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

This is the 1440p graphics card for most people. Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 Ti is faster than last-generation's RTX 2080 Super for half the price.

rtx 3060 ti 10
Brad Chacos/IDG

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

At a Glance

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 Nvidia’s 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 we’ve seen in recent graphics card families. But if you can look past the name, you’ll find the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti delivers a lot of value, pumping out frames faster than last generation’s $800 GeForce RTX 2080 Super—the second-fastest graphics card in the world up until a few months ago—for half the price. Yes, that includes ray tracing performance. Nvidia’s 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, we’re digging into Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition, priced squarely at this GPU’s $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 3070’s “GA104” GPU, based on the company’s new “Ampere” graphics architecture. Nvidia’s 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 generation’s GeForce RTX 2060 Super and the aforementioned 3070. It’s 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 Ampere’s 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 Ti’s 1,665MHz rating. In practice, though, all Nvidia cards exceed their rated speeds with help from the GPU Boost feature, which takes your graphics card’s 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-gen’s RTX 2060 Super, splitting the difference with a 200-watt rating. That reveals Ampere’s 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. That’s 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 AMD’s entire lineup. The non-Super RTX 2060 launched in 2018 with 6GB of GDDR6 memory, but that more limited amount probably won’t hold up well as modern games become more strenuous, especially when ray tracing is active.

rtx 3060 ti 13 Brad Chacos/IDG

Nvidia’s 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 Nvidia’s 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 it’s a standard 2-slot, 9.5-inch size, and much smaller than the Founders Edition coolers found on Nvidia’s higher-end RTX 3080 and 3090. Here’s how we described the RTX 3070 FE’s cooler:

“The Founders Edition model we’re reviewing today still uses Nvidia’s 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 case’s power supply shroud has a cutout for wires underneath your GPU, this is a much better placement.”

rtx 3060 ti 11 Brad Chacos/IDG

“That’s 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. It’s very effective.

The GeForce RTX 3070 [and 3060 Ti—Ed.] 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 case’s rear outtake fan. It’s 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 isn’t 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 Nvidia’s 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 Microsoft’s DirectStorage API that allows your GPU and NVMe SSD to talk directly, obliterating game-loading times on the PC.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Nvidia’s more mature ray tracing technology outperforms the first-gen implementation in AMD’s rival Radeon RX 6000-series graphics cards. It also gets a huge shot in the arm with Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) feature, which helps regain frames lost to ray tracing’s 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. Let’s get gaming.

Next page: Our test system, gaming benchmarks begin

At a Glance
  • 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

    Pros

    • 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

    Cons

    • 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
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Page 1
Page 1 of 7
  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon