Nvidia continues to deliver with its line of Pascal-powered graphics cards. The 6 GB Founders Edition of the GTX 1060 draws just 120 watts of power, sells for $299.99 and delivers performance sometimes a little worse, sometimes a little better than a $600 or so GTX 980 ti.
The lowest-end version of the Pascal cards announced to date can run on a 400 watt computer and delivers base clock speeds of 1506 Mhz. After spending a few days with the graphics card, we can say that the GTX 1060 delivers robust performance, especially for the price and power usage, and also brings with it some of the bells and whistles that the higher-end Pascal cards support. That includes the new in-game photography powered by Ansel and a slick design that mostly matches the high-end GTX 1080.
As with the other Pascal cards, one of the ways the 1060 manages to deliver high performance with a relatively low memory bandwidth is by using a new memory compression engine that includes new modes for color compression. This ultimately translates to about 20 percent more effective bandwidth use, according to Nvidia.
The end result means that, for instance, the 1060 averages about 63 frames per second at 1920x1080 running Hitman on DirectX 12 on our rig, compared to 50 fps on the 980 Ti, 75 fps on the 1070 and 85 fps on the 1080. All of our tests were run on my daily use computer, which has an Intel Core i7-2600K CPU running at 3.4 GHz and 16 GB of memory.
While the card is competitive in its price range, depending on your upgrade path it may not make a lot of sense to drop the cash to leap from, say, the 980 or even the 970 to a 1060. It’s best to hold out, if you can, for later-in-the-year price drops or the ability to pick-up the 1080.
1060 Founders Edition
Nvidia's Founders Edition of the 1060 looks very similar to the 1080 and almost identical to the 1070, but doesn't include the 1080’s vapor chamber cooling system. The 1060 makes use of a radial fan and heatsink system. The fan exhausts the heat outside the chassis via an aluminum heatsink and two copper heat pipes (that’s one less than the 1070), making for lower system temperatures. The 1060’s heatsink surface area is more than 50 percent larger than the heatsink used on the GTX 960, according to Nvidia.
The Founders Edition is just as beautiful on the outside as it is in its Pascal-powered guts. Designed in-house by Nvidia, it has a machine-finished, faceted die-cast aluminum body and low-profile backplate. A section of the backplate can be removed to increase airflow between multiple 1070 cards when using an SLI configuration. The card has three DisplayPort connections, one HDMI 2.0b port and a dual-link DVI port.
The Founders Edition is only available directly from Nvidia.com for $299, though an array of partner cards are supposed to start hitting retail chains today as well. Those cards start at $249.
The card has the ability to render more accurately across multiple displays to provide distortion-free images on flat, surround, curved and spherical screens. It also can double the performance for virtual reality headsets by rendering the geometry for both eyes in an image on a single pass.
Much of these features are designed in reaction to advances or coming advances in display technology.
One of the more interesting new developments coming with the arrival of the 1060 is Nvidia's reworked method for capturing in-game images. Ansel is designed to be your camera inside the games you play.
Ansel ... so hot right now
Currently, Ansel is only supported in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst with support coming for The Witcher 3 sometime later this month. Other supported games include Tom Clancy's The Division, The Witness, LawBreakers, Paragon, Fortnite, Obduction, No Man's Sky and Unreal Tournament, though no date (of support) has been set yet for those.
The Nvidia software suite allows you to pause a game, detach the camera to move it around and add filters to capture EXR, super high-resolution, stereo or even 360-degree images. Those images can then be viewed in VR.
The tech requires game developers to add code into their creations, but Nvidia says the work will be minimal. For instance, according to the company, The Witness required an extra 40 or so lines of code, while The Witcher 3 required about 150 lines of code.
Once integrated, Ansel will pause the game, unhook the camera and provide a number of shooting options to the player. Super resolution pictures using this technology can ignore the game's native resolution support to capture an image limited only by hard drive space, input/output speeds and the game's maximum level of detail. The super resolution can be combined with super sampling to create crisp, sharp edges.
Using the graphic card's CUDA-based stitching to handle tone-mapping issues, these super high-res screenshots are actually a series of tiled images joined together. The current limitation for this technique can provide a 4.5 gigapixel image with 3,600 stitched tiles.
Ansel also supports capturing Raw and EXR images that contain high dynamic range for easier manipulation inside programs like Photoshop. Finally, Ansel will include nearly two dozen effects like lens flare, lens dirt, tone mapping, distortion effects and convolution filters.
A game developer can choose to limit what sorts of effects and abilities are supported inside a game to make sure a player isn’t using the free camera to cheat.
I played around with Ansel inside Mirror’s Edge and was impressed with the ability to frame my own images and wander far outside the confines of what I could see or how I could see it while playing.
For instance, in an early scene of the game, I pressed Alt-F2 to bring up Ansel. The scene immediately froze, though the audio of an in-game conversation did continue, and a user interface popped up on the left side of the screen. The interface allows you to select a number of filters, tweak things like brightness and contrast and change the field of view and roll of the image. Currently, not all of the features Nvidia has talked about, like adding lens flare or lens dirt, are available. But I was able to create some neat images with little effort. Nvidia says that more filters are on the way.
Holding in the left mouse button detaches the camera, and then you use the WASD keys to move around the scene. In this particular moment, Faith Connors was standing in a dimly lit room talking to someone. I drifted around the room snapping shots by selecting the "snap" button. Then I slid outside the window and across the street, turning around to take photos of the building where the action was taking place. There were limits to how far away I could go, but at the edge of that zone I couldn’t see any of the action or Faith. I was also able to roam in the rooms ahead and behind her, though I didn’t see any enemies awaiting.
More exciting was the ability to stop the game in mid-action, like an intense combat scene with multiple enemies, and then take my time to set up screen shots, adjusting the angle, roll and lighting until I got exactly what I wanted.
The interface allows you to adjust the image resolution up or down from what you’re playing on and you can switch between a screenshot, a 360-degree image, a stereo image or a 360-degree stereo image with the click of a button.
I’d like to see more options come to Ansel, like the ability to play with the depth of field and perhaps mimic lens types, but this is a solid start for an exciting new way to capture in-game play.
And Ansel supports more than just this new line of Pascal-powered graphics cards. It looks like most cards going back to the 600 series will be supported. You can find the full list here.
Nvidia’s GTX 1080 is a clear purchase for those gamers who are looking for a top-of-the-line card and the GTX 1070, in some regards, is even more impressive thanks to its lower price but still powerful features.
This 1060, coming in at $299, isn’t quite as easy a sale for hardcore gamers who like to keep their computers as cutting edge as possible. The low power usage and fairly robust performance makes it a worthy purchase if you’re looking to save some money, though I’d look into some of the third-party cards, which will run $50 cheaper.
That said, the Founders Edition GTX 1060 still maintains the slick design and silent delivery of its more powerful siblings.
The question now becomes just how much money you want to spend to land a Pascal-powered card.
If you're more of a Radeon gamer, here's our RX 480 impressions. Comparing the Radeon RX 480 to the GTX 1060, Radeon seems to beat Nvidia across the board on our test computer and it runs for $199 to $239. That said, the Radeon doesn't have some of the features, like Ansel, which you'll find with the GTX line.