I don’t think I’d be alone in suggesting Nvidia’s Pascal-powered cards released so far have been a little out of the price bracket I feel comfortable paying out for. Where the GeForce GTX 970 launched with a powerful price to performance ratio, its successor the GTX 1070 was an altogether more expensive prospect at $400+. With AMD putting pressure on the mid-range market with the RX 480, Nvidia has decided to come out all guns blazing with the GeForce GTX 1060, a $300 graphics card with touted performance matching that of the GeForce GTX 980.

To start with, let’s talk about specs. Nvidia is keen to espouse the GTX 1060 Founders Edition as the successor to the GTX 960. It is in name, but not in price. The GTX 970 launched with the same MSRP of $299, so it’s targeting the exact same audience as its hugely successful Maxwell GPU toting powerhouse.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition Specifications

GPUGP106 Pascal
Graphics Processing Clusters2
Streaming Multiprocessors10
CUDA Cores (Single Precision)1280
TMUs80
ROPs48
Base Clock1506 MHz
Boost Clock1708 MHz
Memory Clock4006 MHz
Memory Data Rate8 Gbps
L2 Cache Size1536K
Video Memory6GB GDDR5
Memory Interface192-bit
Memory Bandwidth192 GB/s
Texture Rate (Bilinear)120.5 GigaTexels/s
Fabrication Process16nm
Transistor Count4.4 billion
Ouputs3 x Display Ports 1.4
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x Dual-Link DVI"
Form FactorDual Slot
Length9.8"
Die Size200mm2
Power ConnectorsSingle 6-pin
TDP120W
Recommended PSU400W
Thermal Threshold94C

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition is equipped with a GP106 Pascal GPU. This, as we’ve seen with both the 1070 and 1080, means impressive gains in both performance and optimisation over the previous generation. This is achieved through the 16nm FinFET fabrication process, allowing for higher clock speeds and reduced power draw. On that front it’s business as usual from the GTX 1060 Founders Edition, but don’t let that take away from the impressive performance on offer here. It consumes just 120W through a single 6-pin power connector, down from 165W on the GTX 980, meaning it runs cooler for longer.

The big gain over the previous gen Maxwell GPU-powered GTX 960 is without doubt the 6GB VRAM as standard. For too long now Nvidia’s graphics cards have been lagging behind when it comes to video memory - 2GB just doesn’t cut it in 2016. 6GB is solid future proofing, and provided you don’t intend to push beyond 1440p it’s difficult to see it running out in the immediate future.

With the GTX 1060 Nvidia is once more opting for a Founders Edition, reviewed here. Whereas the 1080 and 1070 were only available as Founders Editions for the first few weeks, the GTX 1060 is joined by many of Nvidia’s partner’s models.

So what sets the GTX 1060 Founders Edition apart and justifies the $300 / £279 price tag over the $249 / £239 competition? As we’ve seen before, the GTX 1060 comes with an admittedly impressive heat shroud. A single large fan is back uped by a pair of copper heat pipes and an aluminium heatsink. The combination of advanced cooling and Pascal’s efficiency allows for overclocking headroom of 18% and beyond. Nvidia hopes this enough to tempt into their version, but all of the partners have their own take on overclocking and thermal solutions.

No SLI support for the GTX 1060

One of the most publicised downsides with the GTX 1060 is the lack of SLI support in any capacity. Nvidia recommends a better single-GPU solution such as its own GeForce GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 graphics cards for those who want faster performance. On this front I’d have to agree with them. SLI support is still too patchy these days to make it a worthwhile investment, particularly down at the mid or low-end. That said, it’s always nice to be able to buy another, cheaper card further down the line and boost your performance, so it’s sad to not see it supported at least in some capacity. Clearly the effort involved in SLI compatability with driver updates is significant however.

GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition Gaming Performance and FPS Benchmarks

Now it's time for the really juicy stuff - how the GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition delivers in gaming scenarios.

GTA 5 GTX 1060 Founders Edition Frame Rate Benchmark Performance - Ultra Graphics 1080p

DOOM GTX 1060 Founders Edition Frame Rate Benchmark Performance - Ultra Graphics 1080p

 

Dirt Rally GTX 1060 Frame Rate Benchmark Performance - Ultra Graphics 1080p

GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition vs AMD Radeon RX 480 Head-to-Head

As you can see in the head to heads, the GeForce GTX 1060 holds a major advantage over the 8GB RX 480 from AMD. That's to be expected from a card roughly $70 more expensive, but it's there and it's certainly in Nvidia's favour.  

It’s also significantly faster than the GeForce GTX 970; somewhere in the region of 27% according to our benchmark tests. To that end this now becomes the better buy for those looking for a new card, and there’s even plenty of more affordable third-party options out there. For those who own a GTX 970 already though, and I’d hazard a guess that’s a sizable chunk of Nvidia’s audience, there probably isn’t enough in here to justify an upgrade. That said, it is possible to sell your 970 and raise a good chunk of the cash towards a GTX 1060, so this comes down to preference.

GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition 1440p Performance

The GTX 1060's placement puts it as a superior card to either the GTX 970 or RX 480, roughly in the same ballpark as 2014's GTX 980. For 1080p gaming this is as solid as you can get. The Founders Edition's 10-game average at 1080p on Ultra settings is bang on 60 FPS. For the pixel perfect 1080p experience, this right here is where the money lies. Those pushing for higher presets at 1440p however,  would probably do well to set their sights a little higher.

 1080p1440p
GTA 58551
The Witcher 35333
Hitman7869
DOOM9261
Total War: Warhammer (DX11)6652
Rise of the Tomb Raider5749
Dirt Rally7652
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate3829
Far Cry Primal5842
XCOM 24840

While not a horrendous drop off, you are going to have to begin to make some fairly large visual sacrifices at 1440p in order to guarantee a rock-steady 60 frames per second. This won't be a problem for most, but I imagine for some this could be a kicker when you're trying to throw $300 at a 1440p solution. That said, gameplay was mostly smooth and solid at this resolution, the GTX 1060 really coming into its own in the likes of Hitman and DOOM.

Is it worth buying an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition?

Without doubt Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060 is a fine card, although there are doubts raised in terms of value for money. The Founders Edition's more expensive pricing puts it on a pedestal, a pedestal which perhaps shows it up in comparison with its nearest competition. Cards from the likes of Gigabyte and PNY can be had for significantly cheaper but their performance could also be lower than the founders card. While we have yet to get our hands on these cards to test, the MSI 1060 model we also have holds a significant performance advantage over this Reference Founders Edition model. To that end there's no doubt that the GeForce GTX 1060 is a fantastic new mid-tier benchmark from Nvidia, much like the GeForce GTX 970 before it; just remember to shop around.

Other GTX 1060 Game Benchmark Articles

MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G Review

GTA V

Witcher 3

Total Warhammer

DOOM

Hitman

XCOM 2

Rise of The Tomb Raider

Far Cry Primal

Dirt Rally