In a low-key press blast sent today, NVIDIA has announced that they are expanding the GeForce 10-Series of cards with another entry. Augmenting the current series of cards is a second GeForce GTX 1060, the GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, which despite the name is not actually equal to the original, 6GB GeForce GTX 1060. The new GTX 1060 3GB is available immediately from retailers starting at $199.

NVIDIA GPU Specification Comparison
  GTX 1070 GTX 1060 6GB GTX 1060 3GB GTX 960
CUDA Cores 1920 1280 1152 1024
Texture Units 120 80 72 64
ROPs 64 48 48 32
Core Clock 1506MHz 1506MHz 1506MHz 1126MHz
Boost Clock 1683MHz 1709MHz 1709MHz 1178MHz
TFLOPs (FMA) 6.5 TFLOPs 4.4 TFLOPs 3.9 TFLOPs 2.4 TFLOPs
Memory Clock 8Gbps GDDR5 8Gbps GDDR5 8Gbps GDDR5 7Gbps GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 192-bit 192-bit 128-bit
VRAM 8GB 6GB 3GB 2GB
FP64 1/32 1/32 1/32 1/32
TDP 150W 120W 120W 120W
GPU GP104 GP106 GP106 GM204
Transistor Count 7.2B 4.4B 4.4B 2.94B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 16nm TSMC 16nm TSMC 16nm TSMC 28nm
Launch Date 06/10/2016 07/19/2016 08/18/2016 01/22/2015
Launch Price MSRP: $379
Founders $449
MSRP: $249
Founders $299
MSRP: $199 $199

Looking at the big picture, the new GTX 1060 3GB materially differs from the existing 6GB GTX 1060 in two different metrics. First and foremost of course is the memory; the card ships with half as much memory, which amounts to a 6x512MB configuration. However, somewhat frustratingly, NVIDIA didn’t just stop there and has also introduced a new GPU configuration for this card, meaning that we are now looking at multiple GPU configurations being sold at retail under the GTX 1060 banner.

Whereas the original GTX 1060 6GB shipped with a fully enabled GP106 GPU, the GPU used in the GTX 1060 3GB ships with 1 of the 10 SMs disabled. This leaves 9 SMs enabled, leading to a CUDA core count of 1152, and 72 texture units. Other than this sole disabled SM, the GPU is otherwise untouched, and the full ROP/L2 backend and its associated memory controllers are fully enabled.

Clockspeeds are also unchanged. On the GPU this means we’re still looking at 1506MHz base and 1709MHz boost. Meanwhile on the memory it’s still 8Gbps GDDR5 on a 192-bit memory bus, only now there’s only half as much total memory. Consequently the total performance hit to the GTX 1060 3GB as compared to the original GTX 1060 6GB will be a combination of the reduced memory capacity and the loss of 10% of the shading/texturing/geometry resources.

Finally, on the TDP side, TDP hasn’t been adjusted even with the loss of 1 SM. This means TDP remains at 120W. I suspect part of this comes down to the fact that NVIDIA isn’t doing additional power binning (ala GTX 1070), along with the fact that disabling a single SM is going to have a limited impact on power consumption.

All told, this is a typical case of NVIDIA creating a new SKU for salvaged GPUs. Since the full-fledged GTX 1060 uses an equally full-fledged GP106, this gives salvaged GP106s a card to use them in.

The concern I have is that, frankly, I thought NVIDIA was done with these shenanigans, as they haven’t had multiple GPU configurations selling under a single retail GTX model number for a number of years now. To the company’s credit, they are drawing a clear line between the 3GB and 6GB cards – there will not be any 6GB cards with a cut-down GPU, nor any 3GB cards with the full GPU – but the memory configuration now means something about how the GPU is configured, which is unintuitive at best (ed: and this doesn’t give AMD a free pass on the RX 480 either). Ultimately I’m not sure that anything good can come from this, and that the part should have been GTX 1055 or such.

Meanwhile the performance impact, according to NVIDIA, should be about 5%. Keeping in mind that GTX 1060 3GB is losing 10% of its shader/texture/geometry capacity and none of its ROP or rasterization capacity, this doesn’t seem unrealistic. Though it’s obviously something we’ll want to test ourselves.

As mentioned earlier, this is a hard launch for NVIDIA and its partners. MSI, Gigabyte, EVGA, and others are already listing cards on Newegg, and as of this afternoon they are still in stock, which is better than any previous 10-Series launch. Even the base-bones $199 GTX 1060 3GB cards are in stock, so it’s possible to pick up a card at MSRP. Though the partners also have a number of factory overclocked cards, in case you wish to spend more than $200.

Competitively speaking, the GTX 1060 3GB is meant to compete against the $199 4GB Radeon RX480, the cheaper of AMD’s RX 480 lineup. The latter has been in very short supply since its launch, so at this second NVIDIA has a pretty solid grip on the $199 price point at this secnd.

At the same time however, I do have some concerns about whether a 3GB card is enough, especially looking at a year or so down the line. The 2GB GTX 960, by comparison, has shown us that buying a low capacity card can be short-sighted, as the 4GB versions have held up better in 2016’s major game releases. But to the credit of NVIDIA and their partners here, they are at least being aggressive on pricing, with the slight downgrade from the 6GB to the 3GB card shaving 20% ($50) off of the MSRP of the card.

Finally, on a housekeeping note, NVIDIA has not sampled the 3GB cards to the press, as this is a pure virtual (partner-driven) launch with no reference board or Founders Edition equivalent. So you’ll see reviews over the coming days and weeks as partners directly sample cards instead.

Summer 2016 GPU Pricing Comparison
AMD Price NVIDIA
  $439 GeForce GTX 1070
Radeon R9 390X $329  
Radeon R9 390 $299  
  $249 GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
Radeon RX 480 (8GB) $239  
Radeon RX 480 (4GB)
Radeon RX 470
$199 GeForce GTX 1060 3GB
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  • kpb321 - Thursday, August 18, 2016 - link

    I expected NVIDIA to release a card using a partially enabled GP106 as it just makes sense to do that. I HATE HATE HATE the fact that they still called it a 1060. IMO they should NEVER be using the same major model number for a card with significant differences like that. Yeah it's only a 10% difference but that is still a reasonable difference. Call it a 1050 or a 1055 or a 1060SE if you have to but don't call it a 1060.

    It is as bad as some of the OEM cards or laptop chips which could have anything from ddr3 to GDDR5 or different memory widths or different shader counts for the same model card.
    Reply
  • Friendly0Fire - Thursday, August 18, 2016 - link

    Entirely agreed. It's not the first time they use cut down silicon, I don't know why this time they decided to use such a confusing naming scheme. I understand that they most likely have a separate 1050 in the pipeline and want this to be seen as a slightly slower 1060 rather than a beefed up 1050, but you can still do better than this, Nvidia. There has to be an acceptable marketing choice that isn't unnecessarily misleading. Reply
  • coinopshot - Thursday, August 18, 2016 - link

    They've done it before with the 8800 GTS 320 MB and 8800 GTS 640 MB. Not like it's new or anything. Reply
  • e36Jeff - Thursday, August 18, 2016 - link

    Don't forget the 8800GTS 512MB. They actually had 3 different cards under the 8800 GTS nameplate. Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Friday, August 19, 2016 - link

    Don't forget the 8800GT! Reply
  • Gigaplex - Saturday, August 20, 2016 - link

    At least that one has a different name variation. Reply
  • kpb321 - Thursday, August 18, 2016 - link

    Just because it isn't new doesn't mean we have to like it or that it is a good practice. Reply
  • Flunk - Thursday, August 18, 2016 - link

    And the GTX 460 768GB and 1GB. They should have called this card the 1050. Reply
  • Samus - Friday, August 19, 2016 - link

    There were at least FOUR versions of the GTX460 if I remember correctly. Reply
  • AndrewJacksonZA - Friday, August 19, 2016 - link

    Confusing naming scheme = possible confusion from uneducated or ignorant buyers = more sales because "It's a cheaper 1060!"

    Nvidia lost some respect from me in trying to deceive people. I don't like it when companies lie and are dishonest and unethical. (And people complain about AMD's marketing department. Sheesh... *smh*)
    Reply

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