Computing

Nvidia RTX 3060 vs. RTX 3050: Clash of the 1080p Graphics Cards

Nvidia has recently unveiled the RTX 3050, a budget-friendly GPU priced at $249. After the underwhelming release of the AMD RX 6500 XT, it’s crucial to approach this new offering with caution. In this comparison, we pit the RTX 3050 against its sibling, the RTX 3060, to determine which one is the superior choice for you.

Pricing and Availability

RTX 3050 graphics card among PC accessories.
Image: Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

As is the case with most graphics cards in 2022, both the RTX 3050 and RTX 3060 suffer from severe supply shortages. The RTX 3050 starts at $249, while the RTX 3060 is priced from $329. However, post-launch prices are significantly higher due to scalpers. On eBay, the RTX 3060 is being sold for around $700 to $800, with occasional special deals bringing it down to $650. As for the RTX 3050, its price from scalpers is yet to be determined, but we estimate it to range between $400 and $500 once initial stock runs out.

Your best chance of purchasing an RTX 3050 at its original price is on the day of this review’s publication: January 25. Some models, like EVGA’s RTX 3050 XC Black, are listed for $250. These stocks will disappear quickly, so it’s a great deal if you manage to get your hands on one. However, if you miss out on the initial stock, it’s difficult to determine the optimal choice. For most users, the RTX 3060 is the more desirable card based on our benchmarks, but the final decision depends on the availability and pricing of both the RTX 3050 and RTX 3060.

Specs

EVGA RTX 3060 graphics card laying on a table.
Image: Used with permission by copyright holder

While current prices may not accurately reflect the value, they serve as a reference point for performance comparisons. On paper, the RTX 3050 is about 28% cheaper than the RTX 3060. However, this reduction in price doesn’t translate linearly across the board. For instance, there’s a roughly 43% difference in core count, affecting CUDA, ray tracing, and Tensor cores. The minor decrease in boost clock speed has negligible impact, as the RTX 3050 can be easily boosted with automatic GPU overclocking. However, the reduced memory does have an impact.

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The issue with the RTX 3050 is not the 8GB of GDDR6 memory, which is sufficient for modern games, especially in the 1080p market it targets. Rather, the problem lies in its memory bandwidth. With less memory and a smaller memory bus, the RTX 3050 offers around 38% less memory bandwidth than its counterpart, the RTX 3060.

We’ll delve deeper into this in the next section, but this limited bandwidth can occasionally lead to stuttering during initial game loading. The 4GB disparity becomes more significant in massive open-world games with high-resolution textures. However, given that both of these cards cater to the 1080p market, the memory difference is less critical.

Fortunately, the RTX 3050 presents a major advantage in power consumption. With fewer cores and a slightly lower clock speed, its power draw sits at a commendable 90W. This makes it the first RTX 30-series GPU to require under 100W, which is excellent for budget builds that don’t necessitate a high-capacity power supply.

Gaming Performance

A 28% price difference should logically correspond to a performance gap, but the RTX 3050 performs admirably beyond expectations. Overall, there’s approximately a 23% difference in performance between the two cards, excluding a peculiarly large disparity in Fortnite. Here are our 1080p results using the highest graphics preset:

We conducted all tests with a Ryzen 9 5950X and 32GB of RAM, focusing solely on GPU performance. The 23% difference in overall performance is closely reflected in our 3DMark Time Spy results. In certain games, such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the performance gap shrinks to just 15%.

The most significant difference we observed was in Fortnite, where the RTX 3060 outperformed the RTX 3050 by approximately 67%. However, we excluded this game from our overall average due to its ever-evolving nature as a live service title. Performance may fluctuate as new features and maps are introduced, which explains the higher-than-average results for the RTX 3060.

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Nvidia RTX 3060 vs. RTX 3050: Battle of the 1080p GPUs.
Image: Used with permission by copyright holder

Our results don’t showcase the minimum frame rates, which is worth considering. The RTX 3050 delivered minimum frame rates in the single digits for Battlefield V, resulting in visible stuttering during initial runs as the game’s assets were loaded into memory. This issue isn’t exclusive to the RTX 3050, but the limited bandwidth exacerbates the problem.

Comparatively, the performance aligns as expected, with the RTX 3050 providing slightly better performance than its price suggests. However, the RTX 3060 remains the superior option. In large AAA titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the RTX 3060 can comfortably achieve 60 fps at 1080p on the highest graphics settings, while the RTX 3050 falls short of this mark.

Although the RTX 3050 isn’t a bad choice, particularly if you’re willing to compromise on graphical settings, the RTX 3060 offers a more realistic and satisfactory performance. Even in demanding games like Cyberpunk 2077, the RTX 3060 consistently delivers optimal performance close to the desired 60 fps. As a result, the RTX 3060 provides greater longevity, making it a worthwhile investment, especially considering the current GPU market.

Content Creation Performance

Nvidia RTX 3060 vs. RTX 3050: Battle of the 1080p GPUs
Image: Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Although primarily designed for gaming, both the RTX 3050 and RTX 3060 are capable of handling light content creation workloads. However, if content creation is your primary focus, upgrading to a more robust GPU like the RTX 3070 Ti would yield better results. Below are a few benchmark results using the same test bench:

Across our three Blender renders, the RTX 3060 demonstrated approximately 40% faster rendering times. This improvement can be attributed to the larger memory bandwidth and size, as well as the increased core count. While the RTX 3050 and RTX 3060 may not be explicitly optimized for content creation, the RTX 3060 comes remarkably close.

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Strangely, the RTX 3050 achieved a slightly higher overall score in PugetBench for Premiere Pro. However, the variance is minimal, and Premiere Pro heavily relies on CPU and RAM performance as much as GPU power. Ultimately, our results indicate that the two cards perform comparably in PugetBench, with slight variations between runs.

The Perfect Balance

Nvidia RTX 3060 vs. RTX 3050: Battle of the 1080p GPUs
Image: Used with permission by copyright holder

The RTX 3060 strikes the perfect balance. It’s a 1080p graphics card designed to deliver optimal performance on the highest graphics settings, although it falls short of the RTX 3060 Ti. On the other hand, while the RTX 3050 remains a solid choice, it doesn’t hit the same sweet spot as its counterpart. The RTX 3050 struggles to handle AAA gaming at 1080p, and these limitations will become even more apparent in the future.

Pricing is the primary concern. When the initial stock of RTX 3050 cards is exhausted, it’s challenging to predict how much cheaper it will be compared to the RTX 3060, which can reach prices as high as $850. Given the current GPU market, it’s wiser to invest in a card that will remain viable for an extended period, and the RTX 3060 is the better option in that regard.

However, it’s worth noting that there could be a significant price difference of $300 or more between the two cards in a few weeks. In such a scenario, the RTX 3050 becomes a compelling alternative, unless you stumble upon an RTX 3060 available at an exceptionally reasonable price.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Despite mixed reviews, the RTX 4060 is making waves for Nvidia
  • Best GPU deals for 2023: Get an RTX 3060 for under $300
  • Here’s why I’m glad Nvidia might discontinue its most powerful GPU
  • Did Nvidia just resolve the issue with the melting power connectors on the RTX 4090?
  • Even Nvidia’s partners lack confidence in the new RTX 4060 Ti

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