The inexpensive PC gaming-GPU (graphics processing unit) market is about to get crowded

Nvidia’s launching its GeForce GTX 1060 video card for $250 July 19 or in a Founder’s Edition configuration for $300. It runs on the chipmaker’s new Pascal 16nm process technology that produces less heat and requires less power while maintaining or improving on the horsepower from previous GeForce generations. It features 6GB of GDDR6 memory running at 8Gbps and a clock speed of 1.7GHz. With those specs and at that price, the 1060 is Nvidia’s competitor to the excellent AMD Radeon RX 480, which launched June 29 starting at $200.

Nvidia is well aware of the comparisons consumers will make between the Radeon RX 480 and the GeForce GTX 1060. In a press release, the company is already doling out the smacktalk.

“Across the top gaming titles, GTX 1060 is on average 15 percent faster and over 75 percent more power efficient than the [Radeon RX 480],” reads the Nvidia promotional material. In a footnote, Nvidia clarifies that it ran these tests at 1080p on July 5, which is before AMD released the update to deal with some power-efficiency problems affecting the 480. The company ran the comparison in games like BioShock Infinite, Crysis 3, Grand Theft Auto V, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Star Wars: Battlefront, The Witcher 3, and The Division. Nvidia also ran tests on DirectX 12 games like Ashes of the Singularity, which have typically seen significant performance gains on AMD cards.

While we wait to see the real-world benchmarks for ourselves, it’s obvious that Nvidia doesn’t want to concede the cost-conscious mass market to AMD. At $250, the company is right in the same range as the $230 8GB version of the RX 480 that many people are considering.

Now, for $200 to $300, PC players have a clear path to getting a GPU that can handle nearly every game on the market at 1080p and 60 frames per second.

Specs for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060.

Above: Specs for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060.

Image Credit: Nvidia

Nvidia is working with its typical partners from Asus, Colorful, EVGA, Gainward, Galaxy, Gigabyte, Innovision 3D, MSI, Palit, PNY, and Zotac to unleash a variety of 1060 configurations. These will also begin rolling out July 19 and will start at $250.

Virtual reality

Like with AMD and the 480, Nvidia is promising that its inexpensive option is ideal for people looking to get into virtual reality without spending $600 on a graphics card.

The big feature for the 1060 is that it supports simultaneous multi-projection. This is a digital trick that improves performance by sending a single image to both eyes simultaneously. Unity and Unreal Engine, a pair of popular game-making tools, are both getting support for simultaneous multi-projection. Developers are also starting to bake support for SMP into games like Adr1ft, Raw Data, and Everest VR.

The result of this should equal smooth VR experiences that do not overtax the 1060.

A GPU for everyone

The 1060 rounds out the new Pascal era for Nvidia. The company now has the low-end covered at $250. It also has something much more powerful in the GeForce GTX 1070, which starts at $380. And at the highest end, the company has the GeForce GTX 1080. That is a $600 behemoth that should handle the transition into games with 4K resolutions well.

Nvidia owns a majority of the GPU market. This three-pronged attack on 2016 could help it maintain that while fending off AMD.

Correction: This story originally claimed that Nvidia did not list the games it tested against both the 1060 and Radeon RX 480. That is incorrect, and we’ve updated the story to reflect that.