NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB Review 153

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB Review




NVIDIA today announced the GeForce GTX 1060, its third consumer graphics card based on the "Pascal" architecture, which we are reviewing today. We absolutely love the GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 this architecture debuted with, but those SKUs are pricier than expected, especially with custom-design cards using the costlier "Founders Edition" pricing instead of NVIDIA's MSRP for those SKUs as a baseline. This is a problem as NVIDIA had nothing new below the $380 mark.

AMD recently launched the Radeon RX 480 priced at $229. It offers performance at least on par with $350 SKUs from the previous generation, presenting an attractive option for people still gaming on 1080p or even 1440p with moderate details. This caused NVIDIA to accelerate the launch of its GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card from its rumored Fall 2016 launch.

NVIDIA is pricing the GeForce GTX 1060 at a surprising $249 price point, which is just $20 more than the Radeon RX 480 8 GB. Its Founders Edition reference-design SKU, which we are reviewing today, is priced at a $50 premium, at $299. We hope custom-design boards orbit at around the $249 MSRP and not the $299 GTX 1060 Founders Edition price, although we expect them to start somewhere between those two price points instead.

The GeForce GTX 1060 is based on the third ASIC derived from the "Pascal" architecture, the GP106. Built on the 16 nm FinFET process, this chip features 4.4 billion transistors and a die area of just 200 mm². It features exactly half as many shaders as the GP104, although its memory interface is just 33% narrower. The card draws power from a single 6-pin PCIe power connector and its TDP is rated at just 120W.

The GTX 1060 is endowed with 1,280 CUDA cores spread across ten streaming multiprocessors, 80 TMUs, 48 ROPs, and a 192-bit wide GDDR5 memory interface, holding 6 GB of memory. The core is clocked at 1506 MHz, with a GPU Boost frequency of 1709 MHz, and the memory runs at 8 Gbps, belting out 192 GB/s of memory bandwidth.

NVIDIA is claiming performance figures for the GeForce GTX 1060 that match the GeForce GTX 980 from the previous generation. This is interesting because the GTX 980 not only plays everything at 1080p, but is also very capable at 1440p. In a way, NVIDIA is bringing high-detail 1440p gaming to the masses.

GeForce GTX 1060 Market Segment Analysis
GTX 960
R9 380X
R9 390
GTX 970
RX 480
R9 390X
GTX 780 Ti
GTX 980
GTX 1060
Radeon R9
Radeon R9
Fury X
GTX 980 Ti
GTX Titan X
GTX 1070
Shader Units10242048256016642304281628802048128035844096281630721920
Graphics ProcessorGM206TongaHawaiiGM204EllesmereHawaiiGK110GM204GP106FijiFijiGM200GM200GP104
Memory Size2 GB4 GB8 GB4 GB4 GB / 8 GB8 GB3 GB4 GB6 GB4 GB4 GB6 GB12 GB8 GB
Memory Bus Width128 bit256 bit512 bit256 bit256 bit512 bit384 bit256 bit192 bit4096 bit4096 bit384 bit384 bit256 bit
Core Clock1127 MHz+970 MHz1000 MHz1051 MHz+1120 - 1266 MHz1050 MHz876 MHz+1126 MHz+1506 MHz+1000 MHz1050 MHz1000 MHz+1000 MHz+1506 MHz+
Memory Clock1753 MHz1425 MHz1500 MHz1750 MHz2000 MHz1500 MHz1750 MHz1750 MHz2002 MHz500 MHz500 MHz1750 MHz1750 MHz2002 MHz
Price$170$210$260$265$199 / $229$310$390$360$249 / $299$530$600$440$1150$379 / $449


The GeForce GTX 1060 succeeds the GeForce GTX 960 of the previous generation, and is hence based on a smaller ASIC, the GP106, which in turn succeeds the GM206 silicon the GTX 960 is based on. Leveraging the 16 nm FinFET process, the GP106 is tiny, with a die-area of just 200 mm². The transistor count is 4.4 billion, which is a significant increase from the 2.94 billion on the GM206.

With each successive architecture since "Fermi," NVIDIA has been enriching the streaming multiprocessor (SM) by adding more dedicated resources and reducing shared resources within the graphics processing cluster (GPC), which leads to big performance gains. The story continues with "Pascal." Like the GM206 before it, the GP106 features two GPCs, super-specialized subunits of the GPU that share the PCI-Express 3.0 x16 host interface and the 192-bit GDDR5 memory interface through six controllers.

Workload across the two GPCs is shared by the GigaThread Engine cushioned by an L2 cache. Each GPC holds five streaming multiprocessors (SMs), which is an increase from the four SMs each GPC held on the GM206. The GPC shares a raster engine between these five SMs. The "Pascal" streaming multiprocessor features a 4th generation PolyMorph Engine, a component for key render setup operations. With "Pascal," the PolyMorph Engine includes specialized hardware for the new Simultaneous MultiProjection feature. Each SM also holds a block of eight TMUs.

Each SM continues to feature 128 CUDA cores. The GP106 hence features a total of 1,280 CUDA cores. Other vital specifications include 80 TMUs and 48 ROPs. You'll notice that while the SIMD components are half that of the GP104, the GP106 features 75% of the GP104's raster operations machinery and memory interface. 6 GB is the standard memory amount, a three-fold increase from the GTX 960 (which launched with 2 GB as a standard memory amount as 4 GB variants were added by board partners much later).

The GeForce GTX 1060 features 8 Gbps GDDR5 memory. Across a 192-bit memory interface, you're looking at a memory bandwidth of 192 GB/s. NVIDIA has improved the delta color compression technology with the "Pascal" architecture, and in the best-case scenario, this should provide a memory bandwidth utilization uplift of 20 percent (effectively 230.4 GB/s).

The "Pascal" architecture supports Asynchronous Compute as standardized by Microsoft. It adds to that with its own variation of the concept with "Dynamic Load Balancing."

New Display Connectors

The "Pascal" architecture features DisplayPort 1.4 even though it's only certified for up to DisplayPort 1.2. You can enjoy all the features of DisplayPort 1.3 and 1.4 just fine, such as HDR metadata transport. The GPU also supports HDMI 2.0b, the latest HDMI standard with support for HDR video. In the entire course of its presentation, NVIDIA did not mention whether "Pascal" supports VESA AdaptiveSync, which AMD is co-branding as FreeSync. All you need for it to work is a GPU that supports HDMI 2.0a or DisplayPort 1.2a (which are both satisfied by NVIDIA supporting HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.4). All that's needed is support on the driver's side. The GeForce GTX 1060 features an HDMI 2.0b, a dual-link DVI-D, and three DisplayPort 1.4 connectors. The DVI connector lacks analog wiring, and, thus, the GTX 1060 lacks support for D-Sub monitors through dongles.

Fast Sync

With each new architecture over the past three generations, NVIDIA toyed with display sync. With "Kepler," it introduced Adaptive V-Sync, by the time "Maxwell" came along, you had G-SYNC, and with "Pascal," the company is introducing a new feature called Fast Sync. NVIDIA states Fast Sync to be a low-latency alternative to V-Sync that eliminates frame-tearing (normally caused because the GPU's output frame-rate is above the display's refresh-rate) while letting the GPU render unrestrained from V-Sync, which reduces input latency. This works by decoupling display pipelines and render output, which makes temporarily storing excessive frames that have been rendered in the frame buffer possible. The result is an experience with low input-lag (from V-Sync "off") and no frame-tearing (from V-Sync "on"). You will be able to enable Fast Sync for a 3D app by editing its profile in NVIDIA Control Panel; simply force Vertical Sync mode to "Fast."

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