The NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti & GTX 1050 Review



Author: SKYMTL
Date: October 24, 2016
Product Name: GTX 1050 / GTX 1050 Ti

Exactly a week ago NVIDIA announced the impending release of their GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050 into a budget gaming market which has been bereft of competition for the better part of two years. At that time, we didn’t’ know exactly where these two cards would land since performance results needed to be kept close to our collective chests until today. Now that I have finally been able to digest all of the information, I can wholeheartedly say that if you are looking for a $99 to $150 GPU reading the entirety of this review is a necessity.

Much like AMD though to a significantly lesser extent, NVIDIA’s lower cost GPU lineup was made up almost entirely of previous generation offerings. While both the Maxwell and Pascal architecture benefited from high end refreshes, the GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti have remained untouched in their positioning for the better part of two years. Indeed, even those highly competitive –for the time- cards were launched at $150 and $120 respectively and NVIDIA’s options below that were relegated to OEM-focused options like the GT 740. That’s about to change since the new GeForce lineup is about to add two new entrants which fight to reduce the cost of entry-level GPUs while taking performance per dollar to a whole new level.

Typically the under-$150 market segment sees a race to the bottom of the performance barrel with cards offering truly pathetic value. The GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050 aim to change that by leveraging the Pascal architecture’s inherent strengths of efficiency, performance and broad-scale optimizations into something that approaches acceptability for budget conscious gamers.

Efficiency will continually play a large role in this review since it is actually the largest contributing factor to the GTX 1050-series’ success and pricing. You see, the new GP107 core produces such a small amount of heat and requires so little power that board partners don’t’ need to install extravagant heatsinks to keep it cool or even add a PCI-E power connector since the cards will draw all they need directly from the motherboard. This effectively lowers BOM costs and allows these two new cards to sell for less than they otherwise would.

The master of ceremonies directing things behind the scenes is a new 3.3 billion transistor, 132mm² GP107 core. It really is a thing to marvel at since, through the use of a 16nm FinFET manufacturing process NVIDIA’s engineers have been able to jam in almost two times the number of transistors as the GTX 750’s GM107 core while reducing the overall footprint by about 10%.

In its most basic presentation, the GP107 has six Streaming Multiprocessors which accounts for 768 CUDA cores and 32 texture units alongside two Raster Engines. On the back-end there’s a 4×32-bit memory controller layout which feeds the 7Gbps GDDR5 modules. Now while this may not sound like much, its backed up by NVIDIA’s robust color compression algorithms which allow for a more efficient use of available bandwidth.

While the GTX 1050 Ti receives the full monty GP107, its less expensive sibling the GTX 1050 has a single SM cut for a total of 640 cores. There isn’t any associated memory interface reduction but the lower priced card will only come with a maximum of 2GB of GDDR5 versus the 4GB of its bigger brother. This was likely done to maximize core yields but NVIDIA did prop this card up by allowing it to run at higher speeds so in situations where its 2GB and lower core count won’t become a bottleneck, the GTX 1050 should become a very close competitor.

When looking at the pure on-paper specifications, I wouldn’t blame you if there was some disappointment about how these new cards line up against their direct predecessor, the GTX 950. With its 768 cores, 40 TMUs and 32 ROPs NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 Ti is literally a carbon copy (not counting the fact the GTX 950 was based on much larger, more ungainly core) while the GTX 1050 actually makes due with even less resources. However there’s more going on here than what first meets the eye since the Pascal architecture has quite a few tricks up its sleeve that Maxwell didn’t have. Both consume just 75W which will facilitate drop-in upgrades though some board partners may choose to include a dedicated 6-pin connector for more overclocking headroom.

With that being said, the true upgrade path towards the GTX 1050-series will likely be from a GTX 750 or GTX 650 class product. In those cases the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050 actually cost LESS than the original buyers spent on their cards yet will offer a whole new level of performance, not to mention much broader support for DX12 and Vulkan features. It is them NVIDIA is targeting with this launch though folks using a GTX 950 may still get a good framerate uplift in certain situations.

The pricing on this particular launch is extremely competitive to say the least and AMD has already reacted in the only way they can. They’ve already reduced the RX 460 2GB cost from $109 to $99 in an effort to entice folks over to Team Red. The RX 470 4GB’s price has also been marched over to the chopping block and its now going for $169 which is actually quite enticing…..but more about that later.

Unlike past released of Pascal GPUs, this one is entirely upon the shoulders of NVIDIA’s board partners since there won’t be any reference designs / Founders Editions. On one hand that will insure a good variety of options at retainers from day one. Unfortunately, this also means the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050’s actual costing will be determined not by NVIDIA but rather by outside influences.

Let’s take this ASUS GTX 1050 Ti DUAL. It boasts reference clock speeds and a dual-fan cooler with a very basic aluminum heatsink and no additional 6-pin connector. Its price? $159. That’s a $20 premium which pushes this card’s price right up against the RX 470 and, as you will see in the results, that’s a battle it will lose every time. Luckily there will be plenty of options out there sitting at the $139 price (I’ve already received confirmations from EVGA, Gigabyte and PNY) so at least this sample’s performance will give you some idea of what you should expect.

On the GTX 1050 end, EVGA’s single fan Superclocked card is just what the doctor ordered. It is compact, goes for $119 and will be widely available at launch. In essence this is the quintessential GTX 1050 and it does come with slightly higher clock speeds of 1417MHz and 1531MHz for the Base and Boost respectively. It too comes without a 6-pin power input so drop-in installation won’t be a problem in most older systems.

When taken purely at face value the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050 have already lowered the pricing bar for entry-level PC gamers if AMD’s price cuts are anything to go by. However, they’ll need to strike a very delicate balance between cost, performance and power consumption if there’s hope of success.

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