NVIDIA GTX 1060 Founders Edition Review

👤by David Mitchelson Comments 📅19-07-16

Almost two weeks ago we began our testing on NVIDIAís GeForce GTX 1060 alongside a swath of older cards expecting little in the way of surprises. The release has been timed with a general overhaul of our benchmarking criteria, so itís a fresh look with the newest drivers from top to bottom. From this clean slate we discovered just how much of a step forward the GTX 1060 is for the mid-range, and some circumstances where even owners of the GTX 970 might be tempted to move to the newer GPU.

Firstly however letís address the claim that the GTX 1060 can approach the GTX 980 in performance - suffice it to say that we can certainly agree that this is the case. In the majority of our tests, both synthetic and in-game, the GTX 1060 is within single-digit percentages of the GTX 980 whilst also maintaining equally creditable frame rate minimums. For an NVIDIA x60-class product that's definitely significant and is the sort of leap in perf/price last seen with the transition from Fermi to Kepler (and 40nm to 28nm process nodes).

Then comes the first surprise Ė this near-parity with the GTX 980 extends even to high resolutions including 4K. We had anticipated that the narrower memory bus width and lower memory bandwidth would significantly impact the new Pascal card, but itís clear that the larger frame buffer size and improved delta color compression algorithm more than compensate for other assumed shortcomings.

Comparisons to the most popular card currently in the hands of gamers are equally glowing, both at mainstream and higher resolutions. Itís clear that the GTX 970 cannot keep up with the 1060 under any realistic scenario, and - even though it still posts solid synthetic benchmark numbers - actual frame rates are often eclipsed by 20 or even 30%. Even so, differentials are most pronounced at very high resolutions and texture quality settings where neither the GTX 1060 nor GTX 970 are ideal. So long as the GTX 970 holds up at 1080p 60fps in new titles the performance differential is unlikely to trigger an upgrade for most gamers.

Radeon RX 480 comparisons once again leave the GTX 1060 on top in most scenarios, which is what you would expect given the almost $100 disparity in MSRP for their reference designs. AMDís latest card does however benefit significantly from a more robust Vulkan implementation than both Pascal and Maxwell-based cards, offering baseline improvements from 1080p all the way to 4k. As more games with comprehensive Vulkan or DirectX 12 integration emerge, AMDís crop of cards will become more attractive unless NVIDIA are able to pull a rabbit out of the hat with their drivers.

Overclockers will be pleased to hear that achieving a 200MHz OC with the Founderís Edition card was a quick and painless process, and higher frequencies for more dedicated enthusiasts will be easily reachable. Expect to see partner cards with the most elaborate cooling break 2GHz on overclock.

As far as more mundane aspects of the GTX 1060 are concerned, weíre pleased to see that the Founderís Edition cooler is more than fit for purpose. There has been some criticism of NVIDIAís reference cooler on the GTX 1080 but the GTX 1060 doesnít suffer, and clearly benefits from the increase in heatsink size over that used with the GTX 960. The shroud itself is exceptionally well made and looks great when installed, which is exactly what you should expect when paying a £35 premium over the lowest price partner cards. Donít purchase one expecting to retrofit water cooling to it however; the means by which NVIDIA have relocated the 6-pin PCI-E power connector away from the PCB means that installing waterblocks will be very tricky indeed, even if one could be designed for the card.

All that aside, we must address the elephant in the room: SLI. By removing SLI support NVIDIA are able to create a more affordable and power-efficient card, but it does inherently reduce consumer choice and the ability to pick up a cheap performance boost at the end of the cardís life-cycle. Perhaps the card is too affordable and would eat into GTX 1070/1080 sales when bought as a pair, or similarly it could be too attractive a configuration for Virtual Reality, similarly cannibalising the sales of higher end cards. Only NVIDIA know for sure.

It is however also fair to say that SLI is an option very rarely utilised by users of their x60-class of cards, so the number affected is probably quite small. In fact GTX 1060 is still capable of DirectX 12 multi-GPU MDA Mode or LDA Explicit Mode, but these will require development time in order to be implemented in-game. Depending on how the DirectX 12 ecosystem evolves (as well as any new additions to NVIDIA product stack) the impact on end-users may well be negligible.

So, in summation, the GTX 1060 Founderís Edition offers startling performance on par with the GTX 980 for just £275 inc. V.A.T., and is the largest performance improvement for the mid-range since the transition from Fermi to Kepler. New technologies currently in development such as NVIDIA VRWorks and Simultaneous Multi-Projection will eventually give the card an additional leg up over the previous generation, but it may be 2017 before that comes to fruition. Consumers currently using a GTX 960 or lower card could easily justify an upgrade, whilst anyone eyeing a GTX 1070 may instead want to consider this card and a G-Sync Monitor.

If youíre not enamoured with the Founderís Edition itís well worth considering partner cards from the likes of MSI, Gainward and ASUS which are available from £239 inc. V.A.T. with their own cooling solution. Before overclocks, performance between these cards is generally at parity.

NVIDIAís GeForce GTX 1060 will be applauded as a card that offers new performance in the <$300 price bracket. If youíre in need of an upgrade for an aging system, or want to jump on Pascal for a new build, the GTX 1060 is the place to start. Powerful but not power-hungry, itís the new price/performance king. It easily qualifies for our Gold Award.

+ GTX 980 Performance
+ Less than a GTX 970 in price
+ Capable of new NVIDIA technologies including SMP
+ Excellent 1080p frame rates, scales well to 1440p
+ Only requires a single 6-pin PCI-E connector
+ Partner versions available from Day 1
+ Plenty of room to overclock

- No SLI

Click here for an explanation of our awards at Vortez.net.

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