NVIDIA RTX 3050 review: A great $250 GPU (in theory)

Deepak Gupta February 7, 2022
Updated 2022/02/07 at 6:13 PM

The idea of ​​a $250 graphics card seems like a pipe dream today, when unprecedented demand, scalpers and global chip shortages have driven GPU prices into the stratosphere. Still, that doesn’t stop NVIDIA from trying with the new RTX 3050. It’s the company’s cheapest GPU yet with ray tracing, and it should face off against AMD’s even cheaper Radeon RX 6500 XT, which has an MSRP of $200. While it’s unclear if the 3050 will actually retail for $250 once it hits stores, it will at least come in less than the RTX 3060, which launched for $329 but now costs around $1,000 (no a typo) at Newegg and other retailers.

Like NVIDIA’s popular GTX 1050 and its other 50-class GPUs, the 3050 should be an affordable way to hit 1080p/60fps while playing modern games. With more recent titles like To control demanding more power from our systems, it makes sense for NVIDIA to finally deliver a budget entry 30-series. The 3050 has 2,560 CUDA cores, a boost speed of 1,777 MHz, and 8GB of GDDR6 RAM, putting it well below 3,584. 3060’s CUDA cores and 8GB of RAM (not to mention its much faster memory interface). Still, as a 30-series GPU, it also features ray tracing and tensor cores, allowing for more realistic lighting, as well as the company’s DLSS technology to boost performance.

pros

  • Excellent 1080p performance
  • Decent games at 1440p
  • silent and fresh
  • Low suggested price

cons

  • Can be hard to find for the price of $250

NVIDIA is positioning the new card as a major upgrade to the GTX 1650, which had just 896 CUDA cores and no ray tracing or tensor capabilities. (There was no RTX 2050 desktop GPU, though the company surprised everyone when it announced a laptop version at this year’s CES.) The RTX 3050 is also more attractive on paper than the Radeon 6500 XT, which has just 4GB of storage. memory, a much slower memory bus, and only accesses 4 PCIe lanes instead of the typical 16. AMD has clearly cut as much as possible to create a cheap GPU for entry-level gamers, but that also makes it less future-proof than the slightly more expensive RTX 3050.

During my testing, the EVGA RTX 3050 XC Black GPU (NVIDIA isn’t doing any Founder’s Edition this time) was able to tackle every game I played at 1080p, even when I cranked the graphics settings to the max. The average was 140fps in hitman 3 Dubai benchmark, making it suitable for 144Hz refresh rate monitors. Raising the resolution to 1440p halved the performance to 74fps, which was a significant drop from the 110fps average of 3060. That higher resolution is definitely playable, but of course the 3050 is better suited for 1080p gaming, especially if you’re trying to get enough performance to justify a high refresh rate monitor.

3DMark TimeSpy

destination 2

killer 3

Port Royal (ray tracing)

NVIDIA RTX 3050

6,702

1080p: 90 | 1440p: 60-65

1080: 140 | 1440p: 74

3,643/17fps

AMD Radeon RX 6600

8,521

1080p: 110-120 | 1440p: 75-85

1080p: 138 | 1440p: 94

3,846/17fps

NVIDIA RTX 3060 Ti

11,308

1440p: 85-110fps

4K: 45-60fps

N/A

6,989/32.36 fps

All benchmarks tested on a system powered by a Ryzen 7 5800X, 32GB RAM and Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD.

Inside destination 2, the 3050 averaged 90fps at 1080p and 65fps at 1440p at the highest graphics settings. Those are decent scores if you want all the best visual flourishes, but I bet many players would lower some of these settings to get better framerates. I was most impressed with how the GPU handled To control, which is still one of the most demanding games. It hit 65fps on average at 1080p with maxed graphics (but no ray tracing). When I turned on DLSS, which rendered the game at 720p and used AI to upscale it to 1080p, the frame rate jumped to a silkier 90fps. And surprisingly, it was perfectly playable at 70fps when I turned on the medium ray tracing settings along with DLSS. Not bad for a (supposedly) $250 video card!

NVIDIA RTX 3050 GPU

Devindra Hardawar/Ploonge

As for typical benchmarks like the 3DMark suite, you’d better not look at them. The 3050 is clearly much slower than the rest of NVIDIA’s lineup, so it’s best to ignore what you’re missing. The important thing is that it’s an affordable card that can play demanding games well at 1080p, and in some cases even 1440p. And thanks to its relatively tame performance, it doesn’t generate much heat or noise either. It remained at a surprisingly cool 60 degrees Celsius under load.

I didn’t have an RTX 6500 XT to compare, but judging by the comments and its specs, you’ll have a hard time hitting any Ultra-level 1080p games with this GPU. AMD purposely harmed its memory to make it less attractive to cryptominers. This plan may have actually worked, as its price is now oscillating between $250 and $300 on Newegg.

NVIDIA RTX 3050 GPU

Devindra Hardawar/Ploonge

It will be interesting to see how much the RTX 3050’s price increases after its release. But based on what we know so far, it’s an absolute steal if you can get it for $250, and for many players it will be worth paying several hundred more. It’s currently the only way to get an NVIDIA 3000 series card without paying more than $1,000.

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