Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Graphics Card Roundup

Gainward GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Phoenix GS

With its GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Phoenix "GS", Gainward aims for a slightly more demanding enthusiast without giving in to excessive overclocking madness. You can think of the company as a sort of luxury brand belonging to Palit, so it benefits from the organization's substantial resources. It's only a shame that our U.S. readers don't have access to the board. According to Gainward's webpage, the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Phoenix "GS" is only available in Europe and Asia.

Gainward labels its top-performing cards in a given product family with the Golden Sample (GS) suffix, and that's exactly what our German lab received for testing.

Technical Specifications

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Exterior & Interfaces

The cooler cover is made of black plastic with various metal highlights. It is designed to be used as an attachment, just like the fan modules. Thus, a Palit card could easily be transformed into a Gainward one and vice versa.

Although the card weighs a moderate 31oz (875 grams), it is fairly compact, measuring 9½ inches (24cm) long and 4 3/5 inches (11.7cm) tall. However, it's also 4.7cm wide, nearly requiring three expansion slots and making installation in mini-ITX motherboards difficult.

The back of the board is covered by a single-piece plate that lacks openings for ventilation and does nothing to cool the PCB. Because of the backplate, though, you must plan for an additional one-fifth of an inch (5mm) of clearance to avoid collisions with your CPU's cooler, particularly in small form factor cases.

The top of the card features a Gainward logo back-lit with customizable RGB LEDs. A single six-pin power connector is rotated by 180° and positioned at the end of the card.

A closer look at the bottom reveals that the heat pipes aren't embedded in a heat sink, but rather lay flat behind the base of the board. You can bet we'll explore how well this cost-effective implementation holds up to taxing graphics workloads.

Horizontally-oriented fins allow some waste heat to escape from an externally-facing slot bracket loaded with ventilation holes. This also applies to the card's other end, though, where hot air dumps out into the middle of your case. Good circulation is critical as a result.

The slot cover exposes five outputs, four of which can be used simultaneously to drive multi-monitor configurations. In addition to one dual-link DVI output (which lacks an analog signal), you also get one HDMI 2.0 interface and three DisplayPort 1.4-capable connectors.

Board & Components

The PCB that Palit and Gainward use features some prominent differences compared to Nvidia's reference design.

Right off the bat we see four power phases, just like Nvidia's card. Three are meant for the GPU and one corresponds to the memory. Two of the three GPU phases are fed by the auxiliary power connector. The third GPU phase and the one for the memory get power from the motherboard slot.

While, in theory, Gainward's PCB offers the option to use one more power phase, the company went with a rarely-used and rather inexpensive NCP81174 for its PWM controller, which can only control up to four phases. Thus, the vacant emplacement you see in the image above could only have been populated by another parallel regulator circuit (via doubling).

The three GPU phases utilize a highly integrated Vishay SiC632, which combines the gate driver, high- and low-side MOSFET, and Schottky-diode in one convenient package. Meanwhile, the memory is driven by a pair of N-Channel MOSFETs, including one SM4503NHKP (30A, high-side) and one SM4377NSKP (50A, low-side), both manufactured by Sinopower. The MOSFETs are also fairly cost-effective choices.

Overall, the board reflects that Gainward didn't spend big on pricey components. Even the Foxconn Magic chokes are middle-of-the-road. They get their job done in a rather unremarkable way.

Two capacitors are installed right below the GPU to absorb and equalize voltage peaks.

Only six of the eight available memory emplacements are populated with Samsung K4G80325FB-HC25 modules. Each one adds 8Gb (32x256Mb) and operates at voltages between 1.305 and 1.597V, depending on clock rate. In total, they add up to this card's 6GB of GDDR5.

Power Results

The GPU Boost frequency and core voltage curves are particularly interesting to us. Our data shows that frequency drops slightly as the card heats up during a gaming session.

The 2025 MHz GPU Boost frequency we initially measure falls to 1949 MHz under load. Voltage behaves similarly: we measured 0.975V on average, with readings varying between 1.025 and 0.9V. All of this points back to GPU Boost 3.0 and a relatively low power target that limits consumption to a maximum of 130W.

The lowest GPU clock rate measured with an idle card is about 253 MHz.

We took our measurements using a variable low-pass filter, so we mention short load peaks only as a side note (see the grayed-out bar in the chart below), since those peaks are rarely relevant in practice.

A low power target causes GPU Boost to cut the voltages dramatically during our stress test, resulting in power consumption numbers that are lower than what we measure during a worst-case gaming workload.

Power Connector Load

Load distribution from the four voltage regulators to their respective power phases isn't problematic at all. However, there's little headroom for overclocking, even if it wasn't already limited by the firmware's power target and voltage settings.

Here's the data for the gaming and stress tests:

Power consumption on its own only tells us part of the story. The PCI-SIG specifies a maximum of 5.5A at the motherboard slot, and we're showing a reading under 5A, which puts Gainward's GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Phoenix "GS" in the green.

Of course, we have the data for measured currents as well:

The Cooler And Its Performance

As mentioned, Gainward's backplate is purely aesthetic; it doesn't help cool the PCB at all. Four screws secure it to the top of the board, shielding the card from curious customers.

Though the Gainward and Palit shrouds look a little different, everything else is mostly identical (at least up to the geometry of their respective 9cm fans; Gainward went with a conventional straight edge).

Again, the delicate-looking cooler sports horizontally-oriented fins, as well as a quartet of 4mm heat pipes made from sintered composite material. Those pipes are not integrated into the bottom of the cooler. Instead, they merely touch the back of the thin base plate. Expensive copper is nowhere to be found.

We're glad to see that the base plate has a specific area to help cool the MOSFETs. However, the coils have to live without the benefit of active cooling.

Registering between 156 and 158°F (69 to 70°C) in our gaming loop, and a maximum of 167°F (75°C) in a closed case, the cooler does a fair job. It would almost assuredly perform better if the heat pipes were attached more securely, though.

Measurements collected with the backplate removed also reveal acceptable values. A peak of approximately 181°F (83°C) from the VRMs is reasonable, in our opinion.

While the readings generated during our stress test aren't exactly worrisome at ~192°F (89°C), they also reveal the cooling solution's weaknesses.

Gainward's cooling performance is thus regarded as merely acceptable. We get the impression that one member of the finance team was assigned to each engineer, keeping costs in check more than enthusiasts like to see.

Sound Results

Hysteresis is not an issue for most manufacturers. However, Gainward implemented a fan curve with too-low of an initial rotational speed for the transition between passive and active mode. As a result, the fans simply stop, and need to be restarted repeatedly. Even the best hysteresis won't help when a manufacturer overestimates the quality of its components this grossly.

When the card is idle, noise is not measurable due to a semi-passive mode. A reading of 35.6 dB(A) under load is acceptable, but not great. So much air has to be moved through the thermal solution because Gainward's cooler isn't as efficient as it should be. Spending a few dollars more would have gone a long way. On the bright side, we measure very little low-frequency bearing noise. What remains is the sort of acoustic energy that's easily absorbed by a case with sound insulation.

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  • TechyInAZ
    Thank you for doing these roundups! Very informative.
  • Achaios
    @Igor: I really appreciate your articles. I have one small request: PLEASE consider adding benchmarks results from 3D MARK FIRESTRIKE so that we can compare your results with our GPU's. Really appreciated your "Das große Radeon RX480 Test-Roundup - Teil 1" too, though again, there are no 3D MARK FIRESTRIKE results.
  • bloodroses
    Darnit, the Zotac and Gigabyte mini models weren't covered. I was curious to see how those two compare vs. the EVGA model since I'm working with limited space inside my case.
  • agent88
    I bought a retail MSI Geforce GTX 1060 Gaming X card last month and it was defaulted to OC mode by default. This is the same as the test version that the press received. Wondering if MSI is shipping this version to all consumers now or if I just got lucky with a "golden sample". Also, MSI provides both the MSI gaming app and afterburner software. The gaming app offers 1-click option to choose the OC mode. A
  • Pete16
    What about Asus? At least two graphics should be there
  • shrapnel_indie
    Good to see a roundup... However, I think the 3GB and the 6GB belong in the same category as much as the RX-470 and RX-480 do. That is: they don't.
  • ITFT
    Where is my ASUS 6Gb OC edition? Clocks over 2Ghz by the way :D
  • FritzEiv
    We're working on getting more cards in for all categories (1080, 1070, 1060), including from Asus, which is working on getting us cards. In fact, we'll have an update to our 1070 roundup shortly (2 new cards). And we're working on a 480 roundup as well.
  • mikeangs2004
    Anonymous said:
    Darnit, the Zotac and Gigabyte mini models weren't covered. I was curious to see how those two compare vs. the EVGA model since I'm working with limited space inside my case.


    they are kind of for the niche market just like in the days of low profile units
  • Ancient1
    Regarding the EVGA GTX 1060 SC :
    Could someone who disassemble it post the measurements ( WxHxL ) of the HEATPIPE ?? I plan on carving a Copper Heatsink, rather than Thermal Pads.
    I am also thinking about HS for the memory etc , along the Pipe. But it will impact AirFlow and might degrade the HeatPipe efficiency as , to my knowledge, Heatpipe depends on temperature difference between the cooled GPU and the Heat Expelling (to the fins) areas of it.
    Please post, Google will find it :)
    Thanks in advance
  • FormatC
    Anonymous said:
    @Igor: I really appreciate your articles. I have one small request: PLEASE consider adding benchmarks results from 3D MARK FIRESTRIKE so that we can compare your results with our GPU's. Really appreciated your "Das große Radeon RX480 Test-Roundup - Teil 1" too, though again, there are no 3D MARK FIRESTRIKE results.


    The main problem of this "benchmark": it is a synthetic and not consistent one. That means, it is impossible to compare this results over a longer time! Each benchmark update and each new driver can change the results dramatically. I totally dislike this kind of comparisons, because it can be only a snapshot of a short moment and it is not fair. It also depends at the other hardware in the system and at the the end you can compare such things only in their own, small microcosm ;)

    About Asus, EVGA (and mini ITX) cards:
    I can test only, what I get/got. A few vendors were not amused in the past, that I disassembled the cards and found their hotspots and issues. This is mentionable in the kind and amount of sampling. But I have a handful of smaller cards in the pipeline to complete this roundup thing later. This was also the idea behind to keep the content always fresh.
  • Achaios
    Yeah but, 3D MARK is still FAR better than nothing. Right now we have no means AT ALL to compare our GPU's to your results unless we buy the games themselves. BTW, why do you include the GTAV benchmark? It is not consistent either and therefore absolutely impossible to reproduce. If you include GTAV benchmark, then I see no reason why not to include 3D Mark or Valley or some other benchmark.
  • FormatC
    The GTA V benchmark is consistent if you record only the last (5th) part of the ingame-benchmark. It is also long enough and a lot more real than all other parts of this in-game benchmark. I run it scripted three times - with a hot card. The results are in each case very stable. And I'm not using, what GTA is writing into the file. We are monitoring the output with our software.

    All benchmark runs were made with heated cards in a closed system, maybe you read my review about the new bench table. That means, my results are mostly worse than in other reviews on an open bench table (Boost). And exactly this is another reason, why such results are not really comparable. It give you a direction, a trend - but nothing more :)

    From my sight:
    It is very difficult to compare the same card on different systems. But different cards (with the same GPU inside) on different systems is even more a big mess. It is simply not fair to think, that card A on system B is faster or slower than card C on system D (and vise versa). I like comparisons under 100% equal conditions, but all this crossover-comparisons are a pain. ;)

    I try to test all products of a roundup with frozen drivers and windows updates to have over this period the same conditions. The reader is updating his system as often as he can and some driver changes may cause dramatically different results. I had in the past very often such situations, when ppl compared their fresh stuff with a six month old roundup and called me a Nvidia or AMD fanboy, depending at the drivers and the preferred product. :D

    As I wrote in the roundup:
    The goal of such a roundup is in the first line a fair technical analysis and comparison of different solutions, not a collection of some benchmark bars. Benchmarks you can find tons in the net, bars in each color and size that you prefer. But the main difference between this tested cards are not the bars, but other fundamental things like cooling, power draw and finally: issues and broken standards.

    But if it is sooooo important - let me check, how we can add Firestrike or something similar in the next reviews. Just preparing the first 1080 Ti custom for this.
  • g-unit1111
    Us US users don't get Palit, Inno3D, or Gainward, can we get some cards that are more readily available in the States in some of these?
  • TechyInAZ
    I hope you guys get in the 1060 FTW cards. I'm really curious how those stack vs the G1 Gaming.
  • FormatC
    I'll try it. :)
  • Fulgurant
    Anonymous said:
    Darnit, the Zotac and Gigabyte mini models weren't covered. I was curious to see how those two compare vs. the EVGA model since I'm working with limited space inside my case.


    FWIW, I bought the Zotac Mini over the summer when nothing else was in stock, and I'm very pleased. It's a little loud when the fan revs up, but despite the simplistic cooler it runs at reasonable temperatures -- and I was relieved to see that it has heatsinks over the VRMs.

    That last point is gratifying, because until I read this article I assumed the EVGA mini would have been superior. Now I begin to doubt it, though of course FormatC's little mod probably makes up the difference.
  • Drakan
    Would have liked to see Doom on Vulkan or Civ VI that is supposed to be a powered by AMD. Too many Powered by nvidia games there. I'm sure the 1060gtx 6gb would still be on top, but it's just a more "fair" loss
  • FormatC
    @Drakan
    The problem with all games: drivers may change fast and an advantage can be very fast a disdvantage. It is nearly impossible to make (and keep) a 100% fair selection over months. I started the roundup a few months ago and had to frozen the system to keep the conditions. ;)

    The idea behind this review is NOT the comparison with the RX480 (for this we have game reviews with current AAA titles), but the comparison between the products and different models of various vendors. The technical details are mostly more interesting than simple bar graphs ;)
  • Drakan
    Anonymous said:
    @Drakan
    The problem with all games: drivers may change fast and an advantage can be very fast a disdvantage. It is nearly impossible to make (and keep) a 100% fair selection over months. I started the roundup a few months ago and had to frozen the system to keep the conditions. ;)

    The idea behind this review is NOT the comparison with the RX480 (for this we have game reviews with current AAA titles), but the comparison between the products and different models of various vendors. The technical details are mostly more interesting than simple bar graphs ;)


    Thanks for the reply and I appreciate the effort. You are right, this is a 1060gtx roundup. A good one :). Expecting AMD VGA to arrive though to see if I get a 1070 or an AMD.

    Cheers!