Oh what a joyous time to be a PC enthusiast. This year is set to be the largest single advancement in manufacturing processes and performance increases since the start of Intel’s 32nm Nehalem processor line way back in 2009.
Let’s just take a step back and analyze this for a second. In the last 12 months we’ve seen the Z170 chipset, Skylake, Broadwell-E, Pascal’s GTX 1080 and 1070, AMD’s Polaris RX 480 and now, finally Nvidia’s answer to the red team’s mid-range booty kicker, the GTX 1060.
Let’s face the facts. No matter how you look at it, both Nvidia’s and AMD’s arsenals stem from the mid-range. The flagships gain the prestige, but it’s the mid-range that wins the war.
AMD’s RX 480 is currently dominating that part of the market. Its latest card is priced aggressively and sits comfortably in performance terms between the GTX 970 and GTX 980. But is it priced aggressively enough to stem off the tidal wave that is the GTX 1060? Let’s find out.
So then, what do we know about this new mid-range Titan? Well, it’s still based off of Pascal’s 16nm FinFET manufacturing process, albeit on the GP106 processor as opposed to the GTX 1080 and 1070’s GP104.
It comes in either 6GB or 3GB variants, at the standard 8GB/s of bandwidth on a 192-bit bus, features an impressive 1,280 CUDA cores, 80 Texture Units and 48 ROPs. Couple that with an increase of 1.46 billion transistors, a 120 watt TDP and a base spec base clock (before GPU boost gets its hands on it) of 1708 MHz and we’re on to a winner.
Hold on a moment…
Everything isn’t rosy with the GTX 1060, however. There’s one problem in particular, and is it a biggy: SLI. While opening up the beautifully designed Nvidia packaging, one thing immediately stood out to us – the lack of the usual SLI fingers littering the top of the card.
Now, admittedly SLI isn’t the be all and end all of a GPU, especially one at this price point. However, for those looking to boost their graphical performance a couple of years later down the line, the severe lack of an SLI bridge limits you to DX12 titles supported by both Microsoft and the game developers via a nifty piece of technology called MDA mode or LDA explicit. Although by no means is that a guarantee of actual support.
This actually then brings up quite the conundrum when it comes to how exactly you take your upgrade path. Historically, we’ve always suggested (if you’re buying long term for now) that you should always opt for a more powerful GPU rather than two lower cost cards. SLI is great when it works, but it’s exactly that – it has to work – and with a lack of SLI profiles for games on launch, it’s not always a compelling argument to grab two unless you’re talking about a top-tier PC gaming monster rig.
However, if you’re looking to pick up an additional card later down the line when prices drop and a new generation of cards pop, it’s just not going to be possible anymore. The alternative to this conundrum is to opt for the more higher-end GTX 1070, which retains those SLI fingers if that’s your jam.
Or, optionally you could go for AMD’s RX 480, which comes at a slightly cheaper price point, and with performance set succinctly between the GTX 980 and 970.