I initially went into this review with some preset expectations about the GTX 1060 3GB and its relative positioning within the current $150 to $250 GPU landscape. I know Iím beginning to sound like a broken record but this slim market segment holds a ton of possibilities, so much so that potential buyers can quickly become overwhelmed with options. Do they save a few bucks and go with a GTX 1050Ti or spend a bit more and grab something like the RX 470 or GTX 1060 3GB? For the most part the GTX 1060 3GB does indeed give a good accounting of itself but there are a few caveats which may cause you to look elsewhere.
NVIDIAís target audience for this card are people who want more performance than a GTX 1050 Ti can provide but donít necessarily want to fork out the extra $50 demanded by the GTX 1060 6GB. As a result it rests in an odd no-manís-land and acts as a true bridge product between two very different market segments. The problem with this is pretty straightforward: to achieve a lower price NVIDIA needed to cut something and in this case it was a single SM along with the GDDR5 memory allotment being marched over to the sacrificial altar. And right now the GTX 1060ís 3GB of memory may not be a massive hindrance to in-game framerates but it may provide a distinctive barrier in the not too distant future.
Throughout the benchmarking process one of my assumptions was that provided a game didnít require over 3GB of memory, this card would run relatively close to its 6GB sibling regardless of the cut-down core. That actually didnít happen quite as often as I expected even though our sampleís Boost frequencies mirrored the GTX 1060 6GB Founders Edition being used as a direct comparison. There were some noteworthy and very large discrepancies.
Only two games in this review (Doom and Gears of War) required more than 3GB at certain points during testing. In those two games NVIDIAís budget-friendly GTX 1060 got massacred and in one case was even outmatched by the GTX 1050 Ti. Throughout testing and even removing those outlier situations the less expensive card was consistently 10% to 15%behind and that's something which just canít be overlooked.
The framerate shortfall manifests itself to a greater extent in DX12 with Doom and Gears of War in particular being a standout examples of what the future may hold. As DX12 matures and developers begin bringing its bottleneck-mitigating features to bear, the GTX 1060 3GB could flourish but it could flounder as well. If you are looking for a bit more future-proofing and want a card that can easily jump from 1080P to 1440P, look towards the GTX 1060 6GB or RX 480. They both represent $50 of money well spent in this case.
One of the GTX 1060 3GB primary successes is the fact that, much like the GTX 1050 Ti, it competes by way of avoidance. It costs $20 more than the average price of AMDís RX 470 and completely justifies that premium more often that not. For gamers who intend to remain at 1080P for the time being, it costs much less than the GTX 1060 6GB or RX 480 8GB and thatís money which can be directed towards a better CPU, SSD or cooling setup.
Then thereís EVGA Superclocked version and while I donít typically recommend pre-overclocked cards due to their inherently terrible value, this one is different. For that minor $10 investment you get a bit more performance and a better heatsink design without sacrificing the compact form factor. If you are looking at a GTX 1060 3GB, this one is a no-brainer.
From an overall value standpoint Iím on the fence about the GTX 1060 3GB. On one hand, right now it provides an excellent combination of performance, efficiency and price to folks who want a timely upgrade for their old systems. Unfortunately the persistent question will always be how long that 3GB will remain enough to keep this particular cardís head above water.
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