The 3GB version of the Geforce GTX 1060 is an interesting edition towards the 1060 line-up, it should be good notch cheaper in the stores saving you ~30 bucks. However if you want my advice, please do spend the extra money on a 6GB version. Not only does it offer slightly more rendering performance, with modern games you are going to need that extra memory as 3 GB isn't really going to cut it anymore. Especially if you plan to game in the 2560x1440 resolution. For 1080P (and lower resolutions) things are a little different, but even there that 3 GB is cutting it close with modern titles and upcoming games versus proper quality settings. This 3GB series seen from the previous gen GeForce GTX 960 however is significantly faster, and a card like shown today with it's perf, cool temps, low noise and excellent power consumption at roughly 219 USD. Power consumption wise these cards are great, we maxed out at roughly 135 Watts measured, and that is peachy-perfect my man (or women).
For me it is rare to run into them, however the new 372.54 driver was absolute horse-crap for the 3GB GTX 1060. When we started benchmarking 3DMark ran fine, then when we hit titles like Doom and Tomb Raider, the performance just crippled at 1080 and 1440P to very weird perf results. For example Tomb Raider at 2560x1440 returned an average of 34 FPS with this driver and we started noticing similar behaviour in multiple games, surely that could not be related towards 3 GB less memory. There was one other driver we could try and worked on the 3GB edition, and older driver (368.64) did install on this card. Once we installed that one, the majority of problems vanished, the same Tomb Raider test now resulted into a 46 FPS average. So it looks like we'll need a driver update. Until then if you get performance issues with your 3GB model, please give the 368.64 driver a try, however it will not be up to date with the latest titles and Vulkan.
Being a budget card you shave off quite some money, and that typically shows in design. Face it, this card does look terrific. It come with that custom design PCB, and is properly cooled with the TwinFrozr VI cooler and even gets the fancy LED system, it looks great. Oh and it even comes with a proper back-plate.
Cooling & Noise Levels
The reference design (founder editions) of the GeForce GTX 1060 is set at an offset threshold of just over 72 degrees C. Once the GPU gets warmer the card will clock down / lower its voltage etc to try and keep the card cooler, that's throttling and it part of the design. MSI however throws in a cooler that manages roughly 300 Watt cooling performance. It is a good one alright, so good that up-to a degree or 60 on the GPU, this card remains passive and thus inaudible. Once the fans kick in, you can expect to hover at the 63~65 Degrees C marker, with seriously demanding games. Please do note that you always need proper ventilation inside your chassis to achieve that number. Expect sound pressure values in the 38 dBA range at max under load and warm circumstances. That's measured 75 CM away from the PC. This means you can hardly hear the card while using it. There was not any audible coil noise heard.
GP106-300-A1 Pascal GPUs are rated as having a 120 Watt TDP under full stress, our measurements show it to be a tiny bit higher at 130~135 Watts, that still remains to be a very low value. Here again keep in mind we measure peak power consumption, the average power consumption is a good notch lower depending on GPU utilization. Also, if you plan to overclock the CPU/memory and/or GPU with added voltage, please do purchase a power supply with enough reserve.
A GeForce GTX 1060 3GB is a good product for Full HD gamers at 1920x1080, but it does end there. With a 6GB model you'll have more reach though towards WQHD (2560x1440) card as well. Not everybody requires or demands 100+ FPS and many people find that 40~60 average FPS is good enough, especially with a GSYNC monitor. For that last category the GeForce GTX 1060 is going to offer a tremendous amount of value. DX12 Rise of the Tomb Raider at proper image quality settings is doing a 70 FPS at Full HD. In short, for the money this is an excellent 1080P that will often offer a nice 40~60 FPS experience.
I really do have some mixed feeling for the 3 GB model of the GTX 1060. The slightly lower shader count doesn't bother me, the 3 GB should be fine if you stick at 1080P or a lower resolution, and yet still I am leaning very much to advise and steer you towards a 6GB model. You might not even use up the 6GB but it sure as heck will make the product more future proof. The driver issue I ran into was weird, I still need to further investigate but was solved and sorted by using an older driver. While writing this I realize it might even have been the High DPC Latency issue that we have seen popping up more lately. Dunno, more info once available. The card as tested today sells for 219 USD + 20 bucks for this particular MSI GAMING X model, and that remains to be good value for money alright. You'll play your games up-to 1920x1080 perfectly fine and using proper image quality settings. Obviously that 3 GB framebuffer remains a bit of a discussion, again I would advise 6GB as I feel 4GB+ is the norm for proper mainstream gaming anno 2016. The card will tweak quite well, we however predict (once again) that any and all cards can achieve a stable ~2.1 GHz boost clock frequency. With the graphics memory you should be reaching 9 Gbps (effective data-rate) quite easily as well. Hey, for the bigger part Nvidia is in control of your tweak, not you. Still anno 2016 we have 120 Watt GPUs now passing the 2 GHz easily, and that is impressive at any level. MSI offers more value with the GTX 1060 3GB Gaming X. It is a lovely and well designed card with a proper silent cooler. If you can spot it for the right price, these cards can be little gems in the 1080P domain and offer good value in a cool looking yet silent package. But yes you might like it or not, I'll stick to what I stated. If you can spend the extra dough, go for that 6GB model.
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