- Excellent FHD and 1440p performance
- Quiet running
- Incredibly low power consumption
- More expensive than rivals
- 4GB RX 480 is better value
- 1,280 CUDA cores
- 6GB GDDR5
- 150W TDP
- 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, 1x DVI
- Third-party cards from £239/$358
- Manufacturer: Nvidia
WHAT IS THE NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1060?
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 is the graphics card that PC builders on a budget have been waiting for. Unlike Nvidia’s top-end GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 cards, however, the GTX 1060 faces competition from AMD in the form of the Radeon RX 480.
With competition comes aggression, and the GTX 1060 is far closer to the RX 480 in terms of price than most were imagining. It’s more expensive and more powerful – but is it worth it? As it turns out, if you have the extra cash then yes it is.
The GPU is based on a new Nvidia chip, the GP106. The headline-grabbing GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 cards both used the GP104.
So as far as chip design is concerned, instead of taking the form of a “binned” GP104 – a chip that wasn’t good enough to be a 1080 or 1070 – the GTX 1060 is a completely different product.
However, there are things that remain. The GTX 1060 is powered by the same Pascal architecture as its more expensive siblings, and therefore benefits from the 16-nanometre manufacturing process that enables Nvidia to cram more transistors on a given piece of silicon – without increasing power consumption and heat to the same degree.
The GTX 1060 has 1,280 CUDA cores performing the bulk of the graphics legwork, which is more than the 1,024 found on the previous-generation GeForce GTX 960. Intriguingly, the GTX 1060 has a higher boost clock speed than its bigger brother, the GTX 1070, topping out at 1.7GHz.
With a different chip design and fewer CUDA cores, the clock speed won’t translate to better performance, but the GTX 1060 should be able to play games at Full HD and 1440p – and that’s before we get to overclocking.
Away from the graphics chip itself, the GTX 1060 has 6GB of GDDR5 memory. This is 2GB less than the AMD Radeon RX 480, but still more than enough for today’s modern games at Full HD and 1440p resolutions. The memory runs at 8Gbits/sec, which is standard these days for GDDR5 memory.
Nvidia quotes the card as consuming 120W of power – significantly less than the RX 480’s quoted 150W – so the GTX 1060 should fit nicely into builds where power consumption and heat are limiting factors, such as home-theatre PCs and games console replacements.
The GTX 1060 is Nvidia’s cheapest VR-ready graphics card, which could prove to be a big selling point for those who are considering buying a headset in the next year or so.
DESIGN AND CONNECTORS
I was sent in the Founders Edition of the GTX 1060, which is a more expensive, Nvidia-built version of the card. In all likelihood this won’t be the version you end up buying, since Nvidia’s partners will likely have their own cheaper, custom versions in short order.
Still, it’s a great-looking card with die-cast aluminium highlights and a black plastic shroud. It isn’t the metal-fest of the 1070 or 1080, but it looks exciting nonetheless.
It’s just 9.8 inches in length, with just under a third of the length a result of an extended plastic shroud that contains some of the cooling kit and the fan. Expect third-party manufacturers to produce extremely compact versions of the 1060, with cards suitable for ultra-small desktops and living-room PCs.
You get three DisplayPort connectors, an HDMI 2.0b port and a DVI port here. The DisplayPort 1.4a connectors are ready for HDR gaming, too.
PERFORMANCE AND BENCHMARK RESULTS
TrustedReviews has tested all of 2016’s graphics cards on the same system, which represents a fairly typical gaming rig in 2016. It consists of the following components:
- Motherboard: Asus Z170-Deluxe
- Processor: Intel Core i5-6600K (not overclocked)
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance 2666MHz, 16GB DDR4
- Cooler: Corsair H60 liquid cooler
- PSU: Corsair CX750M
- SSD: Samsung 850 EVO
- OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
The GTX 1060 is an extremely capable card at Full HD resolutions and delivered well above 60fps in all the gaming benchmarks. In this section, I’m going to focus on 1440p performance, since this is an area where the GTX 1060 and the AMD Radeon RX 480 will go toe-to-toe.
Where relevant, I’ll mention any surprises in the other benchmarks. TrustedReviews tests all games at Full HD and 4K for completeness.
Dirt Rally is our easiest benchmark and represents newer games that don’t have the graphics and physics challenges of triple-A titles.
At 1440p, the GTX 1060 was a full 12% faster than the RX 480, which is a big news for those looking for a speed bump in slightly less-challenging games. This result was also reflected in the Full HD benchmark, while the RX 480 closed the gap at 4K but remained 8% slower.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a relatively challenging benchmark with plenty of lighting and particle effects, as well as a few physics challenges thrown in.
At 1440p, the GTX 1060 did a fine job of keeping frame rates playable, managing an average of 47.6fps – a score that’s nearly 8% faster than the RX 480.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shadow of Mordor is one of the more difficult benchmark games we use, and we play it at its highest preset. The benchmark is short but packed with challenging lighting and particle effects, so provides a decent challenge for our benchmark GPUs.
It was here that the RX 480 started to close the gap, sitting just 6.5% slower than the GTX 1060 at 1440p.
The latest instalment of the assassination franchise is a tough ask for GPUs, with lots of NPCs milling around and challenging lighting effects, too. It’s geared towards PCs with AMD GPUs, but it was quite surprising to see the RX 480 pull ahead by a full 9% in the 1440p benchmark; clearly AMD’s optimisation is paying off here. Still, Hitman is an outlier in the general scheme of things.
Grand Theft Auto V
GTA V is probably our most challenging benchmark, with numerous textures, objects and NPCs to render alongside plenty of explosions, lighting and weather effects. For the GTX 1060 and RX 480, I ran the game at a combination of High and Very High settings with 4x MSAA.
If Hitman was an outlier in AMD’s favour then GTA V is quite the opposite. It achieved an excellent average 1440p frame rate of 59.2fps – a significant 29% faster than the RX 480’s 45.9fps. Both results are more than playable, but the GTX 1060 is definitely the best bet if your main game is GTA V.
3DMark: Fire Strike Ultra
Fire Strike Ultra is far too difficult a benchmark to be considered representative of any particular game, but its ability to completely overwhelm a GPU means that the scores it spits out are generally representative of overall grunt.
The GTX 1060’s score of 2,919 was nearly 11% faster than the RX 480’s 2,638, more or less confirming what you see in the gaming benchmarks.
While Nvidia claims that the GTX 1060 would near-enough match the previous-generation GTX 980, this doesn’t appear to be the case in all but one of our benchmarked games.
The 1060 isn’t far off, but if you have a GTX 980 then you have no reason to upgrade. Plus, if you see a second-hand GTX 980 kicking around online, it’s worth a punt.
Also, a note on power consumpion. Peak power draw from our entire test system during the Hitman benchmark was just 207W, which is a truly awe-inspiringly low power draw. This compares to 249W for the RX 480; Nvidia has absolutely nailed the efficiency of the 1060. It’s also quiet: only under extreme overclocking did it kick up a fuss, but inside a case it definitely won’t be the noisiest thing in there.
There’s plenty of headroom for overclocking the GTX 1060 Founders Edition. The cooler may be fairly basic from the outside, but the fan is able to draw in more than enough cool air to allow for a very stable 220MHz overclock, providing a performance boost of around 7% in most games.
Although it’s unlikely that the majority of people will be buying the Founders Edition card, its ability to overclock is important for third-party manufacturers that will be using their own cooler designs and higher-base clock speeds. My testing reveals that third-party cards have the opportunity to be even faster, although how much you’ll have to spend on a pre-overclocked card remains to be seen.
Inno3D GTX 1060 Gaming OC X2
The GTX 1060 is a capable VR card, scoring 8.8 in Valve’s rather opaque SteamVR benchmark. In my own testing with Project CARS, which is one of the tougher VR games around, I was able to set the graphics to High and achieve a smooth frame rate with a full grid of cars at a rainy Donington Park. Of course, unlike the GTX 1080, it isn’t able to handle the highest possible settings, but for the money it’s capable enough.
Still, if you’re seriously considering buying a VR headset in the next couple of years, it would be prudent to opt for a higher-end graphics card such as the GTX 1070, just to secure decent performance for future VR titles that might be more graphically challenging.
SHOULD I BUY THE NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1060?
The GTX 1060 is undeniably a great graphics card, offering plenty of potential for overclocking while also being a capable performer in VR. If you’re looking to spend over £220/$330 on a graphics card then it’s a good choice – but it isn’t a complete no-brainer. The AMD Radeon RX 480 has 2GB more memory than the GTX 1060 for a little less cash, although its overall performance is slightly slower.
For raw power, the GTX 1060 is unmatched at this price. However, it’s actually the 4GB AMD Radeon RX 480 that poses a problem here. Benchmarks point towards the £180/$270 4GB model of the card performing just a couple of percentage points slower than the 8GB model, while also costing £50/$75 less than the GTX 1060.
If you’re happy to spend upwards of £240/$360 on a graphics card, the GTX 1060 is a great choice, but with uncertainty over how much pre-overclocked graphics card from third parties will actually cost, it’s hard to make a definitive recommendation.
A great graphics card for 1440p and VR, but it isn’t the ultimate in value-for-money.