It’s no secret that 2020 has been a great year for PC gamers with both Nvidia and AMD releasing some of their most impressive graphics cards in recent memory.
Nvidia highlights have included the power house RTX 3080, which is the first card to truly offer 60fps 4K ray tracing gaming and the RTX 3070, which is one of the only GPUs to score 5/5 on Trusted Reviews in quite some time.
On AMD’s side of the fence we’ve seen the opening wave of new 6000-series cards. The cards are the first to support ray tracing and share the same core RDNA2 architecture as the PS5 and Xbox Series X’s GPUs and, as our RX 6800 review showed, they ooze potential.
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The only downside? Though they offer great performance per wattage, all the cards are fairly expensive. The 3070 is the current cheapest option, but even that costs close to £500 which makes it a fairly expensive luxury. For that price you could get the new Xbox Series X or PS5.
Which is why I can’t help but think the market needs a more affordable option, in the shape of the hotly rumoured Nvidia RTX 3060 or an even cheaper RTX 3050.
The fact is, while hardcore gamers veer towards xx70 and xx80 model cards, the cheaper xx60 and xx50 are the bread and butter most people can actually afford. The RTX 2060 cost £320 when it launched, and the GTX 1650, the last true xx50 card from Nvidia, cost a meagre £149.
If we go even further back, the GTX 1050 was a particularly great card that offered gamers solid FHD performance and a small form factor that was ideal for micro ATX and mini ITX builds. This is a key reason why back in the day the 1050 was the mass market card running most gaming laptops and rigs (based on Steam data).
Related: Nvidia RTX 3080 review
As a result, I can’t help but think that it’ll be a 3050 or 3060 that finally makes ray tracing a mass market feature in PC gaming, rather than a luxury enjoyed by an elite few. Sadly, while rumours suggest a 3060 is likely, all evidence suggests we won’t see a 3050 any time soon, if ever.
Speaking to an Nvidia spokesperson, I learned the lack of an RTX 2050 when Turing launched was an intentional move. This is because the high cost of making RTX cards means the company currently can’t scale the tech down to that price point. As it stands, it’s not possible to make a ray tracing capable card powerful enough to run games at playable frame rates for less than £200.
This is a crying shame as the tech is REALLY awesome and a key reason why this Christmas I’m wishing for the clever folks at Nvidia or AMD to find a way to bring ray tracing to more affordable cards sooner rather than later.