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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RTX 3060 ray tracing performance

We also benchmarked the RTX 3060 in a handful of titles that support cutting-edge real-time ray tracing effects. While the newer AMD Radeon RX 6000-series GPUs now support ray tracing, older models don’t, so we excluded the Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT from these results.

Nvidia holds a key advantage in ray-traced games thanks to its Deep Learning Super Sampling technology (DLSS), which leverages AI tensor cores embedded in RTX GPUs to internally render games at a lower resolution, then uprez them to your desired resolution using machine learning to fill in the gaps. DLSS 2.0 works like black magic and gives Nvidia a strong lead in ray tracing performance. Without it, you usually can’t run ray-traced games above 1080p resolution.

The Nvidia GPUs we included below all support DLSS, however, and we’ve shown three results for each card: native performance with ray tracing off, native performance with ray tracing on, and performance when both ray tracing and DLSS are active.

We plan to expand our ray-traced game suite soon, but for now we’re giving Watch Dogs: Legion, Metro: Exodus and Shadow of the Tomb Raider a whirl to put the capabilities to the test, with ray tracing options set to Ultra in each title. Legion packs ray-traced reflections, Tomb Raider includes ray-traced shadows, and Metro features more strenuous (and mood-enhancing) ray-traced global illumination.

Let’s kick things off with Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s ray-traced shadows. The game includes the first-generation version of DLSS, which doesn’t support 1080p resolution, so we’ve stuck to raw ray tracing performance only there.

rtx sotr 1080 Brad Chacos/IDG
rtx sotr 1440 Brad Chacos/IDG

Metro: Exodus uses ray tracing for global illumination. It also uses DLSS 1.0 and doesn’t support the upscaling feature at 1080p, so we’ve only included raw ray tracing performance on that chart.

rtx metro 1080 Brad Chacos/IDG
rtx metro 1440 Brad Chacos/IDG

Watch Dogs: Legion hammers your system regardless of whether you have ray tracing on, at least with the high-resolution texture pack installed. Activating the ray-traced reflections exacerbates the issue. Unlike Tomb Raider and Metro, Watch Dogs uses the faster, better DLSS 2.0 technology. We test it with DLSS Balanced mode active. Balanced lets you hit higher frame rates than the Quality mode, but the even faster Performance mode starts to introduce visual differences you can notice in some scenes. Balanced hits the sweet spot.

rtx wdl 1080 Brad Chacos/IDG
rtx wdl 1440 Brad Chacos/IDG

Next page: Power, thermals, and noise

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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