This is a great time to be a PC enthusiast. For instance, in 2016 we saw the largest advancement in manufacturing processes and performance increases since the start of Intel’s 32nm Nehalem processor line back in 2009.
Let’s look back at what’s going on with the GTX 1060 6GB. Throughout 2016, we saw the Z170 chipset, Skylake Broadwell-E, the Pascal-based GTX 1080 and 1070, AMD’s Polaris RX 480 and now,to cap things off, Nvidia’s answer to the Red Team’s mid-range beast, the GTX 1060.
No matter how you look at it, both Nvidia and AMD’s product stacks really start at the mid-range. The flagships get the headlines, sure, but it’s the mid-range that wins the war. And, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday rapidly approaching, the mid-range battle is about to get very interesting – now that the Nvidia GTX 1060 is about to top all the Black Friday PC component deals, especially now that it’ll feature GDDR5X memory.
Back when the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 came out, the AMD Radeon RX 480 was the star of the show. It was aggressively priced and sat comfortably between the GTX 970 and GTX 980 in performance. But was it priced aggressively enough to hold back the tidal wave that is the GTX 1050?
So then, what do we know about this new mid-range Titan? Well, it's still based off of Pascal's 16nm FinFET manufacturing process, albeit on the GP106 processor as opposed to the GTX 1080 and 1070's GP104.
It comes in either 6GB or 3GB variants, at the standard 8GB/s of bandwidth on a 192-bit bus, features an impressive 1,280 CUDA cores, 80 Texture Units and 48 ROPs. Couple that with an increase of 1.46 billion transistors, a 120 watt TDP and a base spec base clock (before GPU boost gets its hands on it) of 1708 MHz and we're on to a winner.
Hold on a moment...
It’s not all sunshine and roses with the GTX 1060, though. There’s one standout issue, and it’s a big deal: SLI. While opening up this gorgeous Nvidia packaging, one thing was immediately noticeable – the lack of the usual SLI fingers on the top of the card.
Now, while at this price point, the lack of SLI isn’t that big of a deal – anyone looking to boost their GPU performance a couple years down the line will be affected by the lack of an SLI bridge. This limits you to DX12 titles supported by both Microsoft and the game developers via nifty tech called MDA mode or LDA explicit – and we wouldn’t count on this being a reliable method of increased performance.
This actually then brings up quite the conundrum when it comes to how exactly you take your upgrade path. Historically, we've always suggested (if you're buying long term for now) that you should always opt for a more powerful GPU rather than two lower cost cards. SLI is great when it works, but it's exactly that - it has to work - and with a lack of SLI profiles for games on launch, it's not always a compelling argument to grab two unless you're talking about a top-tier PC gaming monster rig.
However, if you're looking to pick up an additional card later down the line when prices drop and a new generation of cards pop, it's just not going to be possible anymore. The alternative to this conundrum is to opt for the more higher-end GTX 1070, which retains those SLI fingers if that's your jam.
Or, optionally you could go for AMD's RX 480, which comes at a slightly cheaper price point, and with performance set succinctly between the GTX 980 and 970.