ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1060 Mini 3 GB Review 18

ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1060 Mini 3 GB Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • The Zotac GTX 1060 Mini 3 GB is currently available for $195.
  • Outstanding performance per dollar
  • Good overclocking potential
  • Compact
  • Modest power supply requirements
  • HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4
  • Fans don't stop in idle
  • Fans in gaming noisier than most other GTX 1060s
  • High temperatures while gaming
  • No SLI support
  • DVI output no longer includes analog VGA signals
Zotac's GTX 1060 Mini 3 GB is one of the cheapest GTX 1060 cards on the market, which will surely make it interesting to buyers on a budget. To achieve that price point, Zotac had to scrap a lot of extra features that drive up cost, i.e., you won't a backplate, RGB lighting, or similar features. The card which is running at NVIDIA reference clocks reaches performance that is slightly faster than the GTX 970, 14% faster than the RX 470 4 GB, and 5% slower than the RX 480 8 GB. The 6 GB GTX 1060 is 10% faster, not because it has more memory, but because it has 11% more shaders in the GPU (1,152 vs 1,280). Out of all our tested games at 1080p, 3 GB vs 6 GB on the GTX 1060 makes a noteworthy difference only in Tomb Raider; every other game roughly shows the 10% difference you'd expect due to the reduced shader count. In 4K, three more titles join that list: Battlefield 1, Deus Ex, and Hitman, and that's at ultra settings in 4K - GTX 1080 territory. A GTX 1060, no matter how much memory it has, will never deliver playable framerates in such a scenario.

Zotac's cooler is about the simplest thermal solution you can imagine. It's just a big chunk of metal with a fan strapped to it. Even with the super-efficient Pascal architecture, the heatsink seems a little bit weak to me. It reaches temperatures of around 80°C, just shy of NVIDIA's 82°C temperature limit beyond which the card will start throttling to keep temperatures in check. At this point, the fans are working noticeably hard, reaching well-audible 37 dBA, which makes it noisier than every other GTX 1060 we have tested, though those other cards are also more expensive. However, if coming from an older card, these noise levels might be something you're used to already. I still wish Zotac had spent another dollar or two on the cooler. Something that's sadly missed is the idle-fan-stop feature, which has become standard on nearly every new card. When other boards are idle, for example during desktop work or video playback, their fans will stop for the perfect noise-free experience. Given the compact dimensions of the Zotac Mini, it would have been a prime candidate for a low-noise media PC that can still handle 1080p gaming.

Overclocking worked very well on our sample, topping out at GPU clocks that are similar to what we've seen on other much more expensive GTX 1060 cards. This confirms that for the Pascal architecture, most GPUs reach similar overclocks, no matter if used on a premium OC SKU or the cheapest reference design. Overall, we were able to achieve a 16% performance increase from manual overclocking!

Power efficiency is amazing, like on all other GeForce Pascal products. With only 115 W in gaming, the card is a great deal more power efficient than both the RX 470 and RX 480, which definitely sip more power. Zotac's choice to not use an 8-pin power connector seems to have no effect on performance or overclocking.

Price-wise, the Zotac GTX 1060 Mini 3 GB is a huge winner. It leads our performance-per-dollar charts - no other card is more price efficient. With $195, it even comes slightly cheaper than the NVIDIA MSRP of $200, which is rare these days. Compared to the RX 470 4 GB, the GTX 1060 looks like a clear winner to me; the RX 480 4 GB could be an alternative though, and the GTX 1060 6 GB or RX 480 8 GB are too expensive. So GTX 1060 3 GB or RX 480 4 GB is what I'd buy when money is tight and I'd want to upgrade now.
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