We're just coming out of a very dark period for PC gamers. Neither AMD nor Nvidia released any significantly new GPUs through late 2017 and most of 2018, and graphics cards were either out of stock or massively inflated in price thanks to cryptocurrency miners raiding markets around the world. If you had to buy or upgrade a gaming PC, you were stuck paying way too much for graphics cards that didn't even feel fresh or exciting.
We all expected some relief when the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, GeForce RTX 2080, and GeForce RTX2070 were announced together in late 2018 but they turned out to be way more expensive than a lot of people were expecting. Sure, they did raise the bar for performance, but they didn't bring better value to existing price points, which is what people really look for when they've been waiting a few years to upgrade.
The other problem with the GeForce RTX series is that its headlining features, real-time ray tracing and AI-powered resolution upscaling (called DLSS), are barely supported by a handful of games, and so they aren't really driving a major push to upgrade. These features are aimed at high-end gamers and are pretty demanding on the hardware front.
Ever since Nvidia first announced the prices of its high-end GeForce RTX cards, gamers began holding out hope for a more affordable GeForce RTX 2060, and indeed it was launched in January this year. It brings ray tracing and DLSS to a lower price point and could be an interesting upgrade option for those who are finally looking to replace a graphics card that's a generation or two old.
In stark contrast to the recently launched GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, this GPU is aimed at those who don't want to be left out if or when ray tracing becomes a big deal. Is the new GeForce RTX 2060 the perfect balance of cost, performance and features? We're reviewing it today to find out.
Underpinning the GeForce RTX 20-series (and what might soon be a GeForce GTX 16-series) is the Turing architecture. The specific implementation that goes into the GeForce RTX 2060 is codenamed TU106. It's a cut-down version of the same chip that is sold as the GeForce RTX 2070, in this case with 1,920 CUDA cores arranged in 30 clusters called Streaming Microprocessors, as well as 240 Tensor cores and 30 RT cores. These are the shiny new additions to the Turing architecture that enable real-time ray-tracing and DLSS.
Nvidia's GeForce RTX 20-series GPUs also feature other improvements, which are shared with the new GeForce 16-series. Games can benefit from the parallel execution of floating-point and integer instructions, where only one type could be processed at a time before. Nvidia has also bumped up the GPU's caches and has managed to reduce latency. For more details of the Turing architecture, you can check out our complete guide to the RTX series, ray tracing, DLSS, and more.
The GeForce RTX 2060 GPU has a base speed of 1365MHz and a boost speed of 1680MHz. All graphics cards with this GPU will have 6GB of 14Gbps GDDR6 RAM on a 192-bit bus. The TDP is rated at 160W and cards should have a single 8-pin PCIe power connector. Nvidia claims a performance improvement of 51 percent on average compared to the GeForce GTX 1060 and 17 percent compared to the GeForce GTX 1070, across a selection of games and benchmarks running at 1920x1080.
Nvidia is targeting gamers who want great quality at 1920x1080 at games' highest quality settings, but there's a caveat. If you enable ray tracing, performance will drop considerably. Nvidia uses Battlefield V as an example, and says you can expect 90fps without ray tracing but that will go down to 65fps with it enabled.
The solution then is to use DLSS, or Deep Learning Supersampling, which basically renders the game at a lower resolution and then uses AI-enhanced upscaling to stretch it to the actual target resolution and then fill in the gaps. With ray tracing and DLSS together, that frame rate should jump back up to 88fps. Keep in mind that Battlefield V is one of Nvidia's showcase games and Dice, the studio behind it, has worked with Nvidia on optimisations.
Upscaling is of course never going to be perfect, but what makes DLSS interesting is that it uses Nvidia's expertise in artificial intelligence. Game developers need to work with Nvidia and run the actual AI operations on the company's massive in-house systems. A game profile will then be generated and distributed to users with a GeForce driver update.
At the time of our initial GeForce RTX 2080 review, not a single game had implemented DLSS or ray tracing and there are only three now – Final Fantasy XV (4K DLSS only), Battlefield V, and Metro: Exodus – plus a mod for 1997's Quake II, of all games. The 20+ other promised titles either haven't been released yet or are awaiting future patches that will enable these features. We'll talk about this more in the performance section below.
Nvidia has released its own Founders Edition graphics card featuring the GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, and of course partner brands including Asus, Zotac, Gigabyte, MSI, Galax, Palit, Inno3D and others sell multiple variants with different styles of coolers and other customisations. The Founders' Edition is sold only on Nvidia's own website and is priced at Rs. 31,000 which is a lot less than the Rs. 52,500 that the next-highest option, the GeForce RTX 2070, costs.
No matter which GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card you choose, you'll be eligible to claim a free copy of either Battlefield V or Anthem right now. This is a limited-time offer but Nvidia could offer different games in the future. You also get other software features in the form of Nvidia's own GeForce Experience console to manage all your game settings, the Ansel and Freestyle screenshot and filter tools and Highlights for recording and sharing gameplay clips.
Asus, like most other graphics card manufacturers, has a large range of models all based on the same GPU. What differentiates them is the cooler, and to some extent, the electronic components used in support of the GPU. We've seen exactly the same top-end ROG Strix cooler on a variety of Asus models for nearly two years now, and that isn't a bad thing. With three fans and unapologetically aggressive styling, Strix cards come with mild factory overclocks and improved power delivery systems so you can experiment with further tweaks if you like.
This is a very large, bulky graphics card. It will occupy two expansion slots and block most of a third one in your PC case. It's longer than the width of a standard ATX motherboard and you'll need adequate clearance for this card and the power cables that will stick out the top, because it's taller than usual too.
The ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2060 has a few interesting features – Asus says it has developed a unique technique to maximise the surface area contact between the GPU itself and the cooler for more efficient cooling, and the power regulation components are said to be of very high quality. Asus has supplemented the required 8-pin PCIe power connector with another 6-pin connector, which suggests that this card can draw a considerable amount of power when stressed. Two LEDs let you know that your PCIe connectors are seated firmly.
More interestingly, there's a tiny BIOS switch on the back that lets you toggle between Performance and Quiet modes. The former allows for a slightly higher base and boost speeds of 1395MHz and 1710MHz respectively, and keeps the fans running all the time. In Quiet mode, the base and boost speeds are the standard 1365MHz and 1680MHz and the fans can spin down completely when the temperature is below 55 degrees C. Speaking of the fans, Asus says its unique patented wing-blade fans are IP5X-cerfitied dust resistant (that's just the fans themselves, not the whole card).
If you aren't going to use Performance mode at all, you're probably better off saving your money and buying a basic graphics card that follows Nvidia's reference design. This is the kind of enthusiast-class feature that you don't get on less expensive graphics cards even with the same GPU.
Asus has outfitted this card with two HDMI 2.0b and two DisplayPort 1.4 outputs. The awkward arrangement on the rear panel is to make room for a VirtualLink USB Type-C port, which is unfortunately missing. This standard was developed to let people connect VR headsets with only a single cable for power, controls, and video signals.
There are of course RGB LEDs across the cooler shroud and in the ROG logos on the top and rear. You get a header so you can synchronise other RGB LED components in your PC with Asus' Aura Sync software, and a tiny switch on the back lets you turn all lighting effects off instantly. There are also external fan headers so your case fans can spin up or down in response to GPU activity.
We tested our Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2060 OC 6GB using its performance mode. We used a test bench built out of an AMD Ryzen 7 2700X CPU, Gigabyte Aorus X470 Gaming 7 Wifi motherboard, 2x8GB of G.skill DDR4 RAM, a 1TB Samsung SSD 860 Evo boot drive, and Corsair RM650 power supply. All games and tests were displayed on our Asus PB287Q 4K monitor.
We used the latest Nvidia GeForce driver, version number 418.91, with Windows 10 (1803 with all current patches) for all our standard testing. We also ran some new tests specifically to check out ray tracing and DLSS, namely 3DMark's brand new Port Royal scene and Battlefield V. These require the Windows 10 October 2018 Update which introduces DirectX 12 DXR.
Starting with 3DMark, we see scores that are a fair bit higher than those of the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti across the DX12 Time Spy and DX11 Fire Strike tests at all available quality settings. Unigine Valley gave us a superb 92.3fps average at 1920x1080 with 8xAA using the Ultra preset. The scores in the table below show that the GeForce RTX 2060 and the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti are not on an equal footing, and ray tracing isn't the only difference between them. People do have some reason to consider the more expensive option even if they aren't interested in ray tracing or DLSS.
Scores are generally equal to or better than those of the very popular previous-generation GeForce GTX 1070, and cards based on this older GPU are actually still selling for more than what GeForce RTX 2060 cards cost today. Sadly, the Radeon RX 590 is left quite far behind. AMD's board partners seem to be cutting prices on some of their graphics cards, and we might see more credible competition from the Radeon Vega 56 if it becomes available at a competitive price.
In our game benchmark tests, we get to see how different GPUs perform under exactly the same conditions. We ran Far Cry 5's built-in benchmark at and got a score of 90fps at 1920x1080 using the Ultra preset. That's a great score, and the even better news is that we got 75fps at 2560x1440. Stepping up to 4K tanked our score to 37fps which is not exactly ideal. Shadow of the Tomb Raider put up a similar show using its Highest quality setting and with TAA enabled. It ran at 96fps at 1920x1080, 62fps at 2560x1440, and 31fps at 4K.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ran well enough at 1920x1080, and we averaged 68.9fps using its Ultra preset. This game didn't scale as well, managing just 47.8fps at 2560x1440 and 26.5fps at 4K. In Metro: Last Light Redux, the average frame rate was 84.57fps at 1920x1080 using the Very High preset with SSAA enabled and 4xAF. You can raise the resolution but you'll have to compromise on other quality settings.
For manual gameplay, we ran through The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt at 1920x1080 using the Ultra preset with High post-processing. It was very smooth and consistent, with an average of 87fps as measured by FRAPS.
Finally, we come to what we're sure everyone wants to know – performance tests involving Nvidia's much-touted ray tracing and DLSS features. We first start with the brand new 3DMark Port Royal test, which shows off a lot of reflection and shadow effects. Note that this test is not exclusive to Nvidia's RTX ray tracing implementation, but uses Microsoft's DXR framework, which is a hardware-agnostic extension of DirectX 12. What Nvidia's RTX hardware does is render DXR instructions much faster than any previous GPUs would be able to. The benchmark's demo portion ran at a very choppy pace and it was clear that the GeForce RTX 2060 was struggling. Our final score was 3,904.
Battlefield V was one of the games used to show off ray tracing effects at the time of the GeForce RTX series launch, but it was only very recently updated to support DLSS. We ran through a part of the single-player campaign at 1920x1080 with all settings pushed up to Ultra. Without ray tracing or DLSS, the in-game frame-rate counter averaged around 100-110fps. With ray tracing enabled, that went down drastically to just 60-70fps.
In both cases, the game stuttered when there were huge explosions. We turned DLSS on and saw the frame rate rise to around 80-90fps, running through the same scenario again. DLSS definitely did make textures look softer but you'd have to be looking very closely and switch between modes a few times to really identify differences.
The Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2060's fans barely got loud enough to be noticeable even in the thick of action in games or synthetic benchmarks. The advantage of the oversized cooler and high-end fans is that you won't have to deal with noise.
Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2060 GPU delivers slightly better performance on average than a GeForce GTX 1070 at a slightly lower price, plus the potential future advantages of ray tracing and DLSS. While we weren't too impressed with either feature now, Nvidia and game partners are already showing that driver updates and patches can improve performance over time. Graphics cards based on this GPU start at Rs. 31,000 which is not bad considering the performance we saw and the headroom you'll have if you're sticking to a 1920x1080 monitor.
Honestly, ray tracing didn't seem to make a huge difference to the quality of our gameplay experience. Until game developers have time to learn how to apply ray tracing for more than just effects, it's hard to get excited about it. As for the question of whether DLSS can compensate for the performance penalty that ray tracing imposes, that comes down to personal preference.
You don't get the best of both worlds – you can use ray tracing in conjunction with DLSS and get realistic reflections or shadows but lose some visual detail, or you can go for maximum crispness with both features disabled.
If none of that seems like it's worth the bother or if you just want to save some money, you can instead consider the new GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (and in all likelihood, the GeForce GTX 1660 and 1650, credibly rumoured to be coming soon). There are after all only three games out there right now that support ray tracing and/or DLSS, and there's no telling when others will arrive. If none of the promised upcoming titles are interesting to you, there's no harm in skipping the RTX series till your next upgrade.
Coming specifically to the Asus ROG Strix RTX 2060 OC 6GB graphics card, we have the same problem on our hands that we've had with previous Strix models based on other GPUs. It's simply too expensive. It sells for Rs. 51,299 (the official MRP is Rs. 58,999) which is roughly the same as Nvidia's RTX 2070 Founders' Edition.
We don't know anyone who would choose the Asus card when they could get a much better performing GPU for the same amount of money. RGB LEDs, a showy cooler and a trusted brand are not enough to justify this difference. With no lower priced variants available, Asus is practically handing its market share to Nvidia and others with this kind of strategy.
Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2060 Ti OC 6GB
Price: Rs. 51,299
Ratings (out of 5)
Value for Money: 3