Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti is the best GPU under $500

I wrote a few months back about how I’m more excited about the RTX 3080 than the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. But as we move past the launch of the first RTX 3000 cards, the new consoles, and AMD’s high-end Radeons, it’s the more affordable GPUs that have my eye now. And Nvidia is finally delivering a first taste of that price range with the “surprise” reveal of the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti.

The 3060 Ti launches December 2 for $400, and it’s hardly a surprise. While rumors outed the existence of this GPU months ago, this announcement is still welcome. This is the obvious sweet spot for people gaming at 1440p, but it’s even viable as a 4K card — especially when combined with deep-learning supersampling (DLSS).

I’ve spent a brief time testing the RTX 3060 Ti, so this isn’t a full appraisal of the GPU. But I do want to talk about where it fits into the current landscape and why it probably makes sense for you.

Better than the 2080 Super at half the price

The best sales pitch for the 3060 Ti is that it’s better than a 2080 Super in most games, but it costs $400 instead of $800. So while $400 feels like a lot for a 60-level Nvidia card, the value here is undeniable.

And this power makes sense. The 3060 Ti is a cut-down version of the RTX 3070. It has fewer cores in fewer streaming multiprocessors (SMs), and it is rated for slightly slower clock speeds.

But it has the same 8GBs of GDDR6 (not GDDR6X) memory as the 3070. And like the 3070, 3080, and 3090, Nvidia’s Boost software automatically runs the 3000-series GPUs faster than their rated clock speeds by monitoring power use and component temperatures. The result is consistent stunning performance throughout this generation of cards, and the 3060 Ti is no exception.

In a new release like Watch Dogs: Legion, which is a tough game to run on all systems, the 3060 Ti can get around 30 frames per second at 4K. That puts it right on par with the RTX 2080 Super. At 1440p, the 3060 Ti got an average framerate of 57 versus the 2080 Super’s 59 frames per second.

And the 2080 Super is where the 3060 Ti comes in over most games. This means the card is leaving behind previous $400-range cards like the 2060 Super and the RX 5700 XT. Those cards are now officially obsolete.

Situational benefits and what about AMD?

You cannot talk about GPUs without bringing up the brand-specific features that are setting them further apart. Nvidia has DLSS, and that’s a huge benefit in games that support the feature.

Watch Dogs: Legion gets nearly double the framerate — 50 frames per second at ultra settings with DLSS set to balanced. Other games get well over the 60 frames per second threshold at 4K with DLSS on.

The issue, of course, is that not every game supports DLSS. So should you buy a GPU on that promise? Probably not, at least not yet. In its 2.0 form, DLSS is easy enough even for small indie studios to implement. A single developer did the bulk of the work on the 3D action adventure Pumpkin Jack, and yet that has support for DLSS. That makes me hopeful that DLSS is at a point where it’s a no-brainer option for developers to include. If so, that makes the $400 RTX 3060 Ti an even better value.

But AMD also has its own situational benefits. If you pair one of the new cards with a Ryzen CPU, you get even better performance across all games. The question is when will AMD launch its mid-range 6000-series Radeons?

What’s less of a question is whether AMD will try to undercut Nvidia’s price. AMD played at selling its 6800 and 6800 XT at a lower price than Nvidia, but AMD’s partner-card pricing is much closer to the equivalent Nvidia offerings. That trend will likely continue if AMD plans to include more memory and its expensive L3 cache across its entire stack.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti is an excellent GPU

The 3060 Ti is fantastic. It’s the right card for the right price for anyone who isn’t gaming exclusively at 4K. It has devastating 1080p and 1440p performance, and it’s a great 4K option in games with DLSS or if you turn down some graphics options. And from what I’ve seen, it gets close to the 3070 in terms of performance but at $100 discount. And that makes it the best card under $500 for now.

I’m also expecting even more stock of the 3060 Ti than the RTX 3070 and 3080 or AMD’s RX 6800 or 6800 XT. So you may actually have a chance to buy this. And if you’re looking to upgrade from an Nvidia GTX 1060/1070 or earlier, this card is going to get you a performance jump that should easily justify the $400 price.

Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 Ti is available December 2 for $400. Nvidia provided a sample for the purpose of this coverage. 

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