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Nvidia RTX 3050 vs. AMD RX 6500 XT: What’s the Best Budget GPU?

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CES 2022 saw many hardware announcements for PC gaming. While observers were in awe of high-end graphics cards for desktops and laptops, AMD and Nvidia had more up their sleeves. Each also launched a new entry-level GPU for their current generation video cards.

These new cards have a relatively affordable Suggested Retail Price (SRP), designed to help ease demand for higher-end chips that are in short supply. But which card offers the best bang for your buck? Let's compare the two in this blow-by-blow comparison.

Specifications

Before going in-depth on the details, let's check the overall specs for both cards, as researched by TechPowerUp:

GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT Base Clock (GHz) 1.55 2.20 Boost Clock (GHz) 1.78 2.82 Shaders 2,560 CUDA Cores 1,024 Stream Processors VRAM 8 GB GDDR6 4 GB GDD6 Bus Width 128-Bit 64-Bit Ray Tracing Accelerators 20 16 Tensor Cores 80 – L3 Cache (MB) – 16 Pixel Rate (GP/s) 85.30 90.10 Texture Rate (GT/s) 142.20 180.20 Half-Precision Performance (TFLOPS) 9.098 11.53 Single-Precision Performance (TFLOPS) 9.098 5.77 Graphics Card Power (Watts) 130 107 Slots 1x HDMI, 2x DisplayPort 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort SRP $249 $199 Launch Date January 27, 2022 January 19, 2022

The 3050 offers an 8GB, 128-bit GDDR6 VRAM paired with a 1.55GHz processor. AMD's card sacrifices VRAM capacity in exchange for a bump in clock speed, with the 6500 XT offering a 4GB, 64-bit card but sporting a 2.20GHz processor.

The 4GB VRAM is the absolute minimum you need to run modern games at high settings, so the AMD card might be at a disadvantage here. But its significantly higher clock speed could take up the slack.

One thing that the AMD has that Nvidia doesn't is its Infinity Cache. The RX 6000-series cards all feature an L3 cache that allows it to triple its memory bandwidth. This technology has proven itself with some of the 6500 XT's higher-end brethren. AMD is leaning on it to ensure that Nvidia's RTX 3050 doesn't leave its entry-level card in the dust.

Theoretical Performance

AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT performance charts

Since both cards are yet to release, there's no way to benchmark their performance. However, AMD and Nvidia did show some test results during their respective announcements.

According to AMD, the Radeon RX 6500 XT is up to 59% faster than the GTX 1650 in Resident Evil: Village. But the company did not indicate how it measured this performance. We don't know what other computer specifications it used, the game's settings, or the actual FPS readings.

On the other hand, Nvidia announced that the new RTX 3050 could deliver 60 FPS or more in some of today's latest games. According to the company, the GPU can provide more than double the performance compared to the GTX 1650.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 performance chart

However, the story still isn't complete since the company didn't show the full specifications it used to run the test. All we knew is that the tests ran at 1080p, on high settings, with ray tracing and DLSS, on an Intel i9 CPU.

What is significant here is that ray tracing technology will finally arrive on entry-level cards. The previous-generation GTX 1650 and RX 5500 XT lack support for native ray tracing, so these cards improve image quality for a new set of gamers.

Both cards also support AI supersampling technology. This allows gamers to enjoy improved graphics without losing frame rates. Nvidia's DLSS and AMD's FidelityFX Super Resolution will push performance without compromising quality.

Related: Nvidia DLSS vs. AMD FidelityFX: What's the Difference & What Looks Better?

When purchasing these cards, you must remember that they're targeted for 60 FPS Full HD gaming at high quality, with ray tracing. Although it's possible to wring out a bit more performance from them, don't expect to get 144 FPS at 1440p or higher.

Pricing and Availability

computer parts stacked in a warehouse
Image Credit: Marcin Wichary/Flickr

Since these cards target entry-level markets, they're both competitively priced. Nvidia's offering starts at $249, while AMD undercuts them by about $50 for a starting price of $199. These are impressive numbers for cards that feature ray tracing technology and AI supersampling.

The Nvidia card is $80 cheaper than the 3060 at SRP, while the 6500 XT saves you $130 over the RX 6600. While this may not sound much, it can mean all the difference to gamers on a budget. This price difference can also make gaming accessible to entry-level buyers who don't want to blow their budget on expensive cards.

As for availability, the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT should launch on January 19, 2022, with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 coming a week or so later. With the supply shortage and huge demand for discrete graphics cards, neither company has opened pre-orders on these cards.

Related: Why Are Graphics Cards So Expensive Right Now?

The demand for graphics cards is high, and these affordable cards could fly off the shelves on launch day. If you want to buy either the 3050 or the 6500 XT you should keep your eyes peeled. That way, you can get your hands on one before scalpers do.

Which Card Should You Get?

AMD or Nvidia homepages

On paper, these cards have comparable performance figures. Without any solid benchmarks to go on to, the theoretical performance figures on these cards can go either way.

The 3050's 8GB memory might deliver better performance, as future games will require more and more memory. However, this higher memory capacity may also entice crypto miners, as they could use it to mine Ethereum effectively.

Should that happen, demand for the RTX 3050 might spike, causing stocks to dwindle. This would leave legitimate gamers frustrated once more. If that happens, the 6500 XT would be your next-best option.

Related: Do You Really Need a Powerful GPU?

But it's not all bad news. The 6500 XT's higher clock speed could deliver more raw power. If you're into overclocking, the higher boost clock speed will definitely benefit you. Further, if you're on a tight budget and $199 is already pushing it, then you have no choice but to go for AMD's offering.

Wait for Benchmarks

If you can't wait any longer and want to secure a GPU for yourself ASAP, the best choice is to get the 6500 XT as soon as it's available. That way, you can get a graphics card for your system at SRP, ahead of any retail price jumps caused by lack of supply.

But if you're not in a hurry, then consider waiting for benchmark tests to come out. You won't have to wait long since they should arrive about a day or two after launch. Once you get firm results from trusted reviewers, then you can make your choice.

Whether you get the 3050 or the 6500 XT, these new cards can hopefully help the GPU shortage and allow you to enjoy better graphics in the coming year.

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