The last few years have not been good for gamers, owing mainly to the supply issues that have plagued the GPU market for a while now. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and the prices finally seem to be stabilizing!
That said, many are eager to get their hands on a new GPU this year, and the RTX 3060 seems to be the ideal pick for most gamers. It is a well-balanced mid-range GPU that performs beautifully in 1440p, and for those who are more focused on performance-oriented monitors with high refresh rates, it dominates 1080p as well.
Now, if you’ve settled on getting yourself a shiny new RTX 3060 soon, there are quite a few options to choose from. However, we have narrowed down the selection to what we feel are the best RTX 3060 cards currently on the market, so it should make the selection process easier!
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- Small form factor
- Decent single-fan cooler
- Can get loud and hot under load
- Limited overclocking potential
The first card on our list is the humble Asus Phoenix RTX 3060, a compact card that packs all the performance of this excellent GPU into a small form factor that is perfect for smaller cases or external GPU enclosures.
Design-wise, the Phoenix-series products are a far cry from Asus’ more popular ROG lineup. Being a budget-oriented product, the Phoenix RTX 3060 features a simple black shroud, although it comes complete with a backplate—something that wasn’t commonly seen in affordable GPUs up until relatively recently.
On the performance front, this card easily rivals the reference model, even boasting a slightly higher boost clock. However, with the smaller heatsink and single-fan cooling, the card tends to run quite hot and can get loud under heavy load. This, in turn, means there’s virtually no overclocking headroom to speak of.
That said, the Asus Phoenix RTX 3060 is an ideal pick for those who are looking to build a Mini ITX gaming PC or rig up an eGPU. It is also one of the cheaper models currently available, though the price alone doesn’t make it appealing enough unless the small form factor is high up on your priority list.
- Solid performance overall
- Approachable price
- Somewhat bland design
Up next, we have the Zotac Gaming RTX 3060 Twin Edge OC, which is similar to the above model from Asus in many respects. It is a balanced and inexpensive take on the RTX 3060, only without the small form factor.
Looking at the RTX 3060 Twin Edge OC, it features a simple dark gray shroud and a backplate, making for an effective but not very remarkable exterior. But as before, this card prioritizes affordability and performance, so it makes perfect sense that any corner-cutting was reserved for the aesthetics department.
Speaking of performance, the Twin Edge OC offers comparable performance to the Phoenix RTX 3060—it pulls ahead of the reference model, but the larger heatsink and dual-fan cooler allow it to maintain lower temperatures and noise levels, all the while giving it a bit more overclocking headroom.
So, all in all, the Zotac RTX 3060 Twin Edge OC is the perfect choice for those who are after a no-frills graphics card that will get the job done without having to boast any flashy RGB and without being a dollar more expensive than it needs to be.
- Good performance in a fairly compact card
- Overclocks well
- Excellent cooling
- Great value for the money
- Unremarkable design
- Can get a bit loud
Moving on, the next card we have lined up comes from none other than EVGA, and it is the RTX 3060 XC Gaming. While it doesn’t look particularly remarkable at first glance, this card has quite a few things to offer under the hood.
Once again, we are looking at a low-profile card with a simple and effective design. The solid black shroud and the all-metal backplate help reinforce the feeling of a quality product, although those who like a dash of RGB in their cards will be disappointed.
Now, despite the somewhat unremarkable design, this is a performance-oriented card. It boasts excellent dual-fan cooling that allows it to offer some of the highest boost clock speeds that you can get in an RTX 3060, and it can be pushed beyond 2000 MHz with some tweaking. As such, it is bound to catch the eye of anyone who wishes to squeeze as much performance as possible out of this GPU.
Truth be told, the cooling can get a bit loud under load, but that is only expected and it won’t be an issue for those performance-oriented gamers who mainly care about getting the best bang for their buck out of a graphics card.
- Top-of-the-line performance
- Efficient triple-fan cooler
- High-quality build with RGB lighting
- On the pricey side
And now, we get to something a bit more eye-catching: the ASUS ROG Strix RTX 3060 V2 OC Edition. And as you’d expect, this card comes with all the qualities commonly associated with Asus’ famous ROG brand.
First and foremost, it is a beautiful-looking card, and it boasts what is easily one of the best designs seen in ROG Strix cards to date. The backplate and the shroud, with its metal highlights, come beautifully together with the top-notch RGB lighting to give off an impression of a true high-quality graphics card that doesn’t belong anywhere but in a translucent case.
As you’d expect, the card doesn’t disappoint in the performance department either. The triple-fan cooler isn’t just for show, and much like the EVGA model above, the card delivers a high factory boost clock and can run at over 2000 MHz with some tweaking—with the added benefit of lower noise levels.
On the downside, the triple-fan cooler and the 2.7 slot design make the card quite bulky, so it won’t be a good fit for more compact cases. On top of that, there is also a price premium that makes this card a bit more expensive than the competing models, which won’t appeal to the more budget-conscious gamers out there.
With all that said, if you want a card that pushes the capabilities of the RTX 3060 to the limit and also has the kind of aesthetics that you would like to proudly show off, then this is the right card for you.
How To Pick The Best Graphics Card For Your Needs
Choosing between several different cards featuring the same GPU tends to be simpler than choosing between multiple GPUs, but there are still several important factors to consider.
So, what should you keep in mind when choosing the best graphics card for your needs?
The physical size of the component is an important factor when it comes to graphics cards, as larger cards might not be a good fit with every motherboard or computer case. In that respect, the length and the width of the card are the dimensions to look out for.
Some cards are longer than others, be it due to a larger PCB or due to a larger cooler that extends past the PCB. In either case, a longer graphics card might not fit a smaller case, as it could easily be obstructed by the SSD/HDD rack.
On the other hand, the width of the card is usually determined by the thickness of the heatsink, and the width is commonly labeled according to the number of slots that they take up on the motherboard.
Today, graphics cards take up between two and three slots on a motherboard, with most of them fitting somewhere in between.
That said, modern cases and motherboards take that into account, but there is still a chance a wider card might obstruct other components or slots on the motherboard, or it might be too close to the bottom of the case and thus inhibit the airflow.
In any case, it’s always a good idea to check the dimensions of the case and the format of the motherboard in order to make sure there will be no compatibility issues on this front.
In a gaming PC, the graphics card is the component that tends to generate the most heat. And apart from the CPU and PSU, it is the only component with active cooling.
Today, you will encounter graphics cards with three types of cooling: open-air, blower, and liquid.
Open-air coolers are the most common type of cooler seen in graphics cards today, and all of the cards listed in this article utilize them. They feature an open heatsink and anywhere from one to three fans. They offer an excellent balance between cooling efficiency, noise generation, and cost efficiency, which is precisely why they are the most popular type of cooler around.
Blower coolers, in contrast, feature a closed heatsink and only have a single blower fan that blows the hot air straight out the back of the card. This makes blower coolers fairly loud and unpopular among mainstream graphics cards. However, they are a good solution for small cases or multi-GPU setups, as they prevent heat buildup inside the case.
Finally, liquid cooling is the most efficient cooling method currently available. By using liquid rather than air to dissipate the heat, these coolers can allow GPUs to hit higher clock speeds and maintain lower temperatures than their air-cooled counterparts. However, they are not necessarily quieter—the liquid is circulated by a pump away from the component and to the case-mounted radiators, which are in turn cooled by regular fans.
Overall, liquid coolers are really only really worth it for enthusiasts. They can easily add over $100 to the price of what is already expensive high-end or enthusiast-grade graphics card, as those are the only ones powerful enough to truly benefit from liquid cooling.
That said, when considering cooling in an RTX 3060, it will mainly come down to the number of fans that the cooler utilizes, which in turn will tie into the question of size that we’ve discussed above.
A single-fan cooler will inevitably be louder, as it relies on a single fan to circulate the air through what is likely to be a small heatsink to begin with. However, this also means that the card itself will be smaller, making it a good fit for small form factor cases and eGPUs, as previously mentioned.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, triple-fan coolers will be running quieter and allow a GPU to perform better due to the increased cooling efficiency resulting from a larger heatsink and three fans, but they will also be quite bulky.
And then, we have dual-fan coolers in the middle, which will fit inside most cases while also offering efficient cooling overall.
As translucent cases and side panels became more popular over the course of the 2010s, they influenced graphics card manufacturers to place a greater focus on the design of their cards. This resulted in component aesthetics becoming more important, and besides, a more visually appealing graphics card also made for a more marketable product.
So, if you’re getting a translucent case or are building an open rig and want to make sure your setup looks good, what should you keep in mind when it comes to your future graphics card’s design?
First and most noticeably, we have color. Only a few years ago, many graphics cards had specific color highlights that served as something of a manufacturer’s signature. For example, Gigabyte had orange, Zotac had yellow, and MSI had red, although the design varied from series to series.
However, most OEMs have since moved away from this design approach, and for two reasons: consistency and RGB lighting.
Naturally, for it to look aesthetically pleasing, a build must have a consistent color scheme, and by painting their shrouds and backplates a specific color, OEMs made it more difficult for their cards to blend in with different setups. Now, cards mainly have black shrouds with more subtle gray or white highlights, which makes them more neutral.
Then, there’s the RGB lighting, which is a better solution on virtually every front if you want to add some color to your setup. It is flexible and allows you to easily establish and change the color scheme across different components whenever you feel like it, not to mention that it is cheaper than ever and is now quite commonplace even among the more affordable graphics cards.
Finally, there’s the backplate. Much like RGB, backplates are slowly making their way to the lower price ranges, and in 2023, it’s not uncommon to find them even in budget graphics cards such as the RTX 3050 or other budget models from a few years ago.
Most gamers will agree that backplates tend to look quite beautiful, as they give a graphics card a very sturdy and polished look. But do they serve any purpose apart from the aesthetic appeal they provide?
Well, truth be told, the main purpose of a backplate is just that—they look cool. In practical terms, however, they do also protect the PCB, preventing it from bending, and they also make it easier to get the dust off the back of the card, which is always convenient.
Something that a backplate does not do, however, is help with the cooling. Despite what some OEMs might claim, tests have shown that having a metal backplate doesn’t help with heat dissipation at all, so graphics cards with backplates won’t be hitting higher clock speeds or running any cooler than their backplate-less counterparts.
Conclusion — The Best RTX 3060 For Gaming In 2023
With all that out of the way, which RTX 3060 should you pick for your new build?
Well, if you’re more budget-conscious, then the Zotac RTX 3060 Twin Edge OC would make the ideal pick. The card offers all the performance that the average gamer would want out of this GPU without adding any unnecessary price bumps.
Meanwhile, for those who are focused on getting the best performance that they can for their money, the EVGA RTX 3060 XC Gaming will fit the bill. Similarly, it features a simple design, but also has a better cooler that allows the card to hit higher clock speeds and allows for a greater degree of overclocking.
And for those who want to have their cake and eat it, the Asus ROG Strix RTX 3060 V2 OC Edition has both the performance and the aesthetics fronts covered. Of course, this also means that it is pricier, too.
And so, that would be it for this buying guide. Hopefully, it has helped you determine which RTX 3060 is the right fit for your needs, and if you’re building a PC from scratch, be sure to check out some of our builds, too!