Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 12GB Review

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 12GB Review

The Nvidia RTX 3060 12GB brings a new level of performance to the mainstream market--sort of. Officially, the RTX 3060 launches today with prices starting at just $329. Realistically? You're as likely to find one at that price as you are to find an RTX 3060 Ti at $399, RTX 3070 at $499, or RTX 3080 at $699

It has 8GB of GDDR6 RAM, 128GB of storage, and an identical efficiency rating to that of the RTX 2060 (Tegra X1 only) Those performance metrics appear to be identical, making it 2020’s RTX winner. But, if you’re looking for the high-end gaming card you saw in the RTX 2080 8GB's launch, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The $329 price point is largely identical to that of the GeForce RTX 3080 with the same 6GB of memory, only it isn’t until you reach $799 that you start to see diminishing returns. If you do want to go that route, you’ll be looking at a selection of $699 to $999-level cards. Sales are extremely limited at this point and sales don’t appear to be coming soon as shortages have created a backlog in certain parts of the world. 

See this meta-post for other potential options. For mid-range gamers, the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 will likely be adequate though disappointing. Both options will have a boost through their memory configurations, with the memory on the RTX 3080 doubling that on other equivalents. 

There’s a slight increase in power draw if you’re trying to drive 4K at 60 frames per second, though this should be the same on both cards with RTX’s much larger memory bus (4GB vs 2GB). With the RTX 3080, it’s also worth noting that if you’re looking for something that has its own dedicated power connector, like a GeForce RTX, don’t buy the 3070 or 3080. You’ll be wasting an opportunity to use that single power connector on something else like a monitor or a laptop.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 12GB Review

Despite its current price, the RTX 3060 12GB is likely aggressively priced due to a combination of demand, limited supplies, and the constraints of launch quantities. While it’s hard to blame Nvidia for pricing aggressively at this stage given demand, we don’t think it’s unreasonable to pay a bit more for a slightly faster card with 12GB of memory and double the memory of a similarly priced mainstream option. 

Don’t let this be an indication that the GTX 2080 is weak compared to its more expensive siblings in the GeForce 30 series, the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, and that there is simply no reason to spend over $1000 on discrete graphics cards. Both Nvidia and AMD should see a considerable boost in the coming months with large new launches in their top-tier products, 

Nvidia’s Turing and the Volta architectures respectively, are pending launch-window availability. Given the current constraints, the choice between the RTX 3070, 3080, and 3090 is somewhat limited. It’s likely necessary to save up now if you’re interested in getting the RTX 3060, but you shouldn’t only buy one of each. 

The growth in price at launch is virtually identical across the lineup. The real game-changer here is the fact that Nvidia rebrands a single stream 2080 Ti product into two in a bid to attract the best third-party developers.

The streamers who will need the 3060 will be looking for applications that perform at the high 8K level but can reach these levels with a reasonable level of frame timing and VRAM usage. 

The stated game-changer here is the inclusion of a PCI-Express 3.0 connection, adding 8 lanes of throughput compared to the 2.0 used on the previous generation. Job roles usually demand a faster connection to the CPU, with potentially more video bandwidth to allow for recordings and streaming. Given that most gaming laptops can already reach that level of performance on a 2.0 connection, can modern GPUs really provide anywhere close to that at 3.0? As consumers, the gains are small; doing day-to-day work on a 3.0-connected machine will not see those 8 lanes of throughput. 

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 12GB Review

For professional streamers, this means they might want a second GPU or two, just in case they don’t burn their VRAM too quickly, and stream tasks with variable levels of quality.

Depending on the price, there are four situations relevant to buyers looking to buy an RTX 3060:

Each of these four situations is viable, depending on when you’re trying to buy one. If you’re buying in the US, you’re looking at the third wave of pricing: we’ll start inching toward the middle of the month at around $294, roughly where the 3080 and 3090 launched. For most of Europe, this will be the second wave of pricing. In China, expect the second wave to arrive in mid-June with the 3060 linings up alongside the 3070 and 3080. Finally, older models of the 3060 may still be available until late July or early August, depending on when the flows start to slow to a trickle.

Depending on your own specific use cases, you may or may not want a third GPU. If you play mostly AAA games at high enough resolutions, there’s little use for a discrete graphics card, and unless you also stream, 3 GPUs should be fine (though if streaming is your thing, then two would be best). If 3 GPUs are more your thing, a card like the GeForce GTX 1060 may be a better pick. If you’d rather spend a little extra and get 3 GPUs ($699 minus $100 for each additional GPU) before the lineups begin to stabilize, you could go with the $799 Founders Edition GTX 1060.

(and yes, there are reasonable 8TB variations of each of those discrete cards too). Even more accurately, at the current sales price of ~$450 there are at least 3 high-end GPUs available at that price and up to 3 possible combinations of memory and clock speed combinations within that price range. Another twist: The standard GTX 1080 is also available at this price, as well as a huge number of configurations with between ~$330 and ~$510 in pricing. The GTX 1080 gets you 1/4 the RTX 3060 performance and 4/16 the RTX 3080 performance, a weird 25 percent cut across the board. Again, you may be able to find a GTX 1080 for less than that, with some configs even offering cards at that price.

As you can see, it's quite possible that you’re not going to find any significant benefit in upgrading from the current consumer-targeted 3060 Ti lineup to the RTX 3060 lineup right now. It’s very unlikely to find a significant reduction in performance if you go with the ~$350 base price.

So, you are a current user of a 3060 Ti and are deciding between the 3060 and 3070? The 3070 is a valid choice if you have a high-end graphics card that you would like to upgrade to shortly, or if since you bought it you’ve bought another graphics card that did offer significant performance gains. In general, though, I feel like the 3060 is the better choice for anyone buying a 2020 $330 to $500 gaming system. If your personal needs are for more performance and your graphics card wasn’t part of the current 3070 lineups that were released towards the end of 2019, I would take a pass on the 3060. If you took just one thing away from this article, let it be this: Don’t waste your money buying after-market parts for the 3060.