It’s an interesting time for the best graphics cards, what with Nvidia’s RTX 40-series Ada GPUs and AMD’s RX 7000-series RDNA 3 GPUs both expected to launch within the next couple of months. Some might say it’s a terrible time to buy a graphics card, but I sailed on that boat right before the Ampere launch and learned a valuable lesson: Predicting the future isn’t an exact science. Besides, Ada and RDNA 3 will almost certainly start at the highest end of the graphics card market, which means even if cards are in stock at MSRP, they’re likely far more expensive than most gamers are willing to pay.
A look at the latest Steam Hardware Survey confirms this. GTX 1650, a GPU that we didn’t even particularly care for at launch, now ranks as the most popular individual GPU — tied with the GTX 1060 that keeps hanging around, over six years after it initially launched. The older 1060 6GB actually delivers superior performance in most games, though it also costs a bit more even today. But the third most popular GPU on Steam is today’s topic, the GeForce RTX 2060.
Three and a half years after its debut in January 2019, the RTX 2060 is staging a comeback. Most of the other RTX 20-series GPUs have long since gone out of stock at retail, but a couple months back the RTX 2060 started showing up on EVGA’s store and has since proliferated onto Newegg, Amazon, and other places. Originally priced at $349 and later officially discounted to $299 (to combat the RX 5600 XT launch), like every other GPU the RTX 2060 was nearly impossible to find at a reasonable price during most of the past two years. That has now changed, in a big way.
Right now, the GeForce RTX 2060 can be had for just $229 at Amazon (opens in new tab), Newegg (opens in new tab), or direct from EVGA. We’ve even seen it go for less on occasion. The card has a few limitations, specifically the 6GB of VRAM, but that’s still at least equal to similar cards like the GTX 1660 Super and RX 5600 XT. Plus, you can also find the RTX 2060 12GB for $279, if you really insist on having more VRAM.
To be clear, we’re absolutely not saying the RTX 2060 represents the best value among all graphics cards right now. That honor goes to the Radeon RX 6600, which you can find for $249 at Amazon (opens in new tab). (There must be something about that number, as old time gamers will still fondly recall Nvidia’s 6600 GT.) But not everyone wants to buy an AMD GPU, and the RTX 2060 provides full support for DLSS — something you can’t get in any other similarly priced GPU.
Strangely, Nvidia’s newer GeForce RTX 3050 still carries a rather large price premium. It might be a reasonable alternative if it were selling at the official $249 MSRP, but the cheapest 3050 right now costs $299. What’s more, outside of a few cases where we exceeded the 6GB VRAM on the 2060, the RTX 2060 delivers better performance in most games — and the 12GB variant would shore up any exceptions while still saving you money.
This is basically a microcosm of what AMD and Nvidia will be facing in the near future with their new GPUs. Performance might be higher, but there are reports of large numbers of current generation GPUs sitting on shelves and in warehouses. As GPU prices continue to drop, older GPUs might still be the better value, particularly in the midrange and budget sectors.
The RTX 3060 as a different example currently costs $369 (opens in new tab) or more, and performance lands midway between the older RTX 2070 and RTX 2070 Super. If those older GPUs were still readily available for $299 or less, paying more for the RTX 3060 wouldn’t make much sense, and that’s exactly what the RTX 2060 is doing to the RTX 3050 and GTX 1660 Super.
GeForce RTX 2060 Performance
We need to put things into proper perspective with some testing results. We’ve included the RTX 2060, RTX 3050, RTX 3060, and GTX 1660 Super from Nvidia for these charts, and from AMD we have the RX 6600, RX 6600 XT, and RX 6650 XT. The key here is that every one of those graphics cards can still be purchased, brand new, at a major online store like Amazon, B&H, Newegg, or elsewhere.
We’ll look at overall value in terms of bang for the buck in a moment, but let’s start with pure performance. Note that we don’t have an RTX 2060 12GB, though it should never be slower than the 6GB model and the extra VRAM will definitely help at 1080p/1440p ultra settings in some games.
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The GeForce RTX 2060 doesn’t take the top spot in performance, but it does claim an easy win over the RTX 3050 and GTX 1660 Super. AMD’s RX 6600/6650 models meanwhile offer a decent jump in standard gaming performance, though even the faster XT cards just barely place ahead of the RTX 2060 in our ray tracing tests.
This definitely isn’t a card where you can simply max out all of the settings in every game, even at 1080p, and expect to get liquid smooth frame rates. 1080p medium easily clear the 60 fps mark in every standard game, however, and 1080p with high settings (give or take a few tweaks) should still look and run great.
Ray tracing performance might give potential users pause, but remember the price of just $230. You shouldn’t expect an exceptional ray tracing experience with this sort of hardware, but you can at least give it a shot — and DLSS in balanced most can give a substantial boost to frame rates with a minor loss in visual fidelity.
GeForce RTX 2060 Value
Factoring in prices with performance gives a different look at things. Because not all of the GPUs support DirectX Raytracing (DXR), and because ray tracing isn’t so critical that gamers absolutely must have it, we’ve calculated the overall performance as the geometric mean of the standard 1080p medium and ultra FPS, plus 10% of the 1080p medium DXR FPS. We then divide that number by the current retail price to get a final FPS/$ result.
The GeForce RTX 2060 doesn’t claim top honors, and in fact it’s not even in the top three out of the current crop of sub-$500 graphics cards. However, it does place fourth and ranks higher on the value scale than any other Nvidia GPU.
Is this a fair way of representing the data? I’ll let you be the judge. Obviously, if you’re already running a card that’s faster than the RTX 2060, this whole conversation becomes moot. On the other hand, if you’re currently using a five or six years old midrange GPU like a GTX 1060 or RX 570/580 and you’re trying to figure out a decent upgrade, this should help put things in perspective.
If you’re dead set on buying an Nvidia GPU rather than one of the competing AMD alternatives, the RTX 2060 almost qualifies as a budget offering and certainly rates as the best sub-$250 choice. If you value performance over price, the RTX 3060 represents a potentially better option and you get 12GB VRAM, but that’s a big jump in cost for a modest improvement in performance.
For those of you who aren’t dedicated to Nvidia, the other takeaway is equally clear: RX 6600 represents an excellent choice at just $250. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the RX 6600/6650 XT are also good options. Beyond that, the value proposition becomes far less compelling.
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