The company unveiled the RTX 3050 at CES this year, introducing it as the most affordable choice in its Ampere range with frame rates reaching as high as 80fps and more efficient ray tracing when compared with the 20-Series.
But, how does it compare to the GTX 1660 Ti, a graphics card Trusted Reviews computing and gaming editor Ryan Jones labelled the “budget king” in his review?
We’ve put the two graphics cards head-to-head to help you to determine which cheap graphics card is best for you.
Price and availability
The RTX 3050 is priced at £239/$249/€279 and will be available to buy globally from January 27. We looked at Gigabyte’s RTX 3050 Eagle 8GB version in our review of the GPU.
While this price might sound great, the number has already been caught skyrocketing in some listings around the world, meaning you could find yourself forced to pay quite a bit more if you want to get your hands on the GPU immediately.
The Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti launched at the beginning of 2019, making it three years older than the 3050.
The 1660 Ti carries a very similar price of £259.99, but how much you spend depends on the third-party edition you use. We tested the PNY version, which was priced at just £20 more than the RTX 3050.
Specs and features
The Nvidia RTX 3050 is a graphics card based on Nvidia’s latest 30-Series Ampere architecture with its 2nd gen RT Cores and 3rd Gen Tensor Cores.
These additions make the 3050 more efficient than Nvidia’s previous generation of GPUs when it comes to DLSS and ray tracing performance. In fact, the RTX 3050 is one of the cheapest graphics cards with ray tracing support – something the GTX 1660 Ti lacks.
Ray tracing helps to create more realistic environments and improves visuals in the games that support it, making it a large benefit to opting for the 3050.
Meanwhile, the 3050’s DLSS support means the graphics card will use AI to boost frame rate, offering a smoother performance despite the 3050’s limited power.
The GTX 1660 Ti, on the other hand, is a 16-Series GPU built on Nvidia’s Turing architecture, offering features like Turing shaders for increased performance and 1.4x power efficiency over previous generations for faster and quieter gaming.
However, there’s no support for ray tracing or DLSS here, with much of the focus being on keeping the 1660 Ti cheap and efficient rather than squeezing in more features.
The GTX 1660 Ti comes with less memory at 6GB of GDDR6 to the 3050’s 8GB, and the 3050 just about takes the edge when it comes to clock speeds. However, the 1660 Ti has a higher Memory Interface Width at 192-bit to the 3050’s 128-bit.
The 1660 Ti also requires less power at 120W to the 3050’s already impressive 130W, though it also boasts less CUDA Cores at 1536 to the 3050’s 2560.
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The Nvidia RTX 3050 and GTX 1660 Ti offer very similar 1080p performance.
As we noted in our review, without ray tracing and DLSS, the RTX 3050 isn’t much more powerful than the GTX 1660 Ti. This makes the latter a fine choice if you don’t care about these features or don’t plan or playing the select games that support ray tracing.
For example, a 1080p playthrough of Borderlands 3 showed near identical performance from both graphics cards, with the 3050 scoring 53 fps and the 1660 Ti getting 51 fps. Meanwhile, Dirt Rally saw the 1660 Ti actually fare better at 100 fps to the 3050’s 85 fps in 1080p.
We also ran 3DMark’s Time Spy Extreme synthetic benchmark to examine the raw performance of the graphics cards, and found the RTX 3050 scored 2991, while the 1660 Ti scored 3017, giving the 1660 Ti the slight edge.
If your biggest concern is performance and not features, these GPUs prove equally capable.
That said, it’s important to remember how important DLSS can be for boosting the performance. When playing Control in 4K with the RTX 3050, we were able to increase the frame rate from an unplayable 16fps to a smoother 30fps performance. Of course, DLSS only works with select games, so you’ll want to double check compatibility for your favourite titles before diving in.
When it comes down to it, the new Nvidia RTX 3050 offers comparable 1080p performance to the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti at a similarly tempting price. The 3050 also takes advantage of additional features like ray tracing and DLSS, which can improve visuals and offer a smoother performance.
The addition of DLSS and ray tracing mean that we’d recommend the RTX 3050 over the GTX 1660 Ti, especially since they have very similar prices.
However, which GPU you choose to buy could ultimately come down to availability, as many graphics cards continue to suffer from inflated prices due to shortages. It’s going to be difficult to find either GPU at their original RRP, which makes the decision even more complicated.