GTX 1060 “SLI” Benchmark – Outperforms GTX 1080 with Explicit Multi-GPU

By Published July 19, 2016 at 4:56 pm
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Just to be clear straight-away: This test was largely conducted under the context of “because we can.” For the full, in-depth GTX 1060 review, check this article. Also note that this test does not make use of the Scalable Link Interface, and so we're throwing scare quotes around “SLI” just for clarity. The GTX 1060s do not have SLI fingers and can only communicate via the PCIe bus, without a bridge, thereby demanding that applications support MDA (Multi-Display Adapter) or LDA Explicit (Linked Display Adapter) to actually leverage both cards. NVidia does not officially support dual GTX 1060s. This was just something we wanted to do. We also do not recommend purchasing two GTX 1060s for use in a single gaming system.

All that stated, this test pairs an MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X with the GTX 1060 Founders Edition card, then pits them vs. a single GTX 1060, 1080, 1070, and RX 480s (+ CF). This is mostly a curiosity and an experiment to learn, not a comprehensive benchmark or product review. Again, that's here.

Ashes supports explicit multi-GPU and has been coded by the developers to take advantage of this DirectX 12 functionality, which would also allow cross-brand video cards to be paired. We already tested that with the 970 and 390X. Testing was done at 1080p and 4K at high settings, mostly. The Multi-GPU toggle was checked for Dx12 testing. We've also listed the results as AVG ms frametimes, just for another means to convey information.

Game Testing Methodology

We tested using our GPU test bench, detailed in the table below. Our thanks to supporting hardware vendors for supplying some of the test components.

AMD drivers 16.6.2 were used for testing Ashes on the RX 480. NVidia's 368.64 drivers were used for game (FPS) testing on the GTX 1060. The 368.69 drivers were used for other devices. Game settings were manually controlled for the DUT. All games were run at presets defined in their respective charts. 

Windows 10-64 build 10586 was used for testing.

We use "Satellite Shot 2" for Ashes of the Singularity performance monitoring. Multi-GPU was enabled for Dx12 multi-GPU configs. Our normal 1% & 0.1% low methodology was not deployed here, as we are still working on implementation with new APIs.

GN Test Bench 2015 Name Courtesy Of Cost
Video Card This is what we're testing! - -
CPU Intel i7-5930K CPU iBUYPOWER  
$580
Memory Corsair Dominator 32GB 3200MHz Corsair $210
Motherboard EVGA X99 Classified GamersNexus $365
Power Supply NZXT 1200W HALE90 V2 NZXT $300
SSD HyperX Savage SSD Kingston Tech. $130
Case Top Deck Tech Station GamersNexus $250
CPU Cooler NZXT Kraken X41 CLC NZXT $110

For Dx12 and Vulkan API testing, we use built-in benchmark tools and rely upon log generation for our metrics. That data is reported at the engine level.

SLI GTX 1060 Benchmark vs. RX 480, RX 480 CrossFire (Ashes of the Singularity)

sli-gtx-1060-ashes-1080p

sli-gtx-1060-ashes-4k

sli-gtx-1060-ashes-1080p-latency

With both GTX 1060s, we're hitting 75.91FPS AVG at 1080p/High, as opposed to 46.98FPS AVG on the Founders Edition GTX 1060 and 48FPS on the MSI variant (averages). From the MSI number, that's scaling of roughly 1.5x. Not bad for a configuration that's never going to be used anywhere, and certainly better than a lot of other games that are Post-FX intensive and rely on interdependent frames.

Most interestingly, the multi-GPU setup outperforms the single GTX 1070s and even (marginally) outperforms the GTX 1080 Gaming X from MSI, pre-overclocked at 1847MHz. The second GPU is effectively dead weight with DirectX 11, and performs no real functions. This is primarily a Dx12 test.

The RX 480 8GB runs 45.54FPS AVG in Dx12, with the CF setup at 72.02FPS AVG (Dx12). Granted, the CF setup – although, like all multi-GPU setups, we did not recommend it for gaming – would actually be deployable in more than one title.

At 4K, we move from 35.4FPS AVG on the MSI card, and 34.1FPS AVG on the FE card, to 62.79FPS AVG on the dual cards. Scaling is 1.77x, which is enough to push us well into a range of fluid gameplay. Again, we're pushing past the GTX 1080 Gaming X and CrossFire RX 480s with this setup.

Frametimes have also been reduced. At 1080/High, we saw a reduction from 21.3ms average frametime latency to 13.17ms. 4K sees a dip from 29.3ms average frametime latency to 15.93ms.

Don't Read Too Far Into This

First off, again, it is not possible to actually join two GTX 1060s in any legitimate fashion. There are no SLI fingers, and Ashes is among the only titles that actually supports a form of explicit multi-GPU with Dx12. If you really, really wanted to play Ashes and only that game, then we suppose it'd be worth looking into. But outside of that specific use case, this is about the only testable scenario we presently have that is widely known to gaming.

The GTX 1060s seem as if they may have had reasonable performance potential had SLI been supported, but in such an instance, the price would already be rivaling a single GTX 1080 or surpassing a GTX 1070. There is not an instance in recent history where we've recommended multi-GPU configurations for gaming at large; there are very specific use cases where such a setup may make sense, but for the average gamer playing many types of games, it's still easier to run one card. We've seen negative scaling (CF – ME C) in some cases and completely absent scaling in others (SLI – Just Cause 3, AC Syndicate at launch). Multi-GPU also demands more power, generates more noise, and necessitates that a card is disabled depending on game support. Perhaps for production use cases where Quadro and Firepro are out of reach; otherwise, we generally don't recommend multi-GPU.

And so we're where we started: It was a fun test out of curiosity, and not one representative of a combination (2x GTX 1060s in MDA/LDA Explicit) we'd ever recommend buying.

Editorial: Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke
Video: Andrew “ColossalCake” Coleman

Last modified on July 19, 2016 at 4:56 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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