Pascal For The Everyman - NVIDIA Officially Reveal The GTX 1060

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅07.07.2016 14:03:55

Launched just six weeks ago, the NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1080 has taken the world by storm thanks to absurd performance levels and excellent power efficiency. Demand has been high not just because of the speed at which it can push pixels, but also due to brand new features such as Simultaneous Multi-Project and Ansel that could be a game-changer for home Virtual Reality. Tempting though they may, both the GTX 1080 (and its sibling the GTX 1070) are beyond most mainstream gamers; now however NVIDIA are revealing a Pascal model that is substantially more affordable: enter, the GeForce GTX 1060.

Available in both Founder's Edition and partner designs on July 19th, the GTX 1060 enters the market from just $249 in the US; that in itself will be the first surprise to many who may have been expecting a price point closer to the $350 mark. The critical factor however is the expected performance level of the card - does it introduce higher performance at a lower price point than before? Well, NVIDIA certainly seem to think so.

The Technical Details

GeForce GTX 1060 is the debut outing for a new compact Pascal GPU core, the GP106. Designed to provide a perfect blend of performance and power efficiency for mainstream systems, it's likely to form the basis not only of the gaming cards with broad appeal, but also multiple gaming laptops in the not too distant future.

Each GTX 1060 boasts 1260 CUDA Cores Boosting to 1.7GHz, an impressive figure that still doesn't quite match the absurd boost clock speeds of the GTX 1080. A fast GPU is wedded to 6GB GDDR5 VRAM over a 192-bit memory bus, and the memory has been clocked at 8Gbps (which puts total available bandwidth at 192GB/s, roughly on par with the GTX 970). Hopefully the greater quantity of memory will make up for the slightly lower bandwidth in memory-intensive scenarios compared with the GTX 980.

NVIDIA have begun listing Boost rather than Base clocks as standard, but the time spent at that boosted value will largely depend on the quality of the GPU cooler. NVIDIA are releasing a Founder's Edition with the gorgeous die-cast faceted aluminium cooler design, but partners will have their own implementations available immediately too. Expect to see ASUS DirectCU II, MSI Twin Frozr, EVGA ACX and GIGABYTE Windforce models as soon as the card launches, in many instances very aggressively priced.

Unsurprisingly the GTX 1060 is especially frugal with power, requiring just one 6-pin connector and sitting in a 120W TDP envelope. As a result users currently enjoying mainstream cards (such as the GTX 660 or 960) will find the GTX 1060 to be a simple drop-in replacement that requires no additional upgrades to other components. Partner models may well ship with a single 8-pin power connector instead, allowing greater overclocking overhead.

The Founder's Edition measures 248mm in length (a substantial proportion of which is taken up by the cooler alone), 98mm in height, and is 35mm thick (standard dual-slot). The actual PCB measures just 170mm, and indicates that very compact ITX models could be rolled out early with little modification to the underlying design.

NVIDIA have moved the 6-pin PCI power socket up to the end of the cooler rather than the end of the card PCB, making cable routing more natural compared to having it in the middle of the card. This could prove to be a problem for those replacing stock cooling with their own solution.

Move Over GTX 980, You're Past Your Prime

Launched just two years ago at a little over 400, the GTX 980 was a second-generation Maxwell design that it's fair to say was a paradigm shift in performance/watt. No surprise therefore that NVIDIA are comparing their new design to this popular veteran model, a card which the GTX 1060 should match according to their own marketing.

Within NVIDIA's product stack the GTX 1060 replaces both the 980 and 970, the latter of which has been an immensely popular model. Moving to a GTX 1060 from one of these cards may well prove to be only a minor change in performance (except in VR, where architecture-specific features will give the 1060 a substantial advantage), and so early adopters may well come from the legions with a GTX x60 card from earlier generations.

If performance claims bear up to reality, NVIDIA are making much larger step forward in the mainstream than the transition from Kepler to Maxwell. All will be revealed on July 19th, when the card launches.

Pascal-Specific Features

Given the new card is based on NVIDIA's Pascal architecture it's no surprise that new features will be a key selling point:

Simultaneous Multi-Projection - Now with over 30 games in development and in the process of being integrated into both Unreal Engine and Unity, SMP offers major performance benefits when running Virtual Reality on a single GPU. By processing two or more viewports simultaneously the GPU is capable of more consistent and higher frame rates, both of which are critical to immersion within VR.

NVIDIA VRWorks - VRWorks offers developers an every-growing set of tools for creating more reality-based environments in VR. It includes ray-traced audio, PhysX Collision and advanced PhysX, the benefits of which can be seen within the EverestVR and VR Funhouse demo.

Ansel - Described as 'Instagram for your games', Ansel allows the construction of high-resolution in-engine screenshots all the way up to stereoscopic 360-degree. Ansel also builds in optional filters, EXR, and a free-roaming camera.

Ansel for Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and the new VR Funhouse demo will also be released alongside the GTX 1060 later this month, whilst Ansel for Mirror's Edge Catalyst will follow in the not too distant future.

Farewell to Mainstream SLI

One shock for enthusiasts with a mainstream budget will be the lack of an SLI connector. The feature was dropped from many entry-level cards in NVIDIA's range with the first iteration of Maxwell in the GTX 750-series, and that is now repeated in the GTX 1060.

For their part NVIDIA are quick to mention that multi-GPU configurations are far more common at the higher end of the price spectrum, most recently the GTX 970 and above. In principle it makes solid sense; game support for multiple GPUs is often patchy at best, and so multi-GPU should only really be used by those in need of performance over and above the flagship single-GPU card in the range. This shift does however shut off an affordable upgrade avenue for GTX 1060-users late in the product cycle, preventing them from leapfrogging next-generation card performance at lower cost.

It's unclear whether lacking SLI will impact support for DirectX12 multi-GPU functionality. In the past few weeks Microsoft have been up-front in encouraging more developers to take advantage of this feature, so it seems highly unlikely that NVIDIA intend to intentionally sabotage it at a hardware level.

Launch Details

NVIDIA's GTX 1060 will formally launch on July 19th, coinciding with the release of reviews and benchmarks. Both the limited edition Founder's Edition and partner cards will be available on this date, but in a twist the Founder's Edition will only be available from NVIDIA's online store the UK and EU.

Pricing is certainly aggressive, and will put the card up against AMD's brand new Radeon RX 480 8GB. Starting at $249 in the US for base model partner cards, the Founder's Edition will be priced at $299; expect to see a huge range models with basic through to elaborate cooling and overclocking as the range matures.

Regional pricing should come through closer to the release date, a symptom of the current volatility of Sterling and the Euro.

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