OEMs Target Miners with RTX 2060 12GB, But Gamers Need It More

Officially, it appears the GeForce RTX 2060 12GB cards are going on sale today. And by “on sale” we mean “sold out unless you’re a miner.” Perhaps that’s a bit unfair, but we asked around in advance of the rumored launch — a launch Nvidia basically didn’t comment on or provide any details about — and were repeatedly told that the various graphics card companies weren’t planning on sampling the RTX 2060 12GB to reviewers. That’s fine on one level, as it’s not like this is going to suddenly jump into our list of the best graphics cards, but the whole situation is a bit weird. But then things took a turn for the worst.

One OEM (who shall remain nameless) specifically told me, “This will be more of a mining focused card so HQ is not going to do a big media push on it.” Wait, what? A mining-focused RTX 2060 with 12GB of VRAM? How in the hell is that a mining focused card?

Let me explain. We’ve tested the best GPUs for mining, which mostly means seeing how the various GPUs perform at Ethereum mining — that’s still the most profitable option, especially with the latest delay to the proof of stake transition. Ethereum hashing ends up being highly dependent on memory bandwidth. A GPU with twice the memory bandwidth generally can do the ethash calculations twice as fast. Which means the RTX 2060 12GB absolutely shouldn’t be a miner focused card, unless the AIBs know they can get more money for it by selling direct to miners.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 FE

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The original RTX 2060 comes with 6GB of GDD6 memory clocked at 14Gbps. Doubling the memory might mean there are a few mining algorithms that would be able to run better… but right now Ethereum only needs a bit more than 4GB of VRAM, and the size of the DAG (directed acyclic graph) at the heart of ethash won’t exceed 6GB until around May 2023. By that time, I sincerely hope Ethereum will finally switch to proof of stake, but given the repeated delays maybe that won’t happen.

Still, 6GB VRAM should be sufficient for at least two more years of mining. Doubling that to 12GB won’t really help matters, and what’s more, the RTX 2060 isn’t even particularly fast at mining. After tuning, we managed about 33 MH/s. You know what can also do 33 MH/s? The GTX 1660 Super. That’s because it has the same 192-bit memory interface.

If you’re using standard mining software, the hashrate limiter on the RTX 3060 GPUs might mean you only get about 33 MH/s as well (as opposed to the 48 MH/s you could get without LHR). But that still makes the RTX 2060 12GB at best a match for the RTX 3060 LHR when it comes to mining. But then it still uses more power, and it should cost more than the RTX 2060 6GB cards that already exist while providing no tangible benefit.

But you know who might actually want an RTX 2060 12GB? Gamers. Sure, that’s partly because the cards that they’d really like to buy, like the RTX 3060 and RX 6700 XT, are all woefully overpriced or sold out. But based on our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, at least in situations where the RTX 2060 doesn’t run out of VRAM, the RTX 3060 is only about 20% faster. Doubling the VRAM to 12GB means it would be pretty much universally 15–20% slower (sometimes less), presumably at a lower price. That actually sounds pretty good to me right now, and also makes the whole situation even more troubling.

GeForce RTX logo on graphics card

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

There are credible rumors that we’ll see RTX 3050 desktop cards some time in January 2022. Unlike the mobile RTX 3050 and RTX 3050 Ti, the desktop cards will purportedly still use GA106 silicon instead of GA107. Except they’re rumored to have 8GB of VRAM, which means they might be harvested GA106 with only four of the memory channels active (out of a potential eight), giving just a 128-bit memory interface. Alternatively, they might have 1GB chips and a 256-bit interface, but that would also mean a more expensive PCB (printed circuit board), which goes against the idea of making a budget GPU.

Anyway, based on the rumored specs, an RTX 3050 desktop card would very likely deliver performance that’s — wait for it! — about 15–20% slower than the RTX 3060. Actually, if it’s a 128-bit interface, it might be more than 20–30% slower, meaning the RTX 2060 12GB would actually be faster than the future RTX 3050.

Ultimately, what we really need right now is more graphics cards in the hands of gamers. But how do you tell the difference between a gamer and a miner, or a gamer and a scalper? Unless someone admits to being one of the latter, about the only thing a company can really do is to try and make it more difficult for miners and scalpers to buy cards, but why should they do that if they can make more money off of such customers?

We’re still trying to acquire an RTX 2060 12GB card for review. Performance should land a bit above the RTX 2060 6GB and a bit below the RTX 2060 Super, except in the select situations (e.g., Battlefield 2042) where 8GB of VRAM isn’t quite sufficient for certain settings. Now granted, you could just turn down a few settings, but it is possible to find games and settings where performance of the 6GB cards drops off a cliff.

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Battlefield 2042 PC Performance Charts

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Pay specific attention to the RTX 3060 and RTX 2060 in these charts.

Image 2 of 3

Battlefield 2042 PC Performance Charts

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Pay specific attention to the RTX 3060 and RTX 2060 in these charts.

Image 3 of 3

Battlefield 2042 PC Performance Charts

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Pay specific attention to the RTX 3060 and RTX 2060 in these charts.

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