NVIDIA GTX 1060 Review & Benchmark vs. RX 480 (Ft. MSI Gaming X)

By Published July 19, 2016 at 9:00 am

Additional Info

  • Component: Video Card
  • Original MSRP: 300
  • Manufacturer: NVIDIA

GTX 1060 Founders Edition Thermal Benchmark vs. MSI 1060 Gaming X

Our thermal testing methodology is explained on the previous page. We switch between Delta T values and total temperature values, depending on what's being actively presented. For our peak average thermal measurements, we use Delta T to create a clear look at GPU performance when using the out-of-box configuration. Our reasoning for subtracting the ambient temperature is thoroughly explained here.

We've put the GTX 1060 through a short-term (~20m) test, endurance test (2hr+), and have done the same for its overclocking performance. See the OC results in the overclocking section on Page 6.

Let's start with peak average thermals, then move on to thermal throttle analysis.


The GTX 1060 Founders Edition card runs at 43.6C delta T over ambient when under full load and idles at 6.15C. Comparing these results to the GTX 1070 Founders Edition (53.86C load), we can see that the GTX 1060 FE card runs considerably cooler (~10C) and is able to keep a less significant thermal envelope. This is primarily a result of energy efficiency: A reduction in power consumption by the GPU (and memory subsystem, for that matter) will reduce overall thermals of the silicon and PCB components. The cooler itself has not improved, but the GPU has reduced its heat generation by way of simply being less powerful and less in demand of power.

Looking at MSI's GTX 1060 Gaming X, which is pre-overclocked and uses a Twin Frozr VI cooler, we see temperature at 37.36C load. The idle temperature is 6.34C, a fiercely low output considering the fans spin at 0RPM when idle. This is all done with passive cooling, at this point – large heatpipes (which taper to a square for increased surface area and contact with fins), large aluminum and copper heatsinks, and an aluminum base plate. MSI's GTX 1060 Gaming X has seized the top spot on our bench for an air-cooled card. The only cards which presently outperform the 1060 Gaming X in thermals are using CLCs.

Compared between the 1070 Gaming X and 1060 Gaming X – mostly using an identical cooler, aside from some PWM heatsink differences – we see the 1060 GX operates 4.4C lower. The GTX 1080 is a bit warmer than the 1060s and 1070, bearing 57.51C under load. Adding in ambient shows an 82C hard stop as the throttle point, explored here.

GTX 1060 FE & Gaming X Thermals Over Time

These charts present the same data collected above, but as an “over time” metric. This is produced following our in-house test automation, so the point of thermal load initialization is the same across all cards. We've got a simplified and populated chart below.


gtx-1060-short-thermal-vs-time full

GTX 1060 Thermals Versus Frequency (And Thermal Throttling)

This endurance chart switches us off of Delta T, providing a clearer look at thermal throttles or out-of-box temperature targets.


The clock-rate remains mostly stable throughout the majority of the test, but is not a perfectly flat line – that's the ideal output. The GTX 1060 FE is able to maintain temperatures around 67C to 72C. There are a few sudden spikes that plunge clock-rate to a couple hundred MHz, which manifest as sudden frame drops. These last a fraction of a second and are noticeable, but aren't frequent enough to get mad about. The GTX 1080 had bigger issues with this when running OC endurance tests on the FE card.

Let's zoom in.


This chart's scale is a little whacky, but we're just trying to magnify the temperature spikes that trigger a clock-rate deficit. The GTX 1060 tries to keep itself close to 67C, but will peak (and immediately throttle for control) at ~71C.

Here's a look at the raw data from one of these dips:

Time (s) Core CLK (MHz) GPU Diode (C)
6069 1797 69
6070 1797 69
6071 1784.5 69
6072 1797 69
6073 1784.5 69
6074 1797 69
6075 1809.5 70
6076 151.5 64
6077 1847.5 68
6078 1847.5 68
6079 1847.5 68
6080 1847.5 68

A hit to 151.5MHz – ouch. That happens a few times and will cause a visible “stutter,” but the duration is limited. This is similar behavior to what we've seen plenty of other times and isn't frequent enough to raise the alarm, though the fall to 151.5MHz is much greater than what we've seen in general. The overclocked GTX 1080 FE is an exception to this rule, which struggled until we put the card under liquid.

This time, we've got an aftermarket card ready for launch day – so we can actually look at the cooler immediately. Let's do that.


The MSI GTX 1060 Gaming X is able to keep a perfectly flat line for its frequency (~1999.5MHz) through the duration of the test. The spikes are eliminated entirely – at least, they are until the same ~100-minute mark in the burn-in. MSI's card hits similar lows as the Founders Edition card. Let's look at that data:

Time (s) Core CLK (MHz) GPU Diode (C)
6216 1987 63
6217 1987 63
6218 1987 64
6219 240 62
6220 1987 61
6221 1987 63
6222 1987 63
6223 1987 63

This leads us to believe that the “dipping point” is not necessarily a result of some magical throttle threshold, but some other low-level function. We have some theorizing on this on page 6.

All this data is collected with Metro: Last Light at 1440p with VH Quality and High tessellation.

GTX 1070 Thermals Versus Frequency (And Thermal Throttling)

Just to paste the GTX 1070 results from a previous run:


Of the hour-long period, four major dips occurred on the GTX 1070. The card fell down to the low hundreds for its frequency, but quickly shot back up. Regardless, these instances will create frametime latency spikes and can cause a user-observable “lag spike” in gameplay for a brief time. Four for an hour isn't bad, but this would be resolved by an AIB cooler. Each spike coincides with temperature jumps. Here is the excerpted data from the most noteworthy dip:

Time (s) Clock Temp
3268 1721 76
3269 1721 76
3270 1721 76
3271 1746.5 76
3272 1759 76
3273 1746.5 77
3274 139 73
3275 1759 74
3276 1797 76
3277 1771.5 76

Catch it? The clock only dips down for one second, but it's enough to recover an additional 4C from the GPU. That hard slam to 139MHz creates an observable “lag spike” in gameplay for less than one second of time. Whenever the GPU hits 77C, we observed this throttle.

More-or-less a non-issue, but most AIB coolers should not be hitting the same high temperatures. We'll see when they're out, though.

GTX 1060 Fan RPM Over Time

Here's a look at the fan RPM, just for sake of a well-rounded test:


The card with auto settings will attempt to stick around 60% RPM. MSI's stays below 40% with relative ease, given the dual-fan push design and large heatsink.

And MSI's:


GTX 1060 Founders Edition & MSI Gaming X Noise Levels / Decibel Output

As for the impact on noise, bearing in mind the methodology on the previous page, here's a look at dB output after accounting for the noise floor of the room. Note that this is total system noise, not per-card noise – the system pushes us up to a noise floor of about ~37.1dB with the PSU fan and CPU cooler fan.


The GTX 1060 Founders Edition card runs considerably quieter than the GTX 1080 FE card when under full load. Keep in mind that decibel measurements for noise are logarithmic, and that a 10dB swing will sound like a “2x” increase in noise to the observer. At 100% RPM, the RX 480 Reference is enough to drive you out of the room – but almost no GPU should be hitting 100% RPM under normal conditions. The cards tend to stick closer to 50%.

GTX 1060 Power Consumption & System Apparent Watt Draw (VA)

We've got oscilloscopes on the way for more in-depth power testing, soon to include per-rail benchmarking of GPUs and other components. For now, we're still using apparent power draw (in Volt-Amps) by using a wall meter to measure total system power consumption. This means that the comparison is largely between deltas. For emphasis: This is system power draw, not card draw.


The GTX 1060 FE bench runs 72VA idle, or 218.6VA under load. This makes it the least power hungry card on the rebuilt power bench, but that will soon change as the RX 470 and RX 460 ship (or probably will, anyway). The MSI variant is slightly more power hungry at 222VA load. The RX 480 sits at 239.76VA load, 83VA idle.

Overclocking produces predictably higher power draw, though the MSI card's ability to sustain a higher overclock with lower voltage does benefit its peak draw. You'll find more about that in the overclocking section – page 6.

Continue to page 4 for Dx12 & Vulkan testing.

Last modified on July 19, 2016 at 9:00 am
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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