Nvidia’s GTX 1060 to bring 980 performance to all…that can afford it

Nvidia GTX 1060

On July 19 Nvidia’s mainstream Pascal will burst onto the GPU scene, delivering GTX 980 gaming performance – but with more Founders Edition nonsense.

We’ve got all you need to know about the upcoming Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060

Nvidia have just officially unveiled the new GeForce GTX 1060, the first vaguely affordable Pascal-based graphics card, and are going right for the AMD RX 480’s jugular.

This is the first time we’ll be able to see the green and red team’s respective next generation graphics architectures going head-to-head at roughly the same price point. And if Nvidia’s performance claims can be trusted things aren’t looking good for the Radeon card.

The GeForce GTX 1060 has been given an MSRP of $249, putting it right up against the 8GB version of the AMD RX 480 at $239. And with the GTX 1060’s touted GTX 980-like performance that would put it way in front of the RX 480 for only a little more cash.

But how quickly we’ll actually see GTX 1060 cards coming out at the $249 level is unknown as Nvidia is, once again, pulling a ‘Founders Edition’ stunt with the reference card. The reference card, with its more-plasticky shroud and blower cooler, is being released at $299. It represents a potentially frustrating situation where third-party manufacturers could release the bulk of their GTX 1060 cards with new, improved heatsinks and factory-overclocked GPUs, which perform better than the ‘Founders Ed.’ and command the same price premium.

Nvidia GTX 1060

The fact a third-tier GPU is coming out at the $299 level anyway tells you all you need to know about the crazy price-hiking that’s been going on with graphics cards over the last couple years.

The GTX 1060 is also only third-tier right now. There are rumours the Pascal-based GTX Titan could be unleashed this summer at the Gamescom event in Germany, which would push the GTX 1060 down one more rung. And after that we’ll have the inevitable GTX 1080 Ti – so we could end up in the crazy situation of having a fifth-tier Pascal card with a $299 pricetag. Sigh.

In terms of the actual makeup of the GTX 1060 it’s rocking a brand new Pascal GPU – the GP106. That’s a 1,280 core, 16nm part, with a 192-bit memory bus and a TDP of just 120W. Compare that with the GTX 980 at 165W and you can see the efficiency gains the Pascal architecture at 16nm delivers. The reference model is being clocked at 1.7GHz, but Nvidia claim they’ve had the GTX 1060’s chip running at over 2GHz in the lab which would make this another great overclocker’s card.

There is though something weird going on with the memory configuration. Since the rumours started about the GTX 1060 we’ve heard there will be 6GB and 3GB versions of the card, but at launch we’re just getting a 6GB release with Nvidia not saying word one about a 3GB model.

Nvidia GTX 1060

We have now heard from third-party graphics card manufacturers, however, there will be 3GB versions coming later in the summer, potentially around August. But who really wants a 3GB card with the sort of price point even a slightly cut-down GTX 1060 would demand? That’s going to make things tough on the video memory side when you’re gaming at anything above 1080p.

I’m still holding out hope Nvidia will just brand those low-memory variants as GTX 1050, but preparing to be disappointed.

The other potential frustration is Nvidia’s nixxing of SLI for the GTX 1060. Nvidia claim it’s due to no-one actually wanting to SLI mainstream GPUs, preferring to create multi-GPU setups with high-end cards only. Far be it from me to suggest that a pair of GTX 1060 cards likely outperforming a single GTX 1080, for around $100 less, might have some bearing on Nvidia’s decision…

Nvidia GTX 1060

Whatever my concerns are about the future memory configs, SLI restrictions and over-the-top pricing, the fact remains the GTX 1060 is likely to be an impressive, mighty powerful graphics card and give AMD an almighty headache.

Our Founders Edition card is in the new PCGamesN test rig, being put through its paces at the moment, and we’ll have a full, in-depth review in the coming days.

Will it really beat a GTX 980? How badly does it bloody the RX 480’s nose? Can it still deliver in DirectX 12? All those questions, and more, will be answered very soon.