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Nvidia announces RTX 3060 graphics card for $329

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The new entry point for affordable ray tracing

Nvidia’s next graphics card is the GeForce RTX 3060, the company announced Tuesday during its Game On event at CES 2021.

Scheduled to arrive in late February, the RTX 3060 will launch at $329, making it the cheapest GPU with dedicated ray tracing hardware since Nvidia dropped the MSRP of its entry-level RTX 2060 to $299 one year ago.

The RTX 3060 slots in as the new base-level GPU in Nvidia’s 30-series line of graphics cards, which are powered by the company’s Ampere microarchitecture. It will sit below the RTX 3060 Ti, which debuted in December for $399. The RTX 3060 Ti is a very capable performer at 1440p resolution, making it a great option for people who want to save $100 over the RTX 3070. It stands to reason that the RTX 3060 will be more oriented toward folks playing at 1080p, and indeed, that’s the resolution for which Nvidia provided a comparison versus the Pascal-powered GTX 1060, which launched all the way back in mid-2016.

Watch Dogs: Legion on a GTX 1060 is a rough experience, with an average frame rate below 25 frames per second, according to a chart Nvidia showed during its presentation. But the company said that a PC equipped with an RTX 3060 can manage to keep the frame rate just above 60 fps in Watch Dogs: Legion and Cyberpunk 2077 — even with some ray tracing effects turned on — as long as Nvidia’s AI-powered Deep Learning Super Sampling technology is also enabled. The RTX 3060 delivers 10 times the ray tracing performance of the GTX 1060 (although it’s worth noting that games are basically unplayable with ray tracing enabled on that old GPU) and twice the rasterization performance, according to Nvidia.

a graph showing performance comparisons (in frame rate) between the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060, RTX 2060, and RTX 3060 for Total War: Three Kingdoms, The Division 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Watch Dogs: Legion, Fortnite, and Cyberpunk 2077 Image: Nvidia

One curious element of the RTX 3060 is that it boasts 50% more video memory than its next two more powerful siblings — 12 GB of GDDR6 RAM, versus the 8 GB in the RTX 3060 Ti and 3070. It’ll be interesting to see how the RTX 3060 compares with its higher-priced brethren in the long term, as more games with higher memory demands are released.

It’s also a bit strange that Nvidia’s reveal video for the RTX 3060 didn’t actually show off what the GPU looks like. Presumably, it’ll use the same compact pennant-shaped motherboard as the other 30-series cards, but we’ll find out next month.

Update: We’ve edited the article to clarify the impact of the RTX 3060’s video memory.