The OC war

The midrange grudge re­match con­tin­ues with AMD’s Radeon RX 580 and NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1060 OC.

HWM (Malaysia) - - LAB EXAM - Text by John Law

It’s been a lit­tle more than a year since AMD and NVIDIA launched their re­spec­tive GPUs for the midrange mar­ket. Back then, AMD’s Radeon RX 480 lost out by a siz­able mar­gin to NVIDIA’s own GeForce GTX 1060, and even then, it was still a pretty close fight be­tween th­ese two.

Fast for­ward to to­day, and the grudge match is still on­go­ing, but this time, it’s in the form of the Radeon RX 580 for team red, and the GeForce GTX 1060 OC for team green. So, with a whole year (plus or mi­nus a few months) worth of ex­pe­ri­ence, we’ll be tak­ing a look at both cards in the form of the Sap­phire NITRO+ RX 580 OC and the MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+.

Lean, green, midrange fight­ing ma­chine

While we would’ve pre­ferred to have tested the cards with their cor­re­spond­ing ref­er­ence cool­ers, NVIDIA ac­com­mo­dated us with MSI’s own it­er­a­tion of the GeForce GTX 1060 OC, the GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+. Like all of its cards that have been dec­o­rated with Gam­ing X cool­ing shroud and Twin Frozr VI cool­ing so­lu­tions, the GeForce GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+’s over­all aes­thet­ics and phys­i­cal de­sign does not stray away from the orig­i­nal de­sign.

The card even has a back­plate at­tached to it, lend­ing yet an­other ele­gant plus point to this PC com­po­nent. Ports-wise, you get one HDMI ports, three Dis­playPorts, and a dual-link DVI port. It’s nice that MSI had added in a DVI port, but frankly, it’s a bit re­dun­dant, es­pe­cially since peo­ple who are con­sid­er­ing this card wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be play­ing at res­o­lu­tions lower than WQHD (2,560 x 1,440 pix­els) to be­gin with.

But the takeaway high­light of this card is the ad­di­tional over­clock­ing of the mem­ory that NVIDIA has im­ple­mented with this vari­ant of the GTX 1060.

Now, we know what you’re think­ing in terms of the mem­ory be­ing over­clocked, but it isn’t. The GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+ still has the same 6GB of GDDR5 RAM, spread out across the same 192-bit mem­ory bus. What was over­clocked, though, was the card’s mem­ory speed: The orig­i­nal it­er­a­tion of the GTX 1060 had its mem­ory clock speed set at 8Gbps (8,000MHz), but with all OC ver­sions of the GTX 1060, that num­ber has been bumped up to 9Gbps (9,000MHz).

In the case of this GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+, the mem­ory clock speed is au­to­mat­i­cally rated at 9,126MHz (slightly higher than the stated mem­ory clock speed) out of the box, while its core clock speed is set at 1,809MHz. To power the card through com­pletely, only a single 8-pin PCIe power con­nec­tor is re­quired.

On an­other note, the over­all de­sign of the GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+ is rel­a­tively pleas­ing to the eye, thanks to the Twin Frozr VI cooler shroud de­sign and the over­all slim de­sign of its cool­ing so­lu­tions.

“The takeaway high­light of this card is the ad­di­tional over­clock­ing of the mem­ory that NVIDIA has im­ple­mented with this vari­ant of the GTX 1060.”

Po­laris re­designed

It’s an open se­cret that the Radeon RX 480 was not with­out its own set of prob­lems. The card, while still ca­pa­ble of pulling its weight, suf­fered from prob­lems that in­cluded over­volt­ing to over­clock­ing is­sues.

AMD has man­aged to ad­dress those is­sues in the year since then, and the end re­sult was the new Po­laris Re­fresh GPU and the Radeon RX 580. In the case of this Lab Exam, we re­ceived Sap­phire’s NITRO+ RX 580 OC.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tion-wise, the NITRO+ RX 580 OC that we have comes with 8GB of GDDR5 mem­ory, with its GPU core ag­gres­sively over­clocked to 1,411MHz. Be­yond that, how­ever, the card still re­tains the same 8Gbps mem­ory clock speed, as well as the same 256-bit mem­ory bus. Also, the card is fit­ted with 2,304 stream pro­ces­sors. To power it all, the card re­quires sig­nif­i­cantly more power than its NVIDIA coun­ter­part, which is why it has an 8-pin and a 6-pin PCIe connectors built into it.

Aes­thet­i­cally speak­ing, the NITRO+ RX 580 OC’s cooler shroud looks ex­actly the same as all Sap­phire cards un­der the NITRO+ line, al­beit with a slight de­sign tweak to the cool­ing so­lu­tion’s heatsinks. Com­pared to the other cards, the NITRO+ RX 580 is also slightly longer and has more prom­i­nent heat­pipes than a typ­i­cal NITRO+ Radeon card usu­ally comes with.

“Com­pared to the other cards, the NITRO+ RX 580 is also slightly longer and has more prom­i­nent heat­pipes than a typ­i­cal NITRO+ Radeon card usu­ally comes with.”

Go­ing head to head

To bench­mark th­ese two cards, we used the fol­low­ing com­po­nents to test them: • AMD Ryzen 7 1800X

• Gi­ga­byte Aorus AX370-Gam­ing 5

• Cor­sair LPX 16GB (2x 8GB)


• Noc­tua NH-U12S SE-UM4 Cooler

• Kingston HyperX Preda­tor 480GB


• WD Caviar Black 6TB

• Cor­sair RM1000 PSU1 Our bench­mark­ing pro­grams also in­cluded the fol­low­ing:


• Fu­ture­mark 3DMark 2013

• Unig­ine Su­per­po­si­tion


• Deus Ex: Mankind Di­vided


• Dragon Age: In­qui­si­tion

• Tom Clancy’s Ghost Re­con Wild­lands

• Prey

Typ­i­cally, we would over­clock both cards to their lim­its when bench­mark­ing. In the case of th­ese cards, we sim­ply ran them as is, right out of the box, and with good rea­son.

Com­pared to NVIDIA’s GeForce cards, AMD’s Radeon GPUs are sadly not as over­clock­able as its coun­ter­parts. By con­trast, the most we man­aged to get out of the NITRO+ RX 580 OC was an ad­di­tional 40MHz, while we ac­tu­ally man­aged to push the GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+ nearly 100MHz on top of its orig­i­nal boost clock speed. This would’ve put the GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+ at an un­fair ad­van­tage over the NITRO+ RX 580 OC.

As th­ese cards are aimed at those seek­ing a midrange card that’s ca­pa­ble at gam­ing on Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) and WQHD (2,560 x 1,440) res­o­lu­tions, we ran our re­al­world bench­marks in th­ese two res­o­lu­tions.

In our syn­thetic bench­mark phase, it’s quite ob­vi­ous that both cards are go­ing head to head, es­pe­cially in 3DMark’s Fire Strike and Time Spy tests. But when it came to Unig­ine’s new Su­per­po­si­tion test, there was no ar­gu­ment that the GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+ was the undis­puted cham­pion of the bench­mark, both within the OpenGL and DirectX API cat­e­gories.

But that story takes a turn when we be­gan test­ing the cards in real-world ap­pli­ca­tions (e.g. our se­lec­tion of games). Ul­ti­mately, it was the NITRO+ RX 580 OC that dom­i­nated the ma­jor­ity of games, and in both dis­play res­o­lu­tions. In fact, the only ti­tle that the GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+ came out the vic­tor was in Tom Clancy’s Ghost

Re­con Wild­lands, but that be­ing said, the game it­self was de­signed to work more ef­fi­ciently with NVIDIA’s GeForce cards.

The MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gam­ing X+ wins hands down in the aes­thet­ics depart­ment.

Yes, the card does have RGB, as does the Sap­phire NITRO+ RX 580 OC.

The NITRO+ RX 580 OC fea­tures a min­i­mal­ist de­sign.

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