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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Should you buy the GeForce RTX 3060?

It’s hard to recommend buying any graphics card right now. Overwhelming demand, supply woes, tariffs, scalpers, and cryptocurrency miners have sent availability plummeting and prices skyrocketing. Currently, a couple of weeks after launch, there is no stock available at any major etailer. Most custom models cost closer to $500 even before scalping begins. You can’t blame the manufacturers for hopping on the gravy train, but if you wind up seeing any RTX 3060 going for $330 in the wild anytime near the publication date of this review, hop on it pronto.

evga geforce rtx 3060 xc black gaming 2 Brad Chacos/IDG

Nvidia’s pitching this as a replacement for the popular GTX 1060, which remains the most popular card on Steam’s Hardware Survey. The GeForce RTX 3060 would be a significant upgrade over the GTX 1060. That card launched at $250 though. Asking $330 for this upgrade is a big price increase even with ray tracing and DLSS capabilities added. Back in the day, the GTX 1060 could also play 1080p games without compromise, with the ability to play games at 1440p with some visual tweaks—just like the RTX 3060.

Paying $500-plus for a 60-class GeForce GPU is just madness. Go stream some games over GeForce Now instead, if you have a good Internet connection, and wait out this bloodbath. Nvidia’s cloud gaming service hooks into existing PC platforms so you don’t need to buy new games for it.

Ignoring the terrible modern GPU market, if we evaluate the RTX 3060 based on MSRP alone, it’s an uninspiring upgrade to the $350 RTX 2060. Its performance lands it in roughly the same territory as the $400 RTX 2060 Super or $500 RTX 2070. In many games, AMD’s older Radeon RX 5700 XT beats it, while the non-XT 5700 hangs tough in several titles (though it’s also smashed in others). Those launched at $400 and $350, respectively.

After seeing how far the pricier RTX 30-series pushed performance past their predecessors, the RTX 3060’s results are a bit deflating. We would’ve liked it much more at $300 or even less, but given today’s surging market, it makes sense for Nvidia to price the GPU higher to bolster its own bank account. At MSRP, the $400 GeForce RTX 3060 Ti is a much more powerful, much more compelling option.

evga geforce rtx 3060 xc black gaming 3 Brad Chacos/IDG

The RTX 3060 is fine though, as we said at the beginning. It’s okay. But unlike the other RTX 30-series offerings, it’s nothing special. If you need a graphics card for 60-fps gaming at 1080p Ultra quality, this will scratch that itch, and the RTX 3060 can push even higher refresh rates in some games. You can also dabble in 1440p gaming if you don’t mind bumping the visual settings down a bit in modern titles. With an ample (read: overkill) 12GB of VRAM onboard, you’ll never have to worry about running out of memory. That’s great! And Nvidia’s DLSS and latency-reducing Reflex technologies remain a massive difference maker in games that support it.

Turning our attention to this specific graphics card, the EVGA XC Black Gaming lacks fancy extras like a backplate, RGB lighting, and a secondary BIOS, but it should fit into almost any system--and it runs cool and quiet. There’s no need to spend up for a more expensive model simply for better cooling performance. The price is certainly right for today’s insane GPU market—if you can find one.

Don’t expect many of the baseline-cost RTX 3060 models to be made. Most vendors will focus their attentions on far pricier hot-rodded models for which they can charge significantly more, even before scalpers swoop in. 

Don’t spend $500 or more on a graphics card like this. I wouldn’t personally spend $400 on an RTX 3060—even a luxurious high-end model with every bell and whistle you can think of. They’re already being sold for $600 or more on resale sites. The GeForce RTX 3060 is just a good-enough graphics card in a time where even okay, fine GPUs sell out instantly for staggering amounts.

Pay up if you must, but sit on the sidelines for now if you can.

This story, "Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 review: It's fine" was originally published by PCWorld.

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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