The GPU arms race of 2020 has only just begun. NVIDIA and AMD fight for dominance in the upper reaches of the market. Both teams have produced some incredible results, but both have suffered from the same supply shortages. Into this landscape, NVIDIA deploys the RTX 3060 Ti. Could this midrange GPU be the right onramp into the RTX 30-series at a fraction of the cost? We are about to find out.
- MSRP: $399
- Boost Clock: 1665 MHz
- CUDA Cores: 4864
- Memory: 8 GB GDDR6
- Memory Bus: 256-bit
- Bus: PCI-e 4.0
- Ports: 1x HDMI 2.1, 3x DisplayPort 1.4a
- Ray Tracing Cores: 2nd Generation
- Tensor Cores: 3rd Generation
Fashioned as the successor of the RTX 2080 Super, the Geforce RTX 3060 Ti follows the tradition of the rest of the RTX 30-series lineup: provide huge generational performance leaps while reducing the cost of access to that performance. If that was all that it offered, the 3060 Ti would be a promising GPU in its own right, but that is not all NVIDIA has in mind for it.
With real-time ray tracing technology becoming far more common in modern titles as well as a built-in feature set within the Playstation 5 and XBOX Series X, NVIDIA needed to provide an accessible on-ramp. By leveraging the Ampere architecture and a new generation of RT cores, the RTX 3060 Ti is being postured as that on-ramp, specifically at 1080p.
If all of that wasn’t enough, NVIDIA’s entire suite of “RTX extras” like NVIDIA’s content creator-centric Studio and Broadcast as well as the input latency crushing Reflex for esports players looking for a competitive edge. These are all available to RTX 3060 Ti users along with features like DLSS and RTX IO as they are adopted by developers.
While each of these features has its own merit, when these pieces are put together, NVIDIA lays out a compelling argument for PC gamers still hanging on to their GTX 1060s: it is time to upgrade. However, all of that is flash and fluff if it can’t deliver on performance.
Let’s see how the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti hangs.
Synthetics, Benchmarks, and 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
As for our methodology, we will be looking at data collected from benchmarks utilizing a diverse range of APIs. This will give a broad overview of how the RTX 3060 Ti performs in comparison with some current GPUs as well as past offerings.
Within our charts, you will see the RTX 2080 and 2080ti Founders Edition GPUs to show the top tier of the past generation’s product stack alongside the GPU touted at the 2080 Ti’s successor, the RTX 3070. Standing in for the RTX 3070 is NVIDIA’s Founders Edition.
While our main focus will be on performance within NVIDIA’s own product stack, we will also be including numbers from AMD’s current and past line up. For the RX 6000 series, we have the Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT from AMD. Standing in for the Radeon RX 5700 XT, we have MSI’s RX 5700 XT Gaming X edition.
It is also important to note that there are a few tests that we will be narrowing the field of information, specifically as we look at real-time ray tracing performance at 1080p. Since NVIDIA has postured the RTX 3060 Ti as the go-to 1080p ray tracing, replacing the 2080 Super, we will be showing it alongside the RTX 2080 Ti and 2080 to give a picture of performance spectrum rather than a simple one-to-one comparison.
To begin, let’s look at raw power in rasterization:
While it is certainly not advertised as a 4K GPU, we wanted to see how the RTX 3060 Ti would fare in our testing. As anticipated, it did okay, it is not advised for the best 4K experience. Many of the tests did average about 60 frames per second, but, comparatively speaking, it trailed the RTX 2080 Ti by an average of 18% at 4K. It did, however, flip that number around to 15% against the RTX 2080.
It is in 1440p and 1080p where the RTX 3060 Ti has an opportunity to show its true qualities. Reaching frame rates well above 60 frames per second, the RTX 3060 Ti manages to get within 5% of the 2080 Ti’s performance and within 6% of the RTX 3070 while continuing to separate itself from the RTX 2080.
As an observation with these numbers, we saw the performance of the RTX 3060 Ti leans far closer to the 2080 Ti than the 2080 while staying modestly separate from the RTX 3070. Another interesting observation (particularly to us here at MMORPG.com) was that we saw a very, very slim performance margin (~1%) between the RTX 3060 Ti and the RTX 2080 Ti at 1080p and 1440p in Final Fantasy XIV. That difference was 2.6% between the RTX 3060 Ti and the RTX 3070.
Where things get very interesting is that, in the price bracket with the RTX 3060 Ti lands, the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT has held a firm place as a great value-for-dollar offering. Sadly for the RX 5700 XT, that is about to change. Looking at pure rasterization performance, at 4K, the RTX 3060 Ti takes the RX 5700 XT to task with a 31% lead while absolutely decimating it with a whopping 64% lead at 1080p. We should not quite count AMD out, the RTX 3060 Ti could not even come close to touching the performance of the Radeon RX 6800, let alone the 6800 XT.
As we move on to 3DMark’s TimeSpy benchmark, we see a bit more of NVIDIA’s vision for the RTX 3060 Ti sitting squarely between the RTX 2080 and the RTX 2080 Ti. The scores at 4K for the RTX 3060 Ti are modest. Reaching within 10% of the RTX 2080 Ti’s, the RTX 3060 Ti leads the RTX 2080 by 15% while putting a 38% delta in between itself and the RX 5700 XT. When we look at 1440p numbers, we see a similar story with margins narrowing slightly between the RTX 2080 Ti and the RTX 3060 Ti, but a loss of 5% of its lead over the RTX 2080. This trend continues at 1080p with a less dramatic drop between the RTX 3060 Ti and the RTX 2080.
Real-Time Ray Tracing Performance
The RTX 30-series has made a believer out of us when it comes to the implementation of real-time ray tracing in modern gaming. With the maturation of DLSS and the adoption of real-time ray tracing across APIs, we are seeing a better vision of what NVIDIA promised with the RTX 20-series.
What we discovered with the RTX 3060 Ti is that at 4K, it suffers a similar fate as the RTX 3070: it performs okay, but it may not be your best option. While it performed an average of 14% better than the RTX 2080, it fell drastically behind the RTX 2080 Ti and the RTX 3070 at 4K. However, RTX applications at 4K is not the resolution this GPU was designed for.
Moving closer to its intended use-case, if we look at our 1440p tests, the RTX 3060 Ti did far better. It averaged above 60 frames per second on all of them, with the exception of Metro Exodus. This is unsurprising as it is one of the more taxing tests that we have available to us. The story changes once we get to 1080p.
At 1080p, the RTX 3060 Ti shines with DLSS and RTX enabled. Even in Metro Exodus we saw frame rate averages about 60 frames per second. In the rest of our tests, every one of them averaged about 100. This is stellar news for all of the 1080p gamers out there with high refresh rate monitors!
Alongside our RTX gaming benchmarks, we ran a few synthetic benchmarks that are aimed at heavy RTX performance from forthcoming titles. Both Boundary and Bright Memory make heavy use of reflective surfaces, shadows, and lighting enhanced by NVIDIA hardware. We ran each test at 4K with DLSS on and off to show the impact. While we were not expecting to see 4K60 results, we wanted to see how it performed within the pack. What we found with that the RTX 3060 Ti hugs fairly close to the performance of the RTX 2080 Ti regardless of DLSS. It only tailed slightly on the Boundary benchmark.
Thermal Performance and Acoustics
Since NVIDIA's Founder’s Edition of the RTX 3060 Ti shares a cooler design with the RTX 3070, the similarities in how they performed as vast. The fan layout and overall air handling feels more akin to the Founders Edition RTX 20-series GPUs than. Even with the slight design difference, temperatures for the RTX 3060 Ti stay within the mid-70s Celsius. This is still lower than the RTX 20-series, but the cooling performance feels a bit lacking when compared to the efficiency of the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090’s avant-garde design.
When it comes to acoustic performance, the RTX 3060 Ti is like the RTX 3070 Founders Edition in that it is exceptionally quiet. Ambient noise stays, when compared to case fans, within a normal operating range. The RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition’s cooler does keep that consistent with the rest of the RTX 30-series family!
Before we get too far into closing remarks, I want to talk about the Ti-tanic elephant in the room. We asked NVIDIA about why they are using this designation and the only response we got is that “Ti” denotes that the GPU is a just bit more special. At the release of the RTX 3060 Ti, there is no RTX 3060, so it is hard to know what they are trying to distinguish it from. However, NVIDIA could be looking for AMD to respond with their own midrange offering to slap the RTX 3060 on the table in response. Perhaps NVIDIA’s response will be something SUPER instead.
While the battle rages at the top of product stacks, NVIDIA slides the RTX 3060 Ti into the lower midrange price bracket to disrupt the playing field in the 1080p and 1440p space. Coming in at $400, the RTX 3060 Ti is positioned to cause a major upset in the market in both performance and in the features set it offers.
In pure rasterization tests, the RTX 3060 Ti performed exceptionally well. At 1080p and 1440p we see some incredible number, but we are left wanting just a few more frames per second at 4K. We saw a similar story in RTX tests, but it was at 1080p, as NVIDIA said, that the RTX 3060 Ti truly shows its worth. Couple that with all of the technologies that RTX GPUs enable, and you have a new gateway into something good.
If you are one of the many PC gamers who has been holding out for the right GPU, this may be one to keep an eye on - especially if you are looking at playing modern titles with RTX. While we have had several GPUs that have positioned themselves as “the upgrade path” from older hardware (and we have even talked about those here), each one of them had concessions. With NVIDIA’s GTX 16-series and AMD’s RX 5000-series, you could get better performance, but you didn’t have access to features like DLSS or RTX. With all of this in mind, the RTX 3060 Ti appears to be an uncompromising path to a modern GPU architecture for 1080p gamers.
One of the things that is so exciting for our hardware team to see with this new generation of GPUs is that there is actual competition happening. Both AMD and NVIDIA are being pushed to provide on ramps and options. We are eager to see if AMD has an RDNA 2 answer for the midrange market, because, right now, it seems as if there is a new king in town, the RTX 3060 Ti. Let’s hope that the onramp isn’t too hard to find.