At 1080p, performance is mostly excellent. We see minimum frame rates above 60fps in three titles, all of which use DirectX 12 or Vulkan. However, in Deus Ex, the minimum is a less than ideal 25fps. The 6GB card, as well as the 4GB versions of the RX 480 and RX 470, all manage much smoother minimums of 35fps or more, suggesting a limitation of the memory and/or memory bandwidth – the game itself recommends at least 4GB when using 'Ultra' settings as we do. Still, this is the only title the card has issues with, and even at 1440p all games except this one are playable, with minimums ranging from 33fps to 47fps.
The GTX 1060 Founders Edition 6GB is quicker than this card by 11 percent at 1080p and 16 percent at 1440p, suggesting the latter resolution does push at the limits of the 3GB buffer. That said, this is an overall average – it's only Deus Ex (DirectX 12) and Doom (Vulkan) where the difference between the two GTX 1060s is bigger than usual. This card from Gigabyte, meanwhile, has a near 50 percent lead on the overclocked GTX 1050 Ti from MSI, which is substantial and further proof that spending only a little more in this price bracket can net you significantly more performance.
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As for AMD, the RX 480 4GB is faster overall. Mostly, it leads this card by 10 percent or less, but again in Deus Ex and Doom there are much bigger differences, with average frame rates being 25-63 percent faster depending on the exact test. Comparisons are very game-dependent with the RX 470 4GB too – the Sapphire card we used is much faster in these two games too, but is slower in both DirectX 11 titles, The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4. 3D Mark also gives this card the crown – it's certainly not a clear-cut situation, but AMD's part does tend to be favoured with newer APIs.
One area where Nvidia has dominated for some time is efficiency, and this card is another clear example of that. System power consumption was right in line with the GTX 1060 Founders Edition at just 212W – some 70W less than with a custom RX 470.
A delta T of 54°C is low enough to be considered healthy, but not outstandingly so. That's not a complaint, however. With a part like this, we prefer when companies allow temperatures to run a little higher and utilise the low power demands to keep noise down. That's exactly what Gigabyte does: Under sustained load, the fans peaked at 55 percent (about 1,700 RPM) whereby they were extremely quiet and barely audible even in a quiet system. Even so, the card showed no signs of being temperature-limited, as in OC Mode it was happily boosting to about 1,900MHz with no fluctuations.
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Overclocked, the card delivered between nine and 11 percent more performance, propelling it to having better frame rates and scores than both an overclocked RX 480 4GB and the GTX 1060 Founders Edition 6GB. System power consumption rose a little to 235W, and the card was boosting to a near-constant 2,050MHz. The temperature increased by only 3°C, and noise output was unchanged, so there were no major negatives to pushing things further.
Relative to other Nvidia parts, the GTX 1060 3GB makes a fairly decent case for itself. It offers a significant bump in performance over the GTX 1050 Ti, and is fairly priced in relation to that part, while also giving you very nearly as much performance as the GTX 1060 6GB, where the additional memory makes it pretty pricey.
However, it's not only Nvidia you need to consider, as AMD's Polaris cards offer stiff competition in this price bracket. Most obvious is the RX 470 4GB, which can be found for as little as £150. Even the fully featured, overclocked Sapphire card in our charts is £20 cheaper than Gigabyte's offering here. As discussed, there's no clear winner between these cards, but in our tests the RX 470 is faster on average, and the pattern from our data suggests AMD has a lead in newer APIs, and even where Nvidia does lead it isn't by enough to justify the price premium. The RX 480 4GB is another solid alternative if you want a little more oomph. Also, while it's only one result, the Deus Ex test does suggest that 3GB could become a limit in future titles, even at 1080p. Nothing is certain, of course, but we could easily understand users feeling safer about their card's performance longevity with 4GB rather than 3GB of memory.
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This is a shame for Gigabyte, as we have to say it has done practically everything right with this card. You get a factory overclock, a sensibly sized card and a cooler that operates very quietly indeed and takes care of all critical components, not just the GPU – it's a well designed product for sure. Our card also proved to be a competent overclocker, though as ever your mileage may vary there. You get all of this for only £20 more than the least expensive variants of this card available, so Gigabyte couldn't be doing a much better job on pricing. Even so, price-performance just isn't good enough for us to be able to recommend this product, as this really is the dominating factor in mid-range purchases.
If you're dead set on being in the Nvidia ecosystem, or if efficiency is your number one priority, what we can say that this card is probably one of the best, if not the best, sub-£200 offerings on the green side of the fence. However, impressive though Gigabyte's offering may be, GTX 1060 3GB prices will need to come down more in line with RX 470 4GB prices before we're convinced enough to recommend them outright.