While the new generation of graphics cards from NVIDIA, namely the Geforce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, are slowly getting to users around the world, there’s a lot more excitement pent up for their cheaper GPUs, which is where the bulk of the gaming market looks to for their new graphics cards. AMD recently announced the Radeon RX 480 at a recommended price of $199, which is astounding value for money, and NVIDIA needs to have an effective counter to this card. It turns out that they might have one in the form of the upcoming Geforce GTX 1060, but it might not be what everyone is expecting.
Graphics card manufacturer Inno3D is one of NVIDIA’s most important board partners for Asia and surrounding markets like Russia, and this past week they showed the slide pictured above on their website, informing customers on what they could look forward to in the future. Interestingly, there’s the suggestion that NVIDIA is replacing the Geforce GTX 980 and GTX 970 with one card, which fits in with people’s expectations of the GTX 1060 and its performance level. The GTX 1060 only has to deliver slightly better performance than the GTX 980 in order to increase the amount of PC gamers who have enough GPU horsepower to drive an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
Further down the chart, it’s suggested that the GTX 960 and GTX 950 will be replaced by two cards, and it’s quite likely that those replacements will be based on NVIDIA’s GP106 Pascal die. They might have similar characteristics as well, like 128-bit memory controllers servicing GDDR5 memory, low power draws around the 100W range, and possibly low-power versions that ship without a 6-pin PEG power connector. Those cards service the same market as consumers who bought the GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti, so I expect them to sell really, really well.
The question on everyone’s minds this past week is how NVIDIA is approaching the GTX 1060. This time around, they can’t use a small die to go up against AMD in the mid-range market, because not only is the Radeon RX 480 theoretically faster than the GTX 980, it’s also rumored to have a die size of 232mm², which is already quite small. The RX 480 also looks remarkably similar to the older Hawaii architecture that makes up the Radeon R9 390 and R9 390X, and those cards are already beating the GTX 970 and GTX 980 at a lower price tag.
Basically, if AMD’s Ellesmere GPU is a shrunken Hawaii architecture with updated everything, it’s possibly much faster than NVIDIA bargained for, and a cheaper, smaller GP106-based GPU might not be able to compete against it. Would NVIDIA make the decision to chop GP104 further into a card that’s 20% slower than the GTX 1070 and try sell it as a GTX 1060 with a 192-bit memory bus and 6GB of VRAM? I think it’s quite possibly their only option at this point, and it would be a very interesting mid-range GPU to look at.