While high-end graphics cards like the AMD Radeon 7 and RTX 2080 Ti capture the lion's share of the headlines, most PC gaming is still done at good old-fashioned 1080p. Here, you can spend just a few hundred bucks on a graphics card to get console-quality visuals at 60 frames per second, even in some of the most recent games. Two of the best graphics cards for 1080p gaming are the focus of our article today: the AMD Radeon RX 580 and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060.
These two mainstream GPUs are often close in terms of price, but which offers better performance? To find out, we'll show you how each of these cards perform in a selection of popular games, including Ghost Recon Wildlands, Rise of the Tomb Raider and The Witcher 3. While 1080p performance will be the focus, we'll also look at how these cards can handle stretching to 1440p. Before we get into the frame-rate charts, we'll take a brief look at how these two popular cards are different in terms of features and pricing. Let's get started.
Thinking about upgrading your gaming PC? Take a look at our recommendations for the best graphics cards on the market. Pairing your graphics card with one of the best gaming monitors is also important, so check out our latest picks!
While benchmarks are helpful, they're not the full story either. We'll also cover how the cards compare in terms of software and hardware features, plus what you can expect to pay for each of these two cards. Let's get started!
GTX 1060 vs RX 580 features
Before we get into the benchmarks, how do these cards compare in terms of features?
Well, both support the most important technologies: DirectX 12 and Vulkan graphics APIs, DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0b monitors and 4K / HDR content. That means you'll be able to play modern games and use recent monitors without worrying about compatibility issues.
As a member of Nvidia's Pascal generation, the GTX 1060 comes with a nice selection of modern features, including support for G-Sync monitors, Ansel game photography, Nvidia Shield streaming, ShadowPlay recording and so on. Nvidia have also recently added support for FreeSync monitors, allowing GTX 1060 owners to buy cheaper monitors without giving up variable refresh rate support - and if you're interested, we've recommended the best FreeSync monitors for Nvidia GPUs.
Meanwhile, the RX 580 is part of the Polaris line of graphics cards, which has been since superceded by AMD's later Vega GPUs. However, Polaris still supports helpful features such as FreeSync monitor support, the AMD Link system monitoring mobile app, Eyefinity multi-display gaming and more.
Ultimately, it's hard to choose a winner here, as most features that appear on one card will appear on the other, often under a different name. Nvidia may have a few technologies that have yet to be matched by AMD, such as Ansel, but FreeSync monitors supported by the RX 580 are significantly less expensive than the G-Sync alternatives supported by the GTX 1060 - so if you're planning on a new gaming monitor to go with your new graphics card, that should shift things rather radically in AMD's favour.
GTX 1060 vs RX 580 prices and models
The GTX 1060 6GB and RX 580 8GB occupy a similar mid-range space in the graphics card market, although the ongoing cryptocurrency bubble has meant that prices for both cards are likely to vary. Most of the time, we usually see the cheapest GTX 1060 6GB models around $210 (£200) and the RX 580 8GB a little lower, normally around $190 (£180). You might also pick up a free game or two with your graphics card: At the time of writing, AMD are offering any two of The Division 2, Resident Evil 2 or Devil May Cry 5, while Nvidia are saving their promotions for the newer GTX 1660 and 1660 Ti, giving the overall lead to the AMD card.
Of course, prices can vary by manufacturer, clock speed, cooling solution, form factor and a laundry list of other characteristics. Searching for bargains, you may find prices substantially below those that we've quoted above - but be aware that you may be looking at a cut-down model with half of the usual assortment of VRAM, which works out as 3GB for the GTX 1060 and 4GB for the RX 580. These budget cards are significantly worse in terms of performance, so we recommend sticking with the full-fat models. For an idea as to why, check out our 3GB vs 6GB GTX 1060 comparison. There's even a Chinese-only RX 580 model that ships with fewer compute units, 2048 compared to the standard 2304, which is similarly not worthwhile in our books.
Brands we recommend you look out for (in alphabetical order) include Asus, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI and Zotac. Of course, this isn't an exhaustive list of manufacturers you should trust, and other brands can produce great cards too.
GTX 1060 vs RX 580 benchmarks
For each benchmark, you'll see a YouTube video depicting the game in question and a special in-house benchmarking widget. Once you start the video, you can see in real time how each card handles the game. You can select and deselect different benchmarks as you please; you might want to see how the same card varies between 1080p and 1440p resolution, or see how both cards handle the same resolution. If you scroll down a little more, you can also find a handy graph of the results from the entire run, presented in barchart form. You can click on this to swap between frame-rate and percentage differentials, the latter of which may be more illuminating.
Our tests were conducted with a reference Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB and a Sapphire Nitro AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB. It's worth noting that no reference model exists for the RX 580, so we went with what was (at the time of testing) the fastest RX 580 available that we're aware of, to the point where stable overclocking only adds another 20MHz to the core (!). That means you should expect slightly worse performance from other RX 580 models that operate at a lower clock speed; your mileage may vary.
Assassin's Creed Unity
We'll start off with Assassin's Creed Unity, which came out back in 2014. The bustling streets of Paris still prove a good test for most cards, and the results are quite similar indeed. The GTX 1060 seems to be a little more stable here, with less frame-rate variance and better fifth percentile results, although the RX 580 does manage to score a better result on average for both resolutions we tested at.
AC Unity: Ultra High, FXAA
Ashes of the Singularity
Ashes of the Singularity, a 2016 strategy game, features lots of robotic creations shooting RGB lasers at each other - just like the interior of most PC cases these days. The game includes a handy in-game benchmark targeted by both Nvidia and AMD, but Nvidia tend to fall behind at the final whistle. That's definitely the case here, with Team Green sitting behind by about four or five frames per second on average. Things are a little better when you look at the minimum frame-rate measurements, which shows just a two frame per second lead for AMD at 1080p.
Ashes of the Singularity DX12: Extreme, No AA
Battlefield 1 features a stunningly chaotic depiction of World War 1 combat, both in its trademark multiplayer and the story-based single-player campaign shown in our benchmark. AMD tend to do better in DirectX 12 benchmarks like this, and combined with the RX 580's factory overclock we get a convincing 10 per cent performance advantage for the RX 580 here. Note that the frame-time peaks here are quite random, based on the presence or absence of close-range explosions, so don't worry about them too much.
Battlefield 1 DX12: Ultra, TAA
Can it run Crysis? Yup, both of these cards can handle the 2013 release, Crysis 3, at a hearty 80 frames per second at 1080p and 50 frames per second at 1440p. However, running at 4K is out of the question - surprising for a game approaching its sixth birthday, but that's Crysis for you. Our usual highly explosive train ride shows very little to separate both cards, with the RX 580 coming out just a little bit ahead on average thanks to a few extra dips for the GTX 1080.
Crysis 3: very high, SMAA T2X
Nvidia's cards sometimes fall behind AMD in DirectX 12 games, and that's exactly what happens in our test of The Division. This 2016 title is playable on the GTX 1060 and averages over 60 frames per second at 1080p, but the RX 580 still commands a sizeable 10 per cent lead in this test. Ultimately though, both cards produce a reasonable result as long as you're willing to accept some cutbacks in terms of graphical fidelity.
The Division DX12: Ultra, TAA
Far Cry Primal
Far Cry Primal is a tweener game, sitting between Far Cry 4 and Far Cry 5 and including some technical characteristics of both titles. This title offers some of the best results for Nvidia cards, with the GTX 1060 claiming an advantage at 1080p over the card from Team Red. However, the two GPUs swap places in the more challenging 1440p version of the test, continuing the trend we've seen thus far.
Far Cry Primal: Ultra, SMAA
Ghost Recon Wildlands
Ghost Recon Wildlands is perhaps the most challenging game in our benchmark suite thanks to its extremely demanding ultra preset, but it doesn't seem to favour one card over the other - so you can expect very similar results at both resolutions. Nvidia take the 1080p crown by a hair, perhaps thanks to AMD's greater driver overhead, and AMD return the favour at 1440p where CPU utilisation is less important.
Ghost Recon Wildlands: Ultra, TAA
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider is another DirectX 12 benchmark, and we all know what that means: slightly better performance for AMD in a typical scenario! Once again, the trend plays out although the margins are closer than you might expect. Expect lower frame-rates but a similar trend in the newer Tomb Raider title, Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
Rise of the Tomb Raider DX12: Very High, SMAA
The Witcher 3
We conclude our benchmark tour with one of the most popular RPGs in recent memory, The Witcher 3. Here we see our final win for AMD, as the RX 580 manages to outdo the Nvidia GTX 1060 throughout the benchmark at both 1080p and 1440p.
The Witcher 3: Ultra, POST-AA, No Hairworks
So what do our benchmarks reveal? Well, clearly the RX 580 is the better card in more of the games that we've tested, with the AMD card coming on top in seven of our nine tests at 1080p, and every time at 1440p. However, the GTX 1060 does keep it close in most games, usually within two or three frames per second at the lower resolution. Also bear in mind that we are running the fastest RX 580 on the market here in the absence of a reference card.
Given its often lower price compared to the RX 580 unit we tested, that suggests the GTX 1060 might be the better buy if you're gaming at 1080p, but if you want to stretch to 1440p, the AMD card is probably worth its extra cost. One thing we should point out is that our test system is a Core i7 6700K overclocked to 4.5GHz on all cores. AMD's driver overhead is significantly higher under DX11, so some of these results may change if you're running an older, or slower processor. We know there's still a lot of vintage Core i5 2500Ks out there! On those older systems, Nvidia is the smarter choice.
However, the GTX 1060 and RX 580 are so close in most titles that it makes it hard to definitely recommend one over the other, particularly given the recent variations we've seen in graphics card prices. Therefore, we recommend you look at the benchmark results above to see how the cards handle your favourite games, decide which features are the most important to you and check the current price of each card before committing to either.
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.
We hope this comparison was useful. For further reading, why not have a look at our reviews of each card via the links below?
Thanks for checking out the article and we'll catch you on the next one.