Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition review: Spectacular 1440p gaming

 pcworld.com  12/01/2020 14:00:00   Brad Chacos

After a high-end shootout between Nvidia and AMD resulted in not one, not two, but six different graphics cards released with sky-high $500+ price tags, the next generation is finally trickling down to more affordable price points with the launch of the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti on December 2. This excellent GPU may actually be the most exciting entry in Nvidias RTX 30-series yet.

At $400, the RTX 3060 Ti costs significantly more than the 60- and 70-class GeForce options of yesteryear (anybody remember the $330 GTX 970 and $380 GTX 1070?), continuing a trend weve seen in recent graphics card families. But if you can look past the name, youll find the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti delivers a lot of value, pumping out frames faster than last generations $800 GeForce RTX 2080 Superthe second-fastest graphics card in the world up until a few months agofor half the price. Yes, that includes ray tracing performance. Nvidias latest graphics card soundly rings the death knell for older, similarly priced graphics cards like the Radeon RX 5700-series and the GeForce RTX 2060 Super.

Today, were digging into Nvidias GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition, priced squarely at this GPUs $400 MSRP. Giddy-up.

GeForce RTX 3060 Ti specs, features, and design

rtx 3060 ti 7 Brad Chacos/IDG

Unlike the GeForce RTX 3090, RTX 3080, and RTX 3070 reviews, this one is pretty straightforward. The GeForce RTX 3060 Ti features a cut-down version of the $500 RTX 3070s GA104 GPU, based on the companys new Ampere graphics architecture. Nvidias more affordable card packs roughly 17 percent fewer simultaneous multiprocessors (SMs), a ratio that carries over to the CUDA cores, RT cores, tensor cores, and texture units found within those SMs. Nvidia also cut down the render output unit (ROP) count by roughly the same margin.

The GeForce RTX 3060 Ti includes the hardware counts shown in the Nvidia-supplied chart below, which compares the new GPU against last generations GeForce RTX 2060 Super and the aforementioned 3070. Its worth noting that the newer RT and tensor cores in the RTX 30-series, paired with the higher raw performance of these GPUs, deliver vastly improved ray tracing performance compared to the 2060 Super, even though the 3060 Ti offers far fewer tensor cores and a similar RT core count. (We dove deeper into Amperes ray tracing and DLSS performance in our RTX 3080 review.)

rtx 3060 ti specs Nvidia

The GeForce RTX 3070 also runs a bit faster, with a 1,725MHz Boost clock speed versus the RTX 3060 Tis 1,665MHz rating. In practice, though, all Nvidia cards exceed their rated speeds with help from the GPU Boost feature, which takes your graphics cards thermals and power into consideration to bump up speeds automatically. Factoring in all the tweaks, the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti consumes slightly less power than its bigger sibling, but yet more power than last-gens RTX 2060 Super, splitting the difference with a 200-watt rating. That reveals Amperes improved efficiency, however, as the RTX 2080 Super that this GPU outguns was rated for 250W.

Nvidia carried the full memory configuration of the RTX 3070 down to the RTX 3060 Ti, equipping the new GPU with 8GB of GDDR6 memory across a 256-bit bus, for a total memory bandwidth of 448GB/s. Thats a fine amount for the 1440p gaming this graphics card targets, and a smart move by Nvidia as rival Radeon RX 6000-series cards look poised to increase raw capacity while leveraging their innovative Infinity Cache throughout AMDs entire lineup. The non-Super RTX 2060 launched in 2018 with 6GB of GDDR6 memory, but that more limited amount probably wont hold up well as modern games become more strenuous, especially when ray tracing is active.

rtx 3060 ti 13 Brad Chacos/IDG

Nvidias current GeForce RTX 30-series Founders Edition product stack. (Hey-o!) From top: RTX 3060 Ti, 3070, 3080, 3090.

Design-wise, the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition mirrors Nvidias RTX 3070 FE, but its outer shroud is a lighter shade of silver, as opposed to the more gunmetal-like sheen of the higher-end models. That means its a standard 2-slot, 9.5-inch size, and much smaller than the Founders Edition coolers found on Nvidias higher-end RTX 3080 and 3090. Heres how we described the RTX 3070 FEs cooler:

The Founders Edition model were reviewing today still uses Nvidias tiny, highly customized PCB with a notch taken out of it to help with airflow. This means that like the other FE cards revealed so far, it powers on via a proprietary 12-pin connector. Nvidia includes an (ugly, short) adapter in the box. Unlike the more powerful RTX 30-series Founders Edition cards, however, the 12-pin connector is located horizontally in the middle of the edge of the card, rather than positioned vertically and at a 45-degree angle. If your cases power supply shroud has a cutout for wires underneath your GPU, this is a much better placement.

rtx 3060 ti 11 Brad Chacos/IDG

Thats not the only design change. Nvidia created a highly unique custom flow-through cooling solution for the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090, with independent push-pull fans and bristling, thick metal heat fins comprising the body of the card itself. Its very effective.

The GeForce RTX 3070 [and 3060 TiEd.] changes things up a wee bit. Rather than having one fan on the top and the bottom of the card in a push-pull configuration, the RTX 3070 FE places both fans in their standard places in the face of the card and adds a sleek backplate to the top. The two fans pushes air through the heatsink; the blower-style fan at the rear of the card expels heat through the I/O bracket, while the other one sends the hot air through a cut-out in the backplate back into the top of your system, where it can be sucked out by your cases rear outtake fan. Its functionally the same idea as the cooler on the more powerful RTX 30-series cards, but it takes a different path to get there.

rtx 3060 ti 12 Brad Chacos/IDG

Port report

Nvidia kept the display outputs the same as well, with three DisplayPort 1.4 connections and a single HDMI 2.1 port capable of 144Hz 4K or 8K60 video output over a single cable, along with AV1 decode support for watching 8K videos without stutter or dropping frames. Rival Radeon RX 6000-series graphics cards match that loadout, but swap one of the DisplayPorts for USB-C. The custom PCB inside the 3060 Ti isnt quite as exotic as the V-notched version found in the RTX 3080 and 3090, but it remains much shorter than typical.

ampere 3060ti 3qtr front right pcb edit Nvidia

Of course, the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti supports all Nvidias extensive software features, some of which are truly killer apps for specific uses. Streamers will appreciate the best-in-class NVENC GPU encoder and the AI-enhanced Nvidia Broadcast suite, esports competitors will dig the Nvidia Reflex suite, and content creators swear by CUDA and Optix optimizations in prosumer apps. The graphics card comes equipped with a cutting-edge PCIe 4.0 connection (though only modern Ryzen platforms support it right now). The card will also support RTX I/O, an upcoming technology built upon Microsofts DirectStorage API that allows your GPU and NVMe SSD to talk directly, obliterating game-loading times on the PC.

Finally, its worth noting that Nvidias more mature ray tracing technology outperforms the first-gen implementation in AMDs rival Radeon RX 6000-series graphics cards. It also gets a huge shot in the arm with Nvidias Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) feature, which helps regain frames lost to ray tracings heavy impact. AMD has no answer for it yet. If you want the best ray tracing graphics cards, Team Green is a no-brainer.

Got it? Good. Lets get gaming.

Next page: Our test system, gaming benchmarks begin

Page 2

Our dedicated graphics card test system is a couple of years old, but it's packed with some of the fastest complementary components available to put any potential performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU, especially at the higher resolution these graphics cards target. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves.

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($300 on Amazon) overclocked to 5GHz all cores
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($105 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($355 on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($352 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($70 each on Amazon)

We’re comparing the $400 GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition against Nvidia’s Founders Edition models of the $500 GeForce RTX 3070 and last-generation’s $350 RTX 2060, $500 RTX 2070, and $800 2080 Super. We opted to include the 2080 Super over the non-Super version, as this is the card Nvidia compares against the RTX 3060 Ti. We’ve also included benchmarks for AMD’s new $580 Radeon RX 6800 and last-gen $400 Radeon RX 5700 XT.

rtx 3060 ti 2 Brad Chacos/IDG

The GeForce RTX 3060 Ti in our test system.

We test a variety of games spanning various engines, genres, vendor sponsorships (Nvidia, AMD, and Intel), and graphics APIs (DirectX 11, DX12, and Vulkan). Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets unless otherwise noted, with VSync, frame rate caps, real-time ray tracing or DLSS effects, and FreeSync/G-Sync disabled, along with any other vendor-specific technologies like FidelityFX tools or Nvidia Reflex. We’ve also enabled temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) to push these cards to their limits. We run each benchmark at least three times and list the average result for each test.

Nvidia’s claims prove true: The GeForce RTX 3060 Ti indeed winds up a hair faster than the last-gen RTX 2080 Super across the board—Wolfenstein Youngblood is the lone exception, and that gap is very close. The older RTX 2060 Founders Edition gets absolutely massacred by Nvidia’s new GPU. Given that, we’ll present these standard benchmarks without further commentary.

GeForce RTX 3060 Ti gaming benchmarks

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion is one of the first games to debut on next-gen consoles. Ubisoft upgraded its Disrupt engine to include cutting-edge features like real-time ray tracing and Nvidia’s DLSS. We disable those effects for this testing, but Legion remains a strenuous game even on high-end hardware with its optional high-resolution texture pack installed. No card can maintain a 60-frames-per-second average with Ultra graphics options enabled, and the game allocates more than 8GB of memory even at 1440p. Oof.

watch dogs legion Brad Chacos/IDG

Horizon Zero Dawn

Yep, PlayStation exclusives are coming to the PC now. Horizon Zero Dawn runs on Guerrilla Games’ Decima engine, the same engine that powers Death Stranding. Ambient Occlusion can offer iffy results if set to Ultra, so we test with that setting at Medium. Every other visual option is maxed out.

hzd Brad Chacos/IDG

Next page: Gaming benchmarks continue

  • Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 Ti is faster than last-generation's RTX 2080 Super for half the price, delivering spectacular 1440p gaming performance for $400. Ray tracing and Nvidia's software features are top-notch, but minor quibbles persist in Nvidia's Founders Edition design

    • Spectacular 1440p gaming
    • Faster than RTX 2080 Super for 50% less
    • 8GB of memory is good for 1440p
    • Great ray tracing performance with DLSS
    • Cool, reasonably quiet custom cooling
    • Nvidia software: Reflex, G-Sync, Shadowplay, Broadcast, RTX IO, DLSS
    • Not as quiet as other RTX 30 Founders Edition GPUs, some custom cards
    • 12-pin power adapter is ugly
    • 8GB of GDDR6 memory limits future 4K gaming potential
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