During CES 2022 in Las Vegas, Nvidia unveiled the RTX 3050, pulling the veil back on their entry-level card. Aimed at offering a replacement for those still rocking at GTX 1650 or GTX 1650 Ti variant of GPU, the RTX 3050 aims to provide great 1080p performance with the benefit of ray tracing as well as Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling, or DLSS. But how does it fare, especially compared to the AMD competition targeting the same resolution? And is the RTX 3050 enough for ray tracing, or should users look beyond the flashy lights to the real reason the card could work for some: DLSS?
- Graphics Processing Clusters: 2
- Texture Processing Clusters: 10
- Streaming Multiprocessors: 30
- CUDA Cores: 2560
- Tensor Cores: 80 (3rd Gen)
- RT Cores: 20 (2nd Gen)
- Texture Units: 80
- ROPs: 48
- Base Clock: 1552 MHz
- Boost Clock: 1777 MHz
- Memory Clock: 7000 MHz
- Memory Data Rate: 14 Gbps
- L2 Cache Size: 1536 K
- Total Video Memory: 8192 MB GDDR6
- Memory Interface: 128-bit
- Total Memory Bandwidth: 224 GB/s
- Connectors: 3 x DisplayPort; 1x HDMI 2.1
- Power Connectors: 1 8pin
- Recommended PSU: 550 Watts
- TGP: 130 Watts
- MSRP: $249.99 (EVGA XC Black Reviewed)
Editor’s Note: Late Monday night after this review was already filed, Nvidia emailed with the note that our EVGA XC Black model provided for review was shipped with a faster BIOS meant for a higher clocked EVGA variant of the 3050. As a result, the boost clock of the EVGA we tested is higher than the retail units that will ship in the wild - 1845MHz vs the rated 1777MHz. During our testing we noticed the Boost clock of our sample sitting higher than the advertised clock speeds, which is normal as GPU Boost often pushes cards to their thermal and power limits to eke out the best performance for a given system. According to Nvidia the performance difference as a result of this to be a 2-3% uptick in performance versus the retail units.
At first glance, you’d be remiss confusing the small form factor graphics card for its RTX 3060 bigger brother. EVGA’s form factor is sleek yet striking. I really love the all-black look going from matte to a shiny finish when transitioning from the body of the card to the fans. It’s small, which makes sense given its pared back Tensor and RT Core count compared to the other RTX 30-series GPUs on the market. While other small, sub-$300 cards feature only one fan, I do appreciate the dual fan design of the EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black, especially as someone who worries about thermals living out here in the desert.
The 3050 itself is built on the same Ampere architecture powering all Nvidia 30-series cards and sport second-generation Ray Tracing cores and third-generation Tensor Cores, the latter to power DLSS. The 3050 features 4GB of memory. This is less than the 3060, which comes with 12GB of GDDR6 memory. The 3050’s 4GB of memory could limit it in some titles that do require a bit more VRAM, such as Watch Dogs Legion. However, as is the beauty of PC gaming, paring back settings and dialing in the perfect performance for your setup is going to help the 3050 compete.
At $249, it’s also the cheapest RTX-powered card on the market, though that should come with a caveat. The current global climate has seen the silicon shortage extend into its third year, meaning that prices for the RTX 3050 may not necessarily be anywhere near the suggested retail price Nvidia is advertising.
The RTX 3050 supports Ray Tracing thanks to its second-generation RT Cores, but it also supports a bevy of Nvidia technologies including Nvidia Reflex to reduce input lag, the Nvidia NVENC encoder for streaming on OBS and other applications, as well as Nvidia Broadcast. Targeting 1080p as its intended resolution, the RTX 3050 aims to bring high-end gaming to more players (assuming the MSRP holds up on the street), and is meant to be aided by the ability of the card to leverage Nvidia’s DLSS technology.
But how does it hold up in practice?
EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black Synthetic and Gaming Benchmarks
As with all our graphics cards reviews, we put the cards through a series of both synthetic and real-world gaming benchmark tests designed to push the cards to their limit. The RTX 3050 is positioned by Nvidia to be a good 1080p card, especially if you’re looking to upgrade from the Pascal generation GTX 1650 or 1650 Ti from 2019. Unfortunately, our bench doesn’t include those cards, so we instead tested current cards around the same price and class as the 3050 in both Nvidia’s line-up as well as AMD’s and put them through their paces.
Our test cards break out as follows:
- EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black
- RTX 3060 Ti Founder’s Edition
- XFX RX 5700 XT THICC
- MSI RX 6600 XT Gaming X
- Power Color RX 6600
Here is our full testing bench for your reference:
- CPU: Intel i7 10700K @ 3.8 GHz (Boost clock up to 5.1 GHz)
- Cooling: Corsair 100i 240mm Liquid CPU cooler
- Motherboard: Gigabyte Aorus Z490 Ultra Motherboard
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance 32GB RAM @ 3200 MHz
- Storage: Intel 760p M.2 NVMe, ADATA Falcon 1TB M.2 NVMe
- Power Supply: Corsair RM 850X 850 Watt
- Case: Lian Li O11 Dynamic
Tests were conducted at an average of three runs.
EVGA RTX 3050 Synthetic Benchmarks
For synthetic testing, we ran the RTX 3050 through 3DMark’s DX12, DX11, and Ray Tracing benchmark at default settings. While synthetic testing doesn’t always tell the whole story of how a card will perform due to the variations brought on by multiple different game engines, they do give a rough idea of how each card should behave compared to the other cards in our bench.
For the DX11 Firestrike test, the RTX 3050 lags behind all the other cards by a wide margin. At first, I thought this was a mistake so I ran the test again to be sure and it was correct. Compared to the RX 6600 from AMD, the RTX 3050 suffers across the board, as well as bringing up the rear when compared to the RTX 3060 and 3060 Ti.
The DX12 test gives similar results with the RTX 3050 coming up short in every score across the board, seeing an almost 2000 point different between the nearest overall score of the Power Color RX 6600.
EVGA RTX 3050 Rasterization Gaming Benchmarks
For our gaming tests we ran a range of games and game engines, from Ubisoft’s Anvil Next, to Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, Guerilla Games’ Decima, and more. Because the RTX 3050 is a lower-end card, we limited our tests to 1080p and 1440p resolutions to see how far we could stretch the card when pushed to the higher resolution. Each test was run with the settings set to their highest presets to really see how far the card will go when pushed to its limits. This would mean that the results show the limits of the card when pushed to its breaking point, and that there is some headroom to back off on a setting or two to get the performance desired.
When possible, we used in-game benchmark tests to ensure that each run was as consistent as possible. However, in games where we could not we ran through a standard circuit each time to try to recreate as consistent a run as we could. This would include Remedy’s Control and Pearl Abyss’ Black Desert Online Remastered, with us running Digital Foundry’s Corridor of Doom while in Black Desert we fought Steel Imps near one of the opening settlements repeating the same moveset to push the GPU as consistently as possible.
Finally, we used Nvidia Frameview to capture frame data, temperature metrics and more used throughout the review.
From the get-go, we saw the pattern with the synthetic benchmarks were even clearer in the gaming tests, with the EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black settling towards the end of the pack in almost every test. This isn’t to say either that the results are bad. Seeing almost 60 fps at ultra-high settings in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla suggests that a tweak here or there can mean a consistently smooth 60fps. MMORPGs, like the incredibly demanding Black Desert Online Remastered, show excellent results many gamers would be happy with, as well as Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker. The problem exists when you look across the board and see just how much better the competition and even other Ampere cards handle the loads.
In Watch Dogs Legion, the RTX 3050 performs 20% slower compared to the RX 6600 at 1080p, with this holding true give or take a percentage or two across the board. While 68 FPS at 1080p in Horizon Zero Dawn is perfectly playable, it lags behind the next nearest result of 82FPS for the RX 6600 – a 17% decrease. The gap closes a bit when we get to 1440p, but it’s still a large difference between the two.
One nice aspect we see in the tests is the inclusion of AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution giving a massive boost in Black Desert. 1080p results on the 3050 see a 57% increase when enabling the Quality mode. While different than Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling, it’s trying to achieve the same result in the end: high-performance gaming with minimal loss of image quality. Unfortunately for AMD the results aren’t also as clear as they’d like, though Black Desert is one of the few applications of FSR where I do not notice a reduction in image quality with the technique.
However, when compared to DLSS’ image quality, there is no equivalent as it can be hard to tell native resolution from a DLSS reconstructed image at times.
EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black Ray Tracing Synthetic and Gaming Benchmarks
The RTX 3050 is touted as having second-generation RT Cores, meaning it can more efficiently accelerate computation required for ray tracing tasks becoming more and more common in today’s gaming landscape. While the RTX 3050 certainly can trace the rays, it’s not necessarily going to be the best option in Nvidia’s lineup thanks to the reduction in RT cores. However, like the regular rasterization tests, there is room to tweak settings to get the best results for your set up.
Port Royal shows the same trend we saw with the regular raster tests with the RTX 3050 bringing up the rear in our bench. However, the results are much closer to AMD’s offers this time around thanks in large part to the second-generation of RT cores in the Ampere card versus the first generation attempt by AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture. This is replicated to a degree with the gaming benchmarks in some of the applications, with the AMD cards lagging behind, especially when coupled with DLSS (which doesn’t work on AMD thanks to the lack of dedicated AI cores on the RDNA 2 boards).
In our gaming tests we used games that trace the rays in different applications, from the shadow work in Shadow of the Tomb Raider to the extensive reflections in Watch Dogs Legion. While the AMD cards in Godfall, Control and SotTR are close to the RTX 3050 and its Nvidia cousins, Watch Dogs Legion shows a massive gulf still in RT performance.
Games like Control are playable if you’re okay with sacrificing performance for ray tracing, though this is where technologies like DLSS come into their own. Seeing a 66% jump in performance by enabling DLSS in Control at 1080p on the RTX 3050 is a huge gain, especially knowing that knocking a setting down might get you over that 60fps threshold.
At 1440p, titles like Shadow of the Tomb Raider show similar results, seeing around a 57% increase in performance once DLSS is enabled. While Godfall doesn’t have DLSS, it does have AMD’s FSR, which does allow AMD’s cards to be a bit more competitive. This is the one title where ray tracing performs better across the board for the AMD card for the most part over the RTX 3050, though it does make sense as Godfall is an AMD optimized title.
Temperatures And Noise
The EVGA RTX 3050 is incredibly quiet, even under load. Not once did I notice the fans spinning up to a point where it was noticeable during benchmarking as well as regular gameplay sessions. This makes sense given the temperatures of the GPU stayed well below the 93 degree Celsius threshold the card is rated for, with its only ever reaching a peak of 63 degrees when under the most intensive load. This is great, especially for those looking to include the smaller sized card into a small form factor case. The EVGA XC Black also features slots on the backplate to allow air to easily pass through the heatsink on the card, which is certainly helping to keep things cool under pressure.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Throughout my testing I kept asking myself a simple question: just who is this card for? I know on paper it’s meant to give an upgrade path to those who are still holding onto the last 50-series cards from Nvidia, specifically 2019’s GTX 1650 Ti and the 1650. However, even then if the goal is to get a card to play modern titles the 1650-series might be struggling with, how does the RTX 3050 fit that bill?
Thankfully, as our tests show, the card is more than capable of keeping pace with some of the more demanding games on the market at playable framerates. While it lagged behind in many of the tests across our bench, it does perform well enough that if you’re looking for 1080p 60FPS gaming, the RTX 3050 can provide that provided you're willing to knock some settings down in certain titles.
However, where the RTX 3050 comes into its own is down to Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling. Seriously, every single game on the market should launch with DLSS or look to add it in the future. The technology turns a card like the EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black -- which struggles to hit 60FPS in some of the games we tested -- to one that can crush performance and still look incredibly good while doing so.
I wanted to test this outside of regular benchmarks, so I started up one of the latest games on the market to be a stunner visually and include DLSS: Sony’s recently released God of War on PC. Knocking the settings down to Original, which is the PlayStation 4 visual setting, I was seeing the RTX 3050 struggle to maintain a locked 60fps at 1080p.
It was certainly playable, especially when coupled with Nvidia Reflex. However, I really wondered what enabling DLSS would do with the performance. Toggling DLSS Quality, the framerates skyrocketed to over just under 100FPS on average during my gameplay sessions. DLSS is truly transformative in a way that makes the RTX 3050 able to perform above its weight class.
This was also felt when running benchmarks in Control. Without DLSS, the game felt sluggish at times, especially when ray tracing was enabled. However, enabling DLSS made Jesse’s movements on screen feel more fluid, especially when triggering her levitation power to cross gaps or rooms. It transforms a subpar experience into one which is immediately playable.
For my part, the RTX 3050 isn’t a card I would look to ray trace. Sure, it can be done, but the reduction in RT Cores isn’t going to net you the best results. But DLSS, when available, should be something that you toggle on. Even in titles where AMD’s FSR was available instead, the 3050 saw massive jumps in performance, albeit with lesser image quality.
This brings up an interesting way to look at the EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black GPU – is it the card that impresses, or DLSS itself?
We’ve stated multiple times on this site that DLSS should be in every game. Indeed, any look at Shank’s Tech Analysis articles and you’ll find that to be the case. DLSS can transform an experience, as evidenced by the God of War performance boost.
However, it’s hard to recommend the RTX 3050 itself, especially as even $249 feels too expensive for 1080p gaming in 2022. And it’s made all the worse when you consider that many sites and stores won’t have stock to meet demand and scalpers will drive up the price, meaning the street price for many users will be far more than the MSRP.
Even in a perfect market, it’s hard to recommend the 3050 on its own merits. It’s not a bad card on its own – it does perform well at 1080p. But when you look at the landscape of other cards which are priced with a slightly higher MSRP, it’s hard to justify the 3050. If the choice is a $249 3050 or a $329 3060 with the same Nvidia technology behind it, I’m choosing the latter every time. This is especially true when you factor in the results from tests that showed the 3060’s 1440p performance mirroring the 3050’s 1080p numbers. More performance, better DLSS performance, more memory – it just makes sense.
The EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black isn’t a bad card. But I’m not sure it’s a card we can recommend on its own. It’s DLSS that makes the card one to keep on your radar if you’re looking to upgrade from an older Pascal or even Maxwell card.
The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.