As the market for high-end graphics cards becomes increasingly saturated, the release of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 couldn’t have come at a better (if slightly later) moment. Even the affordable GPUs, like AMD’s Radeon RX 6500 XT, haven’t lived up to their billing as they continue to sell out.
The RTX 3050 may be Nvidia’s entry-level graphics card, but it offers nearly the same level of performance as the company’s flagship RTX 3060. The RTX 3050 has no trouble maintaining a smooth framerate of 60 fps in any 1080p game, although it may start to struggle with the most demanding titles of the generation, such as Cyberpunk 2077.
While that may seem reasonable on the surface, it’s impossible to deny the significant increase in cost over the course of just a few generations. While $249 (about £185 or AU$350) may not seem like much in comparison to the $1,000+ graphics cards of today, it is still a big increase from the xx50 cards of yesteryear.
The GTX 1050 Ti originally retailed for $139 (£139, around AU$200), while the GTX 1650 first retailed for $149 (£149, around AU$200).
As a result, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 costs roughly twice as much as its predecessor, the RTX 2060. This is likely the result of a continuing silicon scarcity, which has caused computer prices to soar drastically across the industry.
That enormous performance boost does justify the steep price hike. Those anticipating truly affordable graphics cards will have to wait or shop in the secondary market. Assuming the shortage eases up soon, we can only hope the RTX 4000 series offers a more reasonably priced option.
Price and Availability
Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3050 may be purchased as of this writing for a minimum of $249 (about £185 or AU$350), with more powerful third-party boards costing more. We don’t know how the secondary market will develop after the boards are released, but if it’s anything like the RTX 3060, there may not be many graphics cards available at that base price before prices start to rise.
The EVGA GeForce RTX 3050 XC Black that we’re evaluating today is a rather inexpensive entry-level model that retails for $249 (about £185, AU$350). You’ll have to shell out a lot more cash if you’re looking for anything with flashy RGB lighting and cooling arrangements that are conducive to overclocking.
As with the RTX 3060, Nvidia isn’t producing a Founders Edition of the GeForce RTX 3050, making inexpensive graphics cards featuring this GPU extremely hard to come by. Since the RTX 3050 isn’t optimized for cryptocurrency mining, its release price shouldn’t skyrocket. The future holds the key to finding out.
Features and Chipset
The Nvidia Ampere core is at the heart of the RTX 3000 series, which includes the RTX 3050. Nvidia’s past launches in this series have included significant gen-on-gen performance improvements, particularly in regards to ray tracing and regular rasterization, thanks to the enhancements made to this core in comparison to the previous-generation Turing core.
The GeForce RTX 3050 is comparable in every way. Nvidia Ampere’s compact fabrication method allowed Team Green to increase the number of Streaming Multiprocessors on the GPU’s die from 14 on the GTX 1650 to 20. From 892 on the GTX 1650 to 2,560 on the RTX 3050, thanks to Nvidia’s ability to essentially double the number of FP32 cores on each SM. This makes it theoretically much more effective.
Naturally, the RTX 3050 needs more juice to run with the newfound SMs, although the jump isn’t as steep as we anticipated. The TGP is just 130W, which is a small increase from the GTX 1650’s 75W TGP. It’s true that the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT uses far less power, but as we’ll see, that comes at a significant cost to performance.
As the first xx50 card to include Nvidia’s RTX features, this is also a first. This GPU is equipped with both RT and Tensor cores, making it suitable for ray tracing and DLSS. It’s great to see these technologies, notably DLSS, making their way to a ‘cheap’ graphics card after being left out of the previous generation’s GTX 1650 and GTX 1650 Super.
Nvidia also increased the RTX 3050’s VRAM, which now has 8 GB of GDDR6 on a 128-bit bus and 224 GB/s of bandwidth. Even though it’s not the fastest RAM available, this graphics card should be OK at 1080p for a very long time.
As interesting as it is to have ray tracing on a budget graphics card, that is not the selling point. The benefits of using this graphics card will be much-enhanced thanks to DLSS because of the large performance boost it provides without sacrificing visual quality. Not exactly free performance, as the quality will suffer in Performance Mode, for example, but it pushes the RTX 3050 to its limits at 1080p.
All of Nvidia’s RTX technology is at your disposal. This graphics card’s performance is ideal for competitive online gaming, thus Nvidia Reflex will be a game-changer for it. Nvidia Reflex will improve esports in a number of ways, including by reducing input lag. Though it’s great for multiplayer games like Fortnite and Counter-Strike, this feature is starting to show up in other titles as well (it was revealed for God of War at CES 2022, for example).
The EVGA GeForce RTX 3050 XC Black that we tested is, graphic card-wise, rather unremarkable. It’s just grey and black with two fans and an EVGA and GeForce RTX logo nameplate on the side.
In the absence of RGB lights or other flashy extras, this case is ideal for those seeking a discreet setup.
It shares the same 7.94-inch form factor as the EVGA RTX 3060 XC Black and is thus a relatively compact graphics card. This graphics card’s tiny form size, combined with the 130W TGP, means it can be easily integrated into a system with a limited amount of space.
Because it shares a cooler with the RTX 3060, this graphics card maintains a consistently cool operating temperature. Not once did we experience temperatures higher than 60 degrees Celsius during any of our tests. That was on an outdoor test bench, so your actual temps may be slightly higher, but there is still plenty of space to spare in this regard. Therefore, there is likely enough headroom to overclock it slightly for improved performance, though we did not do so for the sake of this evaluation.
Even though it costs as much as a mid-range card from 2018, Nvidia markets the GeForce RTX 3050 as a cheap 1080p graphics card. As a whole, the RTX 3050 is roughly 70% faster than the GeForce GTX 1650.
The comparison improves less sharply, though, as you move up the Turing hierarchy. About $40 cheaper than the RTX 3050 when it was released, the GTX 1660 is only 10-15% slower overall. And if you compare it to the RTX 2060, whose production run eventually ended at roughly the same price as the RTX 3050, you’ll find that the new Nvidia card is 10-20% slower.
It’s impossible to look at the performance of this card and its price and not long for the good old days, even though both are symptoms of the poor status of the graphics card industry right now.
However, when considered independently of its competitors, the GeForce RTX 3050 is remarkable. If you turn off DLSS and enable ray tracing in Metro Exodus, you can still get a stable 46 frames per second. You may easily achieve 60 frames per second by activating DLSS.
The absence of ray tracing makes it even more stunning in games. When we performed our benchmarking suite with all the games set at their highest (or similar) quality settings, the RTX 3050 maintained frame rates well above 60 fps across the board. And it managed a steady 143 fps in games like Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, which is more than enough for high-refresh play.
It’s safe to assume that the RTX 3050 will allow you to play any game in your collection without significant visual degradation. By adding DLSS, we expect that performance to be pushed even further.
If only the price were lower. Because it costs somewhere in between the previous GTX gen’s 1660 Super and RTX 2060 but offers no discernible performance boost over any of them. It’s true that the RTX 3050 is a significant upgrade over the GTX 1650, but despite the marketing hype, it still feels like a step backward.