The previous 12 months of graphics card evaluations has been an train in dramatic asterisks, and for good cause. Nvidia and AMD have seen match to make sure members of the press have entry to new graphics playing cards forward of their retail launches, which has positioned us in a snug place to reward every of their latest-gen choices: good costs, tons of energy.
Then we see our remark sections explode with unhappy clients questioning how the heck to actually buy them. I’ve since softened my tune on these pre-launch previews.
I say all of this up entrance in regards to the Nvidia RTX 3060, happening sale as we speak, February 25 (at 12pm ET, in the event you’re desirous about coming into the day-one gross sales fray) as a result of it is the primary Nvidia GPU I’ve examined shortly to make my cautious stance simpler. The corporate has been on a tear with its RTX 3000-series of playing cards by way of sheer shopper worth, notably in comparison with equal prior-gen playing cards (the $1,499 RTX 3090 however), however the $329 RTX 3060 (to not be confused with December’s 3060 Ti) does not fairly pull the identical weight. It is a good 1080p card with 1440p room to flex, but it surely’s not the next-gen leap in its Nvidia worth class we have grown accustomed to.
Plus, in contrast to different fashionable Nvidia playing cards, this one lacks one specific backup cause to take a position as closely: cryptomining potential. (And that is intentional on Nvidia’s half.)
Hopefully your plate’s higher than mine
Forward of as we speak’s evaluate, Nvidia offered Ars Technica with an EVGA model of the RTX 3060, since this mannequin will not obtain an Nvidia “Founders Version” label (the primary for any mainline RTX card). This 3060 variant retains issues easy by way of building, with two conventional, bottom-mounted followers and not one of the “passthrough” fan building present in Nvidia’s FEs, and it is not marketed with any specific supercharged cooling choices. Regardless of the dearth of intelligent fan building, this mannequin runs cool and quiet at inventory clocks, by no means topping out above 65°C at full load.
Sadly for my testing rig, nevertheless, I needed to take the bizarre step of unscrewing EVGA’s mounting plate in order that it would not block my potential to insert the GPU into my case. In my anecdotal case, this was the primary time I’ve ever had to do that with a GPU I’ve reviewed or examined in my seven years at Ars (although admittedly, that has principally been with Nvidia’s and AMD’s inventory fashions, versus all kinds of OEMs).
Fortunately, I used to be nonetheless capable of stably situate the EVGA GPU into my machine for testing functions, at which level I started evaluating it to the nearest-performance GPU I had in my possession: the RTX 2060 Super, released in July 2019 for $399. That mannequin was a much-needed improve to the tepid RTX 2060, and it arrived as a ok choice for avid gamers who needed strong 1080p efficiency throughout the board, together with loads of 1440p choices and an inexpensive technique to dip toes into the worlds of ray tracing and Nvidia’s proprietary deep-learning tremendous sampling (DLSS).
In my testing, I discovered that the “$70 cheaper” GPU (as priced in a magical, scalper-free market) typically landed neck and neck with the July 2019 card, versus blowing away the older mannequin. This seems to boil right down to the give-and-take nature of the 2 playing cards’ spec tables. The RTX 3060 has over 150 p.c of the 2060 Tremendous’s CUDA cores, together with 150 p.c of the GDDR6 VRAM and a slight lead in core clocks. However its VRAM is certainly not the identical form, downgraded from a 256-bit bus to a 192-bit one with decrease reminiscence bandwidth. Plus, evaluating every card’s proprietary “RTX” potential by counting tensor cores and RT cores is hard, because the RTX 3060 has fewer cores than the RTX 2060 Tremendous in each counts, albeit “newer” generations of every.
All above benchmarks have been performed on my commonplace Ars testing rig, which sports activities an i7-8700K CPU (overclocked to 4.6GHz), 32GB DDR4-3000 RAM, and a mixture of a PCI-e 3.0 NVMe drive and commonplace SSDs.
My first query mark got here once I noticed the RTX 2060 Tremendous beat the RTX 3060 in quite a lot of 3DMark benchmarks. The older card loved a efficiency lead as excessive as 6.5 p.c in an easy GPU muscle take a look at (“Fireplace Strike Extremely”), and it even bested the newer card, nevertheless marginally, in a head-to-head 3DMark ray-tracing showdown.
With this data in hand, I grabbed an Nvidia benchmark desk offered to members of the press, which aligned with most of my different checks—albeit with outcomes that have been a bit extra charitable to the newer RTX 3060 than my very own. The place Nvidia discovered that The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 (ray tracing disabled) have been “lifeless even” between the 3060 and the 2060 Tremendous as examined in 4K decision, my private, repeatable benchmarks gave the older card a lead. Grand Theft Auto V, which runs a scant 2.9 p.c sooner on the 2060 Tremendous in 4K, does not seem in Nvidia’s offered benchmark desk.
However the remainder of my checks did present that the RTX 3060 typically clawed forward in gaming efficiency. Most of the finest outcomes got here when a given benchmark included ray-tracing results, but at the same time as a pure, old-school rasterization card, it usually loved a noticeable 9 p.c lead on non-RT checks.