The NVIDIA GTX 1060 3GB Review
Two weeks ago NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 series was put under the microscope but within our review, you may have noticed one card which was conspicuous by its absence: the GTX 1060 3GB. Its launch was amidst one of the busiest summers this site has ever seen and it completely passed me by. As a result, samples weren’t requested from the usual suspects. I quickly rectified that oversight prior to the 1050 launch but that wasn’t in time to give this key GPU its time in the spotlight. That situation changes today due to a titanic effort by EVGA who overnighted a GTX 1060 3GB Superclocked to me 48 hours before the GTX 1050 review was meant to go live.
The GTX 1060 3GB is an interesting addition to NVIDIA’s product stack, particularly now that GPUs based upon the GP107 core are available. Its initial purpose in life was to give the GeForce lineup a strong presence below the GTX 1060 6GB’s $249 price point. AMD tried to match this effort with the $199 RX 480 4GB, a card that is still in extremely short supply and can rarely be found for under $219. As a result the $199 GTX 1060 3GB sits in a very narrow opening between those two AMD cards and ends up competing against both of them.
Despite its 20% lower price, the GTX 1060 3GB boasts the exact same specifications of its 6GB-totting big brother, at least on the frequency side. There’s also a truncated core layout with 1152 CUDA cores and GDDR5 running at 8Gbps. The secondary allocations of ROPs, L2 cache and memory controllers remain identical as well. The only differentiation point and the reason behind its $50 lower cost is that 3GB memory layout along with a slightly cut down core which actually means it has less memory than the much less expensive GTX 1050 Ti.
Memory isn’t everything though, especially when you compare the 1060 3GB to that aforementioned GTX 1050 Ti. It may have less capacity but the GP106’s bus width and faster GDDR5 modules should give a serious advantage in literally every situation. Is that enough to sway less knowledgeable customers who think “bigger is better”? That’s impossible to determine but metrics such as this aren’t quite favorable to NVIDIA’s $200 competitor.
I already mentioned the RX 480 4GB –at least at its supposed $199 price- has been in short supply since launch but the same can’t be said of NVIDIA’s GTX 1060 3GB. There’s a vast selection of examples that range from $199 reference-spec’d cards (or slightly less with frequent rebates) to heavily overclocked cards that typically go for $219 or so.
EVGA’s GTX 1060 3GB Superclocked bridges the gap between basic stock clocked offerings and the high-flying FTW+. Priced at just $10 more than the reference model, it nonetheless boasts clock speeds that run up to 150MHz higher even though the memory still runs at 8Gbps.
The card itself is relatively simple and compact but that $10 premium you are paying for goes into more than just some additional speed. The SC has an upgraded cooler with copper heatpipes and a large aluminum fin array whereas the regular Gaming-series utilizes a more basic setup with a straightforward anodized heatsink without any additional heatpipes.
Past that one item, there really aren’t any differences since this card uses the same shroud, PCB’s compact 6 ¾” size, 3+1 PWM layout, and single 6-pin connector as the Gaming card. If you want further upgrades like a 6+1 PWM, a more expansive size and a higher end dual fan heatsink, it’ll be necessary to step up to a more expensive card.
The intent of this somewhat late review is to determine where the GTX 1060 3GB ultimately lies now that both NVIDIA and AMD have their cards positioned for the Christmas shopping season. Will its limited memory size cause a bottleneck in more demanding games? To give a boarder idea of how things sit, two cards will be used: the EVGA GTX 1060 3GB Superclocked and that same card flashed with a reference BIOS so it runs at stock speeds.
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