(Image: PCMag.com)Nvidia’s “budget friendly” Ampere GPU has finally arrived in the form of the RTX 3050. It’s intended to deliver both ray tracing and DLSS support to the mass market. The swan song for Ampere will officially go on sale January 27th, and reviews went live today that show the card offers great 1080p performance for its $249 MSRP. Unfortunately that’s not the price it will be sold for, assuming you can even find one in stock.
For a refresher the RTX 3050 is essentially a cut-down 3060, and uses the same GA106 die from that $329 GPU. Despite being a watered down version of its big brother, it still has decent specs for an entry level GPU. It isn’t castrated like the Radeon RX 6500 XT, which launched last week to online mockery. The RTX 3050 has 8GB of VRAM, compared to 4GB on the Radeon, and it comes with a PCIe 4.0 x16 interface, compared to just an x4 link on the AMD GPU. Its has a 128-bit wide memory bus too, compared to the skinny 64-bit bus on the 6500XT, though this last is somewhat mitigated by the 16MB of L3 cache on the RDNA2 GPU. The RTX 3050’s specs are unsurprising; it’s a standard 1080p high settings GPU, with the added benefit of being able to theoretically use Nvidia’s ray tracing and DLSS in games that support it.
Overall, the card mostly delivers on its promise of offering 60fps at Ultra settings in AAA titles. Unlike the Radeon card, which is held back by its lack of VRAM and narrow memory bus, the RTX 3050 can run the latest games at maximum detail, either near 60fps or beyond, depending on the game in question. PCMag.com tested the card using an Intel Core i9-10900K CPU, which notably has a PCIe 3.0 interface, but found it made little difference. This was a sticking point with the Radeon card, as its x4 interface hindered its performance on PCIe 3.0 by up to 36 percent. In their gauntlet of AAA titles the card was able to soar beyond 60fps in every title except two: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2, where it scored 54fps and 49fps, respectively. That’s still pretty decent, assuming once again, that this is a $250 GPU. This is not the GPU for 1080p gaming at high refresh rates however, unless you play older games from several years ago (no judgement) or games that aren’t too graphically demanding like Fortnite.
Generally speaking, the RTX 3050 performs about the same as the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti, which came out two years ago. The big difference this time around is that the GTX 1660 Ti can’t do ray tracing or DLSS. The RTX 3050 can. In PCMag’s testing using the synthetic Port Royal benchmark, the 3050 scored 3,565 compared to 548 for the Radeon RX 6500 XT, and a big fat goose egg for the GTX 1660 Ti. PC Gamer also noted that the 3050 offers “playable ray tracing” on games that offer both ray tracing and DLSS, with the latter required to help boost frame rates to acceptable levels.
All in all, this is some pretty good news for folks stranded with older GPUs. But here’s the bad news, which you already knew was coming. As has been the case for every single GPU launch in the past two years, nobody knows if the cards will be in stock anywhere, or what their actual price will be. Tom’s Hardware posted a listing of all the RTX 3050s that will be available from Nvidia’s partners, and some of them are launching with ludicrous pricing built-in. As an example: Though Asus is offering a bargain bin $249 version, its overclocked versions will be offered at an insane $439 and $489. Gigabyte and MSI are also charging an exorbitant $379 for their overclocked versions as well.
This leaves us with the usual caveats pointed out in the headline, and all reviews online. If you can find one for MSRP or close to it, don’t even hesitate because it’s likely if you take five minutes to mull it over it’ll be out of stock by the time you try to add it to your cart. That’s assuming you can even find one in stock. We shall find out what the situation is on the 27th, but given the card’s 8GB of RAM and relatively low price, it’ll likely be snatched up by miners rather quickly.