Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 review: It's fine

Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 is a competent graphics card in a time where being good enough is all it takes to sell out.

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Our test system

We’re in the process of moving to a new AMD Ryzen 5000-series test rig to be able to benchmark the effect of PCIe 4.0 support on modern GPUs, as well as the performance-boosting AMD Smart Access Memory and Nvidia Resizable BAR features (which are both based on the same underlying PCIe standard). Currently, we’re testing it on an open bench with AMD’s Wraith Max air cooler; in the future, we’ll be moving the setup into a case and adding an NZXT Kraken liquid cooler to the mix. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the storage ourselves.

We’re comparing the $330 EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 XC Black Gaming against last generation’s $350 Nvidia RTX 2060 Founders Edition, as well as the Founders Edition model of the newer $500 RTX 3070. We also included EVGA’s overclocked, custom FTW3 Ultra version of the $400 RTX 3060 Ti as we didn’t have Nvidia’s FE card immediately on hand. Rounding things out, we also show benchmarks for AMD’s $350 Radeon RX 5700 and $400 Radeon RX 5700 XT. We didn’t have time to fully benchmark the $400 RTX 2060 Super FE and $500 RTX 2070 on the new system yet, alas.

We test a variety of games spanning various engines, genres, vendor sponsorships (Nvidia, AMD, and Intel), and graphics APIs (DirectX 11, DX12, and Vulkan). Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets unless otherwise noted, with VSync, frame rate caps, real-time ray tracing or DLSS effects, and FreeSync/G-Sync disabled, along with any other vendor-specific technologies like FidelityFX tools or Nvidia Reflex. We’ve also enabled temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) to push these cards to their limits. We run each benchmark at least three times and list the average result for each test.

We won’t be providing commentary for each game’s results. For overall performance evaluations, check out our final “Should you buy it?” section of this review.

Gaming performance benchmarks

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion is one of the first games to debut on next-gen consoles. Ubisoft upgraded its Disrupt engine to include cutting-edge features like real-time ray tracing and Nvidia’s DLSS. We disable those effects for this testing, but Legion remains a strenuous game even on high-end hardware with its optional high-resolution texture pack installed. The game allocates more than 8GB of memory even at 1440p. Oof.

watch dogs Brad Chacos/IDG

Horizon Zero Dawn

Yep, PlayStation exclusives are coming to the PC now. Horizon Zero Dawn runs on Guerrilla Games’ Decima engine, the same engine that powers Death Stranding. It launched in a rough state but handles much better now, and it’s a looker.

hzd Brad Chacos/IDG

Next page: gaming benchmarks continue

At a Glance
  • Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 is an okay graphics card for no-compromises 1080p gaming in a time where being good enough is all it takes to sell out. EVGA's custom XC Black Gaming version offers no frills but runs cool and quiet.

    Pros

    • No-compromises 1080p gaming
    • 12GB of memory
    • Nvidia's excellent software/features: G-Sync, DLSS, Reflex, and more
    • EVGA's XC Black Gaming is small, cool, and quiet

    Cons

    • 1440p gaming often requires visual tweaks to hit 60fps
    • Slightly more performance, slightly less price vs. last gen
    • MSRP is higher than we'd like
    • Hard to find at MSRP in today's wild GPU market
    • No backplate or other frills in EVGA's XC Black Gaming
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