After a little blunder we went through with the launch of Radeon RX 6500 XT - we now get a budget counter offer from NVIDIA - the RTX 3050 and I’ve got to say - I am feeling really hopeful here. On paper it seems to hit all the right numbers - what remains to be seen is its value proposition. Will we finally have a great budget option for gamers or will it burn and fall like AMD’s offering?
Before we get to the benchmarks, let's have a look at this particular card from ASUS - it is the ROG Strix RTX 3050 OC Edition. It features the usual triple fan design, RGB, as well as selectors for performance and quiet modes.
For power this particular card has an 8 pin connector and it is kind of sad to call this a feature but NVIDIA has kept the full length PCIE Gen4 connection. So even if you are using an older CPU/Motherboard combo that features PCIE Gen 3 - you will be able to get the full performance out of this card.
On the back there are 5 display outputs, three display port 1.4 and two HDMI 2.1 ports. Do bear in mind that this card supports up to 4 simultaneously connected displays which for the vast majority is overkill.
Let's now dive a little deeper into its specifications. This card has 2560 Cuda cores, 80 Tensor cores and 20 RT cores as well as 8 Gigabytes of GDDR6 memory running over a 128-bit interface.
RTX 3050 reference TGP is rated at 130W and our card hits just shy of 150W.
It also includes all the standard features from the 3000 series such as DLSS, Ray tracing and NVIDIA’s exceptional NVENC encoder which paired with NVIDIA broadcast is a great tool for anyone wanting to do streaming or just improve their video or audio calls.
With all of this out of the way, let's go over its performance. For testing we used our Ryzen 9 5950X bench as well as a large range of mid to low end graphics cards. Settings wise we are keeping to 1080p with the highest possible preset unless specified otherwise.
Starting with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, here RTX 3050 performs considerably better than recently released RX 6500 XT and is about 10% slower than RTX 2060. This amount of performance will allow for good experience and would even work well on higher refresh rate monitor with GSYNC enabled.
Stepping up to the game which is a bit more demanding - Total War Three Kingdoms we start to see its limitations. Here on average FPS it is about 27% slower than RTX 2060 and 30% slower on 1 percentiles. To properly enjoy this game you would have to turn down the settings.
Next game is Horizon Zero Dawn and in this title RTX 3050 is performing better, it is again about 10% slower than RTX 2060 and if you look closer it basically matches performance of RX 6500 XT with FSR enabled which speaks volumes of RTX 3050 while it runs this game natively.
Now we head to a less demanding title - Doom Eternal. In this game RTX 3050 has great framerate to really turn up that high refresh rate experience. Alternatively you could even play at 1440p with over 100 average FPS.
Next we have some ray tracing titles, starting with a less demanding of the two - Riftbreaker. Here RTX 3050 delivers over 100FPS and is about 15% behind RTX 2060. Anyone wanting to play this game with Ray tracing enabled will certainly have a good experience.
On the other hand in Godfall the story is a little different. This card finally beats RTX 2060 but has still pretty rough time keeping those frame rates up, so you would have to either disable ray tracing or drop down the settings.
You may have noticed that I keep mentioning RTX 2060 as a primary comparison. There is a pretty good reason for this - normally with innovation there is movement forward in terms of performance, and historically you could expect single tier improvements such as 3070 being equivalent to 2080 or just about there. Have a look at this graph from PCgamer showing performance improvement between 10 and 20 series, in almost all examples the newer but lower tier card is beating older, higher tier one. Unfortunately with RTX 3050 we find that it is 10% slower than 2060 which makes me wonder what is actually different.
With that being said, I can see one somewhat significant improvement and it comes in a place of power efficiency. If we look at this graph which shows frames per 10 watts, we see most games with improvements of 20% or more. In comparison to what we had with the high end cards, where NVIDIA just pushed the cards harder to get more performance, here we at least gain some efficiency. Let us know what would you prefer, lower wattage or more FPS?
For those interested in this ASUS version of the card - we did some thermal and acoustic tests. During the test our room temperature was 24 degrees Celsius and the room noise floor was 30.5 dBa. Measuring distance from the testbench is 50 centimetres. We ran Furmark to heat up the card and found it maxed out at 55 degrees Celsius while staying really quiet at only 32.3 dBa so there is still some headroom for overclocking.
In conclusion, if I were to summarize this in one sentence - RTX 3050 has not improved enough to say it is an amazing card in comparison to the last gen, but in the current market it is a good enough card providing you can get it close to MSRP. It certainly performs much better than the RX 6500 XT, I just hope it does not cost double that either.
Affiliate disclosure: as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon.