extremely functional for both newcomers and veterans alike. The first page provides overclocking functionality, fan speed control, monitoring and a BIOS update function which could come in handy if enthusiasts post custom BIOS files. The second page is mostly the same but it includes some very basic LED functionality (only 7 different colors alongside some behavior modifiers) and not much else.
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