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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition Review

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Category: Video Cards
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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition Introduction:

Just a scant few months ago, NVIDIA brought the press to an event in Austin, Texas, to unveil the latest GPU micro-architecture out of its skunkworks. The news out of that event was pretty clear cut. NVIDIA delivered what could be at this point a knockout blow to the red camp when you look at the specifications and the performance delivered by the GTX 1080. The GTX 1070 was no less amazing in that it delivered performance on par with the GTX Titan X for around half the cost of what had been NVIDIA's flagship card. Scaling the architecture to meet a price and performance point has been a strong suite of NVIDIA's as we saw starting with its Fermi architecture. Today we take a look at the latest card in NVIDIA's Pascal product stack, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition Closer Look:

NVIDIA's latest Pascal architecture is built around roughly the same GPC architecture that we have been seeing since Fermi. Enhancements were made at each generational shift through Kepler and Maxwell. The big changes for this go round is the move to the 16nm FinFET process and inclusion of the Simultaneous Multi-Projection Engine being incorporated into the Polymorph engine. The Pascal 16nm GP106 architecture uses a pair of Graphics Processing Clusters each equipped with 10 Pascal Streaming Multiprocessors and six 32-bit memory controllers. In the GP106 iteration of the Pascal architecture, each GPC ships with a dedicated raster engine and five SMs. Each SM contains 128 CUDA cores, 256 KB of register file capacity, a 96 KB shared memory unit, 48 KB of total L1 cache storage, and eight texture units.

The configuration used in the GTX 1060 Founders Edition results in a total of 1280 CUDA cores, 80 texture units, and 48 ROPs. Baseline clock speeds for the GTX 1060 Founders Edition GP106 Pascal core is 1506MHz with a boost clock of 1708MHz, although it may run higher depending on the power and thermal operating conditions. NVIDIA skipped HBM and went with 8GB of Micron GDDR5X on the GTX 1080. Much like we saw with the the GTX 1070, we get some seriously fast GDDR5 memory with a data rate of 8000MHz running through a 192-bit bus. NVIDIA used the same strategy to the dedication to improving memory trace layout and pathways.

The GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 have significantly more hardware under the lid, but for the GP106-based GTX 1060 Founders Edition, we get 4.4 billion transistors are packed into a 200 mm² die area. The node shrink allows NVIDIA to pack more hardware in a smaller package that should help with cooling and overall power efficiency; both traits we saw with the GP104-based cards earlier this year. Promising GTX 980-ish performance, it seems as though expectations are high for this Pascal iteration.

 

Looking slightly different than the GP104-based Founders Edition cards, the GTX 1060 Founders Edition is still a great looking card. You get black accents with the angular aluminum shroud rather than the full-on silver show. It's a better look, I think. With the scaled down hardware, the PCB of the GTX 1060 Founders Edition gets a reduction in scale as well. At only 9.8 inches in total length, the GTX 1060 Founders Edition is not that much smaller than the GX 1070 or GTX 1080. However, when you look solely at the PCB it comes in at seven inches in length. The excess length comes from the blower-style fan fitted to the front of the card to keep the airflow moving through the larger cooling solution. As has been the case for quite some time, the cooling solution on NVIDIA GTX cards are two-slot cooling solutions.

When you look at the front of the card, one of the things that seems missing is the poly-carbonate window that usually sits over the cooling solution. That would be because it is no longer used on this card. How that impacts cooling will be interesting to see. Built for use in motherboards equipped with at least one 16x PCIe 3.0 slot, you will be able to use the latest Pascal-based cards in earlier hardware.

 

 

Display connectivity on the GTX 1060 Founders Edition mirrors that of the heavy hitters in the Pascal product stack. It has 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 are used. Using this configuration, the GTX 1060 supports 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. The I/O panel is wide open, allowing the airflow to freely pass through the cooling solution of the card and faceted aluminum shroud. Cranking up the fan speed to go into max cool mode does not present any challenges in the airflow department.

When you look at the past iterations of the industrial shroud design, the GTX 1060 Founders Edition sports intake air channels on the back end of the cooling shroud. Airflow directly from the front of the chassis can be pulled into this area, helping cool the power circuitry at the back of the PCB. It's a feature that just works.

 

 

The GTX 1060 Founders Edition uses a single 6-pin PEG connection to supply the additional power needs for the card. Adding up the power coming into the card from the PCIe slot and 6-pin power connection, we see a max of 150 watts available for use without exceeding the ratings of the slot or power connection. NVIDIA has rated the board TDP at 120 watts on the GTX 1060 thanks to the power efficient 16nm FinFET build process and enhanced trace layout of the PCB. With such a low TDP, the recommended power supply has been reduced to 400 watts. It's a level much lower than I have even used for years.

When you look along the spine of the GTX 1060 Founders Edition card, there are no SLI bridge connection points. NVIDIA has taken the stance that to increase your gaming performance it would be better to move up the product stack and grab a single higher performing card. SLI is not officially supported on the GTX 1060, but in the future with some DX12 games you may well be able to utilize multiple GPUs using MDA or Explicit LDA modes, as long as the developers make this an option in the game. SLI at this point in the product stack has worked well, but with how hard it is getting to deliver a clean gaming experience with multiple GPU modes, a single higher performain card may well be the best option.

 

 

The cooling solution used on the GTX 1060 Founders Edition is much more robust than the design used on the GTX 960. NVIDIA went with a dual heat pipe-based cooler coupled with an aluminum heat sink to manage the thermal of the GTX 1060. NVIDIA states that this design allows all of the air flow from the fan to be pushed outside the chassis. I found that a portion of the airflow does indeed dump into the chassis without the polycarbonate window to seal up the faceted shroud. Its not that big of an issue with todays' well ventilated chassis, but in a cramped case with minimal airflow you may see some thermal lift on a few components. Much like with its higher performing brothers further up the food chain, NVIDIA took the high road and went with a good solid design for the PCB and VRM design for the Pascal line up. The key word here was craftsmanship. From the enhanced trace layout that helps improve memory throughput to the dual FET VRM circuit, NVIDIA put in the work to deliver a world class product capable of delivering excellent stock performance, but delivering a card that can be overclocked to drive performance even higher.

 

 

The key to the success of the GTX 1060 Founders Edition ultimately is how does it perform in game? What kind of FPS levels can you expect? GTX 980-type performance is the performance window being touted for this launch. Let's see if the GP106 core in the GTX 1060 Founders Edition can deliver this level of performance.




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