Nvidia has announced a new variant of their GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card today, which features half the VRAM and a slight reduction in CUDA core count. This new card, the GTX 1060 3GB, will go head-to-head with the AMD Radeon RX 480 4GB at a $199 price point.
Normally when lower-capacity variants of a graphics card are released, the only change is the reduction in VRAM. The GTX 1060 3GB does see a cut in GDDR5 frame buffer from 6 GB to 3 GB on the same 192-bit bus, but Nvidia has also disabled one of the ten SMs in the GP106 GPU for this model, which introduces a new core configuration under the GTX 1060 name.
With nine of the ten SMs active in this card, the core count drops from 1280 to 1152, and the texture units see a similar reduction from 80 to 72. Clock speeds remain unchanged, at 1506 MHz with a boost to 1709 MHz, though rated compute performance decreases by 11 percent (from 4.4 to 3.9 TFLOPs). Despite the core count reduction, the TDP of the 3GB model remains at 120W.
Changing the core configuration for the GTX 1060 3GB does introduce some confusion into Nvidia's product line-up, as comparisons between GTX 1060s now go beyond the included frame buffer. Nvidia claims the real-world performance drop from disabling one SM sits at around five percent, which is pretty reasonable considering the price has dropped by $50 (or 20 percent).
Despite the reduction in performance, Nvidia could have a compelling graphics card here for just $199. The GTX 1060 6GB was already decent value at $249, but it couldn't beat the $199 Radeon RX 480 4GB in a cost-per-frame battle. This new 3GB variant should end up performing similarly to or slightly better than the RX 480 4GB, albeit with lower VRAM, for the same price.
The battle between GTX 1060 3GB and RX 480 4GB might already be won by Nvidia though, because they have the advantage of availability. You can head to Newegg right now and purchase the GTX 1060 3GB at its MSRP of $199, while the RX 480 is perpetually out of stock