NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 & GTX 1050 Ti Preview
Date: October 17, 2016
Product Name: GTX 1050 / GTX 1050 Ti
After a spring and summer of nonstop graphics card launches from both AMD and NVIDIA, the first week of August came about and suddenly it was like someone threw a switch. All has been quiet since, the market took a collective breath, I had time to clean the office and actually caught more than three hours of sleep every night. For those keeping track at home, starting in mid-May through August 7th there were launches for the GTX 1080, GTX 1070, AMD’s RX480, GTX 1060, TITAN X, RX470 and RX460. Well, that breath is now being exhaled with a new NVIDIA announcement: the GeForce GTX 1050 and GTX 1050Ti.
While this launch won’t grab many headlines in the short term, the introduction of these two new cards actually represents an important step forward for NVIDIA’s more budget-conscious price points. Prior to Pascal making its way onto the scene, the sub-$150 GeForce lineup was a bit of a sad place. The GM206-based GTX 950 hit the ground running at $160 and proved to be extremely popular among gamers who were willing to spend a bit more than entry-level money on a graphics card. Regardless of what nomenclature would have you believe, these new cards aren’t meant to take over from this GPU.
Below the GTX 950, the GTX 750 Ti was left to pick up the slack. Originally launched in very early 2014, its first generation Maxwell architecture was well suited to its intended niche more than two years ago but as new games launched, it really began to show its age. Its spiritual successors are the $109 GTX 1050 and higher performing $139 GTX 1050. Ti.
Unlike the GTX 950 which basically used a cut-down version of the GTX 960’s GM206 core, NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti house a brand new 135mm², 16nm core dubbed the GP107. It utilizes six Streaming Multiprocessors which accounts for 768 CUDA cores and 32 texture units on the Ti iteration while a single SM is cut out on the GTX 1050. On the back-end there’s a 4×32-bit memory controller layout which feeds either 4GB (GTX 1050 Ti) or 2GB (vanilla GTX 1050) of GDDR5 operating at 7Gbps.
If this all sounds eerily familiar, that’s because the GTX 1050 Ti has the exact same core specifications as the now-discontinued GTX 950 I mentioned earlier. Meanwhile, other than the ROP differential the GTX 1050 aligns perfectly against NVIDIA’s GTX 750 Ti, a card which is finally being brought behind the woodshed and finished off.
There is however a few key differentiators here which allow Pascal to distance itself from its predecessors in some pretty meaningful ways. Its 16nm FinFET manufacturing process has led to much higher attainable clock speeds, GDDR5 memory technology has progressed to such a point where 7GHz modules are affordable and memory color compression algorithms help reduce the bottleneck caused by a relatively narrow 128-bit interface. This just scratches the surface of what the GTX 1050 series bring to the table when compared directly against first and second generation Maxwell parts.
Despite those higher feeds and speeds, efficiency is still the name of the game here. On paper at least the GTX 1050 Ti should outperform the GTX 950 by a healthy margin even though it isn’t meant as a direct replacement. The GTX 1050 on the other hand should have no trouble taking up the torch from NVIDIA’s GTX 750 Ti.
From an upgrade standpoint, NVIDIA is counting on the GTX 1050 series to alight some interest with users sporting GTX 750 Ti’s and GTX 650’s. Considering those GPU’s retailed for $149 and $109 respectively and account for nearly 7% of all GPU’s according to Steam’s latest hardware survey, there’s obviously a captive audience ready to upgrade. With the natural progression of Kepler to Maxwell to Pascal architectures, there will certainly be a night and day difference in performance and feature level support.
With that being said the actual performance delta between the GTX 1050 and its Ti-branded derivative should be about 10%. While the higher priced card does have more cores and double the memory allotment, it also operates at slightly lower Boost and Base frequencies. We’ll likely see more separation at higher detail setting where some titles may smash head first into the GTX 1050’s smaller memory buffer.
An actual competitive analysis isn’t that easy this time around, at least for the $139 GTX 1050 Ti 4GB. NVIDIA is parachuting it into a yawning void between AMD’s $109 RX460 and the $179 RX470 4GB. You already know my opinion about the RX470 but it should nonetheless be interesting to see how a Pascal-based card is able to split the difference between two of the Radeon lineup’s key entrants.
The vanilla GTX 1050’s target is much less nebulous: it is aimed directly at the RX460’s jugular. Thus far AMD’s little card that could has been quickly gaining traction in a segment where NVIDIA exposed their weak underbelly by not rolling out a revised 900-series competitor a year ago.
For people buying affordable upgrades or building a budget-focused system, ease of use is typically a primary selling point. In that respect these two cards have been built alongside an ecosystem and overall board design that typifies ease of use. Due to their inherent efficiency there won’t be a requirement for external power connectors (board partners will offer higher clocked models with a single 6-pin connector) so upgrading an existing system with a GTX x50-class card should be quite straightforward and won’t require a new power supply.
From an ecosystem standpoint, NVIDIA is able to leverage the countless man hours and millions of dollars they pumped into GeForce Experience. Complain as much as you want about this application’s foibles but there’s no denying it can greatly help less experienced users or first timers approach PC gaming from a more “plug-and-play” standpoint. From simplified capture through ShadowPlay to highly optimized automatic settings, GFE can be a great foundation upon which to build PC gaming knowledge.
The launch of NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti will be following a slightly different path from their previous Pascal introductions. There won’t be any Founders Edition / reference boards this time around. Rather, the onus will be on their board partners to offer a wide variety of custom cards which offer everything from basic stock-clocked models to higher priced pre-overclocked options.
Today doesn’t mark the official launch of these cards either since NVIDIA has decided to allow the press to give our readers and viewers this quick preview but the official launch with availability and benchmarks will be in about a week…for the GTX 1050 Ti at least. The GTX 1050 will follow a few weeks after that.
The hectic buying season between Black Friday and Christmas is a time when launching a new product becomes quite risky and it looks like NVIDIA is going to get this release complete right at the eleventh hour. Will this be enough to put two key volume-focused products on the radars of prospective buyers? That’s a distinct possibility but we’ll all just have to wait until next week to see how the GTX 1050-series begins to stack up against the competition.