Nvidia unveils cut-down GeForce GTX 1060 3GB

190/$199 price-point takes the fight to AMD's Polaris GPUs.

Nvidia has announced that a new GTX 1060 is due for release over the next few weeks, this time featuring 3GB of framebuffer memory. It's based on the same GP106 processor as the 'full-fat' GTX 1060 6GB, but there's an important difference in addition to the VRAM differential - this one has 1152 CUDA cores compared to the full complement of 1280 in the top tier model. Pricing is interesting - it'll cost $199 in the USA, with a 189 cost in the UK.

It's a bold move on Nvidia's part, and places the cut-down GTX 1060 on collision course with two AMD products - the RX 470, which we rather liked, and the four gig version of the RX 480 - assuming you can find one. Availability there, especially on the versions with an aftermarket cooler appears to be thin on the ground.

Based on the performance we've seen from the fully enabled GTX 1060, this cut-back model should still present plenty of challenge to the brace of sub-200 AMD Polaris offerings. We're looking at 90 per cent of the core count found in the more expensive model (costing 40-50 more), and half the VRAM, but memory bandwidth remains unaltered at 192GB/s. The same 8gbps GDDR5 modules are utilised. On top of that, base and boost clocks remain static.

It'll be a fascinating face-off in what is set to be one of the most fiercely competitive market sectors - one that AMD has dominated with its Polaris launches. We expect to see some interesting benchmarks based on the existing GTX 1060 data, but the challenge facing Nvidia is selling a 3GB GPU up against its competition where we see four gigs as the minimum.

GTX 1060 3GB GTX 1060 6GB
CUDA Cores 1152 1280
Base Clock 1506MHz 1506MHz
Boost Clock 1708MHz 1708MHz
Memory 3GB GDDR5 6GB GDDR5
Memory Bandwidth 192GB/s 192GB/s

Generally speaking, the more memory you have, the more future-proof you are. However, making matters somewhat less clear-cut is the issue of memory compression. Nvidia has been utilising it for some time, while AMD debuted it in its first product based on the Tonga processor - R9 285. Since then, it has been further iterated in its Polaris architecture. However, Nvidia hasn't sat still either - its last-gen Maxwell cards have excellent memory management, and this has been improved still further for Pascal. Based on our recent GTX 780 Ti testing in our GTX 1080 review, memory utilisation on challenging 1080p titles even holds up in the old Kepler cards too.

With that in mind, a key point of enquiry in our upcoming GTX 1060 3GB review will be memory utilisation and how it compares between Pascal and Polaris - and thankfully there are several titles we can turn to here in really putting this element of the card through its paces. A new driver to support the 3GB card is due today and Nvidia expects stock to filter through into retail "over the next few weeks" - our understanding is that the launch has been pulled forward, which may have left third party card vendors a touch unprepared. We aim to get hold of a sample as soon as possible and will roll out a comprehensive review some time next week.

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