EVGA's diminuitive GTX 1060 duo
The GTX 1060's modest TDP means that monster dual-fan coolers aren't needed to keep GP106 in check. Nvidia's board partners have released a number of compact, single-fan versions of the GTX 1060 alongside the usual barrage of dual- and triple-fan beasts. EVGA kindly sent over one of its $260 GTX 1060 6GB SC Gaming cards when we began shaking the trees, but we weren't as lucky securing a 3GB card for this review. Eventually, we threw in the towel and picked up the logical counterpart to our 6GB test subject from retail: the $210 EVGA GTX 1060 3GB SC Gaming.
Outwardly, these cards seem identical. They use the same cooler, the same 6.8"-long PCB, and the same six-pin power connector. You'd have a hard time telling them apart without squinting at their labels. Just because these cards are tiny doesn't mean they're cheaply made, though. A look under the understated plastic shroud of each card reveals a dense aluminum fin array and plenty of copper making contact with the GP106 chip itself. That's reassuring given EVGA's factory clock speed boosts over Nvidia's reference numbers. Here's a full rundown of each card's specs compared to the GTX 1060 Founders Edition:
|EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB SC Gaming||1607||1835||3GB GDDR5||8 GT/s||1x 6-pin||120W||$209.99|
|EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB SC Gaming||1607||1835||6GB GDDR5||8 GT/s||1x 6-pin||120W||$259.99|
|GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition||1506 MHz||1683 MHz||6GB GDDR5||8 GT/s||1x 6-pin||120W||$299.99|
Four screws are mercifully all that stands in the way of removing these cards' heatsinks. Once those screws are out and the single four-pin fan connector is unplugged, the heatsink flips off to reveal a neat application of thermal paste on a copper contact plate. Two beefy copper heatpipes run over this plate and into the aluminum fin array above. Simple, clean, and effective. EVGA's engineers didn't include a contact plate for cooling either card's voltage regulators or memory chips, but the blow-down fan should keep enough air moving over those critical components to make sure that design choice isn't an issue.
Not everything about these cards is the same, though. Once we started testing this duo, we noticed that our GTX 1060 6GB card ran considerably quieter than the 3GB version under load. It seems our 6GB card came flashed with EVGA's "silent" firmware, while the 3GB card we grabbed off the shelf wasn't so lucky. EVGA used to offer this special firmware to owners of its cards on a case-to-case basis, but no longer. Seeing as how one can set custom fan curves for either card in EVGA's PrecisionX OC software, that's probably not a big deal. We didn't perform any such tweaking before testing either card, however, so the noise and thermal results you see in this review represent straight-from-the-factory performance.
Our testing methods
As always, we did our best to deliver clean benchmarking runs. We ran each of our test cycles three times on each graphics card tested, and our final numbers incorporate the median of those results. Aside from each vendor's graphics drivers, our test system remained in the same configuration throughout the entire test.
|Processor||Intel Core i7-6700K|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z170 Extreme7+|
|Memory size||16GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||16GB (2x8GB) G.Skill DDR4-3000|
|Chipset drivers||Intel Management Engine 22.214.171.1245
Intel Rapid Storage Technology V 126.96.36.1991
|Audio||Integrated Z170/Realtek ALC1150
Realtek 188.8.131.5225 drivers
|Storage||Two Kingston HyperX 480GB SSDs|
|Power supply||SeaSonic SS-660XP2|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro with Anniversary Update|
Our thanks to ASRock, G.Skill, Kingston, and Intel for their contributions to our test system, and to EVGA, MSI, AMD, and XFX for contributing the graphics cards we're reviewing today.
|Driver revision||GPU base
|XFX Radeon RX 470 RS 4GB||Radeon Software 16.10.1||-||1256||1750||4096|
|Radeon RX 480 8GB||1120||1266||2000||8192|
|Asus Strix Radeon R9 Fury||--||1000||500||4096|
|AMD Radeon R9 Fury X||--||1050||500||4096|
|MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G||GeForce 373.06||1114||1253||1753||4096|
|MSI GeForce GTX 980 Gaming 4G||1190||1291||1753||4096|
|MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming Z 8G||1632||1835||2027||8192|
|EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB SC Gaming||1607||1835||2000||3072|
|EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB SC Gaming||1607||1835||2000||6144|
For our "Inside the Second" benchmarking techniques, we now use a software utility called PresentMon to collect frame-time data from DirectX 11, DirectX 12, OpenGL, and Vulkan games alike. We sometimes use a more advanced tool called FCAT to capture exactly when frames arrive at the display, but our testing has shown that it's not usually necessary to use this tool in order to generate good results for single-GPU setups.
You'll note that aside from the Radeon RX 480 and Radeon R9 Fury X, our test card stable is made up of non-reference designs with boosted clock speeds and beefy coolers. Many readers have called us out on this practice in the past for some reason, so we want to be upfront about it here. We bench non-reference cards because we feel they provide the best real-world representation of performance for the graphics card in question. They're the type of cards we recommend in our System Guides, and we think they provide the most relatable performance numbers for our reader base. When we mention a "GTX 1060" or "Radeon RX 470" in our review, for example, just be sure to remember that we're referring to the custom cards in the table above.
With that exposition out of the way, let's talk results.