GTX 1060 Review: Awesome 4K Nvidia GeForce GPU
After first releasing their superbly efficient and stunningly powerful GTX 1080 4K gaming GPU and the robust GTX 1070 for more serious 1440p gamers, Nvidia has now rounded things off with the much more affordable GeForce GTX 1060, designed with moderate 1440p gameplay and high speed 1080p gamers firmly in mind. This GPU lacks many of the more serious core specs of its two bigger GTX cousins but it still delivers plenty of extremely fine performance and manages to do so with very impressive levels of economical power consumption, noise control and low heat generation.
In basic terms, we’d consider the new GTX 1060 to be the single best budget 1080p/1440p gaming GPU released so far in 2016 and for its very affordable price, it delivers roghly 10 to 15% superior performance to Nvidia’s own GTX 980 which it effectively secedes and also to AMD’s also highly new and very efficient AMD Radeon RX 480, which is its roughly analogous counterpart from the competition. This new Nvidia card is not only a beast of a performer at 1080p gaming in particular, it’s also extremely efficient in its build and comes ready for more advanced gaming features like VR-readiness. If you’ve got a 1080p monitor or even a 4K or 1440p display and want killer performance without needing competition-level frame rates, the GTX 1060 is definitely the GPU to buy.
We’d also like to note that Nvidia has in fact released two versions of the GTX 1060, the first of which is the 6GB model with more shader cores which we are reviewing here and a more budget-oriented 3GB model that performs about 10 to 15% below the 6GB model. Again, this review covers the 6GB version.
The GTX 1060 is lean, fairly means and definitely offers superior value per dollar spent. AMD first released its competitor GPU the RX 480 which costs even less than the 1060 but the Nvidia version outperforms it in our view and as an added benefit, runs at a more efficient level of power consumption. This means that between the two, the GTX 1060 is the superior option even if it does cost about 10% more.
And what is it that makes the 1060 such a superb option? Well a complex combination of factors blends together in this particular graphics card to deliver an excellent piece of performance architecture which we can’t help but like. This card runs quietly, it runs at remarkably cool temperatures and while its doing both of these things it also manages to eat up a remarkably modest amount of wattage, especially when compared to its much heftier GTX 1080 and 1070 cousins at the higher end of the UHD graphics processing spectrum.
Despite these cool and modest running conditions, the GTX 1060 manages to deliver some downright superb performance specs for a certain large segment of the gamer market. This consists of people who want killer 1080p performance, great 1440p performance and at least some experimental capacity for 4k UHD gaming without the need for competition level frame-rate specs in any of these resolutions. This is what the GTX 1060 delivers absolutely best and it does so in a wonderfully balanced way which gives a user a very robust gameplay caliber with high capacity for overclocking easily at a very reasonable price.
The GTX 1060 is based on Nvidia’s GP106 GPU technology and with it come many of the same features that we’ve already seen in the GP104 of the flagship GTX model 1080 4K graphics card only in this case these features have been scaled down to a more mainstream level with wider consumer gamer appeal. That said, the seemingly weak 120W GTX 1060 delivers performance that’s actually superior to the rendering capacity of the 2 year old GTX 980 which still costs well over $400 and also superior to the closest AMD rival in the form of the RX 480.
In the GTX 1080, Nvidia gave buyers of the card four GPU clusters which totaled up to a whopping 2560 CUDA cores and 160 texture units. Then, with the scaled down but still powerful GTX 1070, we got hardcore 1440p gaming capacity thanks in part to 1920 cores and 120 texture units. These were impressive specs indeed and they definitely outdo those of the 1060 GPU but with a steep price tradeoff. Thus, in the case of the GTX 1060, you get yet another similarly sized downscaling jump in which Nvidia gave this GP106 card 1280 CUDA cores and 80 texture units. At first glance, this might make the card seem inferior to its older cousin the GTX 980, which offered 20148 CUDA cores but due to innovations through both the 1060’s Pascal architecture and its GP106 design, this newer graphics card easily surpasses the 980 almost entirely across the board at core PC gaming performance. Additionally, the GTX 1060 delivers a base frequency of 1506MHz and a boost clock rating of 1708MHz.
On the back end of this new processor, things are also trimmed down, with six 32-bit memory controllers delivering a 192-bit data path and each controller offering 8 ROPs and 256KB of L2 memory. This amounts to 48 ROPs and 1.5MB of cache in the GTX 1060. With this, Nvidia has given the 1060 6GB of GDDR5 memory with a capacity of 8 GT/s which amounts to 192GB/s of maximum throughput. Again, this is a lower final figure than the 225GB/s of the GTX 980 but due to the more efficient lossless memory extraction savings that Pascal architecture offers for more usable bandwidth, the GTX 1060 performs better than its aging cousin when it comes to the meaty details of gaming performance. This card also offers up a total of just around 4.4 TFLOPS/s of single precision floating point performance.
What Pascal also give to the GTX 1060 --which heavily contributes to its superb power performance and low total daily wattage-- is a TSMC 16mm FinFET+ manufacturing process that allows this GPU to contain over 4.4 billion transistors inside a compact 200mm2 space.
Then of course there are the connectivity specs of the GTX 1060. Like its GTX 1080 and 1070 cousins, the 1060 comes with some very seriously advanced connectivity ports which go beyond even the mainstream of current monitor/ TV specs for cutting-edge DP and HDMI ports. As a result, you get your hands on three DisplayPort 1.3/1.3 connectors, one HDMI 2.0b connector and a single DVI port. The DP and HDMI ports in particular are extremely advanced versions, with the HDMI 2.0b port allowing for HDR video transmission, 18Gbps of bandwidth for 4k at 60Hz and 32 audio channel capacity for hooking up one seriously heavy duty immersive sound system.
The DisplayPort 1.4 connections of the GTX 1060 furthermore allow for 8.1 Gbps of bandwidth per lane and offer superb color support through their Display Stream Compression technology. They can also drive 8K resolution at 60Hz, 4K resolution at a very speedy 120Hz and also support deep color 10-bit HDR 4K displays as an advanced bonus for next generation ultra HD monitors.
4.7 - 131 Reviews
Nvidia has done a pretty remarkable job of creating a very well rounded GPU in the GeForce GTX 1060 and we honestly have little to offer in the way of criticism for this graphics card. Furthermore, while it’s certainly no serious 4K UHD gaming performer or even a truly hardcore 1440p GPU, Nvidia doesn’t try to present it as any of these things anyhow, so criticizing the 106 on these grounds is a bit unfair. More than anything, as far as its single-unit performance metrics are concerned, our single biggest complaint would simply be that it doesn’t quite reach into the higher end of the 1080p high frame-rate range. You’ll get 100+fps performance for sure but taking things to more than 120fps at 1080p resolution is more the province of the GTX 1070.
Beyond these things, our one single major complaint about the GTX 1060 is the fact that Nvidia has decided to cut off SLI support for these cards. A quick glance at the top edge of the GTX 1060’s body will show anyone who knows what to look for that the card doesn’t even have an SLI connector and Nvidia’s response to this is that gamers who want more performance from their newer GPUs should simply upgrade to the GTX 1070 or possibly the GTX 1080. SLI support does exist in the GTX 1070 and 1080 cards (though even with them activating it is tricky and involves downloading special access codes from the Nvidia website) but in the GTX 1060, the feature is simply disabled completely. This is unfortunate considering the lower price of this card.
Finally, while this may not be an issue any longer at the time of publication for this review or whenever any given visitor to 4K.com is reading it, at the time of its original release, the Nvidia GTX 1060 was trapped in “Founders Edition” hell. This is a trick by which Nvidia first releases a special version of the card at a considerably higher price with the promise of improved functionality and design quality and all other licensed partner manufacturers then release their own versions of the card at even steeper prices, causing users who want the GTX 1060 to spend more than they later would have to if they wait a while and hope the card continues to be easily available when its price goes down with subsequent non-founders edition releases. In basic terms, Nvidia uses their “Founder’s Edition” to squeeze loyal early adapter customers for more money without offering much real value in return. That said, even the founders edition version of the GTX 1060 isn’t all that expensive relative to the other GTX models for 2016, but it is considerably pricier than the AMD RX 480 competitor GPU and this means less performance value per dollar spent on the 1060.
As we’d said above, if you’re looking for a lightning quick GPU that will deliver excellent non-competitive 1080p gaming performance and some very reasonably good 1440p gameplay capacity, then the GTX 1060 is your best possible choice in terms of gaming value per dollar spent. Nvidia has created a superb graphics card that runs coolly, quietly and consumes remarkably little overall power. For serious e-sports fans and users who want to experience more advanced features like VR gaming and HDR gameplay, the GTX 1060 is an affordable option which delivers at a high level of performance quality.
• CUDA Cores: 1280
• Texture Units: 80
• ROPs: 48
• Core Clock: 1506MHz
• Boost Clock: 1708MHz
• Memory Clock: 8 Gbps
• Memory bandwidth: 192GB/s
• VRAM: 6GB GDDR5
• TDP: 120W
• GPU: GP106
• Architecture: Pascal
• Transistor Count: 4.4 billion
• Manufacturing Process: TSMC 16nm FinFET
• Launch Price: $265/$299
Serious Power Efficiency
Despite the immense performance capacity of the GTX 1060 as described above, Nvidia has still packed a huge quantity of power efficiency into the card as well. This is a quality the GTX 1060 shares with its bigger GTX 1070 brother but with even better power use specs and the practical result of this translates into as much as three times the power efficiency of older Nvidia card like the Titan X and slightly less need for wattage than what is required to run the considerably weaker GTX 980 card (165 watts). Thus, the GTX 1060 is rated at a 120 watt TDP even under full stress testing. This amounts to some superb power consumption given the performance you can extract from this card and the 1060’s specs are especially impressive when compared to those of older AMD GPUs or Nvidia’s own older offerings. To give a practical example of just what we’re talking about, we need only look at the until recently flagship AMD Fury X, which delivers only about 20% more performance power than the 1060 but chows down on 276 watts of power.
Awesome New Technology
The fundamental core of why the GTX 1060 can manage all of the above power consumption and performance benchmarks so spectacularly lies in the fantastically advanced new GPU technology that powers the card. After years of 28nm manufacturing for chipsets for both Nvidia and AMD, at least Nvidia has now escaped into 16nm transistor design with the Pascal architecture of the GTX 1070 and 1080. On top of this, the GTX 1060 Pascal system also packs in performance enhancing 3D FinFET processor features and the already-mentioned new features like Async computing technology, HDR and HDR support as an added future-proofing bonus. These technologies mean a considerable generational leap in development that translates directly into the generally superior speed, performance, graphics processing power and power usage that we’re seeing with the GeForce GTX 1060.
4.7 - 131 Reviews
Finally, we get down to some of the meaty details about how well the Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU actually works on its key metrics for gaming at different resolutions and how it manages to handle heat, noise, power consumption and 4K gameplay in particular. We’re also comparing the card here to some of its main rivals on the current market.
General performance during gameplay
Quite simply, the GTX 1060 deliver some truly stunning full HD PC gaming performance and is even capable of managing a certain degree of high frame-rate rendering for certain types of games at slightly lower detail settings. Beyond this, the 1060 is also a very robust if not stunning 1440p gaming performer that delivers what are for the most part smooth frame rates at this intermediate resolution. Where the GTX 1060 falls well short of its top-tier GTX 1080 cousin and even its more robust but also more 1440p oriented GTX 1070 cousin is in how well it delivers performance at 4K UHD resolutions. Yes, the GTX 1060 can handle the 4K graphics to a moderate degree but its overall capacity for doing so is roughly comparable to that of the older GTX 980 card which it replaces in many ways. Make no mistake, the 1060 is generally a superior GPU to the GTX 980 but handles 4K graphics with only a small margin of superiority. Of course, all of this is what should be expected for a GPU that costs less than half as much as the GTX 1080 and to be honest, despite its lack of 4K performance chops, what the GTX 1060 does offer is more than worth a price of less than $300. After all, the GTX 980 cost twice when it came out as much despite being no better at higher resolutions than this card.
In testing of these following games at all of the three major gaming resolutions, we get an idea of what the GTX 1060 delivers when measured against the competition in terms of an average score. That is to say, the following frame rates, unless otherwise stated, show the average performance of the 1060 and key Nvidia or competitor GPUs as they operate when their peak performance and slowest performance are averaged out:
• 1080p performance
As a 1080p GPU the GTX 1060 is absolutely in its best element. If you’re looking for that extra edge that will bring your Full HD gameplay into highly competitive, high frame-rate territory you’d probably be better off going for the even more robust GTX 1070 but with the 1060, what you’ll get is still some very powerful, sometimes stunning performance that consistently reaches close to or just above 100fps in 1080p resolution even at high detail settings. In basic terms, 1080p gaming is the golden zone of gaming for which the GTX 1060 is superbly designed and priced.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (1080p)
Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB: 82 fps
GTX 1080: 132 fps
GTX Titan X Maxwell (old Titan X): 105 fps
GTX 980: 77 fps
AMD Radeon R9 Fury X: 75 fps
Hitman (2016) (1080p)
Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB: 67 fps
GTX 1080: 107 fps
GTX Titan X Maxwell (old Titan X): 78 fps
GTX 980: 62 fps
AMD Radeon R9 Fury X: 81 fps
Total War: WAR HAMMER (1080p)
Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB: 73 fps
GTX 1080: 96 fps
GTX Titan X Maxwell (old Titan X): 84 fps
GTX 980: 73 fps
AMD Radeon R9 Fury X: 90 fps
• 1440p performance
As a 1440p graphics card, the GTX 1070 handles at a very good if not outright stunning level of processing power. Gamers who want faster, more competitively serious 1440p gaming chops would probably be better off upgrading up to the GeForce GTX 1070 but for the majority of 1440p gamers who also want to save a bit of money while still getting plenty of power and design quality, the GTX 1060 is just about the perfect Nvidia GPU on today’s market, especially given its power efficiency. This card handles 1440p graphics decently under most conditions and if it bogs down on frame rate speed, it does so only infrequently and to a minor degree.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (1440p)
Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB: 55 fps
GTX 1080: 91 fps
GTX Titan X Maxwell (old Titan X): 73 fps
GTX 980: 57 fps
AMD Radeon R9 Fury X: 56 fps
Hitman (2016) (1440p)
Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB: 48 fps
GTX 1080: 82 fps
GTX Titan X Maxwell (old Titan X): 61 fps
GTX 980: 44 fps
AMD Radeon R9 Fury X: 68 fps
Total War: WAR HAMMER (1440p)
Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB: 52 fps
GTX 1080: 82 fps
GTX Titan X Maxwell (old Titan X): 66 fps
GTX 980: 49 fps
AMD Radeon R9 Fury X: 68 fps
• 4K UHD (2160p) performance
4K UHD gaming is definitely outside the scope of the GTX 1060’s comfortable smooth gaming paramaters. Yes, the card can handle some less graphics intensive games at lower detail settings in 4K UHD 2160p resolution while still maintaining playable frame rate speed (30fps+) but this is only sporadically possible with the 1060. More frequently, gamers who want to manage 2160p resolution with this card will find themselves bogged down at maximum average speeds of 20 to 27fps and that can definitely lead to some frustration. Instead, for serious 4K gaming, the GTX 1080 is the much better choice, or possibly the GTX 1070 in a bit of a pinch.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (2160p)
Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB: 27 fps
GTX 1080: 48 fps
GTX Titan X Maxwell (old Titan X): 105 fps
GTX 980: 28 fps
AMD Radeon R9 Fury X: 32 fps
Hitman (2016) (2160p)
Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB: 28.5 fps
GTX 1080: 48 fps
GTX Titan X Maxwell (old Titan X): 38 fps
GTX 980: 26 fps
AMD Radeon R9 Fury X: 37 fps
Total War: WAR HAMMER (2160p)
Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB: 26.5 fps
GTX 1080: 48.5 fps
GTX Titan X Maxwell (old Titan X): 34 fps
GTX 980: 27 fps
AMD Radeon R9 Fury X: 41 fps
Nidia has really made the GTX 1060 into one lean machine of power consumption, for a GPU that delivers more or less the same performance as older models like the GTX 980 or AMD’s Radeon R9 Fury, the 1060 outperforms them on power consumption by extremely wide margins, particularly when fully stressed under load conditions and maximal overclocking of 4.4 GHz on all of its cores.
Breaking power consumption down into its details for the GTX 1060, we can see that this GPU stays far below the 200 watt range and even well below the 150 watt range when running at full capacity. During heavy use, the 1060 consumes about 138 watts at an extreme maximum and even this is rare. More often, even during 2160p gaming, this card sticks to 123 watts and runs about 91 watts when used with 1080p games. For 1440p gaming, the 1060 hits between these two levels at 111 watts. On the other end of the spectrum, when idle or handling very simple processing needs like powering a Blu-ray disc on a PC monitor or running two UHD monitors under idle conditions, the GTX 1060 uses just 10 watts.
Heat and Noise generation
Again when it comes to heat generation, the Nvidia GTX 1060 is a superb performer that manages to run cooler than virtually all other high-end GPUs from both Nvidia and AMD and in particular run cooler than both of its 2016 GTX cousins, the 1070 and 1080. In terms of cooler running temperature. When overclocked and running at high levels of power consumption with the cooling system activated to full flow, the 1060 manages to stick to peak temperatures of between 70 and 75 degrees Celsius at an absolute max and more common full stress temperature hovers around 68 and 69 degrees Celsius. Among top-level 1440p and 4K gaming GPUs, only the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X outperforms the GTX 1060 under load conditions, with a load temperature of just 50 degrees.
When running under idle conditions, the GeForce GTX 1060 delivers much more average but highly satisfactory heat levels at 33 degrees pretty much evenly even during prolonged idle use.
As for its noise generation, the GTX 1060 is once again a very smooth performer, putting out only about 32 decibels of running noise when sitting idle or being used for very light tasks like running online videos, Blu-ray discs or handling a dual monitor setup. This is a low average idle noise level and compares closely to the noise outputs of the GTX 1080 and 1070 cards or AMD’s Radeon R9 Fury GPU, which is similar in its capabilities to the GTX 1060. On the other hand, when put to full load stress testing under conditions of heavy 4K UHD gaming for a couple dozen minutes or more, the GTX 1060 runs remarkably quietly and outputs decibel levels which are well below the average among high—end 1440p/4K-capable GPUs from both Nvidia and AMD. At 39 decibels of noise even under load conditions, the GTX 1060 is somewhat impressively quiet.
Also, for some idea about what these decibel levels mean, refer to the following:
• Jet takeoff (200 feet): 120 dBA (intolerable noise)
• Shout (5 feet): 100 dBA
• Heavy truck: (50 feet) 90 dBA (Very loud)
• Urban street: 80 dBA
• Normal conversation at 5 feet: 60 dBA
• Office, classroom: 50 dBA (Moderate)
• Living room: 40 dBA
• Bedroom at night: 30 dBA
• Rustling leaves: 10 dBA Barely audible
As we’d said earlier, the Nvidia GeForce GTX GPU for 2016 is by far the company’s cheapest model among the 2016 GTX units with a basic retail price of $269.99 and prices for more gaming oriented versions from MSI which go for $299.99. Nvidia has also developed a 3GB version of the GTX 1060 which costs considerably less but does offer notably weaker gaming performance.
4.7 - 131 Reviews
• Superb 1440p and 1080p GPU
• Excellent power efficiency
• Great temperature control
• Remarkably low noise
• Superb Pascal architecture performance
• GDDR5 memory is powerful
• Well priced
• SLI multiple cards requires complicated unlocking
• Not capable of 4K gaming at more than 30FPS