Two of the best budget graphics cards on the market right now are NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3050 and 3060. It’s a great time to compare the 3050 vs 3060 because, thankfully, GPU prices have lowered and stabilised after the shortage-induced price hikes. It’s a great time to buy a 30-series card before the 40-series hits the market.
According to the most recent Steam Hardware Survey, the RTX 3060 is the most-used GPU of the current NVIDIA generation, and for good reason: it’s a midrange card at close to budget price. The RTX 3050, however, sits more firmly in the lower end of the market, and is even more budget friendly than the 3060.
Many PC gamers were underwhelmed by the 3050 when it launched in January, but much of this was due to the unreasonable GPU prices at the time. Now that prices have dropped, the 3050 remains somewhat competitive against the 3060.
But just how competitive is it, exactly? To answer this, we must look at how the two cards perform and compare this to their price difference.
3060 vs 3050: Differences
NVIDIA’s RTX 3060 and 3050 graphics cards are the low-midrange options from the company’s current GPU generation.
Neither card launched with the original line-up towards the end of 2019. Instead, the RTX 3060 launched in February 2021, and the RTX 3050 launched almost an entire year later in January 2022. Before the 3050 launched, the 3060 was this generation’s go-to budget GPU, but the 3050 gave gamers an even cheaper low-end option.
Both cards share the same GPU, but it’s scaled back substantially on the 3050, making it less powerful (but it also consumes less power). This less powerful card hit the market at a time when cards were perpetually out of stock and expensive when they were in, thanks to the GPU shortage. This led some to speculate that the 3050 was little more than a bone to throw to hopeful PC gamers.
But now that prices have stabilised somewhat and GPU stocks are (mostly) back to normal, we can make a better, fairer comparison between the two cards’ price-performance offerings.
RTX 3050 OEM vs Original
There are two core versions of NVIDIA’s RTX 3050: the original one, and the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) version.
The OEM 3050 is one that’s sold by NVIDIA to manufacturers to resell as part of their builds—in prebuilt gaming PCs, for example.
The OEM version is roughly the same as the original, but slightly less powerful. It has a couple-hundred fewer CUDA cores, two fewer SMs (Stream Multiprocessors), two fewer RT Cores, and a slightly lower core and boost clock.
While there’s not a big difference between the two, opting for the OEM version might still cost you a few frames here and there. So, if you’re buying a prebuilt PC, you might want to check which version you’re getting so you can manage your expectations.
The RTX 3050 has an MSRP of $249 and the RTX 3060 has an MSRP of $329. This means the 3060 costs $80, or 32%, more than the 3050.
But even though prices have somewhat stabilised, GPUs still tend to cost more than their recommended retail prices. In practice, at the time of writing you might pick up a 3050 for $320-370, and a 3060 for anywhere from $410-590, depending on the model and whether it has any online deals going.
The price percentage difference between the two cards in practice is usually about the same as the MSRP price percentage difference, with the 3060 costing about a third extra.
|RTX 3050||RTX 3060|
|Memory||8GB GDDR6||12GB GDDR6|
|Clock speed (base/boost)||1.55GHz / 1.78GHz||1.32GHz / 1.78GHz|
|Power connector||1x 8-pin||1x 8-pin|
NVIDIA’s RTX 3060 and 3050 might have the same GA106 GPU, but they’re nonetheless quite different. The 3050’s GPU has been dialled back quite significantly when compared to its bigger sibling.
In fact, specs are lower pretty much across the board on the RTX 3050. It has fewer CUDA Cores, Tensor Cores, and RT Cores. It also has less memory, and the memory that it does have is slower thanks to its 128-bit bus compared to the 3060’s 192-bit bus.
The RTX 3050’s core clock is also a little slower, but its boost clock is the same, and boost clocks are what should really matter for gaming.
For gaming, probably the biggest thing favouring the RTX 3060 is its extra 1,000+ CUDA Cores, which handle traditional rendering—the bulk of GPU processing while gaming. There are also almost 50% more RT Cores in the 3060 for ray tracing.
The 3050’s scaled back GA106 GPU, on the other hand, as we would expect, frees up an extra 40W of power, making it one of the lowest-power GPUs of the current generation.
Specs can give you a good idea of how well a GPU should perform compared to another one, but nothing beats checking its real-world performance. Seeing how the RTX 3050 and 3060 perform in games is the best way to figure out their different use cases.
That’s why we’ve looked over reviews for these graphics cards from sites like PCGamer, TechSpot, TechRadar and many others, comparing benchmarks to get a feel for how these cards perform in various systems under different performance tests.
As we would expect, they have different pros and cons at different resolutions. Let’s take a closer look.
1080p is where both the 3060 and 3050 shine. They are, after all, at the budget end of the 30-series line-up.
Both cards should get you over 60fps in most games at 1080p on high if not max settings, making them great budget options for the 1080p gamer. Both should also net you enough frames to handle high refresh rate gaming in less graphically intensive games, or in games that have their graphics settings lowered.
Comparing benchmark results, we see that the 3060 performs about 34% better than the 3050 on average—this being very game-dependent, of course. This means that it outperforms its extra cost, making it well worth the money at 1080p.
The 3050 should be more than powerful enough for gaming at 1080p if you’re on a budget. It should get you above 60fps in any game, providing you’re alright running some of these games at lower than max settings. And if you tend to play less graphically intensive games, it should be enough even for high refresh rate gaming.
But some games won’t reach 60fps on max settings at 1080p with an RTX 3050. For the most graphically intensive games—some modern triple-A titles, for example—the 3060 will get you closer to (or above) 60fps while the 3050 will struggle.
If you can spare the extra money for an RTX 3060, you’ll be able to get above 60fps in almost any game at 1080p and will even be able to play some more graphically intensive games at high refresh rates.
While neither the 3050 nor 3060 are perfect for 1440p gaming—an RTX 3060 Ti is a better bet in this regard—they can both handle it, especially with DLSS enabled in-game. The RTX 3060 is much better than the 3050 for 1440p gaming if you don’t enable DLSS, though.
Benchmark results show that the 3060 performs about 36% better than the 3050 on average at 1440p. The difference is slightly bigger than at 1080p, meaning the 3060’s extra cost is even further justified over the 3050.
But percentage differences arguably aren’t as important as the actual framerates that you’re likely to see at 1440p, because at this resolution each frame counts to get you close to your refresh rate.
What we see is that, at 1440p, an RTX 3060 will get you closer to the 60fps threshold in most games at max settings, while the RTX 3050 will struggle to hit 50fps or even 40fps in some titles. So, if you want to play graphically intensive games on high or max settings, the 3060 will be a better bet. But if you don’t play games that are so graphically intensive, or you don’t mind lowering your settings, the 3050 might also cut it.
The game changer at this resolution, though, is NVIDIA’s DLSS (not to be confused with DLDSR) technology, which uses deep learning to upscale your resolution. If you enable DLSS even the RTX 3050 can get above 60fps in most games at max settings. And while not every game has DLSS support, more and more are starting to, these days.
Unfortunately, neither the RTX 3050 nor the RTX 3060 performs well at 4K. Neither GPU will be able to hit 60fps at max settings in most games at 4K resolution.
However, just like DLSS helps the 3050 at 1440p, it helps the 3060 at 4K. If you enable DLSS, an RTX 3060 should average close to 60fps in many games (except perhaps the most graphically intensive ones) at 4K resolution on high settings. The 3050 will probably still struggle, however.
If you’re going to be gaming at 4K, it’s probably best to opt for at least an RTX 3060 Ti, and preferably an RTX 3080 if your budget allows for it. But if you don’t mind sitting a little below 60fps and enabling DLSS, the 3060 can manage 4K in a pinch. And if you play older or less demanding titles, it could serve you well at this resolution.
Ray Tracing and DLSS
One thing that both the 3050 and 3060 have going for them over their previous-gen competitors like the GTX 1660 Ti, GTX 1660 Super, or RTX 2060, is their upgraded architecture that improves ray tracing performance.
This being said, ray tracing still tanks performance, and enabling it with budget cards like the 3060 and 3050 risks unplayable framerates, even at 1080p.
However, this is, yet again, where DLSS can step in. In many games, enabling DLSS can almost completely counteract the frame drops that ray tracing causes. For instance, if you would get 80fps at 1080p with an RTX 3060, but only 55fps with ray tracing enabled, enabling DLSS could push it back to 80fps again.
For both of these cards—but especially the 3050—enabling ray tracing is probably a bad idea even at 1080p unless you enable DLSS. If you enable DLSS as well, however, you should get close to the performances outlined above for each resolution.
NVIDIA RTX 3050 vs 3060: Which GPU Should You Buy?
Comparing the RTX 3050 vs 3060, we can see that both cards are well worth their respective costs, and either can be best for gaming depending on what you want to use it for.
The RTX 3050 is great for 1080p gaming if you don’t mind lowering some games’ graphics settings down a touch to keep games at or above 60fps, or if you don’t play many graphically demanding games. It can even game at 60fps on high settings in many games at 1440p resolution if you enable DLSS.
The RTX 3060, on the other hand, costs $80 more at MSRP, but this price increase is more than justified by its better performance at 1080p and 1440p. If you game at 1440p and want to get closer to hitting 60fps on max settings in most games, a 3060 is the better option. And if you want to be guaranteed 60fps (or close enough) on pretty much any game at 1080p on max settings, the 3060 should give you this.
An RTX 3060 is a much more versatile and future proof card. This is especially true if you game at 1080p, because with a 3060 you can feel confident that even future, more graphically intensive games should run at close to max settings at stable, playable framerates. But if you want to save as much as possible, a 3050 is more than capable at 1080p, and even at 1440p with DLSS enabled.