Today we’ve revisiting the age old battle between the Radeon RX 580 and GeForce GTX 1060, though this battle really began for AMD with the Radeon RX 480. This GPU was released in June 2016, nearly four years ago which is crazy in GPU years and more so considering this part is technically still on sale today and is sold in fairly large quantities.
The Radeon RX 480 was originally intended to do battle with Nvidia’s upcoming Pascal-based GTX 1060, released only a month later. At the time, the 8GB RX 480 was priced at $240 and the GTX 1060 6GB was sold for $250. Three months after release we compared the two, head to head in 22 games and found on average that the GeForce GPU was 6% faster. We noted then that in more recent titles, based on modern DX12 and Vulkan APIs, the RX 480 was almost always faster. Half a dozen of the titles tested supported a modern API and when comparing the data from those select titles, the GTX 1060 6GB was actually 5% slower on average. It seemed like over time, the Radeon RX 480 would end up being the faster product, while the GTX 1060 was more efficient and therefore AIB models generally ran cooler and quieter.
We've revisited the same comparison a few times over the years. In 2016, AMD released new drivers claiming big performance upgrades and with 19 games tested in total we found the GTX 1060 6GB was now just 1% faster on average.
A year after launching the RX 480, AMD refreshed it as the RX 580 with a mild overclock and a price cut. To combat this Nvidia released a 9 Gbps memory version of the GTX 1060 which improved memory bandwidth by 13% over the standard 8 Gbps models. That sounded reasonably substantial, but without increasing the core clock frequency this change had little impact on performance.
By mid 2017 on a 27 game benchmark, the Radeon RX 580 was already 3% faster than the GTX 1060 9Gbps model. The tables had turned you could say, though it was fair to say performance was a match between the two and the ultimate choice came down to which games you played the most. A year later in 2018 we revisited this battle once again with 25 games, many of them new and previously untested for this comparison. This time the GTX 1060 was found to be on top by a marginal 3% faster on average result.
Then the most recent update was published in 2019 with our biggest sample of games yet at 36. This time the RX 580 was around 3% faster than the GTX 1060. What's perhaps most surprising, the RX 580 is still on sale and remains one of the best value sub-$200 graphics card on the market. Easily beating out the newer 5500 XT and matching the GTX 1650 Super. It’s possible to buy an 8GB RX 580 for as little as $160 and that makes this ancient GPU better value than most of the latest offerings.
Today's comparisong is a big 32 game benchmark, as usual we'll go over the results for about a dozen of the newer titles and then we’ll check out some head to head comparisons with all games in a few performance breakdown graphs. Our test rig consisted of a Core i9-9900K clocked at 5 GHz with 32GB of DDR4-3400 memory. Representing the green team is the Gigabyte Aorus GTX 1060 6G 9Gbps and for the red team the Gigabyte Aorus RX 580 XTR 8G. The latest available display drivers at the time of testing we’re used and all results have been updated. Let’s get to the good stuff…
First up we have Rainbow Six Siege using its new Vulkan implementation. Previously using DX11, the RX 580 was around 15% faster than the GTX 1060. However, we’re now looking at around twice that margin as the RX 580 was 27% faster at 1080p and 30% faster at 1440p.
Clearly Nvidia hasn’t bothered to optimize their drivers for Pascal GPUs using the newer API in this title.
World War Z is another title that makes use of Vulkan and here the RX 580 is seen to be 23% faster at 1080p and 27% faster at 1440p, so another massive win for the red team.
Resident Evil 2 is yet another title that makes use of a low-level API and here the RX 580 comfortably beats the 1060 by a 23% margin at 1080p and a 24% margin at 1440p.
Red Dead Redemption 2 requires at least 8GB of VRAM when using high quality settings and as a result, we see rather poor 1% low performance from the GTX 1060 due to its 6GB buffer.
So while the RX 580 was 18% faster when comparing average frame rate performance at 1080p, it was a whopping 77% faster when comparing the 1% low data, and more crucially, didn’t suffer from frame stuttering.
Apex Legends uses a modified version of Valve's Source engine and we had previously found the RX 580 to have a large performance advantage in this title. However, after the most recent update performance has swung around in Nvidia’s favor, and for now at least, the GTX 1060 is up to 12% faster.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds uses the Unreal Engine 4 which is optimized for Nvidia hardware and as such the GTX 1060 beats the RX 580 by a handy margin in this title, offering 14% more frames at 1080p and 10% more at 1440p.
Interestingly, although Fortnite also uses the Unreal Engine 4, AMD has been able to optimize the RX 580 for better performance. We know AMD was focused for a while on improving performance for this super popular title, and it seems they’ve done just that as the RX 580 was faster at both tested resolutions by up to a 12% margin.
Performance in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is neck and neck, no real winner here.
Interestingly despite being an Nvidia sponsored title, Metro Exodus plays much better on the RX 580, though it does also use the DX12 API. Here the Radeon GPU was 23% faster at 1080p and 21% faster at 1440p.
Performance in the newly released Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order is very similar and this is a DirectX 11 title using the highly popular Unreal Engine.
Last year when testing F1 2018 the RX 580 and GTX 1060 were ever so close. However, this latest version, F1 2019 makes use of DX12 and here the Radeon GPU has a huge performance advantage that sees it deliver 21% more frames at 1080p and 23% more at 1440p.
Performance in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is fairly even, though the RX 580 was 6% faster at 1080p and 9% faster at 1440p. Not a huge difference, though you will notice the performance boost at 1440p in particular.
The Radeon RX 580 looked somewhat dominant in that 12 game sample, but we tested many more games...
Let’s see how the 580 and 1060 stack up across 32 new and popular titles.
At 1080p the RX 580 was 5% faster on average and looking at the results overall, you have a much better chance of receiving an extra 10% or more performance with the Radeon GPU in modern titles. Many of the newly released titles where the RX 580 didn’t look so great use the Unreal Engine such as The Outer Worlds and PUBG, for example.
Of the 32 games tested, 10 of them saw margins within 5%, which we'd consider a tie. There were 16 games where the RX 580 was faster by a 6% margin or greater and just 6 games where it was slower by a 6% margin or greater. The RX 580 is clearly the more consistent performer in 2020.
The margins grow in AMD’s favor at 1440p. Here the RX 580 was 8% faster on average, it’s biggest win over the GTX 1060 since this battle started. It would seem as though the extra 2GB of VRAM is now coming into play and we certainly saw this in titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2, for example.
Long Term Bets
Roughly four years after putting together our first big benchmark comparison between these two GPUs, it seems many of our original thoughts were accurate. We suspected that due to the strong initial low-level API performance of the RX 480, the Radeon would eventually end up becoming the superior GPU. We didn’t recommend buying the RX 480 on that hunch alone though, as it was impossible to know just how long it would be before the superior DX12 and Vulkan performance would pay off.
While the RX 580 has clearly aged better, the GTX 1060 6GB hasn’t turned out to be a poor choice after all these years either. Current owners of the GTX 1060 6GB may still be content about their investment. In some titles the RX 580 delivers in excess of 20% more frames, but overall performance is still good. For the most part the 6GB frame buffer is fine and you can easily work around that limitation.
Had you planned to keep the Radeon RX 480 for many years, then the better low-level API support would have been a major consideration, but if you upgrade every 2 or 3 years, then probably not as much. Since the RX 480 was released and then refreshed as the RX 580, there’s been no obvious alternative in the $180 to $250 price range.
Nvidia's attempt with the GTX 1660 a year ago was welcome, but offering just 15% more performance didn’t make the $220 upgrade worth it, plus AMD kept cutting RX 580's prices in retaliation.
Right now, for $160-$180, Radeon RX 580 graphics cards offer good value but for the same price we'd prefer the newer GeForce GTX 1650 Super. Both GPUs are mostly matched on performance, with the GeForce getting the upper hand on efficiency and thermals.
If you want to spend over $200 on a new graphics card today, go with the $230 GeForce GTX 1660 Super which offers ~30% more performance, or $300 on a GeForce RTX 2060 for a little over 50% more performance.