Conclusion

Today NVIDIA has launched the GeForce RTX 3050 GPU and video cards launching with this GPU will ship on January 27th.  The MSRP is set at $249, but as is common today availability and street pricing will vary, and the actual price you can purchase it at could be upwards of a hundred dollars or more. 

The GeForce RTX 3050 is a GPU we’ve been waiting a long time for, with many arguing it should have been released a lot sooner.  This fills out the entire product stack of the GeForce RTX 30 Series GPUs from the low-end to the high-end now, which was originally launched back in September of 2020 with the first RTX 30 series GPU.  It has been 1 year and almost 5 months since the RTX 30 Series was launched, and it has taken this long to finally fill out the low-end, entry-level to mainstream graphics card market and product stack on the desktop side of things.  At least it is finally here, and thankfully, it is very competitive.

NVIDIA has given us an Ampere-based GPU with 2560 CUDA cores, 80 Tensor Cores, and 20 RT Cores at a GPU Boost of 1777MHz.  What really makes this card exciting is also the fact that NVIDIA did not cheap out on the VRAM, we have a full 8GB of GDDR6 on a 128-bit bus at 14GHz.  In addition, we have PCI-Express 4.0 x8 support.  NVIDIA has also not cut back on the encoding engine, with the full 7th Generation NVIDIA Encoder (NVENC) found on all other Ampere-based GeForce RTX 30 series GPUs.  We even have four full display output connections.

EVGA GeForce RTX 3050 XC BLACK GAMING

For review today we had a full retail boxed EVGA GeForce RTX 3050 XC BLACK GAMING video card to evaluate with an MSRP of $249.99.  This is a very compact video card, with a very quiet dual-fan cooler.  It has three DisplayPorts and an HDMI port, 8GB of VRAM, and requires one 8-pin power connector. 

It is supposed to have a GPU Boost clock set at the stock configuration of 1777MHz.  EVGA will have a higher clocked, factory overclocked model available with a 3050 XC version at $329.99.  It is this version we actually benchmarked here today, despite having the BLACK GAMING physical card due to the wrong BIOS being applied by EVGA before the cards were sent to reviewers as we detailed on Page 2 of this review. This was confirmed only the day before launch, so impossible to re-do the entire review, but it only affects the out-of-box performance by 2-3%.

The clock speed BIOS oopsy with EVGA is a bit of a bummer, but we can justify showing the 1845MHz benchmarks because it still represents a real 3050 XC SKU EVGA will have available, and it’s not much performance difference.  The higher clocked 3050 XC SKU will have a full metal backplate and this higher 1845MHz factory overclock for $329.99 MSRP.  Other manufacturers will also have factory overclocked 3050’s, so this represents a factory overclocked 3050.

EVGA claims only a 2-3 percent difference though, and with that small of a difference it will not change the gameplay experience we experienced, nor the game settings we found playable, or the comparison with the Radeon RX 6500 XT and GTX 1650.  It did not change our conclusions of the GeForce RTX 3050 at all.  It’s such a small difference that it won’t affect the outcome in this review, plus the overclocking fully represents the 3050 XC BLACK GAMING card. A few percent won’t change the major differences in performance we found compared to the Radeon RX 6500 XT or GeForce GTX 1650, and there will be factory overclocked 3050’s. 

In addition, due to the nature of GPU Boost, the clock speed runs much higher than 1777MHz, to begin with.  It would most likely be in the 1900MHz range, similar to the higher clocked card. Therefore, just take note that the performance you see here today represents EVGA’s higher clocked 3050 XC SKU priced at $329.99, instead of the BLACK GAMING SKU.  The overclocking though fully represents the 3050 XC BLACK GAMING SKU.

Performance

In our evaluation of performance, we focused on the gameplay performance and gameplay experience delivered at different game quality settings at 1080p with each video card.  While we did test Ultra and High settings, we also tested at Medium settings at 1080p, and even some Low settings.  In this way, you can find the best setting for you for the performance you are looking at. 

We also found areas where there were major bottlenecks in performance on the new Radeon RX 6500 XT and the older GeForce GTX 1650 GTX.  In these bottlenecked settings is where the GeForce RTX 3050 shined, it showed us that it doesn’t share those bottlenecks, and allowed higher settings to be playable at 1080p, including Ray Tracing in some games.

Starting off in Battlefield 2042 we found that this game was playable at “Ultra” settings at 1080p on the GeForce RTX 3050.  It provided a performance that was above 70FPS, even without DLSS.  The Radeon RX 6500 XT was bottlenecked at this game setting.  Turning on DLSS made a difference and brought performance above 80FPS.  Of course, lower settings were also playable and just helped to provide higher framerates. 

What was more surprising was that we could play with Ray Traced Ambient Occlusion turned ON in this game on the GeForce RTX 3050 as well.  At 1080p and “Ultra” settings the framerate averaged 60FPS.  With DLSS it was around 75FPS, so that’s very playable with Ray Tracing enabled.  If you need more performance that has higher minimums, lowering the game quality does the trip and now framerates with Ray Tracing are very high, and with DLSS even higher.

Forza Horizon 5 was another game that surprised us on the GeForce RTX 3050.  We could play this game full-stop at the “Extreme” preset even with Ray Tracing Quality turned to High.  It provided a performance that was very fast, 55FPS, and with overclocking even higher.  Moving down just one setting to “Ultra” and still keeping Ray Tracing turned ON performance was now near 70FPS average, and the minimum framerates were kept very high.  This is just much better in terms of gameplay settings than the Radeon RX 6500 XT allows.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a very demanding game, but what really helps this game on the GeForce RTX 3050 is DLSS.  We can turn on DLSS at “Ultra” settings in the game and get near 55FPS average.  Otherwise, moving down to “High” settings allows about that same performance without DLSS, and turning on DLSS brings us to an astonishing 78FPS.  That’s really the best way to play this game at 1080p with this card.  It’s much, much faster than the Radeon RX 6500 XT here.  Though this game is a bit too demanding for Ray Tracing.  We did try Ray Tracing Medium, and even with DLSS performance was in the 40’s and not what we’d consider playable.

Far Cry 6 was a very interesting game to play.  The GeForce RTX 3050 did exceptionally well in this game.  It allowed us to use settings and features we could not on the Radeon RX 6500 XT.  We were able to utilize the HD Textures on the GeForce RTX 3050 without a performance loss or any choppiness or lagging or hitching.  It was butter smooth, even at “Ultra” settings on the RTX 3050.  We could play at “Ultra” with HD Textures at 73FPS.  Turning on FSR improved that to near 90FPS. 

More importantly, we could also play this game with all DXR Ray Tracing options turned ON with HD Textures turned ON.  We could play at 1080p with “Ultra” settings and HD Textures, and DXR Ray Tracing and still get a 60FPS average on the GeForce RTX 3050.  Turn on FSR, and this increased to 70FPS.  If that’s not fast enough for you lowering the quality setting down a notch will provide a big boost to framerates and you can play with HD Textures, DXR, and no FSR.

Microsoft Flight Sim 2020 Game of The Year Edition was also much more enjoyable on the GeForce RTX 3050.  We could play this game at “Ultra” settings and still experience playable performance for this game, something the Radeon RX 6500 XT could not do.  If 40FPS wasn’t enough, just moving down one setting to “High-End” allows performance in the 50’s in this game on the RTX 3050.

Finally, Horizon Zero Dawn gave us two options, DLSS and FSR.  This game performed great at “Ultimate Quality” at 1080p on the GeForce RTX 3050.  The game performed at an average above 70FPS, and with DLSS into the ’90s.  Testing FSR and DLSS it seems DLSS did provide a higher performance level.

Performance Summary

The best way we can summarize the GeForce RTX 3050 versus the Radeon RX 6500 XT is to say that the Radeon RX 6500 XT is a “Low-Medium” graphics quality setting card at 1080p, while the GeForce RTX 3050 is a “High-Ultra” graphics setting card at 1080p. 

The GeForce RTX 3050 gives us the option to play games in the “High-Ultra” settings range at 1080p.  It was playable mostly at these higher quality settings, whereas the Radeon RX 6500 XT was not.  The Radeon RX 6500 XT, and the older GeForce GTX 1650, bottlenecked a lot with certain settings enabled or at higher settings, but the GeForce RTX 3050 did not bottleneck. 

It’s greater 8GB of VRAM, PCIe 4.0 x8 bus, wider memory bus width, and overall shader performance is very advantageous to gameplay performance even at 1080p.  DLSS is a key feature that also helps make settings that would otherwise not be playable, be playable.  It can just flat out increase your performance, still, look very good, and provide high framerates if that is what you are after.  Or it can make more demanding settings, like in Cyberpunk 2077, playable. 

We are also impressed with how Ray Tracing is an actual useable feature on a lower-end video card.  This did not use to be the case.  When Ray Tracing was first introduced you wouldn’t even think about using Ray Tracing on a lower-end video card, but that is not the case today.  We found that Far Cry 6 and Forza Horizon 5 had usable Ray Tracing quality settings with the GeForce RTX 3050 at 1080p.  There are other games out there that can also perform well with Ray Tracing like Dirt 5 and Godfall.  When you tie in DLSS with it, it can really make Ray Tracing a much more practical feature.   

Final Points

It comes down to this, the GeForce RTX 3050 was designed as a gaming video card for desktop PC gaming, while the Radeon RX 6500 XT was designed as a laptop GPU forced into a desktop package.  The GeForce RTX 3050 is truly a gaming GPU, it has all the right features and specifications that are just right for 1080p gaming and work well on a lower-end video card.  The 8GB of VRAM is a big factor, but you also get better PCIe bandwidth, memory bandwidth, a full array of output connectors, and a full media encoding engine in hardware.  It’s a gaming video card that works great for gaming, streaming, and content creators. 

The EVGA GeForce RTX 3050 XC BLACK GAMING we evaluated today is a solid video card.  Just remember the performance shown here today represents the more expensive $329.99 EVGA 3050 XC higher clocked SKU which also has a full metal backplate.  Otherwise, the cards are the same.  For what amounts to a small potential performance difference (2-3 percent) you are probably better best served by going for the XC BLACK GAMING version at $249.99 MSRP.  It will save you some major bucks and still provide you with a similar performance.  Plus, you can always overclock it. 

Overclocking gave us around a 5-8% performance bump from the 1845MHz GPU Boost Clock.  It overclocked higher than we thought it would actually, it’s not a bad little overclocker, there is headroom there.  Of course, other AIBs will also have factory overclocked cards, so if you want to spend the extra money, go for it for the best performance. 

In this day and age, you should probably just go for what you can actually find available, at the lowest price you can find it.  Maybe the GeForce RTX 3050 will be more available, we hope so because this really is the perfect 1080p gameplay experience video card.  It checks all the right boxes, 8GB of VRAM, usable Ray Tracing, DLSS, media encoding in hardware, lower power, compact size, quiet operation.  It’s perfect for that 1080p gameplay.

Discussion

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Brent Justice

Brent Justice has been reviewing computer components for 20+ years, educated in the art and method of the computer hardware review he brings experience, knowledge, and hands-on testing with a gamer-oriented...

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