I wish 1440p GPUs were more mainstream after years of 1080p dominance.
I’m disappointed. I’ve been waiting for AMD and Nvidia to offer up more affordable options for this generation of GPUs that could really push 1440p into the mainstream, but what I’ve been reviewing over the past week hasn’t lived up to my expectations.
Nvidia and AMD are both releasing new GPUs this week that are aimed at the budget PC gaming market. After seven years of 1080p dominating the mainstream, I was hopeful this generation would deliver 1440p value cards. Instead, Nvidia has started shipping a $399 RTX 4060 Ti today that the company is positioning as a 1080p card and not the 1440p sweet spot it really should be at this price point.
AMD is aggressively pricing its new Radeon RX 7600 at just $269, and it’s definitely more suited to the 1080p resolution at that price point and performance. I just wish there were an option between the $300 to $400 marks that offered enough performance to push us firmly into the 1440p era.
More than 60 percent of PC gamers are playing at 1080p, according to Valve’s latest Steam data. That means GPU makers like AMD and Nvidia don’t have to target 1440p with cards that sell in high volume because demand seems to be low. Part of that low demand could be because a monitor upgrade isn’t a common purchase for PC gamers, or they’d have to pay more for a graphics card to even support 1440p. That’s probably why both of these cards also still ship with just 8GB of VRAM because why ship it with more if you’re only targeting 1080p? A lower resolution doesn’t need as much VRAM for texture quality.
I’ve been testing both cards at 1080p and 1440p to get a good idea of where they sit in the GPU market right now. It’s fair to say that the RTX 4060 Ti essentially offers the same 1440p performance as an RTX 3070 at 1440p for $399. That’s $100 less than the RTX 3070’s $499 price point, which, in October 2020, I said offered a 1440p sweet spot for games during that period of time. It’s now nearly three years on, and I’d certainly expect more performance here at 1440p. Why is yesterday’s 1440p card suddenly a 1080p one for Nvidia?
When you look at performance from an RTX 3060 Ti to the RTX 4060 Ti, the gap is around 12 percent at 1440p. That’s not what you’d expect generation over generation, and it’s hugely disappointing. And I’m not alone in my disappointment here. Hardware Unboxed calls it “laughably bad,” while Gamers Nexus says “do not buy” the RTX 4060 Ti. In some of Hardware Unboxed’s tests, the RTX 3060 Ti even beats the RTX 4060 Ti. Ouch.
It’s clear there’s performance being left on the table here. The gap between an RTX 4060 Ti and RTX 4070 is around 30 percent at 1440p, and the price gap is $200 with the RTX 4070 at $599. That gap is $100 larger than the previous generation ($399 RTX 3060 Ti versus $499 RTX 3070), and I think it’s where my 1440p expectations for the mainstream meet reality. If Nvidia did want to bring the RTX 4060 Ti closer to the RTX 4070 in terms of performance, it would also have to presumably bring the price points closer together. After all, the gap between the RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070 performance is around 10–15 percent.
So, is DLSS 3 a reason to buy it? Usually that’s the case with the 40-series, but my experience here has been mixed. I tested DLSS 3 on the RTX 4060 Ti, and it was the first time I’ve tested Nvidia’s latest upscaling technology and found it didn’t significantly improve frame rates in Forza Horizon 5. Running without DLSS 3 and extreme settings, the game hit 98fps at 1440p on the RTX 4060 Ti, but it only increased to 102fps with DLSS 3. That’s only a 4 percent performance improvement and a lot less than I’m used to seeing. At 1080p, it’s around an 18 percent difference. Nvidia says it may be because Forza Horizon 5 is CPU limited, so frames are taking longer to generate at higher resolution.
Thankfully, in Microsoft Flight Simulator, I saw performance jump to 114fps at 1440p with DLSS 3 enabled, nearly double the 62fps without it. Cyberpunk 2077 also delivered 84fps at 1440p on the RTX 4060 Ti, compared to 51fps with just DLSS 2.
On the 1080p side, AMD’s Radeon RX 7600 offers some solid performance here, especially if you’re willing to play around with settings that aren’t maxed out — which is something I think most gamers playing at 1080p are used to doing. As is often the case with AMD GPUs, it only really misses out when it comes to ray-tracing performance. Watch Dogs: Legion on the RX 7600 maxed out with ultra ray-tracing runs at just 21fps at 1080p, while the RTX 3060 Ti manages 67fps thanks to DLSS 2.
In titles like Gears 5 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you’re gonna hit 100fps or more at 1080p on the RX 7600, and even Assassin’s Creed Valhalla comes close at 93fps. I wasn’t able to test Forza Horizon 5 fully on the RX 7600 due to a game warning that appeared when I started the title. It prevented me from changing game settings, and it appears Forza Horizon 5 may need an update to recognize this new card fully. AMD was investigating the situation at the time of publication.
At 1440p, the RX 7600 falls short of the 60fps mark in Metro Exodus Enhanced, Returnal, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Cyberpunk 2077. It’s hard to recommend the RX 7600 for 1440p gaming if you want to play the latest and greatest games.
Aside from raw performance, there has also been a big debate over 8GB of VRAM on GPUs in the PC gaming community recently. Nvidia has stuck to 8GB of VRAM on the RTX 4060 Ti and AMD’s RX 7600 only offers 8GB. Unfortunately, Nvidia has also moved backward to a 128-bit memory bus here, too, down from the 256-bit found in the RTX 3060 Ti. While Nvidia claims the larger 32MB L2 cache (just 4MB on the 3060 Ti) should counter the lower memory bandwidth, the RTX 4060 Ti’s disappointing 1440p performance shows otherwise.
It increasingly looks like modern games will need more than 8GB of VRAM, particularly at 1440p and above to improve texture quality, ray tracing, and overall visual performance. That’s probably why Nvidia is marketing the 4060 Ti card at the 1080p crowd, with a 16GB version arriving in July for $499. But why would you buy a 16GB version of this card that will have the same limitations at 1440p? I would have preferred to have seen a middle ground here with 12GB of VRAM for the RTX 4060 Ti.
One saving grace about the RTX 4060 Ti is the power efficiency. It’s seriously impressive. The RTX 3060 Ti had a total graphics power of 200 watts, and it used the majority of that in gaming. The total graphics power is 160 watts on the RTX 4060 Ti, and I saw it drop below 140 watts in a number of games. It’s great to see a new generation of GPU use less power, particularly when the trend hasn’t always been about efficiency generation over generation.
Next up for Nvidia is the base-level RTX 4060 that will debut in July priced at $299, but it won’t do anything for 1440p. Nvidia and AMD are clearly playing the usual price game here because AMD originally briefed The Verge that the RX 7600 would be $299 before changing the price to $269 just days after Nvidia’s RTX 4060 announcement. Coincidence? Definitely not.
Although the RTX 4060 Ti and RX 7600 are in a different league as a result of AMD’s aggressive pricing here, it’ll be interesting to see how the RTX 4060 compares. The RTX 4060 Ti is around 30 percent faster at both 1080p and 1440p than the RX 7600, so there’s a gap where the RTX 4060 can fit in and potentially outperform AMD at $30 more.
I am glad that we’re now at the point of reasonably priced GPUs in this generation after some big price hikes at the high-performance end. I’m still waiting to see what AMD can offer to compete with the RTX 4070 and even the RTX 4060 Ti, as its aggressive pricing for the 1080p part of the market suggests it could do something to push 1440p more into the mainstream.
Photography by Tom Warren / The Verge