Nvidia has the high-end GPU market cornered, but when the price drops below $300 (£249), AMD's Radeon RX cards match or exceed the offerings from Team Green. With prices as low as $279 (£249), the new AMD Radeon RX 590 GPU takes the mid-range Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 cards head-on. That's why we decided to put the two platforms through a no-holds-barred face-off based on features, performance, power consumption and value.
AMD’s Radeon RX 590 graphics card is meant to fill the gap between the AMD RX 580 and the AMD Radeon RX Vega 56, which Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 currently occupies. The RX 590 is based on the latest revision of AMD’s Polaris architecture, which debuted in June 2016, but is the first consumer card to use the company's 12nm FinFET manufacturing process. By shrinking the transistor size, the company’s engineers were able to ramp up the clock speed to pull more performance out of the old Polaris 10 platform.
Aside from changing the manufacturing process, AMD didn’t introduce any new technologies with the Radeon RX 590. It offers the same video decoding hardware found in the AMD Radeon RX 480, and it supports AMD’s WattMan tuning technology, which dynamically adjusts the GPU's parameters, such as clock speed, voltage and fan speeds to achieve the best possible balance of performance and power efficiency.
The Radeon RX 590 features 8GB of GDDR5 with 256GB/s of memory bandwidth. And it can produce up to 7.1 TFLOPS of 32Bit floating point performance with its 2304 shader cores clocked at 1469MHz base / 1545MHz Boost.
Nvidia’s current sub-$300 (~£249) GPU offering isn’t new either. The GeForce GTX 1060 with its GP106 GPU was first introduced in the spring of 2017, but the company has revised the specifications of its mid-tier offering several times since it’s introduction. There are three different GTX 1060 6GB configurations, including the original with 8 Gbps GDDR5 memory, a revised edition with 9 Gbps GDDR5, and a newly revealed version with GDDR5X memory.
Nvidia’s GeForce 1060 6GB features 1,280 CUDA cores with a 1506 MHz base clock and a 1708 MHz boost clock. Our MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G features even higher clock speeds of 1595 MHz base and 1810 MHz boost. And the card’s 6GB of memory features 194.6 GB/s of memory bandwidth.
We haven’t tested the revised 9Gbps GDDR5, and the new GDDR5X GTX 1060 cards (nor have we seen one on the market), so this comparison focuses on the original GeForce GTX 1060 6GB and AMD’s new Radeon RX 590, which may skew the results slightly in favor of AMD. But we don't expect the faster memory of Nvidia's newer 1060 to make a substantial frame rate difference in most games.
Winner: AMD. AMD’s Radeon RX 590 offers higher memory bandwidth, more memory capacity, and the GPU is built on a smaller, more efficient manufacturing process than Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060. That said, as we'll see later, the Nvidia card pulls a lot less power.
When you’re buying a graphics card, the most important criteria is the card’s ability to run the games that you want to play at smooth frame rates. AMD’s Radeon RX 590 takes the company’s Polaris architecture to new levels of performance. The RX 590 consistently outpaced Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 in our test suite, with several games, including Battlefield 1 (DX12), Far Cry 5, Tom Clancy’s The Division and Wolfenstein II, rendering at more than 10 frames per second (fps) higher with AMD's card.
There was one notable exception to the RX 590’s superior performance: The GTX 1060 rendered GTA V at 10 fps faster than our RX 590 could manage. However, the RX 590 took that lead when we bumped the resolution to 2560x1440. Evidently, GTA V likes the extra memory and the higher memory bandwidth that the RX 590 offers. The GTX 1060 also fared better than the RX 590 in Destiny 2, but the gap was within a few fps.
Both the RX 590 and the GTX 1060 offer ample performance for 1080p resolution gaming, and both cards can handle 1440p, but if you want to game at the higher resolution, an RX 590 is a superior choice because it can maintain a higher average framerate in most titles.
Ashes of the Singularity (DX12): 1920x1080 Results
Ashes of the Singularity (DX12): 2560x1440 Results
Battlefield 1 (DX12): 1920x1080 Results
Battlefield 1 (DX12): 2560x1440 Results
Destiny 2 (DX11): 1920x1080 Results
Destiny 2 (DX11): 2560x1440 Results
Far Cry 5 (DX11): 1920x1080 Results
Far Cry 5 (DX11): 2560x1440 Results
Grand Theft Auto V (DX11): 1920x1080 Results
Grand Theft Auto V (DX11): 2560x1440 Results
Metro: Last Light Redux (DX11): 1920x1080 Results
Metro: Last Light Redux (DX11): 2560x1440 Results
Shadow of the Tomb Raider (DX12): 1920x1080 Results