MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Gaming Z 6 GB Review 30

MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Gaming Z 6 GB Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • According to MSI, the GeForce RTX 2060 Gaming Z will retail between $379 and $389.
  • Overclocked out of the box
  • Fans turn off in idle
  • Very quiet in gaming
  • Low temperatures
  • Reasonable price increase over Founders Edition
  • Gaming performance exceeds Vega 64 and GTX 1080
  • Energy efficient
  • Backplate included
  • RTX Technology
  • Deep-learning feature set
  • DLSS an effective new AA method
  • Anthem/Battlefield V included
  • VESA Adaptive-Sync, HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4, 8K support
  • Micron memory doesn't overclock as well as Samsung on other cards
  • No USB-C VirtualLink
  • Bogged down by power limits
  • Power efficiency could be a little bit better
  • No Windows 7 support for RTX, requires Windows 10 Fall 2018 Update
  • No NVLink SLI support
MSI's GeForce RTX 2060 Gaming Z is the best GTX 2060 we've reviewed so far. It comes overclocked with the largest out of the box clock speeds currently available for the RTX 2060. The rated boost frequency is 1830 MHz, which is 150 MHz higher than NVIDIA's baseline reference and 50 MHz higher than the Founders Edition. With these clocks, the card runs at 1965 MHz on average (FE averages 1865 MHz). Unfortunately, memory isn't overclocked even though the chips could certainly take it, as our manual overclocking section shows. Out of the box, at 1440p, the card is 4% faster than the Founders Edition, which is not a whole lot. Compared to the GTX 1060 6 GB, the performance increase is a staggering 60%, but you have to consider the much higher price point of the RTX 2060. Compared to AMD's fastest, the RX Vega 64, the RTX 2060 Gaming Z is 5% faster with better power/heat/noise at the same time. The GeForce RTX 2060 is an excellent choice for 1440p gaming at full details, or 1080p if you want to drive a high-refresh-rate monitor.

Just like all other Turing-based cards, the MSI RTX 2060 Gaming Z will sit in its board power limit all the time during gaming, which is NVIDIA's new way of dialing in the most efficient operating point for this generation of cards. MSI did increase their board power limit to 190 W (like most vendors did), which unlocks additional performance but comes at the cost of power efficiency. With 187 W in gaming, power draw is 23 W higher than the Founders Edition, but that's not unexpected for a factory-overclocked card, and the difference is relatively small anyway. Compared to AMD's offerings, the RTX 2060 is over 50% more power efficient with better performance at the same time. Manual overclockers will be able to raise their power limit to 200 W, which seems a little bit low considering other cards let you go up to 225 W. Unlike all the other RTX 2060 cards we reviewed, MSI only has a five-phase GPU power design, whereas the other models have six. In my opinion, this really doesn't make a difference—the card works great and is stable, and overclocking worked fine, too. I rather have a card that has a decent cooler with fan-stop and a backplate than some additional power phase that really doesn't do anything for me.

MSI did bump their card's cooling capability significantly, more than any other RTX 2060 we've tested. The triple-slot cooler handles the heat output of the RTX 2060 GPU very well and provides excellent gaming temperatures with 68°C. Unlike most vendors, MSI did include the idle-fan-stop feature on their card, which provides the perfect noise-free experience during idle and light gaming by turning off the fans completely in those states. Gaming noise levels are excellent with 31 dBA—this is the only card that's quieter than the Founders Edition; all other custom-design models we reviewed so far are noisier. Considering noise levels will turn out as a unique selling point for the Gaming Z, MSI should have dialed down the fan settings a little bit more—temperatures are low enough to allow it.

Manual overclocking was slightly held back by the card's memory chips. While GPU OC potential was good and in the expected range, memory ended up a bit lower, which is because MSI uses Micron memory chips. The NVIDIA Founders Edition and Zotac AMP both use Samsung memory, which is able to reach higher clocks. This shouldn't be a dealbreaker though, as the differences are in the single digit percentage range when real-life performance is considered, which makes it relevant to hardcore overclockers only.

A unique feature of NVIDIA's GeForce RTX Series is support for ray tracing and DLSS. RTX Technology adds real-time ray-tracing capability in games that support it, while DLSS is a new form of AI-accelerated anti-aliasing that improves performance while still maintaining visual quality that's comparable to other anti-aliasing methods. The adoption rate for both technologies has been much slower than expected, but a lot of developers have pledged support, so these features might actually matter in the coming months. For a few years, AMD has offered support for VESA Adaptive Sync with their cards, while NVIDIA's G-SYNC monitors came with a substantial price increase—this has been addressed now and all NVIDIA cards support Adaptive Sync.

MSI told us that their card will retail between $380 and $390, which doesn't seem completely unreasonable to me, especially when you consider that this card actually does have improvements over the Founders Edition that make you want to buy it. The roughly $35 price increase (or 10%) will give you 4% in additional out-of-the-box performance, a larger, much better cooler, idle-fan-stop, and better gaming noise. On the other hand, the Founders Edition has the USB-C VirtualLink connector, amazing looks, and is cheaper. NVIDIA recently announced a game bundle with the RTX 2060 which lets you pick either Anthem or Battlefield V with a qualifying purchase of the RTX 2060, which will certainly help offset the cost of the card. Compared to AMD's Vega lineup, the MSI RTX 2060 is a definite winner. It is cheaper, more compact, runs faster, quieter, and uses less power—it also offers RTX and DLSS technology.
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