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The NVIDIA GTX 1060 3GB Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,418
Location
Montreal
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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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,418
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup



Processor: Intel i7 5960X @ 4.3GHz
Memory: G.Skill Trident X 32GB @ 3000MHz 15-16-16-35-1T
Motherboard: ASUS X99 Deluxe
Cooling: NH-U14S
SSD: 2x Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Dell U2713HM (1440P) / Acer XB280HK (4K)
OS: Windows 10 Pro


Drivers:
AMD Radeon Software 16.10.2 Hotfix
NVIDIA 375.57 Beta

*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings


The Methodology of Frame Testing, Distilled


How do you benchmark an onscreen experience? That question has plagued graphics card evaluations for years. While framerates give an accurate measurement of raw performance , there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes which a basic frames per second measurement by FRAPS or a similar application just can’t show. A good example of this is how “stuttering” can occur but may not be picked up by typical min/max/average benchmarking.

Before we go on, a basic explanation of FRAPS’ frames per second benchmarking method is important. FRAPS determines FPS rates by simply logging and averaging out how many frames are rendered within a single second. The average framerate measurement is taken by dividing the total number of rendered frames by the length of the benchmark being run. For example, if a 60 second sequence is used and the GPU renders 4,000 frames over the course of that time, the average result will be 66.67FPS. The minimum and maximum values meanwhile are simply two data points representing single second intervals which took the longest and shortest amount of time to render. Combining these values together gives an accurate, albeit very narrow snapshot of graphics subsystem performance and it isn’t quite representative of what you’ll actually see on the screen.

FCAT on the other hand has the capability to log onscreen average framerates for each second of a benchmark sequence, resulting in the “FPS over time” graphs. It does this by simply logging the reported framerate result once per second. However, in real world applications, a single second is actually a long period of time, meaning the human eye can pick up on onscreen deviations much quicker than this method can actually report them. So what can actually happens within each second of time? A whole lot since each second of gameplay time can consist of dozens or even hundreds (if your graphics card is fast enough) of frames. This brings us to frame time testing and where the Frame Time Analysis Tool gets factored into this equation.

Frame times simply represent the length of time (in milliseconds) it takes the graphics card to render and display each individual frame. Measuring the interval between frames allows for a detailed millisecond by millisecond evaluation of frame times rather than averaging things out over a full second. The larger the amount of time, the longer each frame takes to render. This detailed reporting just isn’t possible with standard benchmark methods.

We are now using FCAT for ALL benchmark results in DX11.


DX12 Benchmarking


For DX12 many of these same metrics can be utilized through a simple program called PresentMon. Not only does this program have the capability to log frame times at various stages throughout the rendering pipeline but it also grants a slightly more detailed look into how certain API and external elements can slow down rendering times.

Since PresentMon throws out massive amounts of frametime data, we have decided to distill the information down into slightly more easy-to-understand graphs. Within them, we have taken several thousand datapoints (in some cases tens of thousands), converted the frametime milliseconds over the course of each benchmark run to frames per second and then graphed the results. This gives us a straightforward framerate over time graph. Meanwhile the typical bar graph averages out every data point as its presented.

One thing to note is that our DX12 PresentMon results cannot and should not be directly compared to the FCAT-based DX11 results. They should be taken as a separate entity and discussed as such.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,418
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 1080P: Battlefield 1 / Deus Ex – Mankind Divided

Battlefield 1


Battlefield 1 will likely become known as one of the most popular multiplayer games around but it also happens to be one of the best looking titles around. It also happens to be extremely well optimized with even the lowest end cards having the ability to run at high detail levels.

In this benchmark we use a runthough of The Runner level after the dreadnought barrage is complete and you need to storm the beach. This area includes all of the game’s hallmarks in one condensed area with fire, explosions, debris and numerous other elements layered over one another for some spectacular visual effects.





Deus Ex – Mankind Divided


Deus Ex titles have historically combined excellent storytelling elements with action-forward gameplay and Mankind Divided is no difference. This run-through uses the streets and a few sewers of the main hub city Prague along with a short action sequence involving gunplay and grenades.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,418
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 1080P: Doom / Fallout 4

Doom (OpenGL)


Not many people saw a new Doom as a possible Game of the Year contender but that’s exactly what it has become. Not only is it one of the most intense games currently around but it looks great and is highly optimized. In this run-through we use Mission 6: Into the Fire since it features relatively predictable enemy spawn points and a combination of open air and interior gameplay.




Fallout 4


The latest iteration of the Fallout franchise is a great looking game with all of its detailed turned to their highest levels but it also requires a huge amount of graphics horsepower to properly run. For this benchmark we complete a run-through from within a town, shoot up a vehicle to test performance when in combat and finally end atop a hill overlooking the town. Note that VSync has been forced off within the game's .ini file.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,418
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 1080P: Far Cry 4 / Grand Theft Auto V

Far Cry 4


This game Ubisoft’s Far Cry series takes up where the others left off by boasting some of the most impressive visuals we’ve seen. In order to emulate typical gameplay we run through the game’s main village, head out through an open area and then transition to the lower areas via a zipline.




Grand Theft Auto V


In GTA V we take a simple approach to benchmarking: the in-game benchmark tool is used. However, due to the randomness within the game itself, only the last sequence is actually used since it best represents gameplay mechanics.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,418
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 1080P: Hitman / Overwatch

Hitman (2016)


The Hitman franchise has been around in one way or another for the better part of a decade and this latest version is arguably the best looking. Adjustable to both DX11 and DX12 APIs, it has a ton of graphics options, some of which are only available under DX12.

For our benchmark we avoid using the in-game benchmark since it doesn’t represent actual in-game situations. Instead the second mission in Paris is used. Here we walk into the mansion, mingle with the crowds and eventually end up within the fashion show area.





Overwatch


Overwatch happens to be one of the most popular games around right now and while it isn’t particularly stressful upon a system’s resources, its Epic setting can provide a decent workout for all but the highest end GPUs. In order to eliminate as much variability as possible, for this benchmark we use a simple “offline” Bot Match so performance isn’t affected by outside factors like ping times and network latency.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,418
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 1080P: Rise of the Tomb Raider / The Division

Rise of the Tomb Raider


Another year and another Tomb Raider game. This time Lara’s journey continues through various beautifully rendered locales. Like Hitman, Rise of the Tomb Raider has both DX11 and DX12 API paths and incorporates a completely pointless built-in benchmark sequence.

The benchmark run we use is within the Soviet Installation level where we start in at about the midpoint, run through a warehouse with some burning its and then finish inside a fenced-in area during a snowstorm.[/I]




The Division


The Division has some of the best visuals of any game available right now even though its graphics were supposedly downgraded right before launch. Unfortunately, actually benchmarking it is a challenge in and of itself. Due to the game’s dynamic day / night and weather cycle it is almost impossible to achieve a repeatable run within the game itself. With that taken into account we decided to use the in-game benchmark tool.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,418
Location
Montreal
DX11 / 1080P: Witcher 3 / Warhammer: Total War

Witcher 3


Other than being one of 2015’s most highly regarded games, The Witcher 3 also happens to be one of the most visually stunning as well. This benchmark sequence has us riding through a town and running through the woods; two elements that will likely take up the vast majority of in-game time.




Warhammer: Total War


Unlike some of the latest Total War games, the hotly anticipated Warhammer title has been relatively bug free, performs well on all systems and still incorporates the level detail and graphics fidelity this series is known for. In this sequence, we use the in-game benchmarking tool to play back one of our own 40 second gameplay sessions which includes two maxed-out armies and includes all of the elements normally seen in standard gameplay. That means zooms and pans are used to pivot the camera and get a better view of the battlefield.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,418
Location
Montreal
DX12 / 1080P: Battlefield 1 / Deus Ex – Mankind Divided

Battlefield 1


Battlefield 1 will likely become known as one of the most popular multiplayer games around but it also happens to be one of the best looking titles around. It also happens to be extremely well optimized with even the lowest end cards having the ability to run at high detail levels.

In this benchmark we use a runthough of The Runner level after the dreadnought barrage is complete and you need to storm the beach. This area includes all of the game’s hallmarks in one condensed area with fire, explosions, debris and numerous other elements layered over one another for some spectacular visual effects.





Deus Ex – Mankind Divided


Deus Ex titles have historically combined excellent storytelling elements with action-forward gameplay and Mankind Divided is no difference. This run-through uses the streets and a few sewers of the main hub city Prague along with a short action sequence involving gunplay and grenades.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,418
Location
Montreal
DX12 + Vulkan / 1080P: Doom / Gears of War 4

Doom (OpenGL)


Not many people saw a new Doom as a possible Game of the Year contender but that’s exactly what it has become. Not only is it one of the most intense games currently around but it looks great and is highly optimized. In this run-through we use Mission 6: Into the Fire since it features relatively predictable enemy spawn points and a combination of open air and interior gameplay.




Gears of War 4


Like many of the other exclusive DX12 games we have seen, Gears of War 4 looks absolutely stunning and seems to be highly optimized to run well on a variety of hardware. In this benchmark we use Act III, Chapter III The Doorstep, a level that uses wide open views along with several high fidelity environmental effects. While Gears does indeed include a built-in benchmark we didn’t find it to be indicative of real-world performance.


 

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