Thoughts on the cost of Nvidia graphics cards

Written by Antony Leather

October 17, 2016 | 11:18

Tags: #gtx-1060 #gtx-1070 #pascal

Companies: #nvidia

I think it's fair to say that as well as the graphics market having been pretty interesting for the last few years, Nvidia has also been quite dominant. So much so, that it has seen fit to alter prices in the industry as well as performance, with both moving upwards quite considerably. [break]

A couple of years ago I blogged about how Nvidia and AMD needed to step up to the 4K challenge, and while 4K hasn't quite hit mainstream as much as I thought it would (even I would prefer an ultrawide 3,440 x 1,440 display over a 4K panel, if I'm honest), VR has also put pressure on the need for better performance at high resolutions.

However, what we've seen with Pascal, in short, is that the successors to the GTX 960 and GTX 970, which fill in the most popular segments of the graphics market that we look at on bit-tech, cost considerably more.

Thoughts on the cost of Nvidia graphics cards Are we paying more for graphics cards?

In fact, the GTX 1060 6GB is only really the successor to the GTX 960 in name. In terms of price and performance, it's in a different league. The addition of the GTX 1060 3GB has evened things out here. You get a £180 card - still a little more than the GTX 960 was at launch, but you still get significantly more performance, which is good.

Move up the scale, though, and things become a little less straightforward. The GTX 1070 is an absolute monster of a graphics card, nearly doubling the frame rates of the GTX 970. That's just as well, because in terms of price, the GTX 1070 and GTX 970 don't line up at all the way your typical successor and predecessor usually would.

At launch, you could find GTX 970s for around £280, and that's for dual fan cooler models such as MSI's GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G. Assuming inflation and Brexit haven't hit GTX 1070 prices that hard yet, the very cheapest example of a GTX 1070 I could find was a reference blower equipped card, which still retails for £360. That's an £80 price difference, or nearly 30 percent.

Thoughts on the cost of Nvidia graphics cards Are we paying more for graphics cards?
Yes, you're getting a huge performance boost, but the kind of figures we're talking about are a lot more than your typical generational shift. You might expect the GTX 1060 6GB to perform similarly to the GTX 970, but that's not the case - even that card is considerably faster - up to 20 percent in some of our benchmarks.

That's a clue, though - those two cards are actually similarly priced, going by launch prices anyway. £280 was the going rate for a half decent GTX 970, and indeed MSI's GTX 1060 Gaming 6G is £290 - about the same as the similar GTX 970 model released two years prior.

So, what is Nvidia up to here? Well, sadly, it's not quite bringing ultra high resolution gaming to the masses. The GTX 1060 6GB isn't a 4K-capable card. Nor, though, is it an upgrade for GTX 960 owners, assuming you want to pay the same as you did for your GTX 960, which would have been around £180. Their best bet is the GTX 1060 3GB, which offers a sizeable boost in performance plus an extra gigabyte of memory, while costing the same or a tad more.

Thoughts on the cost of Nvidia graphics cards Are we paying more for graphics cards?
This means that the GTX 1060 6GB, at least a pre-overclocked version anyway, is actually the card GTX 970 owners should be aiming for in terms of price:performance, although the gains can sometimes be a little slim. What Nvidia has done is to shift its entire product line up a notch. This has caught quite a few people out, as you can see by the perplexed comments in our various pieces of Pascal coverage.

In short, the GTX 1070 isn't actually a bad or overly expensive card, despite what the comments say. It's only the successor to the GTX 970 in name - not price or performance - and certainly isn't the card you should be moving to if you're looking to upgrade from your GTX 970, unless you have a lot more money to spend this time and need high frame rates at 2,560 x 1,440 or 3,440 x 1,440 - it's not a true 4K card, just like the GTX 980 Ti wasn't, at least not at maximum settings in the latest games.

Thoughts on the cost of Nvidia graphics cards Are we paying more for graphics cards?

Something that has settled the market down a bit is the introduction of the 3GB version of the GTX 1060, which was arguably needed to compete with AMD's RX 480 4GB. This offers a big boost for GTX 960 owners, and makes 1440p gaming comfortable. In this light, Nvidia is bringing beyond 1080p gaming to the masses, with even the lower end of the mid-range card spectrum, the GTX 1060 3GB, able to tame 1440p in most games. While 4K gaming isn't really much more affordable, it is tantalisingly close, with the GTX 1070 costing a huge amount less than the GTX 980 Ti did at launch, yet offering speeds a little higher. In fact, if you drop the settings a little, it can actually handle most current games at 4K quite easily - not bad for a card that can be had for less than £400.

So, while the initial launches of Nvidia's Pascal cards were a tad confusing, what's important to remember is that the company has shifted its product range up a notch. Your upgrade doesn't cost a lot more than you thought it would - it's just that rather than going for a GTX 1070 from a GTX 970, you need to consider the 6GB version of the GTX 1060 instead. There is a bit of a gap here, though, between the GTX 1060 6GB and and GTX 1070, both in terms of price and performance. Nvidia is clearly hoping GTX 970 owners will splash out on a GTX 1070.

If you can't afford a GTX 1070, though, selling your GTX 970 and putting the money towards a pre-overclocked GTX 1060 GB is a better option. You'll see between 10-20 percent improvements in frame rates, and with the current average price of a GTX 970 on Ebay being £165, that will cost you £100 or so, plus you'll see no extra power draw either thanks to the super-efficient Pascal architecture. Of course, you may also want to consider an RX 480. It's about the same price as the GTX 1060 6GB and can out-do it in some tests.

It's an interesting time for graphics upgrades - let keep our fingers crossed that we can can say the same for CPUs when Kaby Lake and Zen land in a few months time.
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