How We Choose And Test Our GPUs
When it comes to finding the best GPUs, there are a lot of different variables to take into account.
Whether it’s vanilla cards straight from the manufacturers, we look into every single option when it comes to choosing the best release of any given GPU. Not only that, but we make sure you have a range of options from the highest-performing, highest-cost cards all the way down to the budget cards designed to be a little less taxing on the wallet.
We thoroughly test every card we recommend. Not only do we put these cards through rigorous benchmarking, but we also use the cards in our work machines and stress-test them to their limit. You can be sure that every card in this guide will not only perform for you but will last you a lifetime too.
Our Top RTX 3060 Picks
ASUS certainly knows their way around hardware, and the ROG Strix line is the best model of 3060 they offer, although it was a close call. It comes with the same high build quality that you can expect from any Republic of Gamers product, as well as top-of-the-line cooling and great out-of-the-box performance.
As with many modern ASUS GPUs, the Strix OC comes with the new Axial-tech fan design that reduces both turbulence and noise generated by the fan while under a lot of strain. Along with that, there’s also a refined cooler design with a maximum-contact heatsink doing everything it can to get that heat away from your card, and into the air to dissipate.
ASUS also managed to push the boost clock to its limits, upgrading it from the vanilla 1780 MHz of the original 3060, up to an impressive 1912 MHz. You can also change the card to run in a gaming mode that takes the clock speed down to 1840MHz without too much trouble either, so if you don’t want to waste the extra energy the option is there.
Overall, the ASUS ROG 3060 is a well-built card that offers some truly stunning value, even if it does occupy the upper end of the price spectrum. The extra cash may be worth it though, with premium parts and sturdy construction, you can be sure this thing isn’t going to be falling apart in your hands anytime soon. Just be sure it’ll fit inside your rig first It’s easily the biggest card on this list thanks to that extra fan.
The simply-named EVGA RTX 3060 XC is another great choice when it comes to efficient and good value 3060 cards. This card is an especially good choice for anyone whose case is a little on the smaller side, as the 2-fan cooler design means that you won’t have to worry about squeezing the card in too much when you come to install it.
AS with all EVGA cards in the modern era, the 3060 XC comes with e-shaped textures on the fan blades to help make them as quiet as possible. You can also expect any minimalist friends of yours to get a kick out of the very simple and basic design. No jagged, crystalline edges to jut out awkwardly while you’re trying to put the thing inside your rig.
This GPU is also rather sturdy, with a nice solid backplate supporting the entire card. Airflow has been allowed through the backplate by cutting holes into it, making it much more efficient at cooling, while retaining the sturdy nature of the card.
Not only is this a great card for great value, but you also have a nice, unassuming GPU that should fit in pretty much anything you want to try it in. If you’re into excellent 1080p or 1440p gaming performance with no frills, then EVGA seems to have you covered.
When it comes to high-performance GPUs, MSI is a pretty safe bet. Their take on the 360 is no exception, providing you with excellent performance as well as great aesthetic design. Of course, that sort of precision definitely comes at a cost, albeit a cost that’s worth paying if you’ve got any amount of wiggle room in your budget.
The MSI RTX 3060 Gaming X 12G comes with the Twin FROZR 8 cooling design, complete with Torx 4.0 fans and their strange, paired-off design. This means that you’re getting a hell of a lot of air flowing much easier than you would with normal fans. Of course, you also get a maximum-contact pad connected by bars to the heatsink so you can be sure this thing will shift heat as fast as possible.
Visually the card looks stunning. The striking angular design is relatively pleasing to the eye on its own, but there are also various smaller RGB accents that make the card really pop, without being obnoxious. There are also no jagged parts sticking out the sides like certain GPUs we could mention.
The real star here is performance. While the boosted 1837 MHz clock isn’t up there with the insane boosting from ASUS, it’s still a respectable level of out-of-the-box boosting. As we said, all of this fancy tech and high-class design does come with an excessive price tag, but if you have the money budgeted for a slightly more luxurious 3060, then this might just be the one for you.
ZOTAC are pretty big fans of on-the-nose names, so you can probably tell that the Twin Edge has two fans, like most of the cards on this list. It also represents the best option for anyone who needs to upgrade their GPU while on a strict budget. If there’s one thing you can always count on ZOTAC for, it’s being budget-friendly without being constructed from cardboard and wishes.
The Twin Edge does suffer slightly in the boosting department. It clocks in at around 1.7GHz which is the exact same as the vanilla card according to Nvidia. Honestly, though you shouldn’t let that worry you too much. The ZOTAC card will still handle your 1080p and 1440p gaming without too much trouble at all.
Part of the reason you shouldn’t worry is the incredibly efficient cooling system ZOTAC has installed on the card. The Ice Storm 2.0 cooling solution has featured on many of the company’s budget cards and as with those other cards, it does an excellent job of shifting heat away from the important places that you need to remain cool.
While the build quality isn’t quite on par with the likes of MSI or ASUS, it’s not too shabby. Take a little extra care when installing it and this is the perfect budget option for anyone who doesn’t feel ready to shell out for one of those excessively expensive premium cards just yet.
Things to Think About
When it comes to homing in on your next graphics card purchase, whether it’s part of a full build or just a solo upgrade, there are a lot of things to think about. Diving into the world of aftermarket GPUs can be a daunting task whether you’re a complete newcomer to PC gaming or a confused veteran. We’ve put together a list of the different factors that might impact your buying decision.
When it comes to an aftermarket 3060, a lot of emphasis needs to be put on the price. While all of the cards on the list represent good value, they’re not all equal in terms of price. The higher-end cards can be worth splashing out for if you need every ounce of performance and aesthetic design you can get, but if you’re happy with a well-performing card without any of the extras then a budget option is much more approachable.
Think about how much you’re going to be spending on your card and what that means for your purchase decision. If you’ve got the money, consider spending more on a card that is likely to last you longer, and comes with the extra features you’d most enjoy having. If you’re more into overclocking for yourself, however, buying a card with out-of-the-box boosting is probably unnecessary.
Cooling & Performance
With each aftermarket GPU, the biggest changes over the vanilla card, other than aesthetics, are the cooling and performance. When a gaming tech company gets their hands on the latest card from team red or team green, the first thing they want to do is slap their specialist cooling tech on it, then see how far they can push it.
Think about previous cards you’ve owned before and whether you prefer a certain company’s cooler system or performance-boosting software. If you don’t have any preferences, consider how noisy or quiet you need your card to be, and then carefully examine which company produces the quietest cards, especially when they’re under a heavy load.
A point that many people forget to think about until it’s too late, is the size of the GPU they’re purchasing. It’s all well and good buying the hottest card on the list, but if you’ve only got an M-ATX compact computer case then you’re probably going to struggle to fit any 3-fan cards into your case at all. Even if it will fit into your case, you need to be able to still access your motherboard at times for cleaning and upgrading.
When you’re shopping around for your new graphics card, be sure to carefully and accurately measure the inside of your case. Once you’ve got the information saved, ensure that you’re checking it against the sizes listed on the GPU manufacturer’s website. You should also make sure that your new card isn’t likely to cover up a port or slot that you need to have access to on a regular basis.
And There You Have It
Hopefully, this guide should have filled you in on all the top choices when it comes to buying your very own aftermarket RTX 3060. Whether you want a fancy-looking card with all of the extras or a no-frills arrangement for a rock-bottom price, you’ll find everything you need to know about your chosen card right here.
We make sure to thoroughly test each card we write about, from standard benchmarking all the way to running them through their paces in our own gaming time. We even try to use these cards in our day-to-day machines to make sure they’ll keep working for as long as you keep working.
If you’re still not completely sure about which graphics card you need then consider checking out our other GPU guides. We’ve covered a wide variety of different GPU options from the top-tier to the bargain bucket and can provide you with the in-depth coverage you need to make an informed decision. If you’re building your whole PC from scratch you can also check out our complete build guides, covering a wide variety of different budgets and performance requirements.