The nVidia Pascal architecture has been creating buzz with almost every launch since day one. Recently the former flagship model the GTX 1080 was replaced by the GTX 1080Ti which well is the fastest gaming card on the planet today! Though we don;t have the GTX 1080Ti with us yet but we sure have the next to the entry level Pascal card with us today, thank to MSI India we have with us the MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G for review!
Coming in two variants of 3GB and 6GB VRAM the GTX 1060 is nVidia's entry level solution for their newest architecture. While the 3GB is not recommended due to low VRAM obviously the 6GB version does the trick just right for almost all the top end titles on a 1080p display.
The GeForce GTX 1060 features 1,280 CUDA cores, 80 TMUs, 48 ROPs, and a 192-bit GDDR5 memory interface with 6 GB of memory. The MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gaming X ships with factory-overclocked speeds of 1569 MHz on the core and an untouched 8 Gbps memory for 192 GB/s of memory bandwidth. Sounds all good right but on the down side it doesn't support SLI at all and that's applicable to all the third party vendors models as well including the one we have today!
Packing and Accessories
The packing from MSI is still the same but with a little bit more red color and a larger product image.
The front sports the product name and the actual card's picture occupying most of the real estate. Mention to features such as VR Ready and TwinFrozr VI technology are clearly highlighted.
At the back nothing special is mentioned and we again hear about the new cooler and the revamped MSI Gaming App.
Inside we get a set of accessories neatly packed in a thin cardboard box under which you find the actual card safely wrapped in an anti-static bag perched in a thick styrofoam cavity. Accessories are humble in number and include a Driver DVD, stickers and decals for the cases, user guide and a leaflet reminding you to register your product online for effective warranty support.
Closer Look and Features
MSI stuck to their conventional design and color scheme with the GTX 1060 aswell but have added some small but noticeable changes that makes the GTX 1060 Gaming X an entirely new offering from grounds up. The unit measures in at 277x140x39mm.
The card is black and red equipped with the new TwinFrozr VI cooler which make the plastic shroud a bit more angular on the right side. This not only makes it look a bit more aggressive but also gels in well with the entire dragon theme. Left side is entirely black with red scale like highlights that actually light up in red color by default when the card is powered on.
At the back MSI added a solid black aluminum backplate that imparts great tensile strength to this large unit. The stenciled dragon is still there but what's new is that the perforations are no longer round holes but more like a dragon's scales. I few brownie points to MSI for adding such small but important detail.
The new TwinFrozr VI coolers comes with the newly designed TORX 2.0 fans which helps to push and dissipate 22% more air in and off the card for effective cooling. These fans don't spin at all as long as the temperatures are under 60°C after which they gradually spin wrt the temperature. MSI calls it their Zero Frozr mode which delivers pin drop silent performance.
Double Ball Bearings give the unique MSI TORX 2.0 Fans a strong and lasting core for years of smooth gaming. They also remain virtually silent while spinning under load, keeping your graphics card cool during intense and lengthy gaming sessions.
It is a double slot card with a DL-DVI-D connector, three DisplayPort connections (v1.4), and an HDMI port (v2.0) putting out a maximum resolution of 7680 x 4320. NVIDIA also updated DisplayPort to be 1.2 certified and 1.3/1.4 ready, which enables support for 4K at 120 Hz and 5K @ 60 Hz, or 8K @ 60 Hz with two cables.
The card unlike the reference model which requires a 6-pin connector rated at 160W feeds upon a single 8 pin PCIe power connector which gives it an upper power limit of near 225W. This ensures enough overclocking headroom for this unit.
Considering the weight of the card which is nearly 1.17Kg MSI equipped the GTX 1060 Gaming X with its now signature bracket like arm that connects the IO port metal strip to the internal metal armor imparting immense tensile strength to the body of the card and hence prevents the card from wrapping under its own weight!
Pop the hood open and you find the card to be constituted of four layers namely as the backplate, metal armor, PCB and heatsink with cooler.
The heatsink is composed of a thick aluminum mesh and the baseplate is made of nickel-plated copper to move the heat to the smoothed and flattened heatpipes, one 8mm and four 6mm, which will maximize heat transfer from the base plate.
The Pascal based 16nm GP106 GPU sits in the middle surrounded by GDDR5 memory chips that are covered by thermal pads to enhance cooling.
MSI uses Samsung Memory IC for the GTX 1060 Gaming X and are model no K4G80325FB-HC25 rated for 8000Mhz effective at 1.35v
A massive 5+1 phase power delivery system constituted of Hi-C Caps, Super-Ferrite Chokes, and Japanese solid caps drives the card. Considering the power consumption capacity of this model MSI has rightly chosen the components for the power delivery system.
Benchmarks and Overclocking
Installing this 1.1Kg card was easy and it powered up like a breeze once we booted up the system.
Now comes the interesting part, upon checking the frequencies via GPUZ we came to know that by default the card is running at the 'OC Mode' rated frequencies of 1595Mhz on the clock and 2027Mhz on the memory! Using the MSI Gaming App had no effects on the frequencies neither did BIOS flashing method was of any help!
Guess its one of the early review samples that MSI shipped to the reviewers so our benchmarks from here forth would be at these 'default' frequencies if not mentioned otherwise.
For the benchmarks we used the following test setup configuration --
CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K 4.2Ghz
Motherboard: MSI Z270 Gaming M7
RAM: Kingston HyperX Predator 8GB DDR4 3000Mhz Memory Kit
Cooler: Corsair H100i GTX (Push Pull Configuration)
Graphics Card: MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G
Primary Storage: Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB SSD
Secondary Storage: ADATA SX8000 256GB NVMe M.2 SSD
Power Supply: Corsair AX860i 860W 80+ Platinum
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
GPU Driver: ForceWare 375.70
Overclocking the MSI GTX 1060 was one of the easiest we've ever had. Using the latest edition of our trustworthy MSI Afterburner we managed a stable 1715Mhz on the clock and 2172Mhz on the memory, anything ahead of this was not stable for benchmarks.
Edit: Due to the very limited time we had to review this card I couldn't transfer the latest titles Rise of the Tomb Raider and Hitman 2016 from the ADATA SX8000 256GB NVMe M.2 SSD to my Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB SSD which we generally use for reviews. The SX8000 has Windows 10 Pro 64-bit installed to utilize the DX12 functionality of such titles.
AIDA64 Extreme Edition GPGPU
The AIDA64 GPGPU test not only calculates the read, write and copy speed of the graphics card and processor but is also very useful in observing the SHA-1 Hash and AES-256 score. These are indications of how well the GPU can handle number crunching or real life image or video rendering. Higher score shows a better card.
Unigine Heaven 4.0 and Unigine Valley 1.0A compilation of 26 beautiful scenes rendered and run via the raw GPU power of the system. It emulates any game or graphical work that you'll perform on the system scoring it on various parameter. We ran the test on Custom preset and settings at 1920x1080 resolution, quality to ultra and extreme tessellation.
One drawback over here is that Unigine Heaven & Valley benchmarking suits can't recognize more than 4GB of VRAM so the results are much lower than what they could've been in real life. Thank god there are games to test that!
3D Mark Fire Strike
Fire Strike by 3D Mark is a test suit that plays a cinematic scene to determine the FPS, GPU temperature and CPU temperature scaling everything via a cumulative score. It is a great tool to benchmark your GPU since the render is GPU dependent.
3D Mark 11 Professional Edition
Another variant of the Fire Strike by 3D Mark, used mainly for scoring the GPU performance.
I can't start gaming benchmarks without running my all time favorites Crysis 3 but its a game that no system loves! The CryEngine 3 behind this scenic beauty can bring down any system to its knees and I mean any system. I set everything to Ultra at 1920x1080 resolution with MSAA 4X and motion blur high.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
The latest installation of Lara Croft in the spectacular Rise of the Tomb Raider 2016 with stunning graphics and rich location makes it a great game to benchmark with while enjoying in the due course! We used DX12 and settings were at Ultimate on full HD resolution.
Its a great game for people, like me, who love to hunt down Xenomorphs or aliens with guns blazing all over the place. The game is highly optimized for PC and supports DirectX 11 with Tessellation, real-time Direct Compute radiosity, and shadows making it an ideal game to benchmark with settings at Ultra.
Batman Arkham Knigh
Since the game is powered by Epic's Unreal Engine 3 and supports DX11 tessellation so playing this game on 1920x1080 resolution with all settings maxed out can be any modern system's 'worst nightmare'!
In this case I dared to set hardware acceleration physx to high and even anti-aliasing to GeForce TXAA high!
Based on the DICE's Frostbite Engine 3 this game not only taxes a CPU and GPU both by reproducing lush details on the screen but also utilizes the DX11 and DX11.1 features coupled with 64-bit binaries! Settings were at Ultra with antialiasing deferred at 2x MSAA and ambient occlusion enabled.
Fallout 4 takes place in post-apocalyptic Boston in the year 2287, 210 years after a Nuclear war. Bethesda's Creation Engine drives the game's strong first- and third-person presentation. The game takes advantage of DirectX 11 and can be highly taxing on most of the PC hardware. At full HD resolution shadow and godrays quality was set to high along with everything else cracked to max.
Far Cry Primal
A game that takes the concept of going back in time a bit too far, set in pre-historic central Europe where man is still fighting the forces of nature to become the dominant species on Earth. Based on Ubisoft's latest Dunia Engine, the game takes advantage of DirectX 11 and is heavily taxing on high-end GPUs. We used Very High preset at 1920x1080 resolution since that's what is considered the sweet spot for this game.
Middle Earth : Shadow of Mordor
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an action role-playing video game set in The Lord of the Rings universe, developed by Monolith Productions and released by Warner Bros. The game takes place during the gap between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings saga. Not very taxing but due to its wide variety of scenes and ever changing topography it becomes a reliable game for benchmarking. We used Very High preset at full HD resolution for our testing.
Ashes of the Singularity
Developed by Oxide Games & running on the Nitrous Game Engine Ashes of the Singularity is a real-time strategy game set in the future where descendants of humans (called Post- Humans) and a powerful artificial intelligence (called the Substrate) fight a war for control of a resource known as Turinium.
We've used the in-built benchmarking tool and the result is shown in an average of all the graphical tests conducted over various locations and topographies of the game. DX12 API, Quality set to Extreme, 4xMSAA and everything else to high.
Agent 47 is back and in this sixth installation of the infamous Hitman series everything is notched up ranging from gameplay to graphic engine. The game uses an in-house game engine by IO Interactive called the Glacier game engine that is one of the first to leverage DirectX 12. The sole purpose of including this game in our benchmark today was to see how the GTX 1060 performs in DX12 mode.
Settings are at Ultra on full HD resolution.
Finally we've introduced this much awaited titled to our benchmarks! Developed by ID Software Doom or popularly written as DOOM is a reboot of the older Doom series. Its fast and scary with more than enough variety of guns that you can ever imagine or even use!
Its OpenGL and quality is set to Ultra.
Noise & Temperature
The fan on the MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X doesn't spin till the card doesn't reach 60°C or more. We recorded the maximum temperature in Celsius that our card hit during extensive gaming & sound was measured in decibels from a distance of 3 feet. This was performed for both stock and overclocked speeds.
My VerdictAlright if my sample was identical to the retail sample then my verdict might've been a bit different but since MSI decided to send us an overclocked version which is both higher on the clock aswell as the memory we saw difference in performance on almost every aspect.
Since everyone of you can obtain the same frequencies by selecting OC Mode via a simple click in the MSI Gaming App our performance stats might not be entirely different from what a general consumer can obtain. With that being said its pleasing to see that the MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G performs really well in almost all the AAA titles and does have a decent overclocking headroom for further pushing the boundaries, though for that one needs to manually turn the fan speed up to avoid and crashes due to sudden temperature spikes.
The card is really quite and stays cool even under full load since MSI used the same TwinFrozr VI cooler as that on the much bigger GTX 1070 Gaming X.
On the down side priced in at around $289 or Rs 25,900 in India the GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G looms dangerously close to MIS's own RX 480 Gaming x 8G priced at Rs 26,000 or the top notch PowerColor Red Devil Radeon RX 480 8GB coming in at just Rs 23,800! Recent driver updates have proven that the RX 480 8GB takes the lead in most of the gaming titles when compared to the GTX 1060 at similar or lesser price point. Moreover no SLI support sours the deal even further for the entire GTX 1060 cards lineup at large!
I give it a 7/10 earning our Silver Award!