Today we’re taking a look at the new GeForce RTX 2060, you know, the 12GB model that gamers were hoping would help solve the GPU shortage. Well, I suspect most of you didn’t have high hopes on that one, and those that did have probably already lost hope.
That’s because after the official announcement 3 weeks ago, there’s basically no stock to be had, and the very few you can find at retail are grossly overpriced, even when compared to the 6GB models (!).
As of writing, it’s possible to purchase a 6GB RTX 2060 from retailers like Newegg for $620, which is nearly a 80% premium over the $350 they sold for back in 2019. We could find a single 12GB model on offer for $830. That’s a 34% premium over existing 6GB cards, and it’s a similar story in other markets where we checked. In short, it’s impossible to find one at a reasonable price. Then of course, Nvidia was clever in not including an MSRP for the new 12GB variant in the formal announcement and we suspect that was all part of their strategy.
You see, we’ve always thought it’d make sense for Nvidia and AMD to spin up past product lines on older nodes to help alleviate the supply issues, just as Nvidia appears to be finally doing with the 12GB RTX 2060. However, we were mistaken in thinking they’d do this because they cared about gamers, the customers that got them where they are today.
After all, these are businesses and their main objective is to make money, maximize profits and please shareholders. Thus, flooding the market with affordable previous-gen products isn’t in their best interest, especially when they can simply sell those products at unheard of margins to miners instead.
Put simply, the 12GB RTX 2060 was never intended to be sold to gamers, instead Nvidia is looking to capitalize on the current situation and increase supply to miners. The longer this goes on, the less important gamers will become to GPU makers as their intended market. But what choice do gamers have?
Moreover, the minute there’s a crypto crash and things start to go back to normal, gamers will be stampeding over one another to get that shiny new GeForce graphics card. Nvidia knows this and their only concern is managing business after the inevitable end of the current cryptocurrency boom.
Arguably, the best way to do this is to sell as many non-competitive gaming graphics cards as they can to miners, so when they eventually flood the second hand market, they’ll be almost worthless. So once again, that’s why the 12GB RTX 2060 exists, and why it’s unlikely you’ll ever buy one for gaming. Be that as it may, if by some miracle it ends up making sense for you, how exactly does it perform? To find out, we purchased a (grossly overpaid) Zotac 12GB RTX 2060 we briefly discussed in this month’s GPU pricing update.
Before we jump into the benchmarks, let’s quickly go over the 12GB RTX 2060’s specs, as well as the test system. Unlike the original 6GB card, the 12GB version features 2176 CUDA cores, which is the same amount as the 2060 Super, which would make it a 2060 Super but with more VRAM.
But there’s more to it, unlike the 2060 Super which uses a 256-bit wide memory bus, the 12GB 2060 uses the same 192-bit bus of the original 2060, reducing the memory bandwidth from 448 GB/s to just 336 GB/s, a big 25% reduction. This means that the 12GB 2060 should perform between the 6GB 2060 and the 2060 Super, and depending on the game and quality settings used it may be closer to either model. As for testing, we’re using our Ryzen 9 5950X GPU test system featuring 32GB of dual rank, dual channel DDR4-3200 CL14 memory. Let’s get into the data…
Starting with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at 1080p and please note these results have been updated with the latest version of the game which greatly enhanced the performance of high-end GeForce GPUs, with more mild gains for the mid-range or lower-end models, like the RTX 2060.
Here the 12GB model is no faster than the 6GB version, which is obviously disappointing and it meant both were slightly slower than the 5600 XT.
The situation at 1440p is no different with both 2060 models averaging just 49 fps, making them slower than the 5600 XT.
Next we have Cyberpunk 2077 and we’re looking at very similar performance to the 6GB model. Actually at this point you can call what we’re seeing at 1080p ‘identical performance’, with 64 fps on average using slightly dialed down quality settings.
The numbers at 1440p won’t exactly impress, and despite the larger buffer, performance goes largely unchanged when compared to the old 6GB model.
We’re looking at 2060 Super-like performance in Death Stranding at 1080p with 119 fps on average, making the 12GB 2060 just 5% faster than the 6GB version.
Oddly, as we increase the resolution the 12GB 2060 drops closer to the 6GB version as it would appear memory bandwidth is more of an issue here, opposed to memory capacity.
Testing with Horizon Zero Dawn we see the new 12GB 2060 is positioned between the 6GB version and the 2060 Super with 83 fps on average.
Then at 1440p the margin is decreased as the larger memory capacity isn’t required and instead memory bandwidth becomes more relevant.
We’re looking at up to a 5% boost in Rainbow Six Siege at 1080p, which is about as good as it gets for the 12GB 2060 over the 6GB board.
Increasing the resolution to 1440p reduces the margin between the 6GB and 12GB models due to both having the same 336 GB/s bandwidth.
Finally, we’ll take a brief look at the Watch Dogs Legion results and here the RTX 2060 is rather unimpressive, regardless of which version we look at as performance is the same, falling well short of 60 fps as they trail the RX 5600 XT.
The 5600 XT was also faster at 1440p and although the 12GB 2060 was up to 9% faster than the 6GB variant, both fell short of a 40 fps average.
In terms of power consumption, the 12GB model is no different to the 6GB version. Both pushed total system usage to 358 watts when gaming, about the same power usage as the faster RTX 3060.
It’s fair to say the 12GB version of the GeForce RTX 2060 performed as expected, or maybe a little worse than expected. It’s clear that the limited memory bus is choking the GPU a little, especially at 1440p. But before we wrap this up let’s take a look at the average performance seen at 1080p and 1440p, as well as a look at the thermal performance of the Zotac Gaming Twin Fan model…
Starting with the 1080p results we see that on average across the 12 games tested, the 2060 12GB was ~4% faster than the original 6GB model, which is nothing to write home about. This also made it the second slowest GPU in our test, or technically it was tied with the 5600 XT, another slow GPU by today’s standards, but certainly good enough for 1080p gaming.
1440p was a bit more of a struggle but even here we saw over 60 fps on average across the games tested, which is decent. Again, the 12GB 2060 was 4% faster than the 6GB model and roughly on par with the 5600 XT.
After 30 minutes of gaming in a 21 C room inside an enclosed case, the Corsair Obsidian 500D, the Zotac Gaming RTX 2060 Twin Fan 12GB peaked at 68 C, which is a great result, though the fan speed was a little high at 2200 RPM.
The card remained relatively quiet at 43 dBA and not much louder than our test system’s case fans. This is a stock model, so it operates at the reference specification and that saw a core clock of 1875 MHz on average with the memory at 14 Gbps.
What We Learned
There you have it… the super unexciting 12GB version of the GeForce RTX 2060. Of course, had this graphics card managed to come in at a lower price point with strong supply we’d be super excited about its release, but that was never going to be the case. This product was always intended for miners.
Frankly, gamers don’t need a 12GB version of the RTX 2060. Just give us the old model at a half decent price and it’s happy days, as sad as that may be. And while it’s not a good situation for PC gamers or builders, it’s great news for Nvidia and AMD.
Generally speaking, the 12GB 2060 is irrelevant for gamers. For us though it was at least interesting to compare a similar spec 2060 with 6GB and 12GB of VRAM, and it’s an interesting discussion that heated up back in early 2019. At the time, many criticized the RTX 2060 for its lack of VRAM, but we felt overall it was a solid product and certainly one of the better offerings in the Turing series.
Still, the pushback was strong, so we investigated memory usage in 37 games and found that the 2060 worked fine relative to the RTX 2070 at not just 1440p, but also 4K and this lead us to conclude that memory usage for the 2060 wouldn’t be an issue for years to come. Crystal ball stuff, but it’s been 3 years since we published that review, and it’s fair to say the 6GB 2060 is still fine for 1440p gaming.
If you appreciated this depressing review, spread the word and share this feature, so more gamers can learn why they should avoid the 12GB 2060. And of course, stay tuned for more new GeForce and Radeon product reviews that you probably won’t be able to buy early next year.