Nvidia‘s RTX 2000 and 3000 series graphics cards have been among the most popular GPUs for gaming and creation over the past few years. With the RTX 2060 launching in 2019 and the RTX 3060 arriving two years later in 2021, many gamers face the decision between these two similar mid-range offerings.
In this in-depth guide, we‘ll compare the RTX 2060 and RTX 3060 head-to-head across all the key specs and real-world performance metrics. You‘ll get a clear sense of how the generational improvements stack up and whether it‘s worth upgrading from a 2060 to a 3060.
Overview of the RTX 2060 and RTX 3060
The RTX 2060 hit the market in January 2019 as a mid-range card perfect for smooth 1080p and 1440p gaming. With 6GB of VRAM and 1920 CUDA cores built on the Turing architecture, it provided excellent performance at a reasonable $349 MSRP.
The card also introduced ray tracing and AI-powered DLSS to mid-range gamers for the first time. These features were previously only found in the high-end RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti.
Two years later, Nvidia released the RTX 3060 in February 2021. It slotted into a similar mid-range position but with upgrades like a larger 12GB framebuffer and improved second-generation ray tracing cores. The RTX 3060 was priced at $329 MSRP – $20 cheaper than the 2060‘s launch price.
Both cards are aimed at mainstream gamers who want smooth framerates in 1080p and 1440p games, along with some future-proofing from features like ray tracing and DLSS. The 3060 brings improvements, but is it enough of a generational leap for RTX 2060 owners to upgrade? Let‘s find out.
RTX 2060 vs 3060 Specs Comparison
Here‘s a look at how the specs stack up between the two graphics cards:
|Specification||RTX 2060||RTX 3060|
|VRAM||6GB GDDR6||12GB GDDR6|
|Power Connectors||1x 8-pin||1x 8-pin|
Comparing the specs shows that while the RTX 3060 has a lower base clock, its GPU Boost speed is around 100MHz quicker than the 2060.
More importantly, the newer Ampere architecture provides more performance per clock cycle. Combined with the 35% increase in CUDA cores, the 3060 can churn through shader and compute tasks much faster.
The 3060 also doubles the VRAM capacity to 12GB. This doesn‘t impact framerate directly, but gives you more headroom for future games and higher resolution textures.
Power draw sees a small increase of 10W for the newer card, but not enough to require a stronger power supply. The port selection is similar too, with both featuring triple DisplayPort and one HDMI.
Gaming Performance Benchmarks
Spec sheets only tell part of the story though. To see how these Mid-range cards compare in the real world, we‘ll look at gaming benchmarks across 1080p, 1440p and 4K resolutions.
Here are the average FPS scores in some popular titles at max settings:
|Game||RTX 2060||RTX 3060|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||82 FPS||89 FPS|
|Call of Duty: Warzone||120 FPS||132 FPS|
|Forza Horizon 5||107 FPS||118 FPS|
|Assassin‘s Creed: Valhalla||67 FPS||75 FPS|
At Full HD, both cards deliver excellent framerates well beyond 60 FPS in even the most demanding games. The 3060 provides a 5-15% performance uplift on average though, thanks to its upgraded architecture and extra CUDA cores.
|Game||RTX 2060||RTX 3060|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||56 FPS||67 FPS|
|Call of Duty: Warzone||86 FPS||98 FPS|
|Forza Horizon 5||89 FPS||102 FPS|
|Assassin‘s Creed: Valhalla||47 FPS||58 FPS|
At higher 1440p resolution, the gap widens slightly with the 3060 offering around 15-20% faster framerates depending on the game. It maintains smooth 60+ FPS gaming throughout, while the 2060 starts to struggle on more intensive titles.
|Game||RTX 2060||RTX 3060|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||26 FPS||36 FPS|
|Call of Duty: Warzone||55 FPS||71 FPS|
|Forza Horizon 5||56 FPS||68 FPS|
|Assassin‘s Creed: Valhalla||24 FPS||34 FPS|
When pushed to 4K, both cards start to run into limitations, but the 3060‘s lead expands to 25-30% higher FPS. The 2060 fails to maintain 30 FPS in demanding games like Valhalla or Red Dead at UHD. The 3060 fares significantly better, making 4K gaming viable in eSports and well-optimized titles.
Across resolutions, the RTX 3060 demonstrates its stronger performance. Compared to the 2060, frame rates are between 10-30% faster depending on the game and settings. It‘s not strictly necessary for 1080p, but makes a bigger difference at 1440p and especially 4K.
Ray Tracing and DLSS Performance
A key selling point of these RTX cards compared to older GTX models is dedicated hardware for ray traced lighting and DLSS upscaling. Here‘s how both cards handle these features:
- Ray Tracing – The RTX 3060 has improved 2nd-gen RT cores that allow it to trace more rays per second. This leads to noticeably better ray traced visuals compared to the 2060 in supported games.
- DLSS – Thanks to its stronger tensor cores, the 3060 also runs Nvidia‘s DLSS upscaling better. It can hit higher frame rates with DLSS enabled at 1440p and 4K.
To put numbers to it, here is how the cards compare running Control with maxed out ray tracing at 1440p:
|RTX 2060||34 FPS||48 FPS|
|RTX 3060||43 FPS||60 FPS|
The 3060 maintains 20-30% higher frame rates with ray tracing enabled. It also scales better with DLSS, hitting 60 FPS where the 2060 can‘t quite get there.
For ray tracing and upscaling, Ampere offers clear improvements that translate into better visuals and smoother gaming.
Price and Value Comparison
At launch, both cards were reasonably priced for their performance tier:
- RTX 2060 – $349 MSRP
- RTX 3060 – $329 MSRP
However, recent fluctuations in GPU prices changed the value proposition. Due to shortages and tariffs, real-world pricing ended up much higher:
- RTX 2060 – $400+ retail price
- RTX 3060 – $600+ retail price
Thankfully supply has recovered in 2022, bringing prices back towards MSRP:
- RTX 2060 – $300 current retail price
- RTX 3060 – $370 current retail price
Considering the 10-30% performance gains, the RTX 3060 provides better dollar-for-dollar value at today‘s prices. The 2060 is cheaper upfront, but lacks future-proofing features to the same degree.
For budget-focused 1080p gaming, the 2060 remains a capable option. But for 1440p and especially 4K, the 3060 is worth its moderate price premium.
Power Efficiency and Thermals
An important consideration for GPUs is power draw and resulting thermals. More power translates directly into more heat output.
While the RTX 3060 is rated for 10W higher TDP, reviewers found it runs cooler and quieter than the 2060 in real-world use. The newer Ampere architecture is more efficient, achieving better speeds while drawing less power.
For example, TechPowerUp measured total system draw under gaming loads at:
- RTX 2060: 287W
- RTX 3060: 265W
So you can expect lower temperatures and noise with the 3060, despite its faster speeds. This gives it an advantage in small form factor PCs where cooling is limited.
Content Creation Performance
For creative work like video editing, 3D modeling and game streaming, Nvidia‘s RTX cards accelerate these workflows in many apps:
- Video Encoding – The RTX 3060‘s upgraded NVENC encoder can process high resolution footage 5-10% faster than the 2060. This makes editing and streaming smoother.
- Rendering – In Blender, the 3060 is around 25% faster at GPU rendering, completing scenes in less time.
- Creator Software – With the latest Studio drivers, both cards get optimized performance in creative programs like Adobe Premiere and After Effects.
The 3060‘s lead in professional workflows mirrors its advantage in gaming. While still decent, the older 2060 architecture limits performance in graphics-heavy creator tasks.
Which Should You Pick in 2022?
So should you choose the RTX 2060 or 3060? Here is a summary of the key considerations:
- For 1080p gaming, an RTX 2060 is still very capable, hitting 100+ FPS in most titles. Go for a discounted 2060 if budgets are tight.
- For 1440p, the 3060 pulls notably ahead. Its 15-30% lead gives you 60+ FPS in all games. Pick it if you own a high refresh 1440p monitor.
- At 4K, there is no contest. Only the 3060 can make UHD viable in many titles. This makes it the clear choice for 4K gamers.
- Ray tracing and DLSS work significantly better on the newer card too.
- With prices down, the RTX 3060 is the better value in most regions based on performance per dollar.
- The RTX 3060 runs cooler and quieter as well, thanks to efficiency improvements.
So if buying new, we recommend the RTX 3060 overall. But if you already own an RTX 2060, the upgrade is harder to justify and really only beneficial for 1440p or 4K gaming.
When Does the 2060 Still Make Sense in 2022?
There are still a few cases where picking up an RTX 2060 in 2022 could be a smart buy:
- Finding an RTX 2060 priced under $250 gives you terrific 1080p value.
- If you only target 1080p 60 FPS on a regular monitor, saving money with a 2060 makes sense.
- Small or pre-built PCs may only support the 2060‘s single 8-pin power connector.
- If upgrading from an ancient card like a GTX 960, even a cheap 2060 is a massive leap.
So while the RTX 3060 is superior overall, the previous-gen 2060 can still be a prudent choice depending on your budget and needs.
Nvidia‘s RTX 3060 delivers clear generational improvements over the 2060. It wins out in terms of raw performance, next-gen features like ray tracing and DLSS, cooling, and content creation capabilities.
However, the RTX 2060 remains a respectable 1080p GPU if found at a discount. While it lacks future-proofing compared to Ampere, a 2060 still beats entry-level cards for smooth Full HD gaming.
If buying new in 2022 though, the 3060 is worth the moderate price premium for its 10-30% faster speeds and upgraded architecture. Only those on a tight budget should still consider the last-gen 2060, as the 3060 surpasses it across the board in the long run.