Nvidia has released a new budget GPU, the RTX 3050. While it won’t win out on power, will this bank-friendly graphics card is hoping to end up as one of the most popular options given its 1080p target performance.
But the RTX 3050 has serious competition for the accolade. The Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti was released at the end of 2020 and seriously impressed us during testing by offering decent ray tracing support and low power consumption, even if it wasn’t the cheapest GPU on the market.
So, what’s the difference? And more importantly, which GPU is the best choice for you? Read on to find out how these two graphics cards compare so you know what’s best for your set-up. All the opinions in this page are based on our experience benchmarking both cards.
Price and availability
The RTX 3060 Ti was £369 at launch in 2020, which is pretty decent compared to how high some GPUs can go. However, as we all know, the GPU shortages that have been plaguing tech for the last year or so will make it harder to find this graphics card at a low price.
Depending on where you shop, you can find the 3060 Ti for around £500, which is a markup of £140.
The latest GPU from Nvidia has an RRP of £239, making it the cheapest graphics card available from the 30-Series. The low price will come with some limitations, but it makes it a great choice for anyone wanting to upgrade their rig on a tight budget. Whether you’ll actually be able to find the graphics card at that price remains to be seen.
According to Nvidia, the RTX 3050 will be available to buy on 27 January, though we expect that a lot of the stock (if not all of it) will sell out very soon.
Specs and features
Looking at the design first, both cards are built on 30-Series Ampere architecture, with a custom 12-pin power connector. They both boast second-gen RT cores and third-gen Tensor cores, which makes them more efficient than the previous generation of GPUs for the likes of ray tracing and DLSS.
The next-gen Tenor and RT cores allow these GPUs to outperform the older, and more expensive, 20-Series cards, making them better options than the likes of the RTX 2060 in this regard.
Other benefits include an HMDI 2.1 connection, which futureproofs both cards while, in theory, supporting 4K content at 120Hz. Both cards also pack 8GB GDDR6 memory.
The RTX 3050 is less demanding to run, with the peak power consumption hitting 224.5W in our stress test, while the RTX 3060 Ti saw a figure as high as 316.5W. It is worth noting that the idle power consumption is actually higher for the 3050, but our testing found the numbers negligible, with the 3060 Ti only being 2W less demanding while idle.
It’s important to remember that the RTX 3050 is not available in Nvidia’s Founders Edition vanilla form, so you’ll have to purchase the GPU from a third-party manufacturer (such as the Gigabyte shown below). This means you’ll be able to get the RTX 3050 in all shapes and sizes, with the potential of additional fans also helping to improve thermal performance.
Meanwhile, the RTX 3060 Ti does have a Founder’s Edition available, although may be more difficult to find in stock compared to the slew of third-party variations.
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Both the 3060 Ti and 3050 have similar features, but in terms of sheer performance, the Ti wins out.
Starting off with the classic stats, our testing showed that the 3050 scored lower in the 3DMark Time Spy Extreme test, scoring just 2991. Meanwhile, the 3060 Ti powered ahead, reaching 5574, proving that it packs a bigger punch. In this benchmark a higher score indicates a faster GPU.
Using these scores from industry tests shows the general performance difference between each GPU, however, they should not be used to write off the RTX 3050. It is still a powerful graphics card and will run games smoothly, though you will see a boosted frame rate with the RTX 3060 Ti.
We tested both cards with several games, the first being Horizon Zero Dawn; the 3060 Ti ran at 62fps at 1080p, with the 3050 hitting 60fps. The difference is arguably negligible, but it gives us an idea of how each GPU can perform when playing a modern open-world game.
Playing Zero Dawn in 4K is where the differences really show, as the 3050 went as high as 27fps, with the 3060 Ti going up to 49fps. Playing Dirt Rally and Borderlands 3 in 4K also showed off the bigger differences in power; Dirt Rally saw a difference of 32fps, while Borderlands 3 differed by 19fps, with the 3060 Ti being the more powerful in both cases.
It is important to note that the Nvidia 3050 has not been designed for an Ultra HD experience, and when playing at 1080p it will run at a more impressive frame rate, almost hitting 60fps in each game. However, it is something to consider, as you will be limited to lower resolutions with the 3050.
The RTX 3050 also saw a predictable drop in frame rate when ray tracing was enabled, going from 55fps to 33fps when playing Control. Thankfully, having DLSS enabled helped to offset that drop, showing how DLSS can help boost up the 3050 to playable frame rates.
Overall, both GPUs are fine options for 1080p gaming, offering up similar features with the same architecture. However, if playing in 4K is important to you, the RTX 3060 Ti is more suited, though it will definitely shine better when played at 1080/1440p.
The RTX 3050 is more affordable and is able to hit 60fps in most cases, with support for DLSS and ray tracing. While the technology isn’t as it’s best here, its low price still makes this worthwhile.
In our opinion, due to the sheer performance and the fact the price jump isn’t that severe, the Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti is more worthwhile and will likely be the better option for most gamers out there. But we also wouldn’t bet against the RTX 3050 if your budget is really tight.