Nvidia’s new budget GPU is officially one to avoid

Nvidia lifts the lid on the GeForce RTX 3050 6GB, but this new affordable graphics card is based on old tech with disappointing specs.

Asus and MSI Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 6GB graphics cards

Nvidia has just officially launched a new budget GPU, but you’ll want to steer well clear of it if you actually want to play games at half-decent settings. The new GeForce RTX 3050 6GB isn’t just based on the same last-gen Ampere architecture as the previous RTX 3050 8GB, but it also has a lesser spec, and we’re not just talking about the memory.

On the plus side, the RTX 3050 6GB price is only $169.99 on NewEgg right now, but that’s still a fair bit of money for a GPU that’s going to struggle in the latest games. Let’s face it, this Nvidia GPU isn’t going to end up on our best graphics card guide. You would be much better off paying $199 for a quicker AMD Radeon RX 6600 or, even better, saving up for the new Radeon RX 7600. That’s a real shame, as there’s a massive gap in the market for a solid new GPU that costs under $200.

Back to the RTX 3050 6GB, this “new” GPU has now been officially listed on Nvidia’s website, after a few months of rumors. As we expected, it has 2GB less memory than the standard RTX 3050, but this VRAM is attached to a very narrow 96-bit memory interface, compared to the 128-bit bus on the 8GB card. That brings the memory bandwidth right down to a pitiful 168GB/s, compared to 224GB/s on the original card, which will have a significant impact on gaming performance.

Not only that, but the number of CUDA cores has dropped down to 2,304 from 2,560, and the boost clock has fallen all the way from 1.78GHz to just 1.47GHz. Technically, the RTX 3050 6GB also supports ray tracing, but as it now only has 18 streaming multiprocessors enabled, that means you only get 18 RT cores, compared with 20 on the 8GB card.

To make matters worse, the original RTX 3050 8GB was already a disappointment when it launched two years ago – in my tests, it only averaged 42fps in Cyberpunk 2077 at 1080p, and that’s without ray tracing enabled. The new Radeon RX 7600 averages 78fps in the same test. There’s a similar difference between the Radeon RX 7600 and RTX 3050 8GB in other games too, with 48fps vs 87fps in Metro Exodus, and 55fps vs 103fps in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The new GPU is going to be even slower than this.

On the plus side, the RTX 3050 6GB doesn’t require a separate PCIe power cable, getting all its juice from your motherboard’s PCIe slot. It also has a graphics card power rating of just 70W, compared to 130W for the 8GB card. This will make it a potential contender for slim, mini-ITX gaming desktops where thermal headroom and low power requirements are necessary and MSI has already unveiled a low-profile card based on the new GPU.

It’s not much use for anyone else, though. We were really hoping to have seen a new budget GPU based on the Nvidia Ada architecture by this time, but there’s still no sign of the rumored RTX 4050 on the horizon. That’s a pity, as the market is really crying out for a budget 1080p gaming GPU that can handle half-decent gaming settings. This price bracket used to be occupied by the likes of the Radeon RX 570 and GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, and there’s a big hole in it right now.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for the cheapest way to get a current Nvidia GPU with all the new features, check out our RTX 4060 review, as well as our Radeon RX 7600 XT review if you’re looking for a card with more VRAM.