Can a $300 2022 GeForce GPU outperform a $600 2016 GPU?

In a recent article titled “Flagship GPU 2016 vs. Budget GPU 2022”, we revisited the old GeForce GTX 1080 to see how the high-end 2016 Nvidia Pascal GPU fared in 2022, and also because Radeon The RX 6600 is one of the very few GPUs we can really recommend right now – you can buy them for only 260 dollars – We thought it could be an interesting match.

However, the comparison is not in favor of the venerable GeForce, as the much newer Radeon was 20% faster on average at 1080p and 14% faster at 1440p. Still, it was impressive to see that after six years the GTX 1080 is still a capable GPU, even if it’s not something you should be looking for in the used market.

This got us thinking. Seeing as GTX 1080s typically sell for around $200, or about what you’d pay for a used Radeon 6600, how does the newer GeForce RTX 3050 compare in all of this?

As a reminder, the GeForce GTX 1080 was released back in 2016 (when we gave it 100 points, no kidding) at $600 and dropped to ~$500 the following year. This means that six years later, the RTX 3050 has gone for half that price, or at least it should have met the official $250 MSRP (you know, the GPU shortages and the inflation of yesteryear).

In fact, the RTX 3050 has never been available at that price, and even today it costs at least $300, which is half the GTX 1080’s original MSRP, so let’s go. Can a $300 2022 GeForce graphics card outperform a $600 2016 graphics card after years and multiple generations of GPUs?

On paper, this is an interesting coincidence. Comparing the number of CUDA cores is meaningless, although they both contain 2560 each, but the GTX 1080 has 100% more texture map units and render output. The GTX 1080 can only use GDDR5X memory while the RTX 3050 switched to GDDR6, but with the half-width memory bus, the budget Ampere processor actually has less memory bandwidth at 224 GB/s rather than 320 GB/s, which is very a lot of. There’s a 30% discount.

However, the processing power is about the same, and the RTX 3050 benefits from hardware support for technologies such as asynchronous computing and DirectX 12, and of course, thanks to the use of the latest Nvidia architecture, it gets better driver optimizations.

For testing, we use our Ryzen 7 5800X3D test system with 32GB of DDR4-3200 CL14 memory along with the latest available display drivers. All 50 1080p and 1440p games we tested used resizable BAR. We’ll take a close look at the data for about a dozen items before moving on to the usual breakdown plots.


Starting with Hitman 3, we found that the RTX 3050 was 18% faster at 1080p and 21% faster at 1440p, a massive performance boost for the new Ampere GPU. However, this is a very poor performance for the GTX 1080, as we’ve seen it perform poorly against the RX 6600 and Vega 64 in previous tests, so we don’t expect these limits to be the norm.

Another bad Pascal game is Warhammer III, where the GTX 1080’s performance is terrible, averaging just 42fps at 1440p. The RTX 3050 was about 50% faster at both resolutions tested, and we believe this is partly due to the lack of asynchronous computing in the hardware on the GTX.

Next we have War Thunder, an old game that is still very popular and you would expect a pretty good level of Pascal optimization from it. This appears to be true as the GTX 1080 was almost 30% faster at both resolutions tested.

Moving on to Rainbow Six Siege, we find competitive performance between two GeForce GPUs, and both are certainly more than fast enough to enjoy this game even in competitive conditions.

The newer RTX 3050 was at least 1% more stable, but overall the experience with the GTX 1080 was still good.

Another game where the RTX 3050 performs well over the GTX 1080 is Cyberpunk 2077, delivering around 10% more performance at both tested resolutions. We suspect that driver support for Pascal is at a decent level for this much-hyped release, and instead the GTX 1080’s shortcomings here come down to the outdated Pascal architecture.

At this point, Death Stranding is a few years old, so the GTX 1080 wasn’t all that old when it was released. So it’s not surprising that the RTX 3050 is ahead of the GTX 1080, with a performance advantage of 15% at 1080p and nearly 20% at 1440p.

F1 22 is a new game, and yet the GTX 1080 managed to outperform the GTX 1080 by offering 12% more performance at 1080p and 9% more performance at 1440p. This is an impressive result for old Pascal graphics, and F1 fans who invested in one of these 5-6 years ago would no doubt be very pleased if they were still using it to this day.

For racing sim fans, the GTX 1080 is still alive and kicking and definitely more capable than the RTX 3050 as it was 14% faster at 1080p and then a pretty significant 19% faster at 1440p. Here’s a clear win for old tech, with a modern $300 GeForce GPU struggling to beat the old guns.

Halo Infinite is a new game and is an example of how the RTX 3050 can compete against the GTX 1080 by narrowly beating it at 1080p and then matching it at 1440p.

The Hunt: Showdown results are interesting: both GPUs delivered the same 101fps at 1080p, but the Pascal GPU outperformed it at 1440p, offering 17% more frames, and we attributed the difference to memory bandwidth.

We’ve seen a few times that the GTX 1080 performs better at higher resolutions as it has a 30% bandwidth advantage, which makes sense.

Counter-Strike Global Offensive is another classic, so it’s no surprise that the GTX 1080 does the job well. The 1080p results look a bit system-limited, but once we get to 1440p, they become more GPU-limited, and again, the GTX 1080’s superior bandwidth gives it a distinct advantage, partly allowing for a performance boost of up to 29%.

God of War performance is tragic for the RTX 3050. Just 60fps at 1080p, making the GTX 1080 57% faster and then 78% faster at 1440p. Considering it’s a new title, at least on PC, you probably expected the RTX 3050 to perform a lot better, at least on par with the old GTX 1080, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Forza Horizon 5 is a tie at both tested resolutions. The GTX 1080 was a few frames faster, but that’s enough to call it a tie, and both GPUs showed strong reproducible performance with the “high quality” preset, so overall a good result.

Performance Summary

It’s hard to say unequivocally how these two GPUs compare based on the example games we just looked at. Sometimes the RTX 3050 was much faster, sometimes much slower, and about half the time they were about the same.

However, we tested a total of 50 games, so let’s check out the full breakdown…

At 1080p we can see that overall the RTX 3050 is actually 6% slower than the GTX 1080 which is a very disappointing result. There was a small selection of games where the newer Ampere GPU was faster, and while it was much faster in some cases, it was much slower in many others.

There were only 14 games where the difference was 5% or less in either direction, and in 20 games the RTX 3050 was 10% or more slower. So in 2022, the GTX 1080 is still the best product in terms of gaming performance, ending up at the top much more often.

When we look at the 1440p results, things look even better for the old Pascal GPU. Here we find 22 games where the RTX 3050 was 10% or more slow. This is almost half of the games tested.

What have we learned

To be fair, progress in the budget GPU segment has been pretty stagnant over the past few generations. You might argue that getting the equivalent of two older generations of performance at the entry level is good, but then you realize that the entry level has moved $300 instead of $200 or less, and it quickly becomes a lot less exciting.

The other issue with this price is that at the current $300 asking price, the RTX 3050 confuses the Radeon RX 6600. about 260 dollars and usually offers much better performance. So really the RTX 3050 should cost no more than $220 or closer to $200 to make it more attractive.

The GeForce GTX 1080 also lasted six years as a very comfortable GPU. Six years is a long time for computer hardware, let alone graphics performance, so we feel that being very user-friendly is the gold standard for such an old product. At half price, the RTX 3050 might be a little cheaper, but can you comfortably live with it for six years? We’re not sure, nor are we sure, but we really want to see you again in 2028 for a 50 game revisit.

Until then, the RTX 3050 will remain Ampere’s most frustrating GPU and a complete mystery as to how the green team can move a substandard product at such a premium.

Trade Labels:
  • AMD Radeon RX 6600 on Amazon
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 on Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 6600XT on Amazon
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 on Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 6700XT on Amazon
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti on Amazon

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