Introduction, Design Features
[Editors’ Note: Be aware that pricing and features for video cards based on a given graphics chip can vary, depending on the actual card maker. AMD and Nvidia make video “reference cards” based on their graphics processors, which they often send out for review. Third-party partners—MSI, Sapphire, Gigabyte, EVGA, Asus, and many others—make and sell some cards that adhere closely to the design of these reference boards (“stock boards”), as well as versions with slight differences in port configuration, clocking, the amount and speed of onboard memory, and the cooling fans or heat sinks installed. Be sure the specs and ports/connections on any “partner” board you’re looking at match what we’ve reviewed before making any assumptions. Here, we’re reviewing Asus’ 9Gbps-memory version of the GeForce GTX 1060; earlier versions of GTX 1060 cards shipped with 3GB or 6GB of 8Gbps memory. It’s also slightly overclocked out of the box, compared to the GTX 1060 Founders Edition.]
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders EditionGeForce GTX 960GeForce GTX 970MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gaming X 6G.) Most of these cards have vendor-specific cooling systems and designs, while generally having higher base clocks than the Founders Edition, which in turn led to more performance gains.
The Asus GeForce GTX 1060 OC Edition we’re looking at today adds a little something extra, though: faster memory.
With the release of the GeForce GTX 1080 TiGeForce GTX 1080 Founders EditionRadeon R9 390R9 390Xoriginal Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition review, which provides under-the-hood details about how the GPU operates. This Asus card is basically the same in terms of underlying silicon, except with a higher clock speed and the faster 9Gbps memory. (More on the former in the next section.)
While the hardware under the hood might be similar, the Asus card is vastly different in appearance from the GTX 1060 Founders Edition. For one, the Asus card forgoes the blower design utilized by the Founders Edition, in favor of a dual fan system for cooling…
With a blower design, bear in mind that the heated air is mostly pushed out the back of the chassis through the backplane. With this design, you’ll want to be sure you have a bit more airflow through the chassis.
Asus changed the color scheme, as well, using black with red accents instead of Nvidia’s gray-and-black design. The two cards also differ slightly in dimensions. Asus’ card is shorter in length (8.6 inches, compared to 9.8 inches), while the Founders Edition isn’t quite as tall (4.4 inches, versus 4.9 inches). The extra half-inch of GPU cooler sticking up could be an issue for installing the card in a small-form-factor chassis.
The Asus card also sports a metal backplate, and impressively, despite the faster clock speeds and memory, it requires only one six-pin power connector…
The Asus card is well-stocked with ports, too, with two HDMI 2.0 ports, two DisplayPorts, and a DVI port…
These ports should give users with new and old monitors alike plenty of connection options.
As for onboard graphics memory, this Asus card comes with 6GB of 9Gbps memory. As we noted earlier, that’s a step up from the 2016 GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition and other initial GTX 1060 cards, which used 8Gbps memory. (Note that some versions of the GTX 1060 come with just 3GB of onboard memory; at the time of the GTX 1060’s debut, this accounted for about $40 to $50 of price difference.) When the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition came out a few months ago, its increase in memory speed from the 10Gbps memory in the GTX 1080 Founders Edition to 11Gbps led to big performance increases in the course of our testing.
Of course, a big part of that was the GTX 1080 Ti GPU versus the vanilla GTX 1080, not just the faster memory. This Asus card is making a similar jump from the GTX 1060 Founders Edition’s RAM (from 8Gbps to 9Gbps) but keeps the core GPU silicon the same, though it’s a touch overclocked out of the box here. Together, those two aspects should lead to some performance uptick. But before we move on to the Performance section to see how much of a difference it makes, let’s talk a bit about Asus’ included software.
This card, and many others from Asus, are compatible with the company’s GPU Tweak II software, a free download from the company’s Web site. Among other things, it allows for one-click overclocking.
Running the software displays the Home menu, which shows which of three preset modes your card is running in: OC, Gaming, or Silent…
Gaming mode is the default setting, set for a base GPU clock of 1,595MHz and a maximum boost clock of 1,810MHz. This info, along with other card details, can be viewed by clicking on the Info tab…
While these clock speeds are already higher than those of the Nvidia Founders Edition version of the GTX 1060 (1,506MHz base and 1,708MHz boost), they can be pushed higher still by switching to OC mode. This will offer a modest improvement in clock speeds, bringing the base clock up to 1,632MHz and the boost clock to 1,847MHz. These gains in clock speed translated into small performance gains, only an additional frame or two in most of our gaming benchmarks.
In our experience, we also got more than a few black screens and game crashes while in OC mode, which did not make the extra few frames seem worth it to us. However, those brave souls who wish to get the maximum possible overclocking performance from this card can click on the Professional Mode button in the bottom-right corner of the Home tab to allow for more precise GPU tuning…
If this looks too intimidating, simply click the Simple Mode button in the bottom left corner of the screen to return to the original screen and the relative safety of one-click overclocking.
In addition to OC and Gaming modes, you can also set your graphics card to Silent mode, which slows down the clock to reduce heat and fan noise. This mode is intended for when you are watching a movie, listening to music, or just want to make sure your card is running quietly (although, in our experience, the card was pretty quiet, even under load).
Finally, next to this window is another, smaller one that displays current information about your card’s clock speed, temperature, and the like…
Also available from Asus in connection with this card is the XSplit Gamecaster software, which allows for streaming and recording of game play. It enables an overlay that shows live info about your graphics card, such as clock speed and temperature, and it has GPU Tweak II controls integrated in it, as well. Users who purchase this and certain other qualifying cards from Asus can get either a 14-day free trial or a one-year license for free. This GTX 1060 card qualifies for the one-year license; however, users must go through a byzantine redemption process to qualify for it. If this interests you, check the details on Asus’ Web site, as details of the offer could change.
That about covers the GPU Tweak II software. We imagine that most folks will have little need to download the utility. The moderate instability we saw in OC mode seemed hardly worth the minor performance increases, and the card was quiet enough that switching to Silent mode should not make much of a difference. Those who want to squeeze the maximum performance possible out of this card may want to mess around in Professional Mode, but otherwise most users will probably use this software little. Still, if you want to experiment, it is well-designed and easy to use.