If everything had been normal in the desktop GPU world right now, the launch of the GeForce RTX 3060 would have been met with enthusiasm for bringing ray tracing effects to a new mass-market price point as well as the usual generational performance gains. However, things are far from normal – cryptocurrency miners are once again causing huge shortages in the market, both AMD and Nvidia are unable to supply enough chips into the market, and prices have shot through the roof. In India especially, it's hard to find graphics cards based on any of Nvidia's 30-series or AMD's 6000-series GPUs at anywhere near their official launch prices. Things aren't expected to ease up till at least the middle of 2021.
The GeForce RTX 3060 drops right into this chaos, and so we don't really know at this point whether there will be adequate stock in the market and whether prices will be reasonable. Judging value for money will be especially difficult. On top of that, Nvidia isn't going to be selling a Founders Edition graphics card at all, so most of the options in the market will have higher MRPs than Nvidia's recommended Rs. 29,500.
You'll find multiple models based on the same GPU from all of Nvidia's partner brands. I'm reviewing Asus' ROG Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition, which is a premium implementation of this new GPU.
The Asus Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition has three fans on its oversized cooler
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 architecture and specifications
Nvidia has had a lot of success with its GeForce GPU architectures for the past several years, while competitor AMD has only just recently managed to catch up. The company describes its current Ampere GPU architecture, which powers the entire GeForce RTX 30-series, as its greatest generational leap ever. That's saying a lot, but it also glosses over the fact that RTX 30-series cards are extremely expensive, and the premium GPUs that have launched so far are well out the reach of most average gamers.
The target for the GeForce RTX 3060 is gamers who are upgrading from a mid-range card that's two or more generations old, particularly the GeForce GTX 1060 which is still so widely used that it's currently at the top of the Steam global hardware survey over four years after it launched. The xx60 tier is usually a huge seller for Nvidia, and this is where the bulk of the market is concentrated.
According to Nvidia, you can expect twice the performance of the GeForce GTX 1060 or roughly equivalent performance to that of the GeForce RTX 2070. Of course the new architecture also means better and more efficient ray tracing, which is certainly catching on in modern games. The performance target for the GeForce RTX 3060 is over 60fps with ray tracing enabled at 1080p in today's popular AAA titles. If you're not particularly interested in ray tracing, you could also step up to higher resolutions and graphics quality settings at a (theoretically) lower price than has so far been possible.
Nvidia has pared down its Ampere design, and so the GeForce RTX 3060 GPU (codenamed GA106) has 3,584 CUDA execution cores, 28 RT cores for ray tracing, and 112 Tensor cores for AI acceleration, all clustered into 28 clusters called Streaming Multiprocessors. The base clock speed is 1.32GHz and the boost speed is 1.78GHz, at least for Nvidia's hypothetical reference design. The chip uses an 8nm manufacturing process and supports PCIe Gen 4.0 speed. You can run up to four monitors at a time. Power draw is rated at 170W and at least a 550W power supply is recommended.
As with higher-end GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs that we've already reviewed, the Ampere architecture doubles throughput for some types of floating point operations as well as ray tracing performance, for realistic lighting and shadow effects. The AI comes into play mainly for Nvidia's Deep Learning Supersampling feature, or DLSS, which upscales rendered graphics allowing the rest of the GPU to work at a lower resolution, thus reducing its workload and improving speed.
Asus has gone with two HDMI ports and three DIsplayPort video outputs
All GeForce RTX 3060 graphics cards, regardless of manufacturer or design, will have 12GB of GDDR6 RAM on a 192-bit bus, delivering 360GBps of memory bandwidth. Interestingly, 12GB is much more than the 8GB you'll get with the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070, and even more than the 10GB that the premium RTX 3080 is outfitted with. That's a very strange anomaly in the lineup, perhaps motivated by AMD going with 12GB for its RDNA2-based Radeon RX 6000 series. Of course performance isn't determined by memory capacity alone, but it's worth noting.
Ray tracing is currently supported by 39 games and another 16 are on the way. Over the past year, major titles such as Cyberpunk 2077, Watch Dogs Legion, COD: Black Ops Cold War, Godfall, and even the more casual Fortnite and Minecraft have been in the news for committing to ray tracing. It's also been announced as a feature being added to Doom Eternal, The Witcher 3, Far Cry 6, and Dirt 5.
There are also benefits to the new architecture beyond gaming. You can speed up 3D and video content creation in creative and production software. Nvidia has also introduced its Broadcast suite with this generation, which leverages AI performance for noise removal, background replacement and head tracking while livestreaming. AV1 decode support can help reduce CPU usage when streaming compressed high-res video from services that use this codec.
Another benefit of all this processing power is that modern GPUs are uniquely suited to running the sort of repetitive mathematical algorithms that are used to generate or “mine” cryptocurrency. This is a leading factor in the global shortage of GPUs in retail channels. Nvidia has however decided that it's time to sell different hardware specifically for mining, specifically its new CMP (Cryptocurrency Mining Processor). As such, the GeForce RTX 3060 is the first to be deliberately designed (or handicapped, as you may see it) to limit mining performance.
It remains to be seen whether this will affect the market in any significant way, but it does mean that other RTX 30-series cards just got more desirable to bulk buyers – and therefore likely even more difficult to buy. If you're a gamer who likes casually mining on a single GPU to recoup some of the cost of your hardware or just earn a small passive income, you'll be affected by this.
You'll need only a single 8-pin PCIe power connector
Asus Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition design and features
Asus is one of several brands that will be selling graphics cards built around the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU. The ROG Strix family is pretty high up on Asus' product hierarchy, and is aimed at gamers who don't mind paying a premium for build quality, more elaborate RGB lighting, and a little bit of extra potential stability and overclockability in some cases.
Gamers do like to show off and Asus has designed this card to be much larger than it probably needs to be. The cooler and shroud are very generously proportioned and there are three axial fans. The middle one spins in the opposite direction to the other two, optimising airflow and reducing turbulence. They also spin down completely when the card isn't being stressed. Asus says they have smaller hubs and longer fins to further improve airflow.
The Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition will take up three slots' space in your PC cabinet – Asus lists it as a “2.7 slot” design which is effectively the same thing. It's nearly a foot long at 300mm, which is longer than many enthusiast-class cards, and hangs over the edge of a standard ATX motherboard. You might want to check for clearance and airflow issues in your cabinet before buying this card.
Predictably, the PCB itself is much smaller than the shroud around it. The backplate has a large hole for airflow to the heatsink fins, and of course there's an RGB-illuminated ROG logo as well. You'll find a single 8-pin PCIe power connector near the end. There's also a BIOS switch that lets you toggle between the standard Performance profile and a second Quiet profile without any software tweaking.
Asus has gone with three DisplayPort 1.4a outputs and two HDMI 2.1 ports on the rear. This is fairly generous and should allow for flexible configurations including easy swapping with a VR headset connected. It also shows that not as much space is needed for vents as on higher-end cards. The card comes with plastic dust stoppers for all the ports and the PCIe connector, which are always appreciated.
There's a huge RGB LED strip across the entire top of the shroud, which you can customise with various lighting patterns through Asus' Armory Crate software. The lights shine through the heatsink fins and are visible through the fan blades as well, making for an interesting effect at least on my open-air test rig. There are some angular metallic accents on the front of the card which will be face-down and hidden in most PC cabinets.
The RGB LED lighting can be customised using Asus' Armory Crate software
Asus Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition performance
Of course performance in games is what matters most, and it's time now to see how well the Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition does in our synthetic tests and in manual gameplay. AMD is expected to launch equivalent Radeon RX 6000-series GPUs soon, but for now the older Radeon RX 5700 and 5600 XT are the closest matches, price-wise. Asus also sent over a TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3060 Ti for comparison – this card doesn't have quite the same visual flair as the higher-end Strix series models, but is aimed at more price-conscious buyers and it's the GPU at its heart that we're interested in comparing against.
Both, the Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition and the TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, were tested on an AMD Ryzen 2700 CPU, ASRock X470 Taichi Ultimate motherboard, 2x8GB of G.Skill F4-3400C16D-16GSXW DDR4 RAM, a 1TB Samsung 860 Evo SSD, and a Corsair RM650 power supply. The monitor was a 4K Asus PB287Q. . I used Nvidia's pre-release 461.64 driver, and Windows 10 was updated to version 2H20 with all the latest patches.
Starting with synthetic workloads, the trusty 3DMark now includes dedicated tests that highlight ray tracing as well as DLS performance. We see a fairly big gulf in performance figures between the GeForce RTX 3060 and its beefier sibling, the RTX 3060 Ti. You can expect roughly about 70-75 percent the performance, but going by Nvidia's reference prices, you don't save a substantial amount of money.
The new GPU is roughly equivalent to the older GeForce RTX 2060 Super in legacy tests, and should (again, theoretically) cost less while also substantially improving results with ray tracing. We also see the GeForce RTX 3060 trading blows with the Radeon RX 5700 in standard tests. For reference, an MSI GeForce GTX 1060 Gaming X graphics card scored 4,273 and 3,168 in 3DMark's Time Spy and Fire Strike Ultra tests when reviewed at the time of its launch.
| ||Asus Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition ||Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3060 Ti ||Asus TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3070 ||Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super Founders Edition ||AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT |
|3DMark DLSS Feature Test (off / on) ||23.67fps / 58.94fps ||32.06fps / 79.31fps ||37.54fps / 88fps ||N/A ||N/A |
|3DMark Port Royal ||5,105 ||6,911 ||8,083 ||4,998 ||N/A |
|3DMark Time Spy ||8,485 ||10,719 ||11,857 ||8,771 ||7,794 |
|3DMark Time Spy Extreme ||3,925 ||5,058 ||5,912 ||4,044 ||3,521 |
|3DMark Fire Strike Extreme ||9,851 ||13,334 ||15,415 ||10,049 ||10,221 |
|3DMark Fire Strike Ultra ||5,182 ||7,304 ||8,587 ||4,552 ||5,355 |
|3DMark Ray Tracing Feature Test ||19.8fps ||27.2fps ||N/A ||N/A ||N/A |
|Unigine Superposition (4K Optimised) ||6,912 ||9,587 ||11,060 ||N/A ||N/A |
Coming to in-game benchmarks, I fired up Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 4K using the Highest quality preset. With DLSS enabled, I got a very respectable average of 53fps. Adding ray traced shadows at Medium quality brought that down to 49fps. Without DLSS or ray traced shadows, the average came to 44fps and visual quality would not be significantly distinguishable to the casual observer. If you want to stay above 60fps, you'll have to drop the resolution to at least 1440p, even with DLSS.
Far Cry 5 managed 49fps on average at 4K using its Ultra preset. Taking the resolution down to 1440p resulted in a much smoother run averaging 82fps. Similarly, Assassin's Creed: Odyssey averaged only 36fps at 4K using its Ultra High preset, but that went up to 53fps at 1440p and 62fps at 1080p. Middle Earth: Shadow of War is a little more forgiving, with averages of 48fps at 4K and 77fps at 1440p.
Metro Exodus' benchmarking tool has an RTX preset which enables DLSS, sets ray tracing quality to High and overall game quality to Ultra. At 1920x1080, this produced an average of 53.98fps which is not quite ideal but still fairly good. The minimum did drop quite a bit with one section dipping as low as 28.85fps. These scores consider the 99th percentile which eliminates the most drastic outliers that could skew averages.
Another game that uses ray tracing and DLSS is Control. I enabled DLSS with the render resolution at 1080p and display resolution at 4K. With the quality as well as ray tracing set to High, I was able to average roughly 45-50fps. As for non-RTX games, Doom Eternal is always fun and runs very well even on modest hardware. This game averaged 75-80fps at 4K using its Ultra Nightmare quality preset.
One big advantage of the oversized cooler is that the Asus Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition never got too hot and the fans never got too loud in use.
The Asus Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition is thick enough to need three free slots in your PC cabinet
The GeForce RTX 3060 GPU is a good mainstream GPU and offers great performance even at high settings in slightly older games as well as the appeal of ray tracing. However, it doesn't seem to offer as good value as the RTX 3060 Ti, in terms of performance vs price. The official price of Rs. 29,500 is a lot higher than what the GeForce GTX 1060 used to sell for. That's a result of a higher base price, unfavourable currency exchange rates, and high import taxes.
Of course Nvidia's official price of Rs. 29,500 isn't even actually what companies are charging for their cards. The Asus Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition has officially been launched for Rs. 48,000 which is quite frankly a ridiculous amount. You can pick up a GeForce RTX 3070 Founders' Edition for less than that – provided you luck out with the Indian distributor's lottery system on any of the rare occasions that it's in stock. Sadly, current market forces, and the fact that there's no Founders Edition, mean that shops have no reason at all to sell these cards at lower street prices.
If you do think the GeForce RTX 3060 is right for your needs, and if cards based on it do wind up being widely available, you should still look for a lower-priced version from Asus' TUF or Dual lineups, or consider what other brands are offering. The oversized cooler and RGB LEDs alone do not warrant such a big difference. This particular card is not the best value that you can get for your money, and it will take some legwork and luck to find a reasonable deal.
This situation reflects poorly on Nvidia as the company behind the GeForce brand. It looks as though gamers who have very tight budgets will have to hang on to their previous-generation cards for a while longer.
Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC Edition
Price: Rs. 48,000 + taxes
- Runs cool and quiet
- Good performance at >1080p in many games
- Ray tracing and DLSS deliver good results together
- Extremely expensive
- Oversized cooler
Ratings (out of 5)
- Performance: 4
- Value for Money: 2
- Overall: 3
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