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Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Review

Frequency, Temperature & Noise Results

GPU Boost Clock Rates & Voltages

Let's take a closer look at the overclocked GeForce GTX 1060 in the context of efficiency. We were taking measurements during a gaming loop while it was already hot, and we only looked at average performance. Now we want to know more about what happens as the card warms up.

It’s striking that the GeForce GTX 1060 hits its power and temperature limits. To overclock the card, we increased its GPU Boost frequency, its power target (to 116 percent), and its fan speed (to 100 percent duty cycle). The outcome is nothing to sneeze at: we hit a stable 2050 MHz with our sample during even the worst benchmark run. The curves don’t look as nice without the extra power and airflow to remind us of a leaf blower.

For comparison, let’s take a look at the voltages during normal operation as well. It’s plain to see that the GPU Boost clock and voltages drop once the limit is reached.

Temperatures

The GeForce GTX 1060 generates similar numbers during the gaming loop (119W) and stress test (122W). In light of this, it’s hardly surprising that the two temperature curves look a lot alike. GPU Boost 3.0 is very restrictive (or already well-optimized, if you prefer). It adjusts the clock rate and voltage to keep the card exactly where it’s supposed to be.

The infrared picture tells us that the cooling solution does its job well. All four of the voltage converter areas are in great shape as well.

During the stress test, the GPU’s three voltage converters reach 97 degrees Celsius, which is just within the acceptable range. Then again, nobody runs stress tests for hours, so this result is more theoretical, and not so practical, in nature.

Fan Curves & Noise

Next, we want to quantify just how loud the GeForce GTX 1060 gets under these conditions. The largest source of noise is generally the fan, so we look at that first. Its rotational speed takes a while to plateau, finally stabilizing after about 15 minutes. The two curves are almost on top of each other, which is again hardly surprising seeing that the temperatures the cooler deals with are almost identical as well.

This leads us to our noise level measurements. As usual, we collect data in our noise-dampened chamber using a silent water-cooled PC. This room-in-a-room concept gets us usable measurements all the way down to 22 dB(A). The hardware in the PC keeps it from being even lower. Then again, we’ll never need to approach that floor for Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060.

Test System And Equipment
MicrophoneNTI Audio M2211 (with Calibration File, Low Cut at 50 Hz)
AmplifierSteinberg UR12 (with Phantom Power for Microphones)
SystemGraphics Card Test System with Optimized Water CoolingIntel Core i7-5930K at 4.2 GHz, Water-CooledCrucial Ballistix Sport, 4x 4GB DDR4-2400MSI X99S XPower AC1x Crucial MX200, 500GB SSD (System)1x Corsair Force LS, 960GB SSD (Applications, Data)be quiet! Dark Power Pro, 850W Power Supply Unit (PSU)
Water Cooling- Alphacool VPP655 Pump (Undervolted) - Alphacool NexXxos CPU Cooler - Phobya Balancer - Alphacool 24 cm Radiator - 2x 12 cm Noiseblocker eLoop Fan at 400 RPM
SoftwareSmaart v.7
Measurement ChamberCustom-Made Proprietary Measurement Chamber, 3.5 x 1.8 x 2.2 m (LxDxH)
Measurement PositionPerpendicular to Center of Noise Source(s), Measurement Distance of 50 cm
Measurement DataNoise Level in dB(A) (Slow), Real-time Frequency Analyzer (RTA)Graphical Frequency Spectrum of Noise

At idle, we measure 31.4 dB(A). This is a good result that’s barely above the noise level encountered in a living room. The sound produced by Nvidia’s radial fan is noticeably more pleasant than that of AMD's reference Radeon RX 480. Nvidia's fan is a bit louder, though.

The good news continues with our gaming loop results. After reaching its maximum temperature, the GeForce GTX 1060 emits just 35.4 dB(A). Motor and bearing noises can’t really be heard above the relatively pleasant swooshing noise produced by the card. The sound isn't as low and growling as what we hear from AMD's competing offering. For more on that card, check out AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB Review.

Even a casual glance at this graph reveals that the majority of the GeForce GTX 1060’s operating noise comes from the fan blades and airflow. The voltage regulation circuitry doesn't contribute at all. This means that the DHE cooling solution performs well, doing its job quietly. Then again, it's not that big of a challenge to dissipate 120W.


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Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.