Nvidia’s RTX 2060 launched today, bringing Turing’s RTX capabilities closer to a mainstream price point. This is a significant launch for Nvidia for that reason alone. GPUs like the RTX 2070, 2080, and 2080 Ti capture much of the imagination and discussion in PC gaming, but cards in this space are never owned by more than a fraction of total gamers.
The GTX 1060 — the GPU the RTX 2060 ostensibly replaces — is unusually popular, even by midrange terms. According to the December 2018 version of the Steam Hardware Survey, the GTX 1060 holds 14.8 percent of the market. Roll back the clock to the eve of Pascal’s launch back in 2016, and the GTX 970 commanded 4.91 percent of the market. The 1060 is followed by the 1050 Ti, 1050, and finally the GTX 1070 at 4.02 percent of the market.
The RTX 2060, as rumor predicted, has 1920 CUDA cores and 48 ROPs, with a 192-bit memory bus, 6GB of VRAM, and a $ 349 price tag. Memory bandwidth is still up considerably from the GTX 1060, courtesy of the 14Gbps GDDR6. In fact, the RTX 2060 offers considerably more memory bandwidth than the GTX 1070 (336GB/s versus 256GB/s) despite the latter’s 256-bit memory bus. Nvidia’s latest GPU is based on a trimmed-down version of the TU106 GPU, also as expected. Rated board TDP is also higher than the GTX 1060 (160W versus 120W).
As Anandtech points out in its review, the RTX 2060 has roughly 87 percent of the RTX 2070’s compute resources and ~75 percent of its graphics and rendering capabilities. The real-world performance difference between the two solutions should broadly fall in-between these two points.
Comparing the GTX 1060 to the RTX 2060, it’s hard not to feel like Nvidia is phoning in the specs a bit. While it’s true that the RAM loadouts on the RTX 2070 and 2080 stayed the same as their Pascal counterparts, the GTX 1060 was a thoroughly midrange card, with a 3GB version at ~$ 200 and a 6GB variant starting around $ 250. The RTX 2060 is a $ 349 card — and Nvidia was more than happy to sell you 8GB of VRAM in a $ 349 back in 2016 with a 256-bit memory bus attached. With AMD now selling 8GB GPUs for under $ 200, Nvidia’s decision to keep to a 6GB frame buffer doesn’t seem to necessarily bode well for the GPUs long-term future, especially given that next-generation consoles are expected to arrive in the next 12-20 months with 12-16GB of RAM.
Performance and Positioning
Some of these concerns will be allayed by the GPU’s strong overall positioning. When Turing launched, we noted that Pascal simply offered a better price/performance ratio overall. This is not as much the case today as it was in September. Pascal cards are vanishing from the market and prices are climbing steeply; the GTX 1070 Ti is up to $ 449. The GTX 1070 can still be found for $ 300, but this won’t last.
Performance-wise (we picked Shadow of War as a test to show off, Anandtech’s full review is here), the RTX 2060 lands in very solid territory. It’s really only a bit slower than Vega 64 and a touch ahead of both the Vega 56 and the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti. The GTX 1080 is reliably faster than the RTX 2060, but the margin varies. Its overall lead on the Vega 56 is in the 8-11 percent range.
The RTX 2060’s performance is absolutely comparable to what you can buy already at the $ 349 price point. Given that Nvidia is quickly phasing out its Pascal products in this price range, it’s going to be the de facto option available before long.
The central problem with the RTX family from the beginning has been that it offers slim-to-no performance improvements over the GTX cards that were available at the same price. This GPU family is essentially a forward-looking feature play and as we’ve previously stated, we don’t ever recommend buying GPUs based on promises of support in future titles. If we assume that Turing will be Nvidia’s top-end GPU family for 22 months (Pascal set a record at 28 months), 3.5 of those months are already gone. That’s 16 percent of the GPUs entire life at the top of the product stack and there’s currently just one RTX-enabled game you can play. If you ever wanted a nutshell mathematical reason for why ExtremeTech doesn’t recommend buying GPUs today for features you won’t be able to use until tomorrow, there it is.
Compared with the RTX 2070, however, the RTX 2060 is a fairly good deal (Anandtech notes that it offers 86 percent of the performance at 70 percent the price). It improves on the GeForce 1060 6GB by 1.59x while costing 1.4x more. There is, at least, a better argument for the RTX 2060 in certain respects than there was for its higher-end cousins, but the reduced RAM loadout compared with previous generation Nvidia cards could prove a longer-term problem (Anandtech thinks they may have seen some evidence of a RAM-related bottleneck in Wolfenstein 2). Features like HDR and ray tracing itself can also increase RAM buffer pressure. We’re not saying the RTX 2060 will have a problem here, but it’s something to consider.
One difference between the RTX 2060 and the rest of the Turing stack is that in this case, AMD has GPUs competing in this space. The RTX 2060 isn’t just faster than Vega 56, it uses significantly less power while matching 95 percent of Vega 64’s performance. Up until today, AMD could argue that support for FreeSync made a difference in its overall value proposition, but Nvidia’s recent FreeSync support announcement will scythe that argument out from Team Red, assuming that NV support lives up to its promises. Either way, AMD now has a problem.
Right now, the RX 580 is $ 190, the RX 590 is $ 260, Vega 56 is $ 370, and Vega 64 is $ 400. If AMD wants to remain competitive on price/performance, the RX 590 is going to need to drop to something more like $ 220 – $ 240, Vega 56 needs to hit $ 300, and Vega 64 will need a $ 50 price cut as well.
Anandtech’s ultimate conclusion on the RTX 2060 is:
The price-to-performance characteristics of the RTX 2070, 2080, and 2080 Ti is what renders the RTX 2060 (6GB) a better value in comparison, and not necessarily because it is great value in absolute terms. But as an upgrade from older mainstream cards, the RTX 2060 (6GB) price point is a lot more reasonable than the RTX 2070’s $ 500+, where there more of the price premium is from forward-looking hardware-accelerated features like realtime raytracing.
So the RTX 2060 (6GB) would be the most suitable for gamers that aren’t gung-ho early adopters or longtime enthusiasts. The caveat is on the 6GB framebuffer, keeping in mind that the 4GB GTX 980 and 970 now punch below their weight in certain games, given the trends of HDR, HD texture packs, high-refresh rates, and more.
We agree. It’s a strong card, but not an automatic shoo-in, depending on your current situation.