MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
» Discuss this article (0)
MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G Introduction:
Reviewing the NVIDIA GTX 1060 Founders Edition GP 106 based video card proved that once again NVIDIA has been able to scale its architecture up and down to hit all the right price/performance points with a diverse product stack. This approach takes care of the whole of the user base. As good as the 1080 and 1440 performance was with the Founders Edition card the AIB partners usually have a few tricks up their sleeves to give the end user a bit more for their performance dollar. Case in point is this offering from MSI. MSI launched not one custom card but a total of 5 different custom cards to hit the the right performance points. In their GTX 1060 product stack are the Gaming and Gaming X cards, the Armor series and the standard board that also sees a nice dual fan cooling solution. The card I am looking at today is the pinnacle card in their GTX 1060 product stack, the MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6GB. This card comes to market featuring MSI's latest Twin Frozr cooling solution, is factory overclocked right out of the gate, uses MSI's Military Class IV components and a full on custom PCB with a massive back plate to eliminate and chance of the bends. Available for a suggested $289 the MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G offers cooling and noise enhancements over the Founders editions quality build up. Add in MSI's Gaming app and you get a pretty comprehensive package. After seeing what MSI could do with the GP 104 based GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 this card should be interesting to test.
MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G Closer Look:
MSI's packaging for its Gaming series GPU's come with a lot of data packed onto the front and rear panels of the box. The red color really pops when looking for cards on the shelf at your local big box retailer. The front of the box gives you a good look at the card and illustrates a few of the NVIDFIA specific features including VRWorks, GameWorks, GSync and that the card is VR Ready. MSI specific features are limited to MSI Twin Frozr VI cooling solution that is implemented on this and all Pascal based MSI Gaming series cards. The back side really hits on the MSI specific features including the aforementioned Twin Frozr VI 4 heat pipe based, Torx 2.0 fan equipped cooling, MSI Gaming APP and the custom RGB lighting of the MSI logo. Instead of a regular cardboard box you get a black box that holds the card and accessories. The MSI logo is embossed on the cover of the accessory box as a nice touch. The accessory package is nothing to write home about but does include some stickers that let you show your MSI Dragon pride.
Visually the the GTX 1060 Gaming X is virtually identical to the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 Gaming X video cards from MSI. The only real cues to the differences would be the lack of SLI bridge connections and PEG connectivity. Measuring 277 x 140 x 39 mm it is just a scant 2mm smaller than its big brothers in 2 of the three dimensions so essentially it is the same size. From the front you get a look at the pair of Torx 2.0 Dispersion blade fans that provide the cooling airflow to the dual slot Twin Frozr VI heat sink assembly. Designed to take advantage of higher PCIe 3.0 bandwidth this card can be used in earlier 16x PCIe slot configurations. The ribs that cover the right side of the shroud actually light up and are controllable with MSI's Gaming App. These LED do not get the full RGB treatment like the Shroud logo but they do get the ability to manage the lighting show. A robust aluminum back plate is used to secure the main body of the PCB cooling plate to the front of the card while offering another measure of stability for the custom PCB.
Display connectivity for the MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G include a trio of DisplayPort 1.2 certified, 1.3, and 1.4 ready ports; a single HDMI 2.0b port; and a single dual-link DVI port that support up to four independent displays at one time with six connector nodes. By using this configuration, the cards support 4K displays at 120Hz, 5K displays at 60Hz, and 8K displays at 60Hz by using a pair of cables. Pascal GPUs officially support PlayReady 3.0 (SL3000) and hardware level support of HEVC decode. MSI continues the brand consistency using a tribal style design on the I/O panel to provide airflow out of the chassis when the fans are set to push the maximum air flow volume.
Rated to run using only 120watts of power the MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G skips a six pin PEG connector and goes straight for a 150 watt rated 8-pin PEG connection. This puts the total power on tap at 225 watts. Much like the Founders Edition cards the GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G the suggested power supply is recommendation for this card is 400 watts. The power connection is in a standard location at the top rear of the PCB. What you notice about the PSCB is the lack of any SLI bridge connections. NVIDIA has eliminated SLI at this performance point to focus on delivering better SLI performance at the higher end of the spectrum. For this reason they suggest going with a higher performing single GPU rather than a pair of lower performing GPU's due to the complexity of managing the interface to deliver a quality experience. This space has always benifitted from SLI improvements due to the price point. That does not mean SLI cannot be done on this card. In some DX 12 title that have multi GPU support for MDA or Explicit LDA modes, as long as the developers decide to make this option available in the game.
Pulling the Twin Frozr VI cooler off the card gives you look under the hood. Part of the Twin Frozr VI cooling design is the cooling plate used to manage the thermals of the 6GB of high speed GDDR5 memory and 6 phase VRM circuit. Military Class IV parts are used to put together the power circuits. Parts selection includes solid capacitors, Super Ferrite chokes, and Hi-C caps. This solution has been in pace for a couple years now with good results and longevity. The memory cooling plate/VRM cooling plate is used to keep the thermals of the GDDR5 memory and power circuits in check. Airflow from the Torx 2.0 fans pushes down through the Airflow technology enhanced heat sink to wick away the heat load.
Visually the Twin Frozr VI cooling solution is the key component that draws you in. MSI uses a multifaceted approach to cooling. First you have the aluminum heat sink fin array filled with 4 6-8mm heat pipes that have been flattened where they meet the cooling plate. Doing so increases the surface area for thermal transfer. Airflow technology is used to manage the airflow through the heat sink. By directing air strategically through the fin array MSI improves cooling both of the GPU core and the components cooled by the memory cooling plate. Torx 2.0 fans are used to drive the airflow through the heatsink managing the thermal load. The use of dispersion blades drive ups airflow pressure by as much as 22% over standard fan blades.
Just like the Founders Edition card the MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G is built around NVIDIA's GP 106 Pascal core using 16nm Finfet technology to build the core. Under the hood are 4.4 Billion transistors in 2 GPC units, 10 streaming multiprocessors housing 1280 CUDA cores, 80 texture units and 48 ROPs. NVIDIA's Pascal architecture has been scaled down to deliver the performance level needed for the price point of the GTX 1060. On MSI's GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G the card runs at the Gaming APP specified 1974Mhz on the core instead of the advertised 1746Mhz boost clock. Loading up the gaming APP and setting the "Gaming" profile in the application will get you to a lower clock speed if you choose to do so. Its free performance right out of the box and a known commodity now. Enhanced memory trace layouts are the hallmark of the memory subsystem on NVIDIA's Pascal based cards. Combined with new Delta color compression algorithms you see an uptick in the memory bandwidth capabilities of the Pascal architecture. 6GB of high speed GDDR5 memory pushed through an 192 bit bus is used on this card from MSI. Default memory speeds equate to an 8000Mhz data rate and do not change when you use MSI's Gaming application.
Tuning and tweaking MSI's hardware results in improved performance across the board. MSI's Afterburner tool has been used in the past for tuning all GPU cores and is ready to roll with Pascal. However, MSI needed an application that was more than just an overclocking utility. The Gaming App does utilize some limited overclocking, but adds additional features that are specific to the gamer user base. There are three basic profiles that tune specific frequencies. OC mode has the highest core clock speed, Gaming sees a drop down in clcok speed and seems to keep the same fan profile, and Silent mode reduces core clock speed further so you can tune for silent running. The OC profile runs at 1974Mhz, Gaming mode drops to 1949Mhz and bringing up the rear is Silent mode where clock speeds dip to 1885Mhz. You get a variety of buttons for streaming games via Dragon Eye, ramping the fan up with Snow Mode, and the LED mode that controls the RGB MSI logo on the side of the card and the behavior of the main shroud LEDs. Pretty cool stuff when you take the time to play with it. The OSD can be configured to show just what you need it to show without being intrusive.
All in all we have a fairly good setup with the MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6GB. THe key is how will it overclock and what kind of performance can we expect to see with the big time clock speeds?