I know, I know, it’s hard to be excited about new graphics cards when there’s a chip shortage and scalpers and crypto miners are snatching up all the stock before regular ol’ consumers can buy ‘em. I know. Waiting sucks, especially when new GPUs keep cropping up. But while that money is burning a hole in your pocket, you have the time to wait for reviews to roll in and really think about what new graphics card will work best for the rig you’re upgrading or building. Or perhaps you can take this time to save some extra money for the bigger and better GPU. That’s the position I’d most likely find myself in deciding between Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 and RTX 3060 Ti. If the RTX 3060 stock is available and you have can easily afford it, I’d take the Ti version over the base 3060 in a heartbeat.
The RTX 3060 is not a bad card. It gets superb 1080p and 1440p performance in the majority of games, and can hit over or close to 60 frames per second with ray tracing on. It covers a lot of ground for having similar specs to its more mature Ti sibling. But the RTX 3060 Ti just gives you better performance for your dollar, and part of that comes down to how the two cards are specced.
While the RTX 3060 has 12GB of VRAM (video memory) compared to the 3060 Ti’s 8GB, and even a slightly higher boost clock than the Ti, the RTX 3060's 192-bit memory bus drags it down. The smaller the memory bus, the less data than can flow to and from the GPU. The RTX 3060 Ti has a 256-bit memory bus, so its overall bandwidth is almost 100 Gbps more than the RTX 3060. More bandwidth means better performance, of course, but it was somewhat surprising just how much better the RTX 3060 Ti preformed compared to the 3060 for being only $70 more. (I’m talking MSRP prices here—if you’re dealing with scalpers, all bets are off.)
I compared the RTX 3060 to the 3070, 3060 Ti, and the older RTX 2060 using a system configured with the following parts: Intel Core i9-10900K CPU; Asus ROG Maximus Extreme XII motherboard; 16GB (8GB x2) G.Skill Trident Z Royal DDR4-3600 DRAM; Samsung 970 Evo NVMe M.2 500GB SSD; Seasonic Focus GX-1000 PSU; and a Corsair H150i Pro RGB 360mm AIO for cooling.
The RTX 3060 averaged a 5-15 fps lead over the RTX 2060, depending on the resolution. (The higher the frame rate gap, the lower the resolution.) The RTX 2060 was $349 when it was first released—just $20 more than what the 3060 retails for. The RTX 3060 Ti averaged a 15-30 fps lead, and in some cases, 40 fps, over the RTX 3060.
That sort of puts the 3060 in a weird spot; it gets better performance for less over the previous generation, but it’s not enough to make a compelling argument for someone with an RTX 2060 to upgrade to a 3060. In this case, that massive frame rate gap between the 3060 and 3060 Ti makes shelling out some extra cash totally worth it.
Also, there is no Founders Edition of the RTX 3060—just cards from partners like Asus, MSI, etc. That’s not such a terrible thing for most people I would imagine. The card reviewed here is from EVGA and it works great. It even comes with the standard 8-pin power connector, unlike the Founders versions of the RTX 3080, 3070, and 3060 Ti that have a svelte 12-pin connector but need an adapter that juts out of the card like a two-headed snake. But if you prefer the aesthetics of Nvidia’s Founders cards, you are also out of luck with the RTX 3060 on that end, too.
And to further complicate things, Nvidia is re-releasing the RTX 2060 to help ease the graphics card shortage. No telling when that will happen, but it seems like that will put the RTX 3060 in an even weirder spot. Anyone looking for a simple GPU that can handle every game at 1080p, and even a few games at 1440p, is probably going to go for the RTX 2060 if it’s decently cheaper than the RTX 3060.
When a newer card only has a 5-15 fps lead over its older version, and it can still get 60 fps in a demanding game like Metro Exodus at 1080p on ultra, that makes the older one the “good enough” card—the card that people on a budget will probably go for over the RTX 3060. At least I would.
It might have made more sense to put a 256-bit memory bus with 8GB of VRAM in the RTX 3060, given how much more performance the RTX 3060 Ti gets. But then again, maybe that would have raised the price a bit, and Nvidia likely wanted to hit a specific price point to cover a smaller segment of consumers who might be interested in the RTX 3060. Or maybe Nvidia purposefully made that large performance gap so more people would spend an extra $70 for the Ti version. I can’t say for sure, but whatever the case, I’m over here saying, “Yeah, the 3060 is nice...BUT THE 3060 Ti!”
AMD is also not far away from announcing its next graphics card, which could rival either the RTX 3060 Ti or RTX 3060—or both! As we’ve reviewed previously, AMD’s RTX 6800 XT and RTX 6800 excelled in non-ray tracing performance, besting even Nvidia’s flagship cards. It’s likely the RTX 3060 will still beat AMD in ray tracing, though, based on our previous testing.
Those who will probably benefit most from upgrading to an RTX 3060 are those who are using a GTX 1660 Ti or below. The performance increase is too small to justify moving from a RTX 2060 or above, especially not at scalping prices. But maybe, just maybe, the scalpers and crypto miners won’t touch this graphics card. (Fingers crossed.)
- No Founders Edition
- Small performance increase over the RTX 2060
- Might have to compete with the RTX 2060 if Nvidia re-releases it
- The RTX 3060 Ti is the more enticing GPU thanks to the massive performance increase over the RTX 3060