Nvidia’s Geforce GTX 1060: The New 1440p King?

The graphics launches have come thick and fast this year. What with GTXs and then the surprise Titan X from Nvidia, and AMD’s Polaris chips, there’s little chance of keeping up with the official embargo calendar. So think of this as part two of my leisurely stroll through the new GPU landscape. Last time around, it was the mighty Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080, which suddenly looks a lot less mighty thanks to the arrival of the aforementioned Titan X. This week, it’s the turn of Nvidia’s new mid-range contender, the GTX 1060. As before, I shall be spurning objectivity, benchmarks and frame-rate counters for a what-does-it-actually-feel-like approach. And yes, AMD coverage will follow in the fullness of time. Patience, Iago!

The new Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060, then. I called it a mid-range card, but it seems Nvidia is currently engaged in an attempt to realign the entire graphics market. The Titan X is $1,200 and the GTX 1080 is $600 (well, $700 for those ghastly ‘Founder’s Edition’ cards).

The 1060 we’re dealing with today is a $249 board or around £230 in post-Brexit beer tokens. Inevitably, there is or was a Founder’s Edition 1060 officially priced at $299. But with a myriad of custom-design 1060s already on the market, you at least don’t have to worry about the Founder’s Edition nonsense.

Then there’s the board I’m currently holding in my filthy hack paws. It’s the MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6G Gaming X and it goes for £299. Yup, £299. According to Newegg, it’s $289 Stateside, which makes for a fairly perplexing state of affairs. But however you slice it, these new 1060s are seriously pricey. For context, in terms of reference chipsets, the cheapest 1060 is pricier than the most expensive of AMD’s new Polaris cards, the 8GB Radeon RX 480.

Once again, custom cooling and some quicker clocks make up the MSI proposition

Oh and it’s worth noting that Nvidia’s previous mid-ranger, the GTX 960, was $199 at launch. OK, it’s all a bit mealy mouthed to whinge about the price. But the trend of late is unappealing at best and I find it all particularly galling when you consider that all of Nvidia’s new GPUs are physically smaller than their direct progenitors.

For now all I’ll add is thank goodness AMD exists at all. If this is how Nvidia prices its boards even with AMD keeping it a little honest, I shudder to think how things would look if Nvidia had the PC graphics market entirely to itself.

Anyway, this MSI board is obviously a high end take on the 1060 chipset. The extra money buys you roughly 100MHz and a maximum Boost clockspeed of 1,809MHz. If that doesn’t sound like much, it isn’t. However, cards like this are arguably more about the potential for tweaking thanks to features like high-quality custom cooling and software tools than the modest bump.

Reports on the internet suggest this card is usually good for about 2.1GHz max Boost clock or an overclock of roughly 15 per cent. Whether that’s worth the money is a tricky question, but it’s at least close to you-can-actually feel it territory even if I usually draw the line at 20 per cent in that regard.

Our old friend, the AMD Radeon R9 290…

Whatever, in the interests of avoiding further rambling I’ll refer you here for a break down of the 1060’s full specification and how it fits into Nvidia’s new line up. It’s time to get experiential. Once again, I have my trusty AMD Radeon 290 as a reference point, along with memories of the 1080. This time, I kicked off with Doom because, ya know, it’s Doom.

Courtesy of the new Vulkan patch, I can confirm that Doom absolutely flies on this board. At 2,560 by 1,440 with the details and optins pretty much maxxed out it feels slick, it’s feels quick. Is there a whiff of lag? Maybe, but then then it’s there at 1080p, too, so I’ll put that down to the game engine. What’s really surprising is how playable Doom is at 4K. I had not been expecting that. OK, it’s not as oily smooth and response as it is at lower resolutions and in truth you’d avoid 4K for multiplayer gaming. But as a showcase of what this ostensibly modest GPU can do, it’s an eyebrow curler, that’s for sure.

Next up is Witcher 3, a game that caused the 1080 to come a little unstuck, as it happens. Running at 2,560 by 1,440, initial impressions are good. Crikey, could this thing really be playable? Yes and no. Those teensy micro stutters that detract just marginally from the immersion are just a little too frequent. The initial euphoria fades, if I am honest, and over time the lack of top flight smoothness wears you down. Again, as is often the case, it’s the step down to a lower resolution that really highlights the 1060’s small but significant shortcomings at 2,560 x 1,440.

Credit where it is due, the MSI board is built like the proverbial external facility for the hygenic disposal of bodily waste

As for 4K, well, it’ll run – at a guess I’d say it’s delivering frame rates in the high teens. And you could probably make it fairly playable by tweaking the options. But 4K performance is basically beyond this card, which is no surprise whatsoever.

On, then, to Total War: Attila. Here the litmus 2,560 by 1,440 resolution once again makes a good initial impression with smooth frame rates and decent response rates to inputs. But as with the GTX 1080, it’s zooming right into dense troop formations that uncovers performance limitations. Knock the resolution down to 1080p and you’ll discover just how fluid the troop animations can be.

Our final destination is the dreaded Mordor, Shadow of thereof. It’s not a hugely demanding game, so no surprise to find it really very playable at 2,560 by 1,440. Again, it’s that little bit smoother at 1080p, but you could happily play through at 25 by 16 with this card. With a little additional overclocking, that would be even more true.

Standard 1060s have a six-pin plug, this overclocked card needs eight pins, innit

All of which makes for an intriguing overall conclusion. In some ways I was actually more impressed by this board than the 1080 of a few weeks ago. Chalk it up to expectations, but the way is copes with some very high quality visuals at 2,560 by 1,440 is impressive for a card several rungs down Nvidia’s hiearchy. Likewise, MSI has undoubtedly done a nice job with the hardware. Whether you want a card for overclocking or just running super cool and quiet, the consensus across various reviews absolutely supports that.

And then you remember the £299 and the value proposition does rather implode. Spending that kind of money today, I’d want this card to be a no brainer for running games at 2,560 by 1,440. And it just isn’t. Instead, it feels more like the ultimate 1080p weapon. Which is fine if that’s what you want. Personally, I think the base price for the reference chipset from Nvidia should be £50/$50 lower and thus MSI would be able to do this card at £250/$250, at which point it would look substantially more appealing.

As it is, it leaves me wondering whether it has much if anything to offer subjectively over an AMD RX 480 8GB for £70 less – or indeed the 4GB 480 at a fully £100 discount. Which may turn out to be unfair if it does. Have something to offer, that is. But either way, I and therefore you will find out soon enough.

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  1. dangermouse76 says:

    In the UK when you have a gtx 1060 @ £250 / scan.
    And a rx480 for £230 then it comes down to game preferences a little more.
    A £300 GTX 1060. Not interested personally.

    • dangermouse76 says:

      Those are solid 1080p cards though. 1440 not so much.

      • ikehaiku says:

        I agree. I don’t really get the premium 1060s with OC – they’ll never be a safe bet for 1440p anyway, when the non-OC cheaper ones are more than enough for 1080p for the foreseeable future.

    • trjp says:

      The pricing makes these cards deeply unappealing and leaves an even-bigger hole at the lower-end of the market which I suspect is going to erode PC sales/PC gaming overall

      When the mid-high 1080p-maybe-1440p GPU costs as much as a motherboard, i5, memory, case and powersupply is a shit state of affairs for PC Gaming overall

      They’ll blame Brexit and 100 other factors but it’s pure gouging/market exploitation and it needs stamping-on really fucking hard.

      PC Gamers are shoring-up nVidia endless failures in the tablet/streaming gaming market and the entirity of AMDs otherwise failing-quickly business it seems?

      • Premium User Badge

        Vandelay says:

        Agreed. I still remember the days when the Radeon 4850 and 4870 ruled, offering incredible performance at sub £200. No cards since then have offered anywhere near the bang for the buck that they did. Not only that, but the juggernaut cards, like the 1080 or even the Titans are still not providing reliable 4K for those that are willing to spend insane money. We have been waiting for something to come along to provide that power for years now! If I was into conspiracies, I would be suspecting that they are purposefully holding things back.

        As someone who has bought a lovely 1440p monitor, I will be in the market for a new graphics card soon. I was expecting to spend about the cost of this 1060 on a new card, but it is looking like I will need to be spending almost £100 more to get something that will maintain that resolution for the foreseeable future. I really hope either AMD or the next set of Nvidia cards can deliver at a reasonable price.

        • Unclepauly says:

          Yup, it’s a conspiracy.

        • bp_968 says:

          I’m not sure I see what you guys are complaining about. I bought a 1440p monitor and GTX 970 2 years ago and have been loving 1440p gaming the whole time and I run almost everything maxed.

          As for pricing I think you guys are looking at it totally wrong. You can buy (at least in the USA) a 1060 for 250-260$ and it performs slightly better then the 970 does and the 970 was 350$. So your getting 10-15% more performance for 100$ less than you paid 2 years ago. Or for about 20$ more than you paid 2 years ago you get nearly double the performance with the 1070.

          This is one of the best times ever to get into PC gaming. There are huge numbers of great games (“exclusives” even!), games are cheaper than ever, and you can build a great gaming PC for only a small premium over the current gen consoles! I think some people have a warped idea that if you can’t play the game at max/everything and pegged at 60FPS or better than you need a better system. My secondary gaming system has a GTX660 in it and most things play fine at 1080p on that system. Heck my main PC is still running a first generation i7. The performance gains of the newest chips just haven’t been enough to warrant the upgrade.

          Contrast that to when i was a teenager and Pc gaming was really taking off and if you wanted to play the most recent stuff you better have a system no more than 12-18 months. A 2 year old computer was going to be having serious performance problems.

          • dangermouse76 says:

            Just out of interest when you say almost everything maxed out 1440p. Do you men at 60 fps ? Of course playing under that is fine also just wondering.
            As a consumer though I want 1080p 60fps solid high settings. Ideally at £200 UK at launch or soon there after. That’s what I think it’s worth and I can wait till these cards get closer to that. Voting with my wallet you might say.

            Also your GTX 1060 at $250 is £250 UK here so $323, not that great.
            It is a great time in PC gaming as well I agree. I have GTX 660 also it’s been a beauty running Fallout at solid 60fps 1080p on high with some pretty turned down.

          • Rywen says:

            Dude same, I’ve had a 1440p Monitor with a single 970 and run most games completely maxed out pretty close to 60fps most of the time. FarCry 4 gets about 50fps, AC: Syndicate also gets 50, Arma 3 gets 45-ish. But those are more recent games/good graphic games. But generally I get everything at 60fps 1440p. Note I also always put AA/MSAA to x8 or x16, whenever available out of habit.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Motherboards are around the £200 mark these days too :(

    • PenguinJim says:

      There have been a few £230 1060s from eBuyer, Amazon etc, and a few £220 8GB 480s as well.

      For me, the sad thing is that the 8GB 480 is supposed to be $30 more than the (slower) 4GB 480, but somehow that’s worked out at £50 more. If we had sub-£200 8GB 480s, then it would be a difficult decision between one of those and a £230 1060. As the 1060 is clearly the faster card, though, the £10 is a no-brainer (not even factoring in the lower power consumption, Linux, SteamOS, and CPU independence).

      I appreciate Jeremy taking half an hour to knock out this article (despite the bizarre decision to review an overpriced £300 variant), but I wonder if perhaps RPS could do a deal with PC Gamer to swap hardware reviewers? PC Gamer has poor games coverage and very good hardware reviews, so it would be nice to see RPS’s very good games coverage bolstered by some good tech talk.

  2. GenialityOfEvil says:

    The GTX 1060 is about the same price as the RX 480 because they’re about the same performance. AMD is betting all its chips on low-end consumers, Nvidia is trying to spread itself out (which it’s in a better financial position to do).

    • Sakkura says:

      The 1060 is somewhat more expensive than the 480, or at least it’s supposed to be. Pricing has been all over the place.

      • GenialityOfEvil says:

        The RRP is only about £30 difference.

        • Sakkura says:

          It’s a $50 difference from the American MSRP for the 4GB RX 480, but unfortunately that version is hard to find for sale anywhere.

  3. milligna says:

    I am loving this card so far. It’s an excellent choice for VR and even clunky stuff via VorpX is more than playable.

  4. downwithpeace says:

    Mine arrived today, I went for the Zotac GTX 1060 Mini. I only play in 1080p and nothing overly taxing anymore so it fit in nicely for my future upgrade plans. Given both Nvidia and AMD both launched new cards around the same time shopping around and seeing what fit my needs was far more enjoyable then past GPU upgrades, final selling point for me was simply I’m use to having Nvidia.

  5. Vesperan says:

    While I’m planning on getting an AMD RX 480 rather than Nvidia 1060, I can’t help but feel a little amazed it will cater for all my 1080p needs.. for pretty much forever given I don’t plan on buying a new monitor.

    Prices and availability are fairly bollocks though. Especially here in New Zealand. The first batch of stock RX480 8gb’s were sold by NZ online retailers for about US$310 (and then add 15% GST on top of that!).

    • Unclepauly says:

      It won’t last forever. Games are starting to put pc specs in mind instead of consoles and requirements are going up. Progress, as it were. It’ll definitely last you a good few years though until games start to chug at max on 1080p.

  6. fish99 says:

    To me, all the new cards that appeared this summer were significantly overpriced. The flip side of that is with a 1080p screen and a GTX970, I really didn’t need any of those cards, so I’ll get a lot more value for money out of my 970 by keeping it for another year.

    If these new prices stick, I’ll be upgrading a lot less often.

    • Rywen says:

      The GTX970 does 1440p gaming fine, if you don’t mind 45-50fps at maxed out graphics instead of 60fps.

  7. opasnimiki says:

    I really don’t know what to pick up for as “next-gen” GPU. Especially because this card seems underwhelming for that price…

    Right now my five year old AMD HD6850 isn’t looking great. It kinda served me “well” but between problems with drivers (horrible problems with GPU acceleration in browser 1080p60fps videos and frequent display driver crashes) and lack of CUDA cores (which would help with 3D GPU rendering) it seemed like I made mistake when getting HD6850.

    On other hand Vulkan seems to be getting of the ground and DirectX 12 performance should be much better on AMD’s GPUs because of architecture. Plus Nividia’s aggressive pricing seems even more extreme than during “last generation”.

    This might be terrible time for GPU upgrade, especially because I might need to upgrade whole rig…

    • Baines says:

      Making matters more complicated is that while AMD can show greater performance gains with Vulkan and DX12 than Nvidia is apparently capable of achieving, we don’t actually know how much support publishers and developers will put into the specific features that allow AMD to excel.

      The telling example was 3DMark’s “rigged” DirectX 12 benchmarking that suddenly showed Nvidia’s cards now seeing performance gains similar to what AMD saw. Whether or not the test was rigged depends on your point of view; it came down to the test not being optimized for either card. It just happens that “not optimized for either” happens to favor Nvidia’s design, while missing out on the advantages of AMD’s implementation of async compute.

      We might see that in future games, where developers just don’t bother to try to take full advantage of what AMD offers.

  8. Carra says:

    Bought one 2 weeks ago to upgrade my Geforce 670 > Gainward 1060.

    Also bought Doom as it seemed fun and is a good game to test the performance. My 2560×1440 screen shows a nice > 60 fps on the Ultra settings. I’m impressed! Also finished my Far Cry 4 run where I could upgrade all settings to max and still have twice the framerate as with my old card.

    Next up will probably be The Witcher 3.

  9. Jokerme says:

    Where I live both 480 and 1060 cost ~400$ while 390x is 420$. And normally prices are same as suggested retail prices around here. Hype is the real killer, people.

  10. Styxie says:

    Does Jeremy take requests? I would greatly appreciate an article on the current market for monitors. I’ve heard that 4k TVs are getting cheaper and I’d be interested to know if there has been a similar cut for desktop displays, and which ones are worth looking.

    It sounds like mid range single GPUs will be up to the challenge in a year or so.

  11. mattevansc3 says:

    The 4GB 480 seems like its going to be a rarity with the 4GB 470 its “replacement”. It seems AMD is redoing the Phenom II strategy by rebadging failed 480 GPUs as 470’s and keeping the 480 as a 8GB model.

    For those that weren’t into PCs at that point AMD released the Phenom II X4, a quad core chip. As a cost saving exercise because AMD were in a bad financial situation they took all their faulty CPUs, if it was just one core that was faulty they disabled it and rebadged them as Phenom II X3s and if two cores were faulty they disabled those and rebadged them as Phenom II X2’s.

    • TheNavvie says:

      That happens quite often, it’s called ‘die harvesting’.

      Intel, Nvidia, AMD all do it. It’s how we end up with top tier, mainstream and budget products. Parts of the chip (cores, ROPs, cache etc) don’t pass testing or won’t run at the correct speed.

      Parts of the chip (Cores, ROPs, Cache, whatever) are disabled and the manufacturer still make money on it, rather than it going in the bin. Occasionally, due to a manufacturing shortage or increased demand for a lower tier product, those bits of the chip are disabled but actually work fine, so through BIOS flashes or other tricks those disables parts can be reactivated, giving you an performance increase.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        That is normally preplanned though and split into clear categories. The i5 as a range are i7s with a range of features disabled and specifications lowered so if it doesn’t met the i7 standards it could still be sold and marketed. CPUs that didn’t meet i5 standards were spun off as lower power desktop (T) or mobile/ultra book processors.

        The Phenom IIs were much more of a reactive afterthought in that regard. The Phenom II X2 didn’t even appear on the initial roadmap. That suggests a higher than expected fault rate than your normal binning process.

        That the 470 is being released so close to the 480 at a near identical specification and RRP suggests it wasn’t a planned product launch.

    • Premium User Badge

      PoulWrist says:

      The X3 720 was my first AMD CPU, that thing was a beastly performer when OC’d and it was basically free :D

      At one point about 18 months down the line some parts of my system started failing and I got a replacement motherboard through RMA and a new X4 965 for the markup of the then-difference in price between the X3 at date of purchase and the 965 at present time. Which was an inconsequential amount. That system was a happy system that I replaced 4 years ago with what I have now… which tells a sad tale, that nothing has really changed or been added to the market in any noticable way in 4 years.

    • phelix says:

      I might be wrong, but isn’t this common practice in chip production? Set a target yield, take the chips that don’t quite cut the yield, disable the failed parts and sell them as lower segment products? Like I said I might be wrong, but it seems like you can take any CPU or graphics card from a given generation which is not the top model, and call it a failed 480. Or a failed i7-whatever.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Yes, binning is the first thing everyone learns about chip manufacturing.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Which was great for me, since I got an x3 that later turned into an x4, conveniently at stock voltage, after a BIOS upgrade. I could even overclock it a respectable (though not noticeable in games) amount if I upped the voltage a bit.

      I remember hearing that the demand was high enough for the x3 later on that they had to rebadge functional x4s once the yields were up. Not sure if that was truth or speculation, though…

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        Woah, man, got quadruple ninja-ed by eight hours! Guess I need to refresh before posting…

  12. Raoul Duke says:

    These articles just make me realise how badly we get gouged for graphics cards here in Australia. Which is annoying given they are manufactured in our neighbourhood, not in the US or Europe.

    • reticulate says:

      Your best bet is to check out Newegg. They ship to Australia and a their GPUs aren’t showing the same regional pricing shenanigans we put up with. You can get a 1060 for around ~$350 and even with shipping it’s still cheaper than going local.

    • Premium User Badge

      PoulWrist says:

      We’re being gouged just as well. Maybe not as badly as the import tarifs in Australia, but by nVidia and Intel’s artificial pricing increases.

  13. Jetsetlemming says:

    I don’t know what makes the difference for anybody else, but for me the biggest problems with choosing AMD over Nvidia are two things: 1) I don’t know anything about AMD’s naming scheme, and so it’s way, way harder to make comparisons and pick out where a given card is, generationally and power-wise, and;
    2) Shadowplay. It’s well integrated with Nvidia’s drivers, it’s a similar feature to what both the Xbox One and PS4 have with one button recording, and it costs basically nothing to run. AMD doesn’t have anything remotely like it, instead pushing a third party Raptr service in its drivers that costs more performance and isn’t as seamless to run.

    AMD definitely needs to make some software to handle point 2, and tech writers (hello mr author) should try to cover point 1 as much as possible to help keep the competition alive, imo.

    • Premium User Badge

      PoulWrist says:

      The AMD Gaming Evolved app does recording like Shadowplay, as far as I can tell. I tested it on my office PC here, A10-7870k, and saw no performance loss.

      I don’t know how you can be confused about generations with AMD’s cards. They are exactly the same as Intel’s and nVidia’s. Increasing numbers with the first being the generation and the next being the position in that generation.

      So you look at numbers and you pick the highest one and great success. Maybe even open a review site on a random benchmark page and look at the positioning of the various cards in the chart and you should, in a few seconds, be able to understand what is highend, midrange and lowend in any GPU manufacturer’s list of products.


  14. Premium User Badge

    liquidsoap89 says:

    Oof. Benchmarks seem to indicate that the 1060 will give a pretty decent boost in performance over the 480, but here in Canada I’m either going to pay $400 for a 1060, or $330 for an 8GB 480.

    I think I may just stick with my 970 for a little while longer.

    • Premium User Badge

      PoulWrist says:

      Those cards both perform almost identical to a 970. I’d imagine the 480 to pull ahead in future with DX12 and Vulkan releases. The performance difference in Doom and Hitman are quite substantially in the RX 480’s favour.

  15. Jakkar says:

    Wark! The lamp!

  16. Premium User Badge

    PoulWrist says:

    RX 480 and 1060 are sort of alright for 1440… I’m kind of leaning towards upgrading my GTX 680 to a RX 480. I’m really rather tired of nVidia’s price-gouging and general attitude. But with the availability of all new GPUs being almost nonexistent, I’ll probably just sit around some more and wait for AMD’s Vega-based cards. See what they bring to the table.

    The RX470 is also rather interesting, only slightly slower than the 480.

    nVidia is just not in my personal considerations anymore. The GTX 680 was the pinacle of performance when I bought it 4 years ago. The best and fastest GPU around. It was really expensive too, but the 1080, the current day highest end of performance is priced at 60% more than what the 680 cost, and there hasn’t been that much inflation.

    On top, their lacklustre performance in DX12 and Vulkan leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t think the Pascal based chips are very futureproof in that regard, like, in 4 years it won’t be as good as the 680 is today, relative, because of this technological shift that nVidia have not implemented as well as AMD.

  17. Agnosticus says:

    Will probably go for the underdog again, because I like my performance/price ratios high (+ FreeSync montiors seem to be a bit cheaper). Those are my two options:

    – Waiting for the RX 490 to drop and hoping that the 27″ 1440p 144Hz FreeSync monitors get a bit cheaper

    – The cheaper version: a mighty custom RX 480 like the Sapphire Nitro (releases soon hopefully) with an affordable IPS 1080p 144Hz FreeSync monitor

    PS: Please do more PC hardware articles! :)

  18. chris1479 says:

    Hmmm… Meh. I have a 970, I’m quite fond of it, I run two 1440p monitors and if it’s lacking in any noticeable way I’ve yet to notice it. Unless you make a habit of cranking AA/MSAA to x4 or x8 when you’re already at 1440p I don’t think there’s much reason to “upgrade”. If I was really desperate for more performance I’d invest some time in overclocking it but tbh I don’t really see much need for that either.

    • Rywen says:

      The 970 does 1440p gaming absolutely fine at 45-50fps on newer games generally, if you don’t mind not having a solid 60fps at completely maxed out graphics. I have owned one for about 2 years, and will probably continue to own it for over another year.

  19. Premium User Badge

    UncleBAZINGA says:

    Got my RX 480 8GB for 269 and couldn’t be happier. Beefy, fast card with everything maxed out and at least 2xAA at 1080p.

  20. headless97 says:

    I’ve been waiting for a midrange card to finally be good enough to be worth the jump. At around $250, either the 1060 or 480 will be a brilliant upgrade, considering they are midrange cards of comparable power to last-gen’s high-end cards. Once the supply and prices become normal, I’ll be upgrading.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Keep an eye out for R470 prices. It’s a slightly underpowered R480 but in most benchmarks its only 1-3fps lower than a 480.

  21. Scrofa says:

    For the last 6 years I’ve been using various ATi cards. The last one was 280x and it’s atrocious. My new laptop waves deceptively puny GeForce GTX 965m and works much better. ATi drivers are just garbage. I can’t even install that stupid non-WHQL nonsence on my desktop, because Windows 7 64x simply prohibits it in any way possible. I’m ready to pay more for the better NVIDIA product. ATi may simply fuck off with its cheap-ass trash both processor and video card wise. Never again.