In recent months, Nvidia has pushed a flurry of great new graphics card updates, ranging from a rare five-star entry (the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition, released last October) to the more recent, still stellar GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition. These cards put the current GeForce RTX 3060 (review in the $329.99 EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 XC Black Gaming 12GB) up against some stiff competition.
Our review card is a superior successor to the GeForce RTX 2060 Founders Edition since it is based firmly on the needs of gamers playing at either 1080p or 1440p. It gets the job done, but it’s not as impressive as the rest of the Ampere rows. The lightweight profile of EVGA’s card is its key selling point for PC builders concerned with having their desktops compact. Most other gamers will be best suited by a GeForce RTX 3060 Ti or even a GeForce RTX 2060 (on sale, if you can locate one) instead. Sure, 2020 was a whirlwind year, but with the Patriots missing out on the Super Bowl and Nvidia dropping its first mediocre RTX 30 Series card, will 2021 be any more so?
GeForce RTX 3060 XC Gaming 12GB Review
Filling a Founders Edition-Size Gap in Design
Nvidia has led both of its GPUs’ debuts in the GeForce RTX 30 Series so far with an Nvidia-designed Founders Edition card to display the pack. These cards feature an innovative new PCB that is up to 50% smaller than previous-generation RTX cards, as well as a push-pull cooling mechanism, unlike anything we’ve seen before.
Unfortunately, the GeForce RTX 3060 is the first RTX 30 Series GPU left out of the mix. There will be no Founders Edition RTX 3060s available as part of this launch, leaving third-party vendors to deliver the RTX 3060 products with their own more familiar styles.
EVGA’s GeForce RTX 3060 XC Black Gaming 12G is a dual-slot, two-fan graphics card that is just over 1.5 inches shorter than Nvidia’s Founders Edition version of the RTX 3060 Ti (7.94 inches, to be exact). This card could be a safer option than the chunkier RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition for someone who values a small installation profile above virtually all else.
On the top of the card, there is a single traditional eight-pin power connector. The backplane of the card has three DisplayPort 1.4b ports and one HDMI 2.1 output, which is typical for the RTX 30 Series.
The oft-mentioned VirtualLink from the RTX 20-Series “Turing” cards appears to be long gone for Nvidia at this stage, so anyone holding out for one should opt for an RTX 20 Series card instead. (Not because it’s any more convenient than a USB-C port.)
Let’s start with some specifications. We’ll compare the EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 XC Black Gaming 12G to the two GeForce cards it’s supposed to replace, the RTX 2060 and 2060 Super, as well as AMD’s nearest rivals, the Radeon RX 5700 XT and Radeon RX 5700.
To begin with, aren’t these two cards given in the wrong order? Nvidia releases the “Ti” version of the different GPUs in their stack after the initial product goes on sale, not the other way around, except a few rare cases over the years. However, the RTX 3060 Ti was the first to be published at the end of 2020. And there’s the issue of the underlying GPU dies. The GeForce RTX 3060 is built on the GA106 die, while the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti is built on the GA104 die (the same die in the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080). Why did Nvidia plan to use separate dies to cut a card tier in half? We can’t tell for sure, but regardless of the logic, the result is two very separate RTX 3060s, one Ti and the other not, that should have been published years apart in terms of benchmarks.
The RTX 3060 GPU has twice the VRAM of its ancestor, rising from 6GB in the RTX 2060 Founders Edition to 12GB in the newer model. This is also 4GB more than the RTX 3060 Ti, which could offer the RTX 3060 a viable advantage over its counterparts in more intensive games operating at 1440p or higher resolutions. However, as we’ll see in the benchmarks, even that extra VRAM might not be enough to mask the RTX 3060’s own misbranding.
And there’s the market disparity. The EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 XC Black Gaming 12G and several other RTX 3060 versions will launch at $329, which is $70 less than the RTX 3060 Ti’s MSRP ($399). Although that card wowed us with better-than-expected outcomes in nearly every test we conducted, it still doesn’t account for the huge price-to-performance disparity between its non-Ti counterpart.
When you remember the variations between GA106 and GA104, the performance makes complete sense. Then the main mystery is that this GPU is referred to as an “RTX 3060.”
If this card had been sold (and priced) more by its results, it’s obvious that it would have received higher marks. Let’s say the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti had launched as the RTX 3060 in December, and this current RTX 3060 we’re reviewing today had been renamed the “RTX 3050.” Still, as an “RTX 3060,” the named successor to the RTX 2060 and the RTX 2060 Super (both excellent cards in their own right), the GA106 die isn’t up to the task.
Graphics cards in all types, stripes, weights, and labels face a supply shortage at levels not seen since the first cryptocurrency mining boom a few years ago. The situation seems to be becoming worse as the month’s pass.
It’s a double-header this time, with COVID-related delays and coin price spikes affecting both Nvidia and AMD. As people spend more time indoors, demand for PC components (particularly gaming-related components) has increased across the board. Desktop GPUs and CPUs are still selling out minutes after they’re published, and when you put cryptocurrency’s second resurgence on top of that—as of this writing, Bitcoin was trading above $45,000, up hundreds of percent from the same period last year—you’ve got the ideal formula for scalpers, fast rates, and bot-buying wars.
Nvidia responded by announcing that the GeForce RTX 3060 would be the first graphics card in the RTX 30 Series to have a hash cap baked into the GPU’s hardware-level instructions. According to the firm, this limiter would be “uncrackable,” which should deter cryptocurrency mining operations from utilizing bots to vacuum up supply until everyone else has a chance to reserve their place in the checkout line, at least in principle. (Scalpers, on the other hand, can try to take advantage of gamers.)
If that wasn’t enough to scare them away, the company also unveiled a new range of crypto-mining-specific cards under the “Nvidia CMP HX” label. (CMP stands for “Cryptocurrency Mining Processor.”) These CMP cards will concentrate on mining coins like Ethereum more effectively than traditional GPUs, thus (hopefully) freeing up the rest of the supply chain for gamers.
Thermals and Overclocking: A Compact Builder’s Choice
We ran a 10-minute stress test on the EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 XC Black Gaming 12G in 3DMark Port Royal. We noticed that the card reached a maximum temperature of 68 degrees C, which is 8 degrees hotter than the RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition, which reached a maximum temperature of 60 degrees C in the same run.
I reached a consistent OC profile of +225MHz on the boost clock speed when applying 300MHz to the memory clock while checking the RTX 3060’s overclocking capabilities. This amounted to a 12% increase in clock speed, which converted to a 4% increase in games like Far Cry 5 and simulated 3DMark runs. It’s not big, but it’s nothing.
In virtually every synthetic or real-world test we conducted, the EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 XC Black Gaming 12G was 20 percent to 50 percent slower than the RTX 3060 Ti, despite just costing around 20% less. In some tests, the card was slower than the AMD Radeon RX 5700 and Radeon RX 5700 XT, and it just manages to outperform the GeForce RTX 2060 Super by a few percentage points.