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Similar GPU, Half the RAM: MSI GeForce GTX 1060 3GB Review

By Steve · 31 replies
Aug 31, 2016
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  1. What about Nvidia's new 3GB version of the GTX 1060, you ask? For $200 -- and we've been able to find at least one selling at that price -- but as is the case with the RX 480, RX 470 and the 6GB GTX 1060, we find that most of the 3GB models are selling for above the official pricing.

    Anyhow, assuming prices settle down shortly, there should be a $50 difference between the 3GB and 6GB versions of the GTX 1060, which would make the 3GB model 20% cheaper which is significant in sub-$300 graphics cards.

    Rather than take Nvidia's word for it, we're keen to see just how much of an impact the 3GB frame buffer and 10% reduction in core count has on performance in our benchmarks. There's no Founders Edition 3GB model so on hand for testing we have the impressive looking MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 3G.

    Read the complete review.

  2. Mr Majestyk

    Mr Majestyk TS Enthusiast Posts: 44   +18

    I still think I'd rather get the Radeon R470 4GB, not much slower than the R480 and Vulkan and DX12 will work much better.
    jauffins likes this.
  3. risc32

    risc32 TS Addict Posts: 209   +96

    that's what I did. Realized I didn't want to spend 4-500 on Vega, got a 4gb 470. I'm pleased with it.
    jauffins and Steve like this.
  4. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Maniac Posts: 226   +195

    Good review, I will probably wait for the RX480 & GTX 1060 to hit sub $180 before I think about replacing my GTX760. 3-4GB is more then enough RAM for 1080p gaming especially if you understand the tricks developers do to push graphic hardware in order to help AMD/Nvidia sell more cards.
    Steve likes this.
  5. Nero7

    Nero7 TS Addict Posts: 231   +72

    So when everyone was upset about the 970 having "only 3.5GB" they are now supposed to get a 1060 with only 3? Couldn't they have just given it 4GB and called it a 1050ti...
  6. codgerface

    codgerface TS Member

    Was really looking forward to your breakdown of the true impact of the halved VRAM, and it didn't disappoint. Nice job!

    Thanks for noting your findings from turning down Mirror's Edge, and I appreciate that you brought up the concept of gaining back performance with minimal reduction in visual quality when stepping down from the absolute top tier setting to the second best setting (typical phenomenon in many games).

    You nailed it when you said, "That's another point worth considering: even if games do start to consume considerably more VRAM, the 3GB GTX 1060 isn't going to become useless overnight. Lowering a few key quality settings will bounce performance back to expected levels." Whether something is "future-proof" or not is a metric that gets applied a lot, and I think you make a great point that should be considered when making purchasing decisions in the budget space.

    I know your intent wasn't a crusade for this Lite 1060, and I don't mean to come off as cheering for it (or nvidia). Its just that I happen to be as equally interested in budget hardware where compromises need to be made (and how to min/max those compromises against cost) as I am in the uncompromising power of high-end enthusiast parts. And this card is just a good case study in reality vs myth about what is "needed," and its a good example of a piece of hardware performing exactly as it should in its intended scope regardless of the many opinions out there about how it will surely and very obviously fail.

    ScubaRhys and Steve like this.
  7. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,786   +1,007

    Lack of memory doesn't usually manifest in loss of FPS unless the lack of VRAM is bad. I guess the 1060 is at that point with some of the newer games.

    Steve, any word on the FPS over time in some of the games you benchmarked with the GTX 1060 3 GB? Does the card experience lag spikes and whatnot? This is usually the first thing you start to notice on a card with overtaxed VRAM.
  8. ddferrari

    ddferrari TS Maniac Posts: 282   +116

    I think I'd stick with the 1060, as it is a better card for games that aren't DX12 or Vulkan... in other words, 99% of all the games to date. By the time DX12 and Vulkan are being widely used the RX 470 and 1060 will be near retirement anyway.
  9. ddferrari

    ddferrari TS Maniac Posts: 282   +116

    Why is the RX 480 4GB card not part of this review? For $200 suggested retail, wouldn't it be the direct competitor to the 1060 3GB?
  10. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 1,909   +592

    Lol@the people STILL whining about RAM capacity.
    Did you guys read the same review I did? And what part of Pascal's 8:1 lossless delta compression did you not understand when it was explained at launch?

    But yea, please buy a card that has a DX12 (async compute) advantage in 2, MAYBE 3 games that aren't anything to write home about. That logic....

    aye yi yi.
    dirtyferret likes this.
  11. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,357   +1,516

    If they could make a 4GB version, they would have created an 8GB model rather than a 6GB model. In fact, if they made the 3GB GTX 1060 a 4GB card we would be faced with a GTX 970 situation all over again. The reason this card comes with either 3GB or 6GB of VRAM is down to the 192-bit wide memory bus.

    I don’t have a proper 4GB RX 480, still trying to buy one. So that’s why ;)
    Phr3d, dirtyferret and ddferrari like this.
  12. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,786   +1,007

    The lack of RAM and DX 12 are two different topics. What these benchmarks show is that 3 GB of RAM does affect FPS right now and that trend will only get worse with more and more games coming out requiring more RAM.

    What I would like to see is FPS over time as usually a lack of RAM will result in a large min-max FPS delta that doesn't really show in the average FPS but has a large impact on gameplay experience.
  13. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,357   +1,516

    The benchmark runs last at least 60 seconds and are run three times. That said I have gamed quite a bit on the 3GB card, performance doesn't 'slow' over time. Run's Battlefield 1 great as well on high settings.
    Phr3d, dirtyferret and codgerface like this.
  14. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 411   +256

    Did you even read the whole article from beginning to end. I've noticed you post a lot of nonsense predictions and assume a lot in all intel and nvidia articles and you always talk about amd in those articles. You talk about newer games that is not even out. It must be hard to please you even a proper review is done. The review says it all. 3gb in 1080p for this pascal card is enough and great for all released games. This card which is crippled in RAM and CUDA can go head to head with the rx480 8gb and even beat it in some games. Why can you just see the merit on it unless you are an AMD cult member.

    As for vulcan, there is just doom so why do you think that all games in the future would be vulcan coded. Now if you still say future proofing, with 1440p and VR, go to the enthusiast cards which Nvidia is the only one who can provide you that as of NOW but based on your preference, you will still go with a mainstream AMD video card.

    BTW Nice review Steve. I hope you can review the RX 480 4gb and RX 470 4gb also. I noticed EVGA is selling this card for $190.
    Phr3d likes this.
  15. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,786   +1,007

    It's funny that you say that because I haven't mentioned Nvidia's counterpart once. Excuse me for asking a question, apparently there are people like you who have to swarm to protect Nvidia's chastity.

    Once again, I never mentioned anything about DX12 or vulkan and frankly I couldn't care less. So please take your blind accusations elsewhere.
  16. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 411   +256

    LOL. Still dont have a clue why you are still questioning the 3GB?
  17. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 1,909   +592

    Notification said you quoted me but I don't see it.
  18. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,314   +537

    On low-mid level cards, "future proofing" is irrational... they aren't going to be able to play AAA titles in 2 years no matter what...

    If you are buying this card (or the 470/480), you're buying a fairly cheap card that plays everything you need NOW.

    So, we won't really know what the better buy will be until they all become plentiful and their prices settle in.... but as of now, assuming all prices equal, the 1060 seems to be the far greater value.
    Evernessince likes this.
  19. ddferrari

    ddferrari TS Maniac Posts: 282   +116

    Fair enough- thanks!
  20. SourDo

    SourDo TS Rookie

    Are there any news about single-slot 1060's? That is what I would be most interested in, for a mini-ITX build. Thanks!
  21. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,786   +1,007

    Yeah, don't know why the RX 480's price is staying so high. I guess we won't really know until AMD's end of quarter report. They could either be selling allot or having supply issues.
  22. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Maniac Posts: 226   +195

    Man I love ***** fan boys who have no clue how the gaming - graphic industry works.

    You need to future proof! You can't possibly play AAA games that are ports from playstation 4 and xbox 3 consoles in two years. You just can't! Even with a card that is over twice as graphically powerful as those consoles! How can you possibly play a game without shadows maxed out to stupid levels and draw distances max out!!!
  23. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Maniac Posts: 226   +195

    Choke on your lies Steve! I know for a fact that if you try to install Battlefield on a system with a video card that has less then 4GB of RAM, the game will uninstall itself while hijacking your browser to newegg displaying all graphic cards with 4GB+ of video ram.
  24. YSignal

    YSignal TS Rookie Posts: 19

    Bottom line: Plenty of options for around the same speed/price with more memory, making this product kind of pointless.
  25. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 1,314   +537

    Um.... That's what I said.... If you're being sarcastic, then I don't know what your beef is - these cards are fine for titles now, and in the near future.... You want something "future-proof", pick up a 1070 or 1080

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