It’s a really tough time to be a PC gamer. Buying any kind of current generation GPU over the last couple of months has been difficult, if not impossible at RRP. It’s almost as bad on the CPU side and the wider semiconductor market beyond that. Industries that require chips for production are increasingly being bottlenecked by supply constraints. Restricted supply contributes to empty shelves, but when you combine this with unprecedented demand for GPUs, it’s a real one-two punch. It comes down to crypto currency mining. The surge in value of mineable coins such as Ethereum means that miners are happy to pay massively inflated prices in the hope that they will pay for themselves, while also hoping that ETH and other coins continue to rise in value. All of this means that a card like the RTX 3060 is unlikely to be found at its recommended retail price.
As these problems are affecting the entire PC industry, we’ll try not to focus too much on the market woes and instead judge the 3060 on its merits. Supply is bound to pick up in the coming months, so while price/performance will change, the fundamentals of the card will not. At least Nvidia is taking the admirable step of halving the 3060’s mining performance which should make it less attractive to miners. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the market. With that lament out of the way, let’s laugh ahead and look at Nvidia’s mid-range hope, the GeForce RTX 3060. We’ve got three cards on hand to compare to one another. Do they make for a compelling upgrade? Read on and find out!
Our recommended list of the Best RTX 3060 Graphics Cards
- Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC
- Gigabyte GeForce RTX 3060 Eagle OC
- MSI GeForce RTX 3060 Gaming X
1. Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 3060 OC
If you want a premium 3060, look no further. You can always rely on Asus to produce a card that’s worthy of being described as a flagship. The ROG Strix RTX 3060 OC has the lot. It’s the fastest, the coolest, the quietest and it has the best feature set. But it carries a significant price premium. We’re trying not to judge current pricing too harshly as all GPUs will certainly drop over time, but do be aware that the Asus will cost you a pretty penny. When normal times return, it will likely remain the most expensive of all RTX 3060s.
The Asus Strix is packed to the hilt with top shelf specs and features. Its boost clock is 1,912MHz in its maximum software applied OC mode, though out of the box it clocks in at 1,882Mhz, easily the highest of the roundup. There’s a large RGB section across the front of the card along with an RGB ROG logo on the backplate. The backplate has a cutout to allow air to pass through. This seems to be an increasingly common design feature.
The custom PCB is powered by an eight-pin PCIe power connector. It comes with dual BIOS, which offers a performance and a quiet mode. The clock speeds are the same with both BIOS’ and we could hardly hear the card under any circumstance so there appears to be little to really differentiate them. Asus includes a pair of 4-pin PWM fan headers which can react with the GPU temperature. It’s a nice additional feature if you have a case with an adjacent fan or two. The 3060 Strix is one of very few modern cards to include five display outputs consisting of a pair of HDMI 2.1 ports and three DP 1.4a ports. You can only use four at a time but this kind of flexibility will be appreciated by many users.
The cooler performs exceptionally well, though we’d expect nothing less with its price premium. The highest temperature we saw was an incredible 59°C which is about as low as any card we can remember that’s not entry level. This meant the card was always boosting to a very high level, with a 1,960MHz average recorded after about 15 minutes of continuous running. Despite this high boost clock, the card didn’t blow away the competition, with just a frame’s difference here or there. More relevant is the comparison to the RTX 3060 Ti, which is much faster. This begs the question, do you want a premium 3060 that’s quiet with a great feature set, or a much faster 3060 Ti that lacks a few bells and whistles and runs a bit hotter and louder? We report, you decide.
While the Asus Strix is easily the best card in this roundup, and perhaps of all 3060s, we question the wisdom around such a card. It’s too good for its own good. To put it another way, it’s a bit like powering a Corolla with a V8 engine. The monstrous Strix cooler is best suited to the likes of the 3080 or 6800 XT with their 300W+ TDPs. By all means, grab one if you want something top tier, but you’d be better off with a 3060 Ti, the cheaper MSI or one of Asus’ own slightly saner RTX 3060 variants.
Asus Strix cards are always top shelf, but in this case it’s complete overkill for this class of GPU.
2. Gigabyte GeForce RTX 3060 Eagle OC
A 3060 for those on a budget. If you’re looking to upgrade but don’t want to spend the bigger bucks on a premium tier card, the Gigabyte RTX 3060 Eagle OC may be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s Gigabyte’s entry level card. There are two models available, one with the Nvidia reference clock, and the OC model that we have on hand for this roundup which features a boost clock of 1,807MHz. This is quite a way below the Asus at 1,882MHz and the MSI 1,837MHz, but then don’t forget that Gigabyte offers highly overclocked Aorus cards too.
It features a compact PCB that’s surrounded by a grey shroud and backplate. The rear of the card features a large cut out to allow air to pass out the back and into the path of the airflow towards a rear mounted case fan. There is a small RGB light at the front of the card.
The Gigabyte has a couple of key characteristics that will appeal to many buyers. Firstly, it’s a genuine two slot card. If you’ve got a small form factor system, that could be a deal maker right there. The second is the inclusion of two HDMI 2.1 ports along with two DP 1.4a ports. Although the Asus Strix has two as well, it is actually somewhat rare to find two HDMI ports on a GPU, with Gigabyte cards being the most likely to feature them. If you want to take advantage of all that HDMI 2.1 has to offer with more than one display or device, the Eagle has you covered.
The 3060 Eagle’s cooler can be described as adequate. It has to work surprisingly hard to keep the 170W GA106 GPU under control. During a stress test the peak recorded temperature was 69°C at a fan speed of 77 percent. Luckily the cooler makes a non-invasive kind of tone at high speed. It functions well enough but there are quieter 3060s out there, including the dual fan MSI. This also means that over- clocking headroom is limited. The cooler doesn’t have a lot of head room to allow the card to boost well above 1,900MHz.
The Eagle performed surprisingly well across our benchmark suite. If your temperatures are low and there’s sufficient power budget, the card will boost well above its rated clocks. The Eagle can peak over 1,900MHz at times, though it settled around 1,870 to 1,890MHz most of the time. Not bad!
The Gigabyte RTX 3060 Eagle is a good example of a minimalist, no fuss card that’s well suited to driving a 1080p screen. The 12GB of memory gives you a bit of future proofing too, particularly at 1440p where 8GB is already running into some limitations. The Eagle isn’t the quietest card around but thankfully it’s nothing like those annoying leaf blower reference cards.
In a top syturvy market, value carries a high weighing. At the time of writing, the Eagle OC is only a little cheaper than the MSI, which we feel is the superior card. If you’re a budget conscious buyer, we’d go for the non-OC Eagle. That card happens to be one of the cheapest 3060s on the market – even with the massive boost in cost recently. In a tough market where value is hard to come by, the reference clocked Eagle is the better choice.
The Gigabyte is one of the more affordable 3060s, though its cooler can’t match those of the premium cards.
3. MSI GeForce RTX 3060 Gaming X
A 3060 that strikes a good balance between quality and affordability. Sitting in between the ultra-premium Asus and the budget Gigabyte is the MSI RTX 3060 Gaming X. It’s still a premium offering but it eschews some of the characteristics of the top end cards. It’s aimed at buyers who scoff at the premium pricing of top tier cards but still want a quality design that’s more tailored to the characteristics of the GA106 GPU.
The MSI Gaming X features a dual fan design. It sits above the mid-range Ventus and below the Gaming X Trio. It features a typical compact PCB with a six-phase VRM, which is one phase less than the Gaming X Trio. In contrast to the high requirements of the likes of a GTX 3080 and to a lesser extent the 3060 Ti, there’s simply no need for an uber overclocking capable PCB. Having said that, the Gaming X is equipped with six and eight pin power connectors, which added to the 75W available from the PCIe slot, means the Gaming X is supplied with 300W of power supply capability. You’ll never need that much. The card features a factory overclock with a rated boost clock of 1,837MHz, though as is often the case with recent Nvidia GPUs, the card will boost a lot higher than this when power and temperature conditions allow it.
Other key specs include the standard 12GB of GDDR6 memory clocked at 15Gbps effective. Display outputs consist of a single HDMI 2.1 port along with three DisplayPort v1.4a ports. MSI has toned down the Gaming X’s RGB implementation. There are just a couple of discrete and attractive sections on the front of the card plus the MSI logo on the side.
The MSI Gaming X is equipped with the company’s latest Twin Frozr 8 dual fan cooler. It’s perfectly suited to the base 170W TDP of the RTX 3060. The larger triple fan coolers are overkill. Add to that their premium pricing, and you’re into 3060Ti territory. The Gaming X proves that you don’t need a 3080-class cooler. We saw a load temp of just 63°C after 10 minutes at full load. This low temperature running meant the boost clock was consistently above 1,900MHz, all the while remaining effectively silent.
The Asus with its higher boost clock holds an edge, the real-world differences are insignificant. Despite its improved second generation RTX feature set including RT and in particular DLSS support, the 3060 doesn’t raise the hairs on the back of our neck like it did when we tested the first Ampere cards. But, if you’re coming from an older generation card, you’ll love the upgraded performance and feature set.
The MSI RTX 3060 Gaming X is a perfect example of what a mid-range card should embody. It’s a step above the budget cards while keeping well below crazy 3060 ti price levels. The Twin Frozr 8 cooling is perfect for the GA106 GPU, keeping it cool and quiet at all times which allows the card to perform above its rated boost clock. The MSI Gaming X gets it just right. It doesn’t pretend to be a 3080 in disguise, and its pricing and characteristics are perfect for a mid range card.
The MSI Gaming X strikes the perfect balance of affordability and premium features.
The xx60 Series Funda
Any xx60 card from Nvidia is always highly anticipated. Take a look at the Steam Hardware Survey. The GTX 1060 sits at the top of the list, with cards like the RTX 2060 and GTX 1660 right up there too. While all gamers would love to be running an RTX 3090 or RX 6900 XT, not everyone is able – or perhaps more to the point – willing to shell out the very big dollars on flagship cards. It’s cards like the RTX 3060 that power the lion’s share of gaming PCs. Let’s take a peek under the hood.
The RTX 3060 makes use of the smallest Ampere GPU released to date, the GA106 GPU. In packs in 3,584 Shader units along with 28 improved RT cores and 112 Tensor cores. The shader count is quite a step down from the RTX 3060 Ti which features 4,864 shaders. This, along with the Ti’s 256 bit bus vs the 192 bit bus of the 3060 results in a big performance differential as you can see in the results. It makes us wonder if the 3060 could have been positioned as a 3050 Ti. The reference specification suggests a 170W TDP which is not a lot by modern enthusiast GPU standards. Even at 200W though, most 3060’s can make do with a single 8-pin power connector. Nvidia recommends that the 3060 should be paired with a minimum 550W PSU. Somewhat curiously Asus recommends a 750W PSU for its 3060 Strix.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the 3060 is its 12GB of GDDR6 memory which is clocked at 15Gbps. 12GB might be considered overkill for this class of card, but it’s always better to have too much than not enough. What it does do is make the 3060 Ti, 3070 and 3080 all look under speed.
The RTX 3060 brings PCIe 4.0 support. There’s also HDMI 2.1, which is often understated in terms of its usefulness. You get 8K support of course but also things such as G-Sync Compatible support, low latency mode (ALLM), dynamic HDR and improved audio support with eARC. Big screen gaming gets a huge boost with HDMI 2.1. The 3060 should prove popular as a lounge room gaming card.
Latest Generation Tech
The Ampere generation introduced a stack of new and improved technologies. These flow down and are now available to 3060 buyers. The second generation of RTX technologies are poised to take advantage of a more widely developed ecosystem that includes Direct X 12 Ultimate. Seeing ray tracing in action in a game like Cyberpunk 2077 is a truly gorgeous sight to behold. Ray tracing is no longer a ‘nice to have’ feature. It’s quickly becoming an accepted part of mainstream gameplay, and thankfully it’s universally supported now that AMD and the consoles are slowly increasing adoption. We’ve added Watch Dogs: Legion to our test suite specifically to test RT and DLSS. We’ll add to these benchmarks as time goes on. It’s mainstream now.
Additional Nvidia features such as its Reflex Low latency and Broadcast technologies along with an improved video engine combine to make the RTX 3060 a compelling upgrade for users of older generation cards. That is, users with Pascal generation and older cards. Users of RTX 20-series cards will appreciate the updated features and improved RTX tech, but they won’t get the generational frame rate boost that we’d hoped for. While the 3060 Ti impressively beats out all but the mighty RTX 2080 Ti, the 3060 is closer to the 2070. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by the massive inter-generational performance increases we’ve seen with other Ampere cards. RT performance has taken a large step forward though. In the 3DMark RT feature test, the 3060 is over 20 percent faster than the 2060 Super.
In truth the card lacks horsepower at higher resolutions compared to its big brothers, but at 1080p and to a lesser extent, 1440p, it’s a perfectly viable and capable performer at maximum settings, with demanding titles. 120 FPS+ is a breeze with popular e-sport titles.
The RTX 3060 needs to be priced right, with stock on shelves! If it can do that, then we can pass an accurate judgement. Pricing is volatile, and that means even the most fundamental of price/performance analysis is too. It’s a poor buy at $1,300, but at $800 it’s something else entirely. Yes, the market is that crazy and unpredictable! We simply don’t know what the market will look like in six months. Will the mining boom pass like it did in 2018? Will supply begin to catch up to demand? Perhaps an upcoming GPU will show it a clean pair of heels? Let’s toss the crystal ball aside and take a look at a selection of RTX 3060’s and judge them in the here and now. Say hello to the Asus, Gigabyte and MSI GeForce RTX 3060s!