NVIDIA GTX 1060 3GB vs. AMD RX 480 4GB Benchmark

By Published October 19, 2016 at 2:21 pm

We've already extensively looked at the GTX 1060 3GB vs. GTX 1060 6GB buying options, we covered the RX 480 4GB vs. 8GB options, but we haven't yet tested the 3GB & 4GB SKUs head-to-head. In this content, we're using the latest drivers to specifically benchmark the GTX 1060 3GB versus the RX 480 4GB cards to determine which has the best framerate for the price.

Each of the lower VRAM spec SKUs has a few other tweaks in addition to its memory capacity reduction. The GTX 1060 3GB, for instance, also eliminates one of its SMs. In turn, that kills 128 CUDA cores and 8 TMUs, dragging the 1060 down from 1280 cores / 80 TMUs to 1152 cores / 72 TMUs on the GTX 1060 3GB model. AMD's RX 480 4GB card, meanwhile, has a lower minimum specification for memory to assist in cost management. The RX 480 4GB has a minimum memory speed of ~1750MHz (or ~7Gbps effective), whereas the RX 480 8GB model runs 2000MHz (8Gbps effective).

Here is the previous content that may prove useful:

GTX 1060 3GB vs. GTX 1060 6GB Specs

NVIDIA Pascal vs. Maxwell Specs Comparison
  GTX 1060 3GB GTX 1060 6GB
GPU GP106 Pascal GP106 Pascal
Transistor Count 4.4B 4.4B
Fab Process 16nm FinFET 16nm FinFET
CUDA Cores 1152 1280
GPCs 2 2
SMs 9 10
TPCs 9 10
TMUs 72 80
ROPs 48 48
Core Clock 1506MHz 1506MHz
Boost Clock 1708MHz 1708MHz
Memory Type GDDR5 GDDR5
Memory Capacity 3GB 6GB
Memory Clock 8Gbps 8Gbps
Memory Interface 192-bit 192-bit
Memory Bandwidth 192GB/s 192GB/s
TDP 120W 120W
Power Connectors 1x 6-pin 1x 6-pin
Release Date August, 2016 7/19/2016
Release Price MSRP: $200 Reference: $300
MSRP: $250

RX 480 4GB vs. RX 480 8GB Specs

  AMD RX 480 8GB AMD RX 480 4GB
Architecture Polaris 10 Polaris 10
Compute Units (CUs) 36 36
Stream Processors 2304 2304
Base / Boost Clock 1120MHz / 1266MHz 1120MHz / 1266MHz
Graphics Command Processor (GCP) 1 1
ACEs 4 4
HWS 2 2
TMUs 144 144
Pixels Output / Clock 32 32
Geometry Processors 4 4
L2 Cache 2MB 2MB
LSU 576x32b 576x32b
VRAM Capacity 8GB GDDR5 @ 8Gbps 4GB GDDR5 @ 7Gbps
Memory Interface 256-bit 256-bit
Memory Speed 8Gbps (8GB model) 7Gbps (4GB model)
Memory Bandwidth 256GB/s (8GB model) 224GB/s (4GB model)
TDP 150W 150W
Power Connectors 6-pin 6-pin
Display Port 1.3 HBR / 1.4 HDR 1.3 HBR / 1.4 HDR
Release Date June 29 June 29

(Note: As always, you cannot compare cross-brand architectures. Don't compare core count or clock-rate between these devices, as they function differently.)

Test Setup

The focus for this content is entirely on a head-to-head between the cards, because we've previously stated that the 4GB 480 and 3GB 1060 units should only be bought for specific budget use cases, given flanking options. If you know you're buying one of those two, we're providing a cursory look at performance. If you're yet undecided, check our above-linked reviews for a wider listing of GPU performance.

In this head-to-head comparison, we're using reference clocked cards from each vendor, so there are no AIB partner pre-overclocks here. Note that, as always, you can obviously net higher performance with AIB partner models that are pre-overclocked. Noise and temperatures will be lower, too – but we're just looking at FPS today, and using stock clocks as a baseline. Extrapolate from here.

All of these tests were run fresh, as there have been a number of driver updates since our previous RX 480 4GB analysis. The card has changed enough in that time to mandate a refresh of tests.

Game Test 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 16.10.1 drivers were used for the RX 480. NVidia's 373.06 drivers were used for game (FPS) testing on the GTX 1060. Game settings were manually controlled for the DUT. All games were run at presets defined in their respective charts. We disable brand-supported technologies in games, like The Witcher 3's HairWorks and HBAO. All other game settings are defined in respective game benchmarks, which we publish separately from GPU reviews. Our test courses, in the event manual testing is executed, are also uploaded within that content. This allows others to replicate our results by studying our bench courses. In NVIDIA's control panel, we disable G-Sync for testing (and disable FreeSync for AMD). Note that these results were all done with the newest drivers, including the newest game patches, and may not be comparable to previous results. DOOM (as an example) has had several performance patches that impact framerate, alongside a few driver updates between vendors.

Windows 10-64 build 10586 was used for testing.

Each game was tested for 30 seconds in an identical scenario, then repeated three times for parity.

Average FPS, 1% low, and 0.1% low times are measured. We do not measure maximum or minimum FPS results as we consider these numbers to be pure outliers. Instead, we take an average of the lowest 1% of results (1% low) to show real-world, noticeable dips; we then take an average of the lowest 0.1% of results for severe spikes.

GN Test Bench 2015 Name Courtesy Of Cost
Video Card This is what we're testing! - -
CPU Intel i7-5930K CPU iBUYPOWER  
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. Game settings are shown in chart titles. For specific settings, view our game-specific benchmark content.

Gears of War 4 Dx12 Benchmark – GTX 1060 3GB vs. RX 480 4GB

Gears of War 4 is a Windows Store title that operates on DirectX 12, which we recently tested in a separate benchmark for most current GPUs. We use PresentMon to test the game, built by Intel and Microsoft, and then leverage our own in-house scripts to analyze the frametime data. This produces the usual 1% and 0.1% low numbers that you're used to from our content.

At 1080p with Ultra settings, the GTX 1060 3GB ($200) card operates at nearly 115FPS AVG, with 1% low performance at about 87FPS and 0.1% lows at about 76FPS. The RX 480 4GB ($200) unit performs at nearly 104FPS AVG – pretty close, but about 10% slower – and sustains lows with tighter timing than the head-to-head competition. That said, at this framerate throughput, the differences are largely inconsequential.



Gears of War 4 at 1440p/Ultra remains playable on each device, though framerate is dragged down to 75FPS AVG on the GTX 1060 3GB card and 68FPS on the RX 480 4GB. The low percentage performance is just shy of 60FPS on the GTX 1060 3GB, but the output is tight enough for each device that the perception of game fluidity is largely the same with each GPU. That said, the GTX 1060 is the victor in this particular benchmark, performing approximately 10% faster than the RX 480 4GB card.

DOOM Benchmark – Vulkan & OpenGL for RX 480 4GB vs. GTX 1060 3GB

480v1060-doom-ogl-1080p 1

Above is the OpenGL 1080p/Ultra benchmark chart – Vulkan is a bit below. The GTX 1060 3GB card is humming along at 112FPS AVG for DOOM, with a 76FPS 1% low and 66FPS 0.1% low. The RX 480 4GB, meanwhile, is hitting playable framerates, but sits far behind what the GTX 1060 is outputting. The 480 is operating at around 80FPS AVG, with 1% and 0.1% lows timed tightly around 60FPS (a good thing). The 1060 is a clear winner – but if we switch to Vulkan, things change a bit.

480v1060-doom-vlk-1080p 1

With Vulkan at 1080p, the RX 480 is now just 3FPS behind the GTX 1060, and both are performing effectively equally when looking at gameplay, frametime deltas, and framerates. This lands the RX 480 just a couple percent off of the 1060. If you're running an RX 480 and DOOM, it's time to switch to Vulkan.

480v1060-doom-ogl-1440p 1

480v1060-doom-vlk-1440 1

1440p with OpenGL shows a similar disparity between the GTX 1060 3GB and RX 480 4GB as in the first test. Swapping to Vulkan changes our output to be 72FPS AVG, with each card producing exceptionally tightly timed low values.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III Benchmark – RX 480 4GB vs. GTX 1060 3GB


With Black Ops III at 1080p/High, we're seeing the RX 480 4GB card lead the GTX 1060 3GB card by about 14FPS in the averages, though AMD does have less reliable frametime performance. The variance in frametimes occasionally manifests itself in stutters during gameplay, with a silver lining in the fact that not every single test pass exhibits a stutter. This is more of a driver-side issue than a VRAM issue, since the GTX 1060 3GB does not exhibit the same behavior at 1080p/High.

This is where you'll have to make a judgment call, because the RX 480 does have better overall FPS than the GTX 1060 3GB card, but the occasional stutter will sometimes impact gameplay. They're not too frequent – you'll definitely see a few per match, though.

480v1060-blops3-1440p 1

At 1440p, we're seeing similarly variable performance with occasional stutters, but overall superior framerate throughput to the GTX 1060 3GB – the gap is approximately 11FPS AVG, or about 16.5% favoring the RX 480 4GB for the AVG FPS. Stutters are a pain, but can be somewhat compensated for with settings tuning.

GTA V Benchmark – RX 480 4GB vs. GTX 1060 3GB


Moving on to GTA V at 1080p, we're seeing a performance throughput of 89.3FPS AVG on the GTX 1060 3GB card, versus 83.7FPS AVG on the RX 480 4GB. The low performance is greater than 60FPS for 1% values on the 1060, with 56FPS 0.1% performance. The RX 480 4GB, with its now-fixed GTA V driver update, is at 57.7FPS AVG for 1% lows and just below 50FPS for 0.1% lows. Fairly comparable, overall.


1440p performance shrinks the gap a little bit, as we're becoming bound by what these cards are capable of doing. The GTX 1060 3GB operates north of 60FPS for its average, with dips tightly timed and around the 50FPS mark. The RX 480 4GB card is also right around 60FPS for its average, though its low performance dips down to 36FPS 0.1% lows in some of the worst case scenarios. Still, not hugely different in visuals for the most part.

Mirror's Edge Catalyst Benchmark - GTX 1060 3GB vs. RX 480 4GB


480v1060-mec-1080hyper 1

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst is an interesting test case. We've seen some issues with lower VRAM capacities when testing Hyper settings, but our main test is with Ultra at 1080p. The GTX 1060 3GB leads marginally, with a 2FPS gap that is effectively invisible to the player. What's not invisible, though, is the frametime variance. Frametimes are gapped enough on the RX 480 4GB card that we're seeing less than 30FPS in the heaviest stutters. Remember, it's that frame-to-frame delta that becomes observable as a stutter, and can create more jarring gameplay. The same is true for Hyper, though you're really not going to be playing with Hyper settings on either card – it's far too VRAM-intensive and taxing on shaders.

Conclusion: GTX 1060 3GB or RX 480 4GB

The GTX 1060 3GB card does have more consistent frametimes when looking at some games – like Mirror's Edge and Black Ops – but the card faces good competition from AMD. The RX 480 4GB card outperforms in averages with Black Ops III, though would require some settings tuning to eliminate that occasional hiccup. AMD is also showing significant scaling with low-level APIs that puts it in more direct competition with nVidia. The Gears of War 4 and Vulkan benchmarks prove this. Each device will allow 1080p gaming with Ultra settings, for the titles tested, and can scale to 1440p with slightly lower settings. NVidia tends to be more consistent in its driver performance for frametime consistency with the GTX 1060. The RX 480 isn't a bad option – AMD's significantly improved its drivers since our review, the company just has some more progress to make in some titles.

Ultimately, given the fairly close performance, this will come down to price and partners.

We were able to find both units available for $200 (see: EVGA GTX 1060 3GB SC, MSI RX 480 4GB). The RX 470 is also worth a consideration if you can find one for around $180. The GTX 1060 3GB, despite our issues with its naming and market positioning, is doing well for its price position. The RX 480 outperforms in averages in Black Ops III, yet falls short in frametime consistency. Both cards are generally within ~10% of each other, depending on game, with the 1060 generally leading. We hope that you can take this data and make purchasing decisions, as AIB partner models will ultimately dictate which card should be bought.

Editorial: Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke
Sr. Test Technician: Mike “Budekai?” Gaglione
Video: Andrew “ColossalCake” Coleman
Supporting Photography: Jim "Neutron" Vincent

Last modified on October 20, 2016 at 2:21 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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