GP106 Preview

We don’t have a review yet, but I can show you shiny pictures!!

It’s probably not going to come as a surprise to anyone that reads the internet, but NVIDIA is officially taking the covers off its latest GeForce card in the Pascal family today, the GeForce GTX 1060. As the number scheme would suggest, this is a more budget-friendly version of NVIDIA’s latest architecture, lowering performance in line with expectations. The GP106-based GPU will still offer impressive specifications and capabilities and will probably push AMD’s new Radeon RX 480 to its limits.

Let’s take a quick look at the card’s details.

  GTX 1060 RX 480 R9 390 R9 380 GTX 980 GTX 970 GTX 960 R9 Nano GTX 1070
GPU GP106 Polaris 10 Grenada Tonga GM204 GM204 GM206 Fiji XT GP104
GPU Cores 1280 2304 2560 1792 2048 1664 1024 4096 1920
Rated Clock 1506 MHz 1120 MHz 1000 MHz 970 MHz 1126 MHz 1050 MHz 1126 MHz up to 1000 MHz 1506 MHz
Texture Units 80 (?) 144 160 112 128 104 64 256 120
ROP Units 48 (?) 32 64 32 64 56 32 64 64
Memory 6GB 4GB
Memory Clock 8000 MHz 7000 MHz
8000 MHz
6000 MHz 5700 MHz 7000 MHz 7000 MHz 7000 MHz 500 MHz 8000 MHz
Memory Interface 192-bit 256-bit 512-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 128-bit 4096-bit (HBM) 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 192 GB/s 224 GB/s
256 GB/s
384 GB/s 182.4 GB/s 224 GB/s 196 GB/s 112 GB/s 512 GB/s 256 GB/s
TDP 120 watts 150 watts 275 watts 190 watts 165 watts 145 watts 120 watts 275 watts 150 watts
Peak Compute 3.85 TFLOPS 5.1 TFLOPS 5.1 TFLOPS 3.48 TFLOPS 4.61 TFLOPS 3.4 TFLOPS 2.3 TFLOPS 8.19 TFLOPS 5.7 TFLOPS
Transistor Count ? 5.7B 6.2B 5.0B 5.2B 5.2B 2.94B 8.9B 7.2B
Process Tech 16nm 14nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 16nm
MSRP (current) $249 $199 $299 $199 $379 $329 $279 $499 $379

The GeForce GTX 1060 will sport 1280 CUDA cores with a GPU Boost clock speed rated at 1.7 GHz. Though the card will be available in only 6GB varieties, the reference / Founders Edition will ship with 6GB of GDDR5 memory running at 8.0 GHz / 8 Gbps. With 1280 CUDA cores, the GP106 GPU is essentially one half of a GP104 in terms of compute capability. NVIDIA decided not to cut the memory interface in half though, instead going with a 192-bit design compared to the GP104 and its 256-bit option.

The rated GPU clock speeds paint an interesting picture for peak performance of the new card. At the rated boost clock speed, the GeForce GTX 1070 produces 6.46 TFLOPS of performance. The GTX 1060 by comparison will hit 4.35 TFLOPS, a 48% difference. The GTX 1080 offers nearly the same delta of performance above the GTX 1070; clearly NVIDIA has set the scale Pascal and product deviation.

NVIDIA wants us to compare the new GeForce GTX 1060 to the GeForce GTX 980 in gaming performance, but the peak theoretical performance results don’t really match up. The GeForce GTX 980 is rated at 4.61 TFLOPS at BASE clock speed, while the GTX 1060 doesn’t hit that number at its Boost clock. Obviously Pascal improves on performance with memory compression advancements, but the 192-bit memory bus is only able to run at 192 GB/s, compared to the 224 GB/s of the GTX 980. Obviously we’ll have to wait for performance result from our own testing to be sure, but it seems possible that NVIDIA’s performance claims might depend on technology like Simultaneous Multi-Projection and VR gaming to be validated.

The GTX 1060 Founders Edition card has a TDP of just 120 watts and will have a single 6-pin power connection. With all the controversy and debate surrounding the Radeon RX 480 and its power delivery system, this is going to be looked at closer than ever. NVIDIA has set the TDP 30 watts lower than the 6-pin + PCI Express slot power is rated at, so this definitely gives them room for overclocking and slightly power target adjustment within those boundaries. In recent history as well, NVIDIA tends to be less aggressive on its power targets – I expect the GTX 1060 to fall well within the 120 watt level at stock settings. But we’ll know soon enough.

The starting MSRP for the GeForce GTX 1060 partner cards will be $249. The Founders Edition card, designed by NVIDIA and the one we were sent for our initial reviews, will cost $299 and will be available ONLY at NVIDIA is listing this one as “limited edition” so I would assume that means we will not see the Founders Edition throughout the entirety of the life of the GTX 1060.

At $249, the GTX 1060 partner cards, available and shipping on July 19th, will compete very well with the 8GB variant of the Radeon RX 480, which at reference prices was only $10 less expensive. NVIDIA itself proclaims the GTX 1060 is “on average 15 percent faster and over 75 percent more power efficient than the closest competitive product” which obviously refers to aforementioned RX 480. (Claims to be tested by the 19th.)

The GTX 1060 Founders Edition has some unique traits. While the display output configuration is the now all-too-familiar combination of three DisplayPort, one HDMI and one DL DVI (which the RX 480 omitted), the PCB and cooler take an interesting form. The PCB is basically identical in size to that of the RX 480: 6.75-in (171.5mm) long. The blower style cooler extends past the PCB by another 3-in (76mm), making the Founders Edition 9.75-in (247.6mm) long.

The 6-pin power connection on the GTX 1060 Founders Edition seems only placed – rather than attached to the PCB direction, the 6-pin is put at the end of the cooler, meaning a cable exists inside the cooler to bring juice to the card itself. The reason for this is looks: the card looks more balanced and better in a windowed case with the 6-pin connection at the far end of the card rather than in the middle of it. It’s an interesting trade-off though, one that will make aftermarket coolers a bit more complex.

One interesting spot to see is the obviously missing or removed item from the back of the cooler. Three screw holes and a dip in the extruded metal suggest that something was planned for this spot or was on there but removed after production for some reason.

NVIDIA changed up the shroud on the cooler to help lower costs. The “window” area on the classic GeForce design is now just a black painted area and the design is tweaked slightly fewer, shallower polygonal angles. I’m still a fan of the design though and I think NVIDIA’s construction and build quality just “feel” better in the hand than the RX 480. Whether that matters to anyone installing this card into a gaming PC rather than putting it on a shelf is up for debate.

One thing that is missing from the GeForce GTX 1060 card? SLI bridge connection. There are none and the reason is simple: NVIDIA tells us that SLI is not going to be supported on the GeForce GTX 1060. Rumors have swirled since pictures first leaked that this meant NVIDIA was moving to a PCI Express based data transfer technology for the GTX 1060, similar to what AMD does with CrossFire on its entire lineup. That’s not the case, and would be crazy after the big push for a new SLI Bridge that NVIDIA made with the GTX 1080 launch. The GTX 1060, and we assume any future cards in this class, are not going to support multi-GPU technology.

The decision is kind of astounding to me, really. NVIDIA launched Pascal pushing 2-GPU SLI strongly and eventually ended up cutting out all higher count SLI configurations completely, in order to preserve the consumer experience of 2-Way SLI. Cutting out GTX 1060 owners from SLI because “that market doesn’t really utilize SLI” is just an excuse, not a reason. There is no substantial cost benefit to cutting validation testing for the GTX 1060 if you are continuing to run it for GTX 1080 and GTX 1070. There are plenty of consumers that love the idea of buying a ~$250 graphics card today and adding another down the line, potentially to scale to the performance of one of NVIDIA’s larger, more expensive graphics card. Even worse, you can actually see indentations and spacing on the PCB where SLI connections would have been inserted!

Performance Leaks

While we can’t report on performance of the GeForce GTX 1060, some leaks appeared on WCCFTech a few days ago and shed a little bit of light on what we MIGHT expect from the new mainstream version of the Pascal architecture.

Image source:

  • 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra Graphics Score

If these numbers hold up, it looks like the GTX 1060 is going to be 8.5% faster than the Radeon RX 480 and 17% faster than the GTX 970, at least in this single synthetic test. Based on these numbers though the GTX 980 maintains a 6.4% advantage, again bringing into question the claims of “GTX 980 performance” from NVIDIA.

What this does immediately do is put worry into the minds of AMD and buyers of the new Radeon RX 480. Will the GTX 1060 offer better performance and better efficiency for the same dollar amount?

Simultaneous Multi-Project Updates

NVIDIA provided a quick update on the status of Simultaneous Multi-Projection integration into software along with GTX 1060 information. If you missed the launch of SMP then you are depriving yourself of one of NVIDIA’s coolest new technologies that will drastically change how multi-monitor gaming and VR gaming are handled by the GPU.

According to NVIDIA, “Simultaneous Multi-Projection is being integrated into the world’s biggest game engines, Unreal Engine and Unity and there are more than 30 games are already in development, including Unreal Tournament, Poolnation VR, Everest VR, Obduction, Adr1ft and Raw Data.” That a compelling reason to buy into SMP and GeForce if you are a multi-monitor gamer or looking to invest in VR this year.

More to come

That’s all we know or can say about the GeForce GTX 1060 for now. Reviews and benchmarking will be available at a later time, or just long enough for some other outlets to leak it all to the web. I did promise that this summer would be one of the most exciting in recent memory for PC gaming; NVIDIA and AMD are surely making that the case.