Mark buys a nice video card for all the wrong reasons
• Requirements: x16 PCIe slot, six-pin PCIe power line
There’s a fine irony in that what pushed me to get a better graphics card isn’t gaming but the maths intensive processing of drone-captured images.
The software I’m using can utilise the CUDA cores to accelerate processing, so I decided that I’d get something with a bit more grunt than my lovely Zotac GeForce GTX 960.
The current generation equivalent is the GTX 1060, although, as I rapidly determined, the price range of these is exceptionally wide.
For these reasons you can pay as little as £180 for something like the Palit GeForce GTX 1060 StormX 3G or easily £290 for an MSI GeForce GTX 1060 GAMING X 6GB. In explaining that oddity, you need to accept that not all GTX 1060s are made equal. The cheaper ones have half the memory, fewer shaders and texture units, confusingly.
On that basis, why would I want one? Well, having 128 fewer shaders isn’t good, but that’s less than 10% of the total number in the 6GB design. And while the texture units are equally reduced, critically the ROPs remain completely untouched.
But the most important aspect of this card that isn’t hindered is the memory bandwidth, because while it might only have 3GB of GDDR5 not 6GB like the high-end models, the memory is wired to the same 192-bit bus delivering the same throughput.
Has almost all the GPU goodies while not breaking the bank.
On that basis, I quite reasonably theorised that it’s possible to find some memory capacity or texture abusing benchmark where the 6GB cards blitzed their smaller cousins. But in the majority of tasks, they’d offer very similar performance, especially doing most of the things that matter.
Palit StormX Specification
Memory Interface: 192bit.
Base GPU Clock: 1506MHz.
Boost Clock: 1708MHz.
Memory Clock: 4000MHz (effective 8000MHz).
CUDA Cores: 1152.
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec): 192.
Microsoft DirectX: 12 API with feature level 12_1. OpenGL: 4.5.
Bus Support: PCI-E 3.0 x 16.
Outputs: Dual-Link DVI, HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4 x 3. Maximum Digital Resolution: 7680×4320@60Hz.
Card width: 2 slot.
Board Size: 252mm x 112mm.
Graphics Card Power: 120W.
Minimum Recommended System Power: 400 W. Supplementary Power Connectors: Six-pin x1. Accessory: Manual, DVD driver.
Testing this one, I soon realised that in a worst case scenario, this card is about 5% slower than one costing at least another £70 or more.
As an example, the StormX 3G scored 10,673 in 3DMark Fire Strike, whereas on the same Core i7 system, the Zotac GTX 1060 AMP! Edition 6GB scores just 11,233 or 5.2% more points.
It’s also worth considering that the AMP! is pre-overclocked to a 1557 MHz core, whereas the StormX uses stock GPU clock speeds 51 MHz slower.
For those curious about how it compares with the Zotac GTX 960 AMP!, that card scored roughly 6,900 in the same test, so the StormX is at least 54% faster.
Therefore, you get substantially better value in this package than you do in the more expensive cards and substantially more go than the generation it replaced.
But surely there Is a downside, not least the missing 3GB of GDDR5 and the 128 shaders? They’re less of an issue than the quality of the construction chosen to make this card as cheaply as possible.
As fan shrouds gom the one on here is remarkably thin and overly flexible, and it offers so much space around the edges I’m not really sure what purpose It is.
There isn’t any reverse-face metal plate to capture heat on topside of the card, and the single 80mm fan seems to work rather hard when you stress out the GPU.
The box also contains nothing other than a driver disc and a small leaflet, although it’s hard to imagine what else it needs, as it only uses a single PCIe six-pin power cable and has no multi-GPU SLI connector.
What it does have is HDMI, Dual-Link DVI and no less than three full-size DisplayPort 1.4 outputs, and any four can be used simultaneously.
As a reviewer, I’m not often shocked as to what great value a product offers, but the Palit StormX has almost all the GPU goodies while not breaking the bank.
I did consider the GTX 1050i, but at this price the StormX was irresistible, mm Mark Pickavance
A powerful video card with a GPU that’s ready for VR gaming