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Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 benchmarks: 3GB and 6GB models tested

The best video card for 1080p gaming?

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 is the single most popular graphics card in the world; according to the most recent Steam Hardware Survey, it powers over 15 per cent of gaming PCs. Of course, there's a good reason for that, as this affordable card offers strong 1080p gaming performance, usually delivering console-quality full HD graphics at double the frame-rate without costing the earth.

When we put together these benchmarks last year, the GTX 1060 was often available at a lower price than its nearest competitor from AMD, the RX 580. That made it relatively easy to recommend the already more popular Nvidia card. However, the RX 580 dipped in price later that year, making the contest much closer - so taking a look at how these cards perform has become increasingly important.

To illustrate how the GTX 1060 compares to its closest competitors, we've tested both 3GB and 6GB versions of the GTX 1060 in a a range of in-game benchmarks from the past few years. They'll be compared against three rival cards: AMD's RX 570 and RX 580, plus the second-most popular graphics card, the GTX 1050 Ti.

If you want to see how the GTX 1060 6GB compares to the Radeon RX 580 and the new RX 590, including in some newer games, take a look here to see our most recent benchmark suite.

It's worth noting that all of the Nvidia cards are standard reference models, but there are no reference models available for the RX 570 and RX 580. Therefore, we're using the factory overclocked Asus Strix RX 570 and the Sapphire Nitro 580, which are both strongly competitive cards in their space. That means our results for these cards may be up to five or six per cent ahead of what you'd get from lower-clocked cards.

Which GPUs are worth buying? We've made our picks for the best graphics cards available, updated with the latest graphics cards as they're released. As well as an overall performance champ, we name the best value graphics card and best cheap graphics card to guide your next upgrade.

There are nine games in our line-up, showing you how the GTX 1060 and its rivals perform in established games with mature drivers - a selection that should favour the AMD cards. We'll also examine the GTX 1060 cards against a wider range of Nvidia GPUs, showing you how much of a gap there is between Nvidia's GTX 9-series and 10-series graphics cards.

The Founders Edition of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 - the most popular of Nvidia's 10-series GPUs.
GPU cores Boost clock TFLOPS Memory Memory Bandwidth
GTX 1050 Ti 768 1392MHz 2.1 4GB 112GB/s
GTX 1060 1152/1280 1708MHz 3.9/4.4 3GB/6GB 192GB/s
RX 570 2048 1244MHz 5.1 4GB/8GB 224GB/s
RX 580 2304 1340MHz 6.2 4GB/8GB 256GB/s

If you're viewing this site on a desktop-class browser rather than a mobile one, you'll see a short summary of the results for each game, sitting atop a YouTube video and a special in-house benchmark system. Simply begin the video, and you'll see how each card handles the scene in real time. You can select and deselect different cards and resolutions as you please to get the results that are the most relevant to you. You can even skip around in the video and the stats will catch up - nice work, technology!

If you scroll down further, there's a handy graph of the average results from the whole run. If you click on the graph, you can toggle between the actual frame-rates and percentages as you mouse over each card. You can also mouse over different parts of the bar chart to see more metrics than just the average, including the useful worst one per cent figure, which suggests just how bad things might get in particularly demanding scenes.

If you want to pick up some more tips, you can learn about how the Digital Foundry benchmarking system works right here. We hope you find it useful!

Assassin's Creed Unity

We begin with Assassin's Creed Unity, where the busy spaces of Paris and the detailed models of our French revolution characters remain a tough challenge even for modern cards. Note that there's a three or four frame gap between the 3GB and 6GB versions of the GTX 1060 throughout most of the test at 1080p and 1440p - perhaps because AC Unity is particularly VRAM intensive and even maxes out the 3GB model at 1080p. The Nvidia cards seem less variable than AMD's in this test, with the RX 580 both dropping lower and soaring higher than the GTX 1060 6GB at different points, making the GTX 1060 the sensible pick over the RX 580 at least for this title.

AC Unity: Ultra High, FXAA

Ashes of the Singularity

Ashes of the Singularity hasn't quite set the strategy gaming world on fire since its release in 2016, but its multitude of lasers and integrated benchmark option have certainly made it fan-favourite amongst the PC gaming press. Team Red's cards always seem to do well here with the game set to use the DX12 renderer, and that trend is repeated with both variants of the GTX 1060 falling behind the RX 580. Meanwhile, the GTX 1060 6GB barely surpasses the cheaper RX 570.

Ashes of the Singularity DX12: Extreme, No AA

Battlefield 1

Battlefield 1 offers intense World War 1 combat and our benchmark centres on one of the very first campaign missions - one of the few repeatable tests in the game. The game tends to afford better performance to AMD cards under DX12 and that trend is certainly true here. The 1060 6GB just barely pulls ahead of the RX 570 while sitting a solid 10 per cent behind the RX 580. Don't pay too much attention to the frame-time spikes here, as these are the unavoidable results of nearby explosions that vary from test to test. Nvidia cards actually tend to run faster under BF1's DX11 renderer than they do under DX12 - worth bearing in mind if you own the game.

Battlefield 1: Ultra, TAA

Crysis 3

The oldest title in our test suite, 2013's Crysis 3 still manages to challenge high-end graphics cards to this day. Our customary train ride through the jungle shows strong performance for the GTX 1060, despite some nasty drops near the 45-second mark due to some close-range explosions. Ultimately, the 6GB variant is able to scrape just one frame per second behind the factory-overclocked RX 580, while the 3GB card sits equidistant between its two AMD rivals. However, all four cards manage to average comfortably above 60 frames per second in this benchmark run.

Crysis 3: very high, SMAA T2X

The Division

One of the most hyped games in recent memory, The Division was released in 2016 and remains one of our best-looking test titles. Similar to Battlefield 1, while we've benched using the DX12 renderer here, the game runs marginally faster under DX11 on Nvidia cards. The snowy streets of plagued New York City are still rendered at a playable frame-rate for both the 3GB and 6GB versions of the card, although AMD's RX 570 and RX 580 open up a significant lead against their competition. Meanwhile, the beleaguered GTX 1050 Ti limps along at just over 30 frames per second.

The Division DX12: Ultra, TAA

Far Cry Primal

Far Cry Primal was released in 2016, a prehistoric offshoot that arrived between Far Cry 4 and 5. Primal is a game that skews more towards Nvidia, with the GTX 1060 6GB showing the best performance out of the five cards we've showcased here at 1080p. If we move up to 1440p though, the RX 580 reclaims the crown by just a few frames per second. However, none of the cards were able to average 60 frames per second at this higher resolution.

Far Cry Primal: Ultra, SMAA

Ghost Recon Wildlands

Ghost Recon Wildlands is one of the most challenging games in our current test suite, and it offers an almighty challenge for the 3GB variant of the GTX 1060, both at 1080p and 1440p. At the latter resolution, the 3GB card averages just over 23 frames per second, while the 6GB model is a hair behind 31 frames per second. That's a reduction of about 25 per cent, and the biggest gap we've seen between the two cards yet. Dropping to very high or high settings reduces the VRAM load and brings the cards closer together.

Ghost Recon Wildlands: Ultra, TAA

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Another favourite of system builders and the PC press, 2016's Rise of the Tomb Raider supports modern graphical technologies and includes a handy in-game benchmark - good for testing relative performance between GPUs, but unfortunately not quite representative of more demanding in-game performance. The very high preset has been slightly amended here, running with high textures to prevent cards with small amounts of RAM from stuttering. That explains the rather similar performance between the two GTX 1060 models here, which sit between the RX 570 and RX 580 in this benchmark.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: Very High, SMAA

The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 is one of those games that helps define a generation, so we couldn't miss including this 2015 title in our benchmark suite. This run through the streets of Novigrad shows that the 6GB version of the card can stretch its legs in a few places, but the two GTX 1060 models remain quite similar most of the time. The RX 580 outdoes the Nvidia competition by about three frames per second at 1080p and 1440p (but remember it is a factory-overclocked model), while the GTX 1060 6GB remains ahead of the RX 570 by about the same amount.

The Witcher 3: Ultra, POST-AA, No Hairworks

Cross-generational comparison

In this special comparison, we'll use Assassin's Creed Unity see how the GTX 1060 compares to its predecessors, stretching all the way back to the GTX 700 series. You can use the Kepler, Maxwell and Pascal buttons to see just how the Nvidia cards of the same generation compared to one another, or leave everything in there to see the generational leaps. We've chosen this title for our tests for two reasons. First of all, VRAM allocation is an important part of a GPU purchasing decision, and ACU hammers memory hard. And secondly, the ultra-high preset (even paired with FXAA) remains a massive GPU workout.

Assassin's Creed Unity: 1080p, Ultra High, FXAA

Assassin's Creed Unity: 1080p, Ultra High, FXAA

Generational comparison

Finally, we'll look at how the GTX 1060 slots into the entire Pascal lineup. We've standardised on 1080p resolution here as it is the most popular display type, but you can see that the further up the chain you get, the wider the performance gap gets at 1440p and 4K.

Assassin's Creed Unity: 1080p, Ultra High, FXAA

That's the end of our benchmarks! Next, how about reading our full GTX 1060 review or checking out our comparison of the GTX 1060 3GB vs 6GB? If you're considering an RX 580, you could also take a look at our AMD RX 580 review, published late last year.

Now that you've seen the benchmarks for one card, why not check out see which PC hardware we recommend to our friends and family? Here are the DF picks for the overall best graphics cards and for the best gaming monitors on the market.

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