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Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060: Ray tracing comes to the mainstream

But just how powerful is the new mid-range contender?

We knew this one was coming, but the form it would take has been a hot topic in hardware circles. Some rumours suggested that Nvidia's successor to the massively successful GTX 1060 wouldn't have ray tracing features at all, while support for other Turing architecture technologies was also in doubt. Happily, the reality turns out to be very different indeed - RTX 2060 is a full-blooded Turing product, with all of the RTX features enabled. The question is really how viable the new card is for ray tracing when the hardware is inevitably pared back, and of course, how fast it is for non-RTX tasks.

On the latter point, Nvidia is bullish in its reviewer's guide, suggesting that the RTX 2060 wipes the floor with the (much cheaper) GTX 1060, while significantly outperforming GTX 1070 and bringing the fight to GTX 1070 Ti and even GTX 1080. If those numbers pan out in our own tests (spoilers: they do) then by extension we're also looking at a challenge facing AMD, bearing in mind the performance profile of its Vega products, not to mention the RTX 2060's £330/€369/$350 price-point, which undercuts both Vega products.

In terms of the basics surrounding the RTX 2060 set-up, what we're effectively looking at here is a significantly pared back rendition of the existing GeForce RTX 2070. At its core, the same TU106 processor is used and so by extension, the Founders Edition card we were sent for review is similar in form factor, IO and power inputs compared to the RTX 2070 FE. A single eight-pin power socket sits at the front of the card, while two DisplayPorts, USB-C and HDMI 2.0 are found at the rear. Pleasingly, Nvidia includes a dual-link DVI port here - opening the door for direct support to the vast array of older 2560x1440 monitors in the market - and the RTX 2060 really is a decent 1440p performer.

At the silicon level, the RTX 2060 features 1920 CUDA cores vs the RTX 2070's 2304 - 83.3 per cent of the shading power - increased just a notch by a small boost in maximum boost clocks (our FE card actually peaks at around 1.9GHz out of the box). As the Turing ray tracing tech is built into the core GPU structure, RT power is reduced accordingly - the six 'giga rays' of the RTX 2070 is reduced to five in the new offering. The second big compromise comes in the form of the memory set-up. The 256-bit bus found in the fully enabled TU106 is pared back to 192-bit, but still using the same 14gbps GDDR6 memory - what this means in practise is a 25 per cent reduction in memory bandwidth, though there is a decent amount of overclocking headroom on the G6 modules.

Cover image for YouTube videoNvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Review: Ray Tracing For The Masses?
See how the RTX 2060 looks and performs, and how well it runs Battlefield 5 at ultra settings with full ray tracing in our video review.
RTX 2060 RTX 2070 RTX 2080 RTX 2080 Ti
CUDA cores 1920 2304 2944 4352
Giga Rays/sec 5 6 8 10
Memory Bus 192-bit 256-bit 256-bit 352-bit
Bandwidth 336GB/s 448GB/s 448GB/s 616GB/s
Boost Clock 1680MHz 1620MHz 1710MHz 1545MHz
Processor TU106 TU106 TU104 TU102
TDP 160W 185W 215W 250W

In essence then, factoring in the balance between compute power and memory bandwidth, we should reasonably expect the RTX 2070 to be circa 20 per cent faster than this new card, but as the benchmarks shall reveal, real performance differentials are a little more unpredictable - especially at the 1080p resolution that Nvidia seems to be targeting for the RTX 2060. It's actually a lot closer than that in most cases, though the higher up the resolution ladder you go, the more the faster cards spread their wings. And this leads us on to discussing the importance of the components surrounding the GPU. The RTX 2060 offers performance broadly in line or better than the outgoing GTX 1070 Ti - this is a really fast GPU that we'd typically recommend for 1440p gaming. At 1080p, even with our testbed running a Core i7 8700K at 4.7GHz on all cores, we can hit CPU limits in some of our benchmarks here. To put it simply: if we're getting diminishing returns from higher end cards with an 8700K at 1080p, the impact will be more keenly felt on less capable CPUs, where 1440p would be a much better fit for the GPU's capabilities.

So let's move on to analysing the performance of the RTX 2060 in a lot more depth. Nvidia provided press samples well ahead of embargo, allowing us to put together our most extensive range of tests yet. In this piece, we're beefing up our tests of DLSS upscaling with new RTX 2060 data, and we're putting the Turing architecture's fascinating new variable shading tech through its paces in its first supported game - Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. We'll also be stacking up the RTX 2060 against the more powerful cards in the line, while delivering direct comparisons against the nearest competitors in terms of pricing: Vega 56, Vega 64, GTX 1070, GTX 1070 Ti and GTX 1080.

In addition to this, we've reserved a benchmarking section for comparisons against the current reigning 1080p champions - GTX 1060, RX 580 and RX 590. Nvidia's positioning of the RTX 2060 as a 1080p gaming card is a little problematic for a £330/€369/$350 offering in that it's significantly more expensive than GTX 1060. Typically, the £230/$250-level products are where we see the best value for full HD gaming, but you'll be able to see how much extra bang for the buck you get with the RTX 2060 in that section of the review. There's a lot to cover here, so let's get going.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Analysis