Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition review

As the latest and most affordable model in Nvidia’s range of ‘Pascal’ graphics processors, the GeForce GTX 1060 is the most exciting new release for cost-conscious PC gamers. Here's our GTX 1060 Founders Edition review, but also read our: GTX 1060 vs 1070 vs 1080 comparison

See also: Best graphics cards to buy right now

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition review: Price

Nvidia’s Founders Edition boards generally cost significantly more than the third-party versions which become available soon after, and the story is no different here. At £275 direct from Nvidia, the Founders Edition probably isn’t the most sensible option, when there are factory overclocked models available for about £239 which will run faster. On the other hand, if your prime concern is to keep costs as low as possible, you may find a 4GB AMD RX480 would save you money and give you all the performance you need, especially on a 1080p display.

Read our XFX Radeon RX 480 8G review

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition review: Features and design

The card comes with all the performance, power consumption and feature benefits of Nvidia’s Pascal architecture albeit at a more modest performance level. However, the GTX 1060 is fast enough to run the latest games with decent quality settings at up to 2160x1440 pixels.

Externally, the card looks essentially like a slightly shorter version of the more expensive Pascal cards, and where the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 provide a window through which the fins of the heatsink are visible, the GTX 1060 is entirely enclosed in a black shroud. The Founders Edition board features a single fan which blows air over the card, to be ejected at the rear of the PC. Here, we find a trio of DisplayPort 1.4 connectors alongside single HDMI 2.0b and Dual-Link DVI ports.

Like the other Pascal boards, it’s a two-slot design and this model requires a single 6-pin PCI-Express power connector. Sadly, the GTX 1060 is missing the metal backplate found on the more expensive cards.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition review: Specifications

Although part of the Pascal line-up, the GTX 1060 isn’t simply a cut down version of a higher-end card in the way that the GTX 1070 is a leaner version of the GTX 1080, both being based on variants of the GP104 processor. The GTX 1060 is based on a newly designed mid-range processor, named GP106.

The new card runs with 1280 CUDA cores running at a base clock speed of 1,506MHz, but offers a boosted clock speed of 1,708MHz which is actually higher than a non-overclocked GTX 1070 will achieve. However, other aspects of the GTX 1060 architecture hold it back somewhat.

The new card features 6GB of GDDR5 RAM with a 192-bit memory interface width, delivering bandwidth of 192GB/sec. The GTX 1070, by comparison, offers 8GB of the same memory with a wider 256-bit interface and a bandwidth of 256GB/sec.

However, when compared to the previous generation of ‘Maxwell’ cards, such as the GTX 960, the GTX 1060 is a huge step forward in terms of both performance and features. There’s significantly more memory available: the GTX 960 was available only in 2GB and 4GB variants, and  that memory is also faster. It also offers more CUDA cores (up from 1024) and higher clock speeds (up from 1,127MHz base / 1,178MHz boost).

The Pascal architecture also offers significant performance gains over Maxwell for VR and multi screen applications, thanks to Simultaneous Multi-Projection which boosts the card’s ability to render a scene from different viewpoints simultaneously, as is required in 3D applications where a different point of view is rendered for each eye.

There is, however, one significant feature missing from the GTX 1060 which was present on the GTX 960. Nvidia has removed the SLI connectors from the new card, so it’s simply not physically possible to team them up into multi-GPU setups. DirectX 12 allows for some multi-GPU operation without official SLI support, but this technology isn’t currently pervasive or effective enough to make it worth shelling out cash on a second GTX 1060.

The GTX 1060 will obviously invite comparison with AMD’s Radeon RX480 card. Both have technology designed at delivering strong VR performance from mid-range graphics chips, while the AMD card is available for a little less than a GTX 1060 in its 8GB version and significantly less if you step down to the 4GB model.

In our tests, the GTX 1060 outperforms the 8GB RX480 in most tests up to 2560x1440 pixels, with the extra RAM of the AMD card helping it to close the gap a little at 4K, although neither card is really powerful enough to run consistently well at this resolution.

Where the RX480 has a small advantage is that, unlike the GTX 1060, it can support dual-card setups in crossfire mode. This represents a credible alternative performance-wise to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070. It also means that if your budget will currently only stretch so a single RX 480, you can add another one later with relative ease as funds become available.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition review: Performance

With consistently good performance at resolutions up to 2560x1440 pixels, the GTX 1060 is a great card for the majority of gamers who don’t have 4K displays or multi-monitor setups. You’ll be able to run at those resolutions with high or ultra quality settings enabled too while averaging 60fps or higher. For decent 4K gaming you’re going to have to spend significantly more and buy a GTX 1070 or even a GTX 1080.

The Pascal architecture helps with VR performance too: the GTX 1060 performs well in the Steam VR Readiness benchmark, achieving a “Very High” VR rating and a VR quality score of 8.3, which is significantly higher than the RX 480’s score of 6.7: (click to enlarge)

GTX 1060 Founders Edition review

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition review: Benchmark results

It’s worth noting though that the step up to a GTX 1070 would get you the maximum VR quality score of 11. So if VR is your bag, it may be worth considering spending an extra £100 on the more powerful card in anticipation of more demanding future games.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition: Specs

  • Core clock: 1506 MHz (1708 MHz boost)
  • Memory bandwidth: 192 GB/sec
  • Memory bus width: 192-bit
  • CUDA cores: 1280
  • APIs: DirectX 12, level 12_1
  • Vulkan
  • OpenGL 4.5
  • Multi-Projection: Yes
  • VR Ready: Yes
  • SLI Ready: No
  • Memory type and capacity GDDR5, 6GB
  • Active vapour chamber cooler
  • Power Connector: 1x 6-pin
  • Power Consumption: 120W
  • Recommended System PSU: 400W
  • PCIe 3.0
  • OS Support: Windows 7-10, Linux, FreeBSDx86
  • Ports: DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, Dual-link DVI
  • HDCP: 2.2
  • Simultaneous outputs: 3
  • Card width: 2 slots
  • Dimensions: 111mm x 249.5mm
  • Software: None
  • Accessories: None
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Core clock: 1506 MHz (1708 MHz boost)
  • Memory bandwidth: 192 GB/sec
  • Memory bus width: 192-bit
  • CUDA cores: 1280
  • APIs: DirectX 12, level 12_1
  • Vulkan
  • OpenGL 4.5
  • Multi-Projection: Yes
  • VR Ready: Yes
  • SLI Ready: No
  • Memory type and capacity GDDR5, 6GB
  • Active vapour chamber cooler
  • Power Connector: 1x 6-pin
  • Power Consumption: 120W
  • Recommended System PSU: 400W
  • PCIe 3.0
  • OS Support: Windows 7-10, Linux, FreeBSDx86
  • Ports: DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, Dual-link DVI
  • HDCP: 2.2
  • Simultaneous outputs: 3
  • Card width: 2 slots
  • Dimensions: 111mm x 249.5mm
  • Software: None
  • Accessories: None
  • Warranty: 3 years

OUR VERDICT

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition brings a new level of performance to mid-range gaming, with high frame rates at 2560x1440 resolution, strong VR peformance and low power consumption, but the Founders Edition is, as ever, not the best version of the card