NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB Review 153

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • According to NVIDIA, GTX 1060 pricing will start at $249. The reviewed Founders Edition will retail at $299.
  • Faster than the GTX 980 and twice as fast as the GTX 960
  • Temperatures below 80°C - no throttling
  • Very high quality, full-metal cooler
  • Very power efficient
  • New NVIDIA technologies: Ansel, FastSync, HEVC Video, and VR
  • HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4
  • No SLI support
  • Fans don't stop in idle
  • No backplate
  • DVI output no longer includes analog VGA signals
NVIDIA releasing the GeForce GTX 1060 so early came as a surprise to most as everybody expected it to be released in fall, around October, which would have given NVIDIA time to milk the high-end while AMD's RX 480 captured the lower end of the market. Apparently, NVIDIA didn't like that, and today, just a bit more than a month after the release of the GTX 1070 and 1080, we have the 1060, which further completes NVIDIA's lineup toward the lower end, bringing Pascal's performance and efficiency improvements to the masses at a sub-$300 price point. It seems the GTX 1060 is everything AMD wanted the RX 480 to be.

The GTX 1060 delivers impressive performance that's twice as high as that of the GTX 960, its predecessor, which was released at a lower $200 price point, though. Compared to AMD's RX 480, the card is clearly faster when averaged out over our test suite at 1080p, with a performance increase of around 10%. This means the GTX 1060 nearly exactly matches GTX 980 performance, similar to the R9 Fury and just 8% shy of the R9 Fury X, AMD's current flagship. The GTX 980 Ti is 18% faster and the GTX 1070 beats the 1060 by 34% - overall very good positioning.

We've seen exceptional power consumption with Pascal on the GTX 1070 and 1080 - the GTX 1060 is no exception. While it is slightly less efficient than its bigger brothers, it is still miles ahead of AMD's latest and greatest. This superiority enabled NVIDIA to build a 120 W card that comes with the processing power of the GTX 980. It also enabled safe use of a single 6-pin power connector, which, combined with slot power, allows for up to 150 W power draw, giving it plenty headroom given the 120 W numbers we've been seeing in the review. I wouldn't be surprised if we see lots of custom GTX 1060 variants use a single 8-pin power-input configuration, though, which probably has no benefit other than to provide buyers some peace of mind after the AMD Radeon RX 480 PCIe overcurrent drama.

The low power consumption also translates into low heat output, which enabled NVIDIA to get away with a relatively simple thermal solution for the GTX 1060. The company picked a blower-style cooler, which uses a copper baseplate and classic fins to move the heat away from the GPU core - no heatpipes, no vapochamber; they're not needed at all. Even such a basic heatsink provides enough cooling capability to keep the card at 77°C, well below the 82°C cutoff beyond which Boost will reduce clocks to keep temperatures in check. As a result, the GTX 1060 is the first NVIDIA reference board in a long time that does not run into thermal throttling issues.
While idle fan noise is low, the card does not include the highly popular idle-fan-off feature. Also, during gaming, noise levels are decent, but not nearly as quiet as what you would expect for a 120 W card. I'm sure custom board designs will have huge improvements here, combining near-silence with faster-than GTX 980 performance.

Build quality of the NVIDIA GTX 1060 Founders Edition cooler is absolutely stunning. Everything is made from metal - except the fan blades; the metal is thick, which makes the card heavier, giving it a massive high-quality feel. Aesthetics are also excellent, with many little details in the surface's design, which results in an Android plastic phone vs metal iPhone experience. It would have been nice, though, of NVIDIA to also include a backplate.
The GTX 1060 does not support SLI, which helps NVIDIA protect the GTX 1070 and 1080 from the much more cost-efficient solution that a hypothetical GTX 1060 SLI setup would provide. However, given how bad multi-GPU support is in recent titles, I still wouldn't recommend GTX 1060 SLI unless you play nothing but those few games that scale well, and you would still have the spectre of multi-GPU support looming over upcoming titles. While I don't have high hopes for DirectX 12 multi-GPU, there is no reason it wouldn't work with a GTX 1060 as that feature does not require multi-GPU support from the GPU maker; it's all up to the game developers, which is part of why I'm not expecting much.

NVIDIA has given us an MSRP of $249 for the GTX 1060; we are again seeing a Founders Edition (the card in this review) that's priced higher than the base price, $299 in this case. Even at $299, pricing is quite decent, offering performance-per-dollar that is slightly better than the GTX 970, which flew off the shelves. It's also a better deal than the GTX 1070, although it is in a lower performance bracket that is in my opinion ideal for 1080p gamers. AMD's RX 480 is a better deal, though, but comes with worse overclocking/power/noise/heat. Psychologically, the $299 price point is a bit much because it is $100 higher than the $199 AMD promised for the RX 480. However, it still 70 bucks more than what you can actually buy AMD's product for. If the GTX 1060 were priced at $279, the $50 difference would certainly lure buyers into saving just a bit more money to be able to afford the GTX 1060. Soon, we will be seeing custom design cards for the GTX 1060 (some even today), and custom design RX 480s should be out real soon as well, which could shift the balance slightly, but overall, I'd say the GTX 1060 comes out a winner over the RX 480. All these considerations were assuming that GTX 1060 pricing will gravitate toward the Founders Edition price of $299 - just like it with GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 right now. Should there actually be GTX 1060 cards that retail for $249, any hopes of AMD will be dashed because the GTX 1060 will also beat it in performance-per-dollar, leaving AMD with no real wins with which to convince potential buyers.
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