Today, we are going to be looking at the next entry into the Ampere-based RTX 30-series: the RTX 3060. Following November’s release of the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, the RTX 3060 aims to provide a little bit of everything, so long as it’s 1080p performance is what you are aiming for. Within this article, we will be looking at how this GPU differentiates itself from next of kin and where it falls within the modern line-up. For our review, we will be looking at the EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 XC Black.
- MSRP: Beginning at $329.00
- Boost Clock: 1.78 GHz
- CUDA Cores: 3584
- Memory: 12 GB GDDR6
- Memory Bus: 192-bit
- Memory Bandwidth: 360 GB/s
- Bus Type: PCI-e 4.0
- Ports: 1x HDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a
- Ray Tracing Cores: 2nd Generation
- Tensor Cores: 3rd Generation
If the end of 2020 served as the beginning of a GPU arms race, the early part of 2021 is a war of attrition. This fight for consumer buy-in comes down to availability. With Discord servers dedicated to sniffing out stock and retailers holding lotteries for positions to buy, it seems that NVIDIA’s answer to this shortage is to add another SKU. Enter the RTX 3060.
This, to me, is a curious, but not unexpected, addition. If you read my review of the RTX 3060 Ti, I made a note of asking NVIDIA about the “Ti'' designation for a GPU family that did not exist yet. Their response was simply that “Ti'' name represented the peak form of a particular family of GPUs. To make this even more puzzling, at first glance, the places the RTX 3060 and RTX 3060 Ti seem backwards. Here is what I mean:
While the RTX 3060 appears to scale in areas like CUDA Cores, power consumption, memory interface width, base clock, and price, the memory configuration is increased by 50% over the RTX 3060 Ti and the boost clock edges out its superior sibling. But, this is purely to perspective at first glance on paper. At its heart, the RTX 3060 is a completely different GPU. This Ampere-based offering is built on the 8nm GA106 platform versus the GA104 that the RTX 3060 Ti is built on. We will see just how different these two GPUs are in our performance breakdown and benchmarks.
What the RTX 3060 is meant to be is yet another potential upgrade path from the GTX 1060. It seems like, for all of the SKUs in between, the majority of PC gamers who have a working GPU has not taken much of the bait to draw people away from the Pascal-based wunderkind. NVIDIA hopes to change that by offering a GPU to double performance of the 1060 and offer access to modern NVIDIA features like Ray Tracing, DLSS, and the bevy of creative tools in their toolbox.
So, how does it work?
Rasterization, Synthetics, and Benchmarks Thermal Performance
Before we get into the numbers, here are the system specifications for our test bench:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3800X
- Cooler: Corsair Hydro Series H150i ELITE CAPELLIX (Closed loop cooler)
- RAM: Zadak SPARK 32 GB 3200MHz DDR4
- Motherboard: ASUS Prime X570-Pro
- Storage: 500GB Samsung 980 PRO, 1TB WD_Black SN750, 1 TB Seagate FireCuda
- PSU: NZXT E850
- Case: Corsair 4000X
While the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 is fashioned as a successor to the GeForce GTX 1060, we will be focusing our comparisons around the former attempted successors in rasterization. This stack includes the GTX 1660, with data provided by the MSI Gaming X variant. Since data is comparable in performance to the GTX 1660, we also will be looking at PNY's GTX 1650 SUPER XLR8 Edition. From Team Red, we will be looking at numbers from the XFX Radeon RX 5600 XT THICC II Pro (another alleged GTX 1060 successor) as well as the MSI RX 5700 XT Gaming X.
Here is what we discovered:
While the RTX 3060 is marketed as the new go-to 1080p GPU, we tested at 4K and 1440p to see just how much we could utilize the 12GB of VRAM this GPU offers… and as it turns out, we were not disappointed. While the RTX 3060 offered stellar performance at 1080p, plowing past the GTX 1660 and 1650 SUPER by a mind-blowing margin on the lowest end of over 45% at 1080p, the RTX 3060 came within 2% of the RX 5700 XT’s 4K performance.
This is an important detail because in GPU-intensive situations such as 4K test, the RTX 3060 shows that it is here to play. While most of our tests did not average about 60 frames per second at 4K, the RTX 3060 is incredibly viable as a 1440p offering - in most cases. With the exception of Far Cry 5, the RTX 3060 held frame rate averages above 60 frames for the rest of our benchmarks.
As we look at 1080p numbers, this is where we see this GPU at home, with averages in the low-to-mid hundreds in most of our tests. For high frame rate, we wanted to see just how far we could push Doom Eternal (not pictured within the charts) versus the RTX 2080. What we saw was that the RTX 3060 reached a scorching 210 frames per second. Not too shabby when you consider these numbers put it within ~1% of the RTX 2080’s performance.
Looking at a synthetic benchmark like 3DMark’s TimeSpy, we see the RTX 3060 hold fairly consistent with its comparisons in gaming tests. It blows by the GTX 1660 and 1650 SUPER without hesitation while flying by the Radeon RX 5600 XT, while just barely falling behind the Radeon RX 5700 XT by a < 2% margin.
Real-Time Ray Tracing Performance
When it comes down to real-time Ray Tracing performance, we will be comparing data within the RTX stack, including the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti as well as RTX 3060 Ti. Each of these GPUs will be represented by NVIDIA Founders Edition cards. The biggest question we had going into these tests was this: could NVIDIA deliver a more budget-friendly entry point into this fancy method of rendering?
At 4K, any hopes of real-time Ray Tracing on the RTX 3060 should be abandoned. Even with the extra VRAM, it was simply not designed to handle that load. While the story is similar at 1440p, with a few tweaks and concessions, you could probably get the RTX 3060 to hold an average frame rate above 60 frames per second. At 1080p, however, we did see performance averages above 60 frames per second. Metro Exodus did give us a bit of trouble getting there, but within Control, a game that leans heavily on lighting effects and shadows, gameplay was surprisingly smooth!
So, the answer to our question is a qualified yes. With DLSS-enabled at 1080p, the RTX 3060 can handle most of the RTX-enabled features we threw at it.
Thermal Performance and Acoustics
Thermal performance and acoustics on the RTX 3060 is going to be a situation where your mileage may vary. Since there are no Founders Edition GeForce RTX 3060s, the thermal performance and acoustics of each GPU within this GPU family will depend on the cooler design from the board partners.
For EVGA’s part, the GeForce RTX 3060 XC Black was whisper-quiet with its twin fan design. There were a few moments during testing where I had to look to make sure the GPU fans were even running! If it was making any noise, it was far below the threshold of normal case fans.
As far as thermal performance goes, temperatures held consistently within the lower 70 degrees Celsius. There were a few times where a few moments where it peaked at 75C, but this is well within the range of the rest of the 30-Series.
The GeForce RTX 3060 makes yet another attempt at becoming the replacement for the GeForce GTX 1060. It could be a good one, too, especially for the advertised price point. The biggest question the RTX 3060 proposes is not whether it’s a good GTX 1060 replacement, but how NVIDIA plans to get GPUs like this (and, arguably, the rest of the 30-series) into the hands of gamers that are actually interested in an upgrade at MSRP?
Some factors are outside of NVIDIA’s hands, but we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the timing of this release. We are in the midst of a GPU shortage due to all sorts of factors such as COVID-related constraints, botting/scalping, and there are already concerns over ridiculous price inflation.
If its release can somehow evade these issues, the GeForce RTX 3060 offers a pretty compelling argument for upgrading - especially when you view it in comparison across the aisles with the RX 5600 XT and RX 5700 XT GPUs. On top of that, the performance bump between the RTX 3060 and the 16-series GPUs we tested is just as impressive as the leap from the RTX 2080 to the RTX 3080.
For EVGA’s part, they built a sleek GPU with no frills for the gamer whose sole concerns are frame rates and features. With no RGB insight, this GPU’s no-nonsense shroud has two fans that keep thermals under control while keeping fan noise within a reasonable level.
The only thing that I found to be a bit odd about the RTX 3060 is the divide between it and the 3060 Ti. We aren’t talking a small performance differential either; we are talking about an average difference of about 20% across resolutions. The RTX 3060 feels like it is in an entirely different series of GPUs from the 3060 Ti, rather than the 3060 Ti being the premium version of the RTX 3060 family.
Naming convention aside, the RTX 3060 is the GPU that offers a little bit of everything for a reasonable price. It allows gamers access to NVIDIA’s toolkit of gameplay improving features like NVIDIA Reflex as well as powerful content creation tools like the AI-powered NVIDIA Broadcast.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.