The Best GTX 1060 – June 2018
Offering a whopping 76% performance increase over its predecessor, the GTX 960, the GTX 1060 marked a massive generational leap in graphical horsepower when it released in mid-2016.
While the 2017/2018 cryptocurrency mining craze resulted in a GPU shortage that skyrocketed the price of cards like these, this time is over. For users who have been waiting to build a new gaming PC or upgrade their pre-existing GPUs, now is a pretty good time, and the GTX 1060 is a pretty good card to start with.
Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know and give you our recommendations.
What’s the difference between the 3GB and 6GB versions?
You may have noticed that there are two variants on the GTX 1060: a 3GB variant and a 6GB variant. The latter variant is what the card actually launched as, with the 3GB releasing later as a lower-priced alternative. In short, the GTX 1060 3GB is a stripped-down version of the main card, with very similar performance but half the VRAM.
Overall, this translates to a 7% overall performance difference in most scenarios. Where this changes is in applications where the extra 3GB in VRAM is needed, such as 1440p gaming and VR. While both cards are great, we recommend saving money and getting the 3GB if you’re on a budget and won’t be playing VR or 1440p games.
Where does the GTX 1060 excel?
The GTX 1060 is best suited for the following scenarios:
- 1080p gaming. Both variants of the GTX 1060 will excel in 1080p games, easily pushing high-to-max settings in all but the most unoptimized titles. If you’re using a 1080 display and want a stellar experience, the GTX 1060 is a great option for you.
- 1440p gaming. If you’re using a 1440p display, you should be able to enjoy great gaming with some compromises while using the 6GB variant.
- Entry-level VR gaming. If using the 6GB variant, you’re right at the baseline level of PC VR. This should mean that most VR games for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift should be playable, but you may experience performance issues in particularly cutting-edge titles.
- Entry-level 4K gaming. If you want to upscale native 1440p gameplay at medium/high settings or play at a native 4K with low settings, the 6GB variant is for you.
Is the GTX 1060 overkill for my usage scenarios?
The GTX 1060 is a very strong card, but it might be overkill in one of the following use cases:
- Weak CPU. If you’re using a weak processor, the GTX 1060’s performance will be bottlenecked by it. If using the kind of budget build that usually has these processors- sub $400- go ahead and buy a better processor or a GTX 1050 (Ti) instead.
- Sub-1080p gaming. If you aren’t using at least a 1080p display, you seriously shouldn’t buy any variant of the GTX 1060. There’s no point in it- you’d likely be better suited with a 1030 or 1050. That, or you should seriously consider buying a better monitor.
- Retro games. If you only play older PC games or emulate old console games, you probably don’t need this graphics card. The only exception to this rule worth noting is if you’re using a cutting-edge emulator, like Cemu or RPCS3- in those cases, a 1060 or better should work well for you.
First up on our list is the cheapest on it: the GTX 1060 3GB! Specifically, a low-profile variant that’s also the cheapest on the market.
Since this card is low-profile, it will be able to fit into more commonly-sized low-profile desktop cases. This makes it ideal for upgrading pre-existing prebuilt desktop PCs, while also making it appropriate for small PC builds.
The price is also quite attractive. While the MSRP for the 1060 3GB is technically $199, Nvidia doesn’t sell this card on their website. At only $229.99 at the time of writing, this card is the cheapest of its kind and comes with all the benefits of a low-profile card on top of that.
The only real downside we’d hedge against this one is that it isn’t a 6GB 1060. But if you aren’t playing at resolutions higher than 1080p, this won’t matter. Cooling should be fine, too, since this is a more midrange card than, say, the GTX 1080.
Next up is the opposite end of the barrel: the best raw-performance GTX 1060. Hailing from EVGA, this card boasts an SSC cooler and a high factory overclock, making it perfect for out-of-the-box gaming.
EVGA is easily the best brand for Nvidia GPUs, and cards like this show off why. With stellar build quality, great performance and good cooling, this card should offer both great out-of-box performance and overclocking headroom.
If you’re worried about the price, don’t be. The GTX 1060 6GB’s MSRP is $299, and this card comes in at $349, which is pretty reasonable as far as high-end manufacturer variants go. If you want similar performance at a lower price, you can also get a Founders Edition from Nvidia, which we discuss in more detail below.
At only $35 above the 3GB’s MSRP, ASUS pulls out the best version of the 1060 3GB. It does this by providing great dual-fan cooling and a strong factory overclock, placing it above our other 1060 3GB…if you’re willing to pay the little bit extra.
If you can’t afford a 1060 6GB but really want 1060-level performance, this card is our top pick for the job. While you still won’t be able to do much in 4K games or VR, you should still have a great experience playing in 1080p or 1440p.
Plus, ASUS is a pretty solid manufacturer. While not quite EVGA-tier in terms of GPUs, their customer support is solid enough that you shouldn’t experience any major issues with them if you need help with this card.
If you don’t want to pay extra past the 1060 6GB’s MSRP, this is the card for you. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only purpose it serves.
The Founders Edition is a reference design from Nvidia, which means there is no factory overclock to speak of, or a souped-up cooler. Instead, all you’re left with is…a reference design.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If, for instance, you prefer the clean aesthetic of Nvidia’s Founders Edition, you won’t get it anywhere else. Plus, all 1060 6GB’s should perform pretty similarly, so you won’t be making massive performance sacrifices, only marginal ones through less overclocking headroom and cooling performance.
Overall, this is a good option if you can’t afford the extra $30+ to buy a non-reference GTX 1060 6GB. It’s far from the best, though.
Yet another card from EVGA, this is our low-profile card of choice for the 6GB GTX 1060. With a price of $319, which is only marginally higher than the $299 MSRP, you’ll get to enjoy a number of benefits, chief among them being the smaller size.
With a smaller size, you’ll be able to fit this card into more compact builds, like store-bought prebuilts or low-profile custom PCs. The card also sports a factory overclock, but this may conflict with its small size and average cooling performance.
Overall, it should provide baseline GTX 1060 6GB performance, if not slightly higher in particularly well-cooled builds. However, we highly recommend against overclocking a card this small.
Last up is our best cooling performance GTX 1060 6GB, a ROG STRIX variant from ASUS. While this is a truly stellar card all around (boasting an industry-best cooler, for instance), it did have to take a lower rank for one reason: its price.
Specifically, this card is retailing for $359.95 on Amazon at the time of writing, which is nearly a full $60 over the 1060 6GB’s $299 MSRP.
However, you are getting plenty of extra features for this money:
- Best-in-class cooling performance
- RGB lighting, allowing the card to fit with any color-themed build
- ASUS FanConnect, which provides a superior fan control experience
- And a high factory overclock, which should provide best-in-class performance as well.
Aside from the price, the other big downside of the ROG STRIX is its sheer size. If your case and your wallet are large enough, however, there’s pretty much no reason to choose any 1060 over this one.