Overclocked Performance and Conclusion
I was expecting the RTX 2060 to hit 2 GHz based on what I was hearing leading up to the launch, and was eager to push it as far as I could when I returned from CES. The result? I was able to achieve a stable overclock of +170 MHz on the core, and +500 MHz (effective) memory, and while I could have tried to push memory further I was unable to get anywhere with core speeds above +170. Power and temp limits were pushed all the way up, with overclocking numbers reached using the latest version of MSI's AfterBurner utility and the latest graphics driver from NVIDIA.
What these numbers translated to was a sustained boost of between 2055 and 2070 MHz in the benchmarks to follow, and the 500 MHz increase in memory clocks (250 MHz actual) provided a lift in memory bandwidth from 336 GB/s to 360 GB/s.
So how close can we get to a stock RTX 2070? Let's start with the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark.
This is not the most realistic benchmark with regard to game performance as we will see, but the added performance from this OC is significant, with the overclocked RTX 2060 actually coming out slightly ahead of the RTX 2070 – in this test, anyhow. (Spoiler: this is the only test with this outcome.)
Unigine Superposition is next.
Here the RTX 2070 regains its lead, but the performance gain is sizable for the overclocked RTX 2060.
On to the game benchmarks, and while I won't cover every game I did test a few from the previous results to see if the overclock held up beyond the synthetic benchmarks. We'll start with Far Cry 5.
The RTX 2060 with this overclock comes pretty close to the RTX 2070, and is providing a nearly 10 FPS increase over the stock clocks. Frame time variance is nearly identical, with about a 2.6 ms gap between the average and 99th percentile frame times, and the performance was smooth to the naked eye once again.
Up next is Middle Earth: Shadow of War:
Once again the RTX 2060 leapfrogs the GTX 1080, but comes up short of the RTX 2070 in FPS numbers. The frame time variance actually improves slightly with the overclocked card, dropping about 0.4 ms from the result with the stock RTX 2060.
Moving on to the DX12 benchmarks, we start with Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation.
This was not the most impressive benchmark for the overclocked RTX 2060, with performance below the GTX 1080 in this game when looking at FPS numbers, but there was a big improvement to frame time variance compared to the stock results, with the gap between average and 99th percentile closing to 12.9 ms from 19.3 ms – not good, but much better than it was.
Finally we have Shadow of the Tomb Raider:
Once again the overclocked RTX 2060 surpasses the GTX 1080 in performance, sitting between the 1080 and the RTX 2070 on the chart. Frame time variance was about the same as before, and results were still a little uneven with some additional spikes compared to the earlier GTX 1080 and 1070 results.
As to power draw, replicating the original test I saw power go up from 243 to 270 W total system power (measured using a watts up? Pro meter from the wall). Temperature results were not really useful in comparison to earlier results as I was using a custom fan profile during overclocking, but I topped out at 59 C with an ambient of 19.5 C. I don't set cards to 100% fans when overclocking, relying instead on a linear rise beginning at 30 C, and with my profile the fans on this Founders Edition card maxed out at ~70% during the tests.
It has been a couple of weeks since part one of this review was published, and in that time I've had numerous conversations about this card's performance and where it sits relative to the market. I get the sense that NVIDIA has created a bit of confusion based on the nomenclature, with the RTX 2060 apparently assumed to be a direct successor to the GTX 1060, and with that assumption the $349 price tag seems high. But this is not a midrange card as we have seen, but a product that sits between what we might have expected from a card called "2060" and the existing RTX 2070. The closest parallel in performance is the GTX 1070 Ti, which launched at $449, and depending on the game you are getting performance at or even above that level for $100 less a year later.
So are we actually getting a 2060 Ti without the "Ti" branding here? Not really – though it could be argued we are getting the "RTX" version of a card before the "GTX" version. The comparison I keep making in my head is to the GTX 560 Ti 448 (if anyone remembers that card), which was based on the same core as the GTX 570 from back at the end of the Fermi era. Why this comparison? Besides my obsession with obsolete hardware it actually makes some sense to bring up this odd limited-edition card as this RTX 2060 is actually based on the same TU106 core as the RTX 2070, but with 30 SMs enabled vs. 36 with the 2070. While the reduction in memory bandwidth is significant (the RTX 2060 moves from 256-bit to 192-bit GDDR6, and from 448 to 336 GB/s), as we saw with our overclocked results it is possible to get close to the RTX 2070 – and with a higher memory overclock the gap could get smaller.
Ultimately this card is a 1440p gaming card with a name that might confuse those expecting the successor to the popular GTX 1060 (easily the #1 card in Steam hardware surveys), but the RTX 2060 blows away the GTX 1060 6GB card by nearly 2x across the board, besting the GTX 1070 and even with (and occasionally above) the GTX 1070 Ti in the benchmarks we just saw. In fact, when you look at this as a direct successor to the GTX 1070 Ti, but with ray tracing capabilities, suddenly the $349 price looks much better. I contend that it's priced quite fairly based on the performance we have seen. But that's not the end of the story, as ray tracing has not been explored here. I will be covering ray tracing (and hopefully DLSS) performance between RTX cards in a followup article, but from results available so far the RTX 2060 is clearly intended as not so much a ray tracing option as a DLSS (deep learning super sampling) option. We also need more games to test before we can make a determination about ray tracing performance in general.
As things stand the GeForce RTX 2060 is a mighty little card with performance that challenges the "midrange" label, and carves out a position as a formidable 1440p gaming option with the overclocking potential to flirt with RTX 2070-level performance. Not bad for $349, after all.