Whilst the high end goes crazy with graphics cards launches, we haven’t forgotten the mid-range gamers. For those gaming at 1080p, or perhaps using a work PC to game occasionally at 1440p it can be hard to get clear information as to which GPU is most suitable for your needs. This year saw the refresh of the Nvidia ‘60’ series with the GTX 1660 Super, a card using 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM to boost its performance at the $250 price point. However, there’s also the Turing based bigger brother, the RTX 2060 for $60 more. It doesn’t just add ray-tracing cores, it’s a substantially more powerful card. And finally straddling those two offerings is AMD’s RX 5600XT starting at $280. This GPU had a tough time at launch with a price cut to the RTX 2060 forcing a hurried BIOS release to bring the RX 5600XT‘s performance up to scratch. They all offer 6GB VRAM and boast of being 1440p capable cards. We’ve see a lot of people wondering which GPU is best for their needs and if the extra spend for one of the more expensive options is worthwhile. We’ve set up this shootout to answer that question.
Our benchmarks are different:
We’ve opted for a different methodology to most reviews for this test. We aren’t interested in the absolute relative performance of these GPUs, and there are plenty of benchmarks available that show that information. We’re interested in how they will perform for you. To answer that, we’ve done things differently.
Firstly, we’ve run the tests at Graphics settings appropriate to the game and Graphics cards under test, but matched them across cards so you can make direct comparisons within each test. This should give you a clear indication if a card will meet your performance expectations or not. As an example, we’d consider a GPU capable of achieving greater than 60FPS in a AAA title on high settings as good performance: You will be able to enjoy the stunning visuals these games have to offer at acceptable framerates. A fast paced shooter should approach or exceed 144FPS average – the refresh rate of the most popular and affordable gaming monitors. We test at a variety of settings so that you can see how that impacts performance. By looking at the charts in this test we hope you’ll be able to clearly assess the GPUs you are most interested in in the situations YOU are going to use them.
Secondly, we’re not testing with a high end CPU. Our test setup is much more representative of the typical PC. In almost all cases this makes no difference to the GPU performance. Where we find a CPU bottleneck we will clearly indicate it. Our test bench uses a Ryzen 3600 with PBO enabled, 16Gb of RAM at 3600Mhz CL16 and performs excellently in combination with any of the GPU’s under test here. You can be confident looking at these numbers that they are what you will achieve in conjunction with a similar system.
Finally, we’ll include our qualitative assessment of how each GPU performs. Whilst the graphs tell much of the story, they don’t give the whole picture so we’ll offer our opinion on how each GPU performs in each test.
Please let us know in the comments if you find this testing methodology helpful or if you have any suggestions for games or components you’d like to see tested in this way.
GTX 1660 Super Vs RTX 2060 Super Vs RX5600XT: Benchmarks
1. Synthetics Tests
Let’s kick off with some synthetic benchmarks, which provide an excellent tool to make an initial assessment of a GPU’s potential. We’re only interested in the GPU score for each test here.
Firestrike by 3DMark is a DX11 based benchmark, running at 1080p with complex visuals.
Right from the start it seems that the Nvidia cards have a fight on their hands. The GTX 1660 Super comes last as expected. An automatically generated curve overclock helps it make up another 600 points but it’s still no where close to the more powerful GPUs. The RTX 2060 KO is stronger, but this EVGA version has a locked power limit making an overclock effectively worthless. It’ll have to fight this one out as it came from the factory. Finally, the RX 5600XT puts in a strong showing beating out the opposition by a clear 1000 point margin even in stock form. However, we noticed some irregularities in performance prompting us to investigate and this lead us to flash the VBIOS with an updated one from Sapphire. At this point the GPU comes alive and pulls clear of the RTX 2060 by 2,600 points with a light overclock.
Moving on to Timespy, which is a more demanding DX12 Benchmark again by 3DMark.
Again, the GTX 1660 Super falls behind to the surprise of no-one, although it does again demonstrate a little overclocking headroom. It was the lacklustre performance of the RX 5600XT at stock settings in this test that prompted us to investigate further: It falls significantly behind the RTX 2060 without modification. The RTX 2060 KO meanwhile confirmed it’s absolute unwillingness to respond to overclocking in this test, and so we left it alone – the testing of this GPU is at stock settings for the remainder. Finally, the modified RX 5600XT with a fresh BIOS and overclock rules the test, with the VBIOS upgrade taking the bulk of responsibility for the massive jump in performance.
Conclusion: The RX5600XT is the best performing GPU in 3DMark.
The Radeon RX5600XT is the clear winner in synthetic testing, but only after a new VBIOS had been flashed to it. It’s the card to beat for the rest of the testing, and it will be interesting to see how the performance advantage translates into more realistic tests.
2. First person shooters
The Division 2:
The Division 2 is a graphically demanding first person shooter and it’s rare to see exceptional framerates.
At 1080p High settings we can see that both the RX 5600XT and RTX 2060 are capable of maintaining over 100FPS average, and approach 130 FPS at competitive ‘Medium’ Settings. The GTX 1660 Super requires settings at Medium to exceed 100FPS and even an overclock can’t help it do that at High Settings. The RX 5600XT is the fastest but not by a conclusive margin.
At 1440p the RX 5600XT extends it’s lead but in all cases we need to drop to Medium settings for satisfactory frame rates. The GTX 1660 Super struggles, achieving 76 FPS on medium, the same as the other cards on high. Again, note that it’s the modified version of the RX5600XT that wins here, without the updated VBIOs it lags behind the RTX 2060.
Rainbow 6 Siege
R6 Siege is a highly popular and well optimised competitive shooter, and achieves very high frame rates. In fact this is the only title that became CPU bound in our testing with both of the more powerful cards hitting a CPU limit at 1080p medium settings. We’ve moved to a slightly more involved analysis showing minimum and average framerates here.
As you can see whilst the RTX 2060 and the RX 5600XT allow you to push settings to ‘high and ‘very high’ and maintain exceptional framerates, all of these GPU’s are more than capable of comfortably exceeding 144FPS. This is really an analogue of many well optimised esports and FPS’s, such as Fortnite and Overwatch. None of these GPUs will disappoint at 1080p, they all exceed 144FPS and would even benefit from a 240Hz monitor in this title. The Ryzen 3600 CPU limits performance to around 330 FPS in this title.
At 1440p frame rates drop significantly, but both the RTX 2060 and RX 5600XT remain competitive. The GTX 1660 Super struggles at all settings but manages 100FPS average. The RTX 2060 beats the RX5600XT at the same settings in this resolution.
Now let’s look at Doom Eternal. This is a well optimised game using the Vulkan API’s, which allow developers low level access to the hardware for improved performance. We consider a combination of high settings and fast frame rates to be desirable here, although the settings are forgiving and even lower performance GPUs can run this game well.
At 1080p this game runs fantastically well on all the GPUs under test. The high and ultra settings yield excellent visual fidelity, and frame rates in all cases hit the 144FPS target. The more powerful GPU’s allow the minimum framerates to approach 144FPS as well, giving a very consistent experience. We’ve included the un-updated RX 5600XT here because it highlights the vast performance gap if the card isn’t properly updated, giving away nearly 30FPS vs the same card with a BIOS update.
At 1440p we begin to see the limitations of the GTX 1660 Super. It’s still playable but lacks the fluidity until we drop settings to medium, at some detriment to the visuals. The more powerful cards both approach 144FPS even on high settings and the minimum framerates stay high enough to be of no concern. They’re virtually even in performance. You can have a great experience using either of these cards at 1440p in well optimised titles like Doom Eternal, and even ‘Ultra’ graphics settings don’t lower framerates significantly.
3. AAA Gaming
The most demanding games require serious graphical horsepower to run well. We’ve chosen three titles that represent the best – but most challenging in terms of hardware – that current gaming has to offer.
Firstly it’s Shadow of the Tombraider. This is a well optimised DX12 title with forgiving settings and a comprehensive inbuilt benchmarking tool.
The GTX 1660 Super makes a strong showing here, achieving nearly 100FPS average even at high settings. The RTX 2060 and RX 5600XT push this towards 120FPS but all the GPU’s provide a fluid and high fidelity gaming experience at this resolution. The RTX 2060 outpaces the RX 5600XT like-for like at High and ‘Highest’ settings but not by a huge margin.
1440p Again marks the point where the GTX 1660 Super begins to feel the heat, but it still provides a playable experience and settings can be left at high: turning them down to medium doesn’t net a significant enough performance boost to take the hit to visuals. Both the RX 5600XT and the RTX 2060 fare better, capable of fluid gameplay at high settings but they’re not ideal at this resolution. Again the importance of ensuring you have an updated VBIOS for the RX 5600XT is apparent here, it gains nearly 10FPS at both high and medium settings after the upgrade.
Red Dead Redemption 2
RDR2 offered one of this years gaming highlights – provided you have a strong enough PC to run it well. Truly next-gen visuals come at the cost of both framerates and GPU power. Again, it uses the Vulkan API to squeeze the most performance out of the hardware, and it certainly needs to.
At 1080p we see both the RTX 2060 and RX 5600XT achieve acceptable framerates of above 60 FPS average on ‘balanced’ settings. The GTX 1660 Super comes close at 58 FPS average and it’s certainly playable with most of the visual flair in tact. Raising settings is truly punishing in this game though, and high settings cause every GPU to dip below 60PFS average and the GTX 1660 Super below 40FPS unless overclocked. If you’re looking to play the most demanding AAA titles even at 1080p, we’d recommend your search starts with the more powerful GPUs in this test.
At 1440p we’re beginning to find the limitations of all of these GPUs, and only ‘balanced’ settings really afford smooth frame rates of around 50FPS on the more powerful cards. High settings drop us below 48FPS average and bring Lows well below the 48FPS that marks the floor of operation for many monitors Freesync adaptive sync range. We can’t recommend any of these GPU’s if playing demanding AAA titles at 1440p is your intention.
Microsoft Flight 2020
Finally ,we come to Microsoft Flight 2020. This flagship title from Microsoft and Asobo studios marks a new era in the Flight Simulator franchise. Using complex processing to generate absolutely stunning scenery takes massive GPU power at higher settings and resolutions. However, our extensive testing has found that it can be remarkably forgiving providing settings are chosen carefully. What really matters in this sim is the CPU power, as that dictates the ceiling of performance. We use a particularly demanding scenario in this game to test the hardware to the limit, and that results in lower FPS than in general flight, so set your expectations accordingly: This is a worst case scenario we’re looking at.
Realistically we’re looking for a 30FPS target in this scenario and for minimum FPS to be as close to average as possible. At medium settings we can see all the GPUs performing as well as can be expected, in fact the 40FPS average marks the CPU limit in this scenario. With settings at High the RTX 2060 is a clear winner and still maintains 40FPS, whilst the 5600XT and GTX 1660 Super perform similarly at 35FPS average and 22 FPS minimum. Attempting Ultra settings sees performance fall off a cliff in all settings, and I suspect this is owing to VRAM limitations at 6GB for all of these cards as well as the stern demands of the sim.
At 1440p the RTX 2060 pulls a clear lead at all settings. The GTX 1660 Super requires Medium settings to provide a playable experience and surprisingly the RX 5600XT performs very similarly to it here. The RTX 2060 remains fluid and playable at High settings. Attempting ultra settings on any of these GPUs resulted in unplayable frame rates and horrific stutter and lag. Whilst less consistent than the other benchmarks this is an interesting test of a GPU, and it’s intriguing that whilst the RX 5600XT excelled in the DX11 powered ‘Firestrike’ benchmark, in this DX11 powered sim it’s unable to realise the same advantage. For Flight 2020 we recommend the RTX 2060 over the RX 5600XT, all other factors being equal as the 5600XT just doesn’t perform to expectations here.
Conclusions: Picking the right horse for the race
GTX 1660 Super – Recommended for 1080p Gaming
The GTX 1660 Super performed consistently well at 1080p providing good framerates at realistic settings in all the titles we tested. It’ll allow you to enjoy even demanding AAA titles with good framerates and at the price it’s a pleasing performer. The 6GB VRAM doesn’t show itself to be a limitation at 1080p. At 1440p performance does suffer owing to the GPU power not VRAM limitations, and you should only consider this GPU at 1440p if you’re aware of the compromises and play simpler or less fast paced titles. With the inbuilt NVENC encoder it does well at streaming your play with minimum system overheads, and it’s not power hungry so even modest power supplies will support it. If you want an excellent 1080p focussed GPU, the 1660 Super can’t be beaten for price to performance.
RTX 2060 – Exceptional 1080p performance, playable at 1440p.
The RTX 2060 showed excellent performance at 1080p, providing high framerates at high settings. It’s a great choice for competitive fast paced titles, or enjoying the visuals in AAA titles. It brings the added benefits of RTX cores, and whilst they may not allow the full visual effect of hardware ray tracing as the RTX 2060 isn’t powerful enough they do assist in other applications like rendering, and give access to Nvidia exclusive technology like RTX voice or Broadcast. If you’re looking for great performance at 1080p resolution and have the budget to afford it then it takes our recommendation. At 1440p it becomes a decision based on your needs and expectations. It will game acceptably well at this resolution in most titles provided you’re willing to compromise on settings a little. However you can’t expect miracles and 1440p is a demanding resolution. If your PC is for mixed use and occasional gaming at this resolution you’ll be satisfied with the RTX 2060, but if you’re focussing on gaming you should look to spend a little more on the next tier up of GPUs for much greater performance.
RX 5600XT A great card at the right price
Finally we come to the RX 5600XT. This is a complicated conclusion because there are a lot of factors to consider with this GPU. AMD initially pitched it at the GTX 1660 Ti and Super, then upgraded it’s performance to challenge the RTX 2060 by way of increasing the VRAM specification to 14Gb/s and a VBIOS refresh. As such it can be a mixed bag.
The GPU we tested, the Sapphire Pulse OC, is a 14Gb/s capable card – but we bought it second hand and the VBIOS wasn’t allowing the GPU to perform. The first owner of this card used it for over six months without ever actually experiencing it’s potential. It’s also the only card under test that crashed on us – four times in total in The Division 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. To prevent this we had to roll drivers back to previous versions. Ultimately to make this GPU stable and perform to it’s potential took us half a day of investigation and upgrades, and it’s impossible not to factor that into the results of this test. When it’s performing well, it’s very hard to distinguish it from the RTX 2060 in most titles, and where it loses in some it wins in others so it’s a wash in terms of raw gaming performance.
As with the RTX 2060, it’s an excellent 1080p GPU and acceptable in most games at 1440p, but I don’t think it should be marketed as a 1440p card – and that’s what it says on the box. Finally, there’s the value consideration. Whilst it costs a few tens of dollars less than the RTX 2060, it lacks those additional technologies such as a robust inbuilt stream encoder and RT and Tensor cores. As such, it needs to be substantially cheaper than the RTX 2060, and you need to be concerned only with gaming performance for this to be the better purchase. You also need to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and get stuck into the software and even firmware to make sure the card performs optimally. With those conditions met, we can recommend it at 1080p.