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Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 12GB Review: Hope Springs Eternal

The GeForce RTX 3060 12GB brings the theoretical price down to just $329, but when will it actually hit that price?

GeForce RTX 3060
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The launch of mainstream graphics cards always feels anticlimactic, particularly when it comes about half a year after the big splash made by the new halo parts. Fundamentally, there's nothing wrong with the RTX 3060, and it actually has a lot going for it. Performance is basically at the level of the RTX 2070 from 2018, which means it's also as fast as AMD's RX 5700 XT (give or take), plus it has ray tracing and DLSS. Power use is slightly lower, and the price has dropped by at least $170 — $270 if you include the RTX 2070 Founders Edition that launched at $599. It also includes 12GB of VRAM, 50 percent more than most of the 20-series cards, double the VRAM of the 2060, and more than the 3060 Ti, 3070, and 3080. These are all good things.

There are two main concerns. First, we think the $329 asking price is basically fantasy land right now. Remember how the RTX 2080 Ti launched at $1,199, but there were supposed to be $999 models, which pretty much never existed in any real quantity? This will be like that, only so much worse with the current market trends. Even if we forget about miners for a moment, it's clear there are a lot of other people wanting to buy mid-range and high-end graphics cards. There were GPU shortages back in September when the 3080 launched, and things have only gotten worse since then. Plus, let's be real: AMD's Ryzen 5000 parts are still in short supply, as are the best webcams, and it's very unlikely all of those are being bought up by miners. Miners do make things worse in the GPU arena, but Ampere and Big Navi would still be selling out even without their 'help.'

The other concern is with performance and features. If you look at the results, out of our current gaming suite, there were only a few instances where the 12GB VRAM had much of an impact (compared to the 8GB 3060 Ti and 2060 Super), and that was mostly at framerates that were already lower than most gamers would like. It's nice that Nvidia equipped the card with 12GB (though we still think a 6GB 3060 is coming), but more VRAM can't make up for the reduction in memory bandwidth and GPU computational prowess. Slightly better performance than an RTX 2060 Super at a moderately lower price is the least we could expect, and that's pretty much what we got.

If you can't afford a higher performance graphics card, and you can find an RTX 3060 12GB available for anything close to MSRP, in today's world, that's a great deal. Or wait until next year, and hopefully it will actually drop down to MSRP. Yeah, the prospect of waiting another 10 months to save some money doesn't thrill us either. Anyone that already has an RTX 20-series card, particularly one of the higher-end models, has been able to enjoy this level of performance for quite a while.

There's the other way of looking at things as well, which is that this is the current generation console equivalent. There are differences, of course, but an RTX 3060 should deliver pretty comparable performance to the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 — and even better performance in games that support DLSS. It's likely better for ray tracing as well, but it's far enough down the totem pole that we feel ray tracing shouldn't be high on your list of priorities if you're shopping for this card.

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We can't predict the future, but all we have to do is look at current resellers and places like eBay to know that, no matter what Nvidia does to hinder mining performance, the GeForce RTX 3060 is going to sell out. You basically can't buy any RTX 30-series or 20-series card on Newegg right now at less than double the original launch prices. The same goes for AMD's RX 5000 and RX 6000 series cards, and even the GTX 16-series GPUs. If you can find an RTX 3060 on sale today for less than $400, grab it fast — heck, buying one for $500 would still be a better deal than the $800 RTX 2060 Supers we've seen floating around.

Sadly, this is likely to be yet another product that won't be able to meet the demand for it any time soon. We hope we're wrong, we really do. But hope doesn't get you a shiny new graphics card.

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Jarred Walton

Jarred Walton's (Senior Editor) love of computers dates back to the dark ages, when his dad brought home a DOS 2.3 PC and he left his C-64 behind. He eventually built his first custom PC in 1990 with a 286 12MHz, only to discover it was already woefully outdated when Wing Commander released a few months later. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Brigham Young University and has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.