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AMD RX 480 vs. NVIDIA GTX 1060: Which GPU is right for you?

AMD RX 480 vs. NVIDIA GTX 1060
AMD RX 480 vs. NVIDIA GTX 1060

The NVIDIA GTX 1060 and the AMD RX 480 graphics cards (GPU) are both budget contenders that offer a lot of power for the price you pay. Upon release, the GTX 1060 was arguably a far better graphics card, however, a series of driver updates from AMD significantly narrowed the gap in performance to the point where you have to almost look at other factors to help you decide which card is best suited for you.

Let's break things down to help you figure out which budget GPU should go into your PC.

Are these GPUs right for you?

NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti

Before getting into the comparison between the AMD RX 480 and the GTX 1060, it's good to know exactly what you'll be using the GPU for. If you're interested in 4K gaming and don't want to have to lower the in-game settings to a point where the game is unplayable, you probably want to have a look at the powerful GTX 1080 or even newer GTX 1080 Ti.

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If playing most current games at 1080p with a decent framerate is more what you're looking for, either the RX 480 or the GTX 1060 will get you through just fine and at a much lesser price. They will both also fulfill your VR dreams.

Tech specs

Both GPUs have two versions with different amounts of VRAM: the RX 480 is available in 4GB and 8GB configurations, while the GTX 1060 is available in a 3GB and 6GB configurations. Performance isn't based solely on the amount of VRAM a GPU has, so you have to take a deeper look at the specs.

CategoryAMD RX 480 (4GB/8GB)NVIDIA GTX 1060 (3GB/6GB)
VRAM4GB/8GB GDDR53GB/6GB GDDR5
Memory speed7Gbps/8Gbps8Gbps
Memory bandwidth224GB/s192GB/s
Base clock1,120MHz1,506MHz
Boost clock1,266MHz1,708MHz
Memory interface256-bit192-bit
TDP150W120W

As you can see, these GPUs are quite closely matched. However, the GTX 1060 has a higher clock speed and sucks up a bit less power than the RX 480. On the other hand, the RX 480 is the winner when it comes to memory bandwidth. It takes more than just hard specs to determine a winner, so you also have to look at benchmarks from real-world scenarios.

Benchmarks

Extensive benchmark testing performed by Hardware Canucks reveals that the performance of the RX 480 (8GB) and the GTX 1060 (6GB) are very close.

To be more specific, when playing Battlefield 1 at 1080p with Ultra settings using DirectX 11, the RX 480 (8GB) averaged about 86 frames per second (FPS) while the GTX 1060 (6GB) averaged about 90 FPS. Under the same settings but using DX12, the RX 480 (8GB) averaged about the same 86 FPS while the GTX 1060 (6GB) dipped down to an average of about 82 FPS.

In another test, this time playing Fallout 4 at 1080p with Ultra settings using DX11, the GTX 1060 (6GB) and the RX 480 (8GB) averaged about 66 FPS. When playing Fallout 4 at 1440p, the GTX 1060 (6GB) averaged about 42 FPS and the RX 480 (8GB) averaged about 43 FPS. It is evident that both of these GPUs are great options for anyone looking for 1080p gaming and even some decent 1440p gaming.

As for the lower-VRAM counterparts, the difference in performance from their higher-VRAM siblings is relatively narrow in most circumstances, and many people may not notice any major differences — at least not until you find a game that actually requires more VRAM than your GPU has, in which case you'll be kicking yourself for not going with the higher-VRAM option.

Price

GTX 1060

There are plenty of buying options when it comes to these GPUs, and the price differs a bit depending on the manufacturer and the extras they throw in. On average, you can expect to pay about $185 (opens in new tab) for a 4GB RX 480 and about $230 (opens in new tab) for an 8GB RX 480.

If you decide to go with the GTX 1060, you're looking at about $200 (opens in new tab) for the 3GB version, and about $250 (opens in new tab) for the 6GB version.

AMD edges out NVIDIA when it comes to prices, but just barely. The performance on paper is quite close, so if you find one or the other on sale, you might be tempted to grab it. There are, however, some other factors to take into account before making your final decision.

Should you buy the GTX 1060 or the RX 480?

AMD Radeon (Image credit: Windows Central)

Although a higher amount of VRAM in a GPU doesn't necessarily dictate better performance, it definitely bodes well for the future. As games become more detailed and feature bigger worlds to discover, the VRAM requirement will rise. If you plan on buying a GPU that will remain viable for games released during the next few years, the RX 480 (8GB) is a fine choice.

Adding to the longevity factor is the excellent Vulkan and DX12 support from AMD. As these APIs become more commonplace, you want a GPU that can perform well, and the RX 480, thanks to plenty of driver updates from AMD, has become a proven contender. That's not to say the GTX 1060 is a slouch, but you can expect to pay less for more FPS with the RX 480 when it comes to DX12.

Gamers who like to string together GPUs — known as SLI for NVIDIA cards and CrossFire for AMD cards — are probably disappointed that the GTX 1060 does not have this capability. If you want to go with a multi-GPU setup, your only choice is the RX 480, which has CrossFire support.

To reiterate, both of these GPUs offer an impressive amount of power for the price you pay. You can expect high-end 1080p gaming, and all cards can run VR. If you happen to find a great deal on either GPU, pull the trigger; you'll be happy you did. For more options, have a look at our collection of the absolute best graphics card picks.

More GPU resources

If neither of the cards compared here suit your needs, be sure to have a look at our ultimate GPU buyer's guide. We also have an in-depth look at GPUs for anyone who needs a bit more information before making a final decision.

Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

14 Comments
  • I'm using the XFX RX 480 8GB (1338Mhz - RX-480P8DBA6 - asic quality is 74.4% ) and have to say I have been pleasently impressed. I have managed to stress it to 1450 Mhz and memory clock 2285Mhz using the stock cooler. I personally I would get the RX480 as with deals it's a even better prospect.
  • One thing that makes AMD cards better at least in the long term they age better, in that you can still get decent framerates with older cards like the x90 series especially for DX12. Also new versions are due out soon for Polaris GPUs, the 5xx series going by the recent driver updates. So I'd hold off to see what deals or improvements are on the table.
  • Well, x90 indicates a high-end card, and doesn't cover the age of it. The 290 and 390 are both the tops of their classes, but not in the same annual release cycle.
  • I got my 295x2 over clocked by 9% and running 1600 base clock, the rx480 to me is just an option to use less power draw from psu
  • It may also be worth mentioning that buyers should consider their monitor sync technology support.  So FreeSync for AMD and G-Sync for NVIDIA.  I belive that there is often a premium paid for NVIDIA G-Sync tech on monitors. I have the ASUS ROG STRIX RX 480 8GB and have no complaints at all.
  • I just bought an 75hz LG ultra wide freesync but I have a 1060, so I think I'll Eventually be getting a RX 580 or baby vega i.e. 1070 equivalent. I heard if you turn it on with an nvidia card you can get the 75hz over display port still.
  • Yup there is a premium levied on G Sync monitors and plus it's proprietary whereas Freesync is based on a VESA standard (open).
  • Nvidia recently refreshed their 1060 with faster memory. In about 3 weeks I guess, AMD will release the RX580, which will be a rebranded 480 basically, except with higher stock clocks, faster memory and lower power usage.
  • The RX 480 is a no brainer here. Basically if you want something around $250, go for team red and if you have more, nvidia is the option.
  • 1060 6 gig all the way
  • Dx12 games run better on AMD Gpus,and latest NVidia drivers really suck.I wouldn't recommend anyone to buy 1060.Go for Rx 480
  • it's a no-brainer here. AMD has all the advantages at this price point. Faster Vulkan across the board Faster DX12 across the board Lower cost ($180-$230 vs $200-$250) More RAM (4/8 GB configs vs 3/6) Crossfire capable (vs no SLI for the 1060) Cheaper Adaptive Sync Technology (Freesync over G-Sync) No reason not to get AMD if your shopping under $300 at all. The real decision is whether or not to get a RX470 (which is proven only about 10% slower than an RX480 at 20-25% cheaper). If the budget is $150 for video, than an RX470 with a minor overclock will match or even beat both RX480 and GTX 1060 at stock clocks.
  • Ohhoo.. This is old.. Just like how AMD optimised it, now NVidia also optimised it. AMD RX480 was only better in DX12 games because of their optimization, NVidia recently added big performance improvement in DX12 games. Check now, GTX1060 beats RX480 in every ways.
    And in price, in my country India RX480 is more expensive than GTX1060.
  • Lol, not really