GeForce GTX 1060 review: Nvidia battles AMD for PC gaming's next-gen sweet spot

The first head-to-head battle in the next-generation graphics card war is here.

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Power and heat

Nvidia’s Maxwell architecture was famed for its power efficiency, and the Pascal GPU inside the GTX 1060 sips even less power while pumping out more performance. Nvidia’s new graphics card consumes less power than any other we’ve ever tested under full load. GeForce remains superior to Radeon in sheer power efficiency, though the RX 480 runs far leaner than prior AMD cards.

gtx 1060 power

We’ve changed how we test power consumption. We used to run Furmark, a popular benchmark that exists solely to crank graphics cards to 11, and record the results. But Furmark crashes when you try to load it with the review drivers Nvidia provides. Coincidence? Perhaps not. Nvidia hates Furmark, specifically saying not to use it in reviewer guides. But at the same time, we discovered that AMD’s RX 480 doesn’t enter its highest power state while running Furmark, meaning it appears to draw less power while running that application than it does while running full-blown games.

To rectify the situation, we’ve begun testing power usage by running SpeedFan while the intensive Division benchmark runs, then noting the peak power draw afterward. We retested all the graphics cards using this method; only the RX 480 showed a substantially different result.

Heat

Less power means less heat. The GeForce GTX 1060 stays under 80 degrees Celsius despite rocking a reference cooler.

Remember: Only the GeForce GTX 1060, Radeon RX 480, and GeForce GTX 980 pack reference designs; all the other cards sport custom coolers of various efficiency. That makes this somewhat of an apples-to-oranges affair. That said, the RX 480 and GTX 980 are the cards Nvidia’s directly pitting the GTX 1060 against, so it’s helpful that those cards all pack stock cooling designs.

gtx 1060 temps

There’s nothing to complain about when it comes to the GTX 1060’s power and thermals. This is about as good as reference cards get. It’ll be really interesting to see just how cool the card becomes in the hands of third-party partners. Zotac’s already announced a diminutive mini-ITX version of the card measuring a mere 6.85-inches long.

Next page: Bottom line

At a Glance
  • Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060 offers no-compromises 1080p gaming and supreme power efficiency for an affordable price.

    Pros

    • No compromises 1080p gaming performance
    • Extremely power efficient and cool
    • Can run virtual reality experiences

    Cons

    • No SLI connector
    • More expensive than AMD's Radeon RX 480, but similar performance
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