The $200 EVGA GTX 1060 3GB Gaming is an interesting graphics card being released into an interesting market.
In theory, there’s no reason to buy one over a $200 4GB Radeon RX 480, period. But in reality, $200 reference versions of the RX 480 have been nonexistent since the card’s initial launch in June. Heck, any 4GB RX 480s are borderline mythical. The MSI Radeon RX 480 Gaming X is the only 4GB model available on Newegg right now, and it costs $250. AMD’s partners have focused almost exclusively on pricier 8GB versions.
Instead, the Radeon RX 470 has assumed the 4GB RX 480’s place. While its theoretical starting price is $180, you’ll find a handful of models starting at $200 in reality, with most in-stock custom-cooled models going for $230 or more. Most 3GB GTX 1060 cards, meanwhile, sell for less than that.
If you can find an affordable 4GB Radeon RX 480, buy it. AMD’s card offers superior performance and more memory than Nvidia’s $200 challenger, which makes it a viable option for more intensive 1440p resolution and VR gaming. Don’t hold your breath, though.
The 3GB GTX 1060’s true rival is AMD’s Radeon RX 470. Both deliver damned fine 1080p gaming experiences—though not quite the same no-compromises, 60-fps 1080p gaming as the RX 480 or 6GB GTX 1060.
At first blush, the 3GB GTX 1060’s slightly higher performance, incredible power efficiency, and lower street pricing should make it the easy pick. And it would be a no-brainer—if Nvidia’s cut-down card had 4GB of RAM like the RX 470.
Memory demands are only rising in this age of DirectX 12 and modern consoles. While Nvidia’s stellar memory compression helps, this new GTX 1060’s 3GB of RAM doesn’t feel very future-proof. It’s enough for top-tier 1080p gaming at 60 fps in the here and now, but the limited capacity may force you to dial down textures and avoid memory-hogging features like MSAA anti-aliasing going forward. You can already see the limits of the 3GB capacity in our most grueling Rise of the Tomb Raider and Hitman tests. (Though to be fair, Ultra textures and extreme MSAA are better suited for higher resolutions than 1080p.)
For anyone stuck as close to a $200 budget as possible, the GeForce GTX 1060 3GB is the best option available today because RX 480s at AMD’s trumpeted $200 don’t exist (I’m going to keep saying that whenever I get the opportunity!). EVGA’s GTX 1060 3GB Gaming hits that price right on the nose, and offers all the advantages listed above. It runs a little warm on account of its itty-bitty length, but not uncomfortably so, and the card isn’t loud.
If you plan to hold onto your card for several years and are worried about long-term viability, you may want to opt for a Radeon RX 470 over the GTX 1060 3GB. With most 470s selling for over $200 when they’re available, however, another option is to save your pennies for another month to snag a 6GB GTX 1060. It’s a lot more future-proof, opens the door to better gameplay experiences, and several models can actually be found for the card’s $250 MSRP.