MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gaming X 6 GB Review 136

MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gaming X 6 GB Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • According to MSI, their GTX 1060 Gaming X will retail at $289.
  • Extremely quiet
  • Overclocked out of the box
  • Fans turn off in idle
  • Low temperatures
  • Cheaper than Founders Edition
  • No efficiency loss vs. reference design
  • Power efficient
  • Backplate included
  • New NVIDIA technologies: Ansel, FastSync, HEVC Video, and VR
  • HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4
  • Small performance increase over reference
  • Board power limit set way too low
  • Memory not overclocked
  • No SLI support
  • DVI output no longer includes analog VGA signals
MSI's GeForce GTX 1060 Gaming X is a custom-design variant of NVIDIA's GTX 1060 that was released today. The card comes overclocked to a base clock of 1569 MHz out of the box (we made sure to flash to the retail BIOS as our card came with a BIOS that had the OC profile activated by default). On average, in games, the card runs at a clock speed of 1930 MHz, which is 89 MHz higher than the reference design, resulting in a 3% performance increase, which is less than what we are used to seeing from the reference-to-custom transition. The underlying reason for that is that the reference design does not suffer from thermal throttling, a first for NVIDIA in many years. It will be interesting to see where other custom designs will end up performance-wise. I do wish MSI had overclocked the memory, which would have provided an additional performance increase; the memory chips can certainly take it, which our manual overclocking section confirms.

We've seen excellent results from MSI's new TwinFrozr thermal solution in the past, and the MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X is no exception. Its cooling performance is actually even more impressive, benefiting from the low heat output of NVIDIA's new GPU. We saw temperatures of only 67°C during heavy gaming and pretty much perfect noise levels. It will be difficult to notice the two fans with even demanding games, which are spinning slowly, emitting only 28 dBA, which is quieter than any other card in this performance class we have ever tested. This also qualifies the card for a low-noise media PC with enough performance to enable full-details gaming at 1080p on your big screen. MSI has also included the idle-fan-off feature we love so much since it provides a perfect noise-free experience during desktop work, Internet browsing, and even light gaming.

Just like on the reference design, power efficiency is amazing, with huge improvements over the Maxwell architecture that is already highly efficient in the first place. MSI's card only uses a tiny bit more power than the reference design, which is offset by higher performance out of the box, resulting in pretty much the same energy efficiency as the reference design, which is not so common these days since custom designs usually trade some power efficiency for higher performance. MSI chose to replace the 6-pin power input of the reference design with an 8-pin, something that you will never make use of because the board's power limit is set to around 125 W only, so to me, the 8-pin is mostly for show to reassure potential buyers that this card will be fine for everything you throw at it, including overclocking. A higher board power limit could have helped increase out-of-the-box performance by allowing NVIDIA Boost to boost higher for longer because there is more power headroom to do so.

MSI has priced their GTX 1060 Gaming X at $289, which is $10 less than the NVIDIA Founders Edition, which makes it a no-brainer. The card is faster, cooler, and quieter - there is no reason to go with the FE unless you absolutely want its specific looks - the cooler is gorgeous and of ultra-high build quality. The Gaming X is still $40 more than NVIDIA's MSRP, a price that might be a fantasy, just like on GTX 1070 and 1080 cards. However, looking at MSI's previous pricing for the Gaming series, a $40 increase over reference is not too different from what we've seen in the past. Either way, MSI's card is awesome and should be on top of your GTX 1060 shopping list. Compared to the Radeon RX 480, everything is improved at the cost of only $60, which results in a price-performance ratio that is 10% worse, something I'd go for any day.
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