Pascal is one of NVIDIA's greatest achievements in the past decade. The company's latest GPU architecture took gaming performance to the next level with the GTX 1080 in May and then again with the Titan X only a few months later, though you'll need $US600+ ($790)+ to get your Pascal party started with one of these flagships.
AU Editor's Note: 2GB models of the GTX 1050 are available from $209, while the 4GB GTX 1050 Ti cards are selling from $249 in Australia. Here's a list of retailers to help you shop around.
Gamers prepared to spend between $US200 ($263) and $US250 ($329) on a graphics card essentially have the GTX 1060 or its rival RX 480 to choose between (and both are fine options), while those with less cash have even fewer options, until now that is.
AMD's RX 460 2GB presented itself as the best choice for around $US110 ($145) and not long ago you wouldn't have expected to find a Pascal card at this price point. With NVIDIA's announcement of the GeForce GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti last week, you can tell things are about to be shaken up when AMD anticipates its rival's launch with immediate pricing adjustments.
The Radeon RX 460 has promptly dropped from $US110 ($145) to $US100 ($132) while the 4GB model saw a more generous price cut taking it down to just $US120 ($158). The RX 470 was also reduced to an awfully attractive $US170 ($224). The fact that AMD was so quick to make these cuts tells us two things: they know what's coming and they know it's good.
It isn't often that we see NVIDIA being so aggressive in the entry-level segment and historically they have seemed happy to let AMD take the hit on margins here.
Driving the GeForce GTX 1050 is the newly developed GP107, which packs 3.3 billion transistors in a tiny a 135mm2 die, enabling NVIDIA to offer up to 768 CUDA cores operating at frequencies in excess of 1.4GHz. That's the same amount of CUDA cores found in the GTX 950, they are just operating much faster.
Instead of asking a slight price premium for the GTX 1050 series, much like what they did with the 1060 series, NVIDIA has decided to price match AMD. The base model GTX 1050 will be coming in at just $US110 ($145), while the beefed up 1050 Ti commands a $US140 ($184) price tag.
These launch day prices should have budget-conscious gamers excited. The previous-generation GeForce 900 series offered the 950 at an initial MSRP of $US160 ($211), while the 750 Ti began life at $US150 ($198). Given the specifications and expected performance, we never imagined the 1050 Ti would sell for anything less than $US150 ($198), at least initially anyway.
On hand for testing we have a pair of MSI cards known as the GTX 1050 2G OC and GTX 1050 Ti 4G OC. Both are essentially the same product with the exception of the GPU and memory configuration (granted, that's a rather big exception). Anyway let's check them out.
MSI Does GP107 Without the Frills
Before we dive into the details of MSI's cards, let's cover the GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti's specs to see how they differ from one another as well as AMD's nearest rivals.
Eagle-eyed readers might have spotted the fact that the GeForce GTX 1050 series has been listed as a 14nm part rather than 16nm like the rest of the Pascal line-up. This isn't a typo, although NVIDIA hasn't given any info about this and didn't really even mention that they had indeed moved to the 14nm process for this series. It's believed that Samsung has been used to create the 1050 series while TSMC's 16nm process is used for the 1060, 1070, 1080 and Titan X.
The other key thing to note here is that the 1050 Ti boasts 20% more CUDA cores than the vanilla 1050. Besides that, the only other significant difference is the VRAM buffer as the 1050 comes loaded with just 2GB of memory by default while the 1050 Ti is equipped with 4GB. Regardless of capacity, all 1050 series graphics cards will operate their GDDR5 memory at 1750MHz.
There is also a slight variation in core operating frequencies, though given how GPU Boost 3.0 works we don't expect this to have a noticeable impact on performance. Additionally, we expect both GPUs to have similar overclocking headroom.
As there is no Founders Edition version of the GTX 1050, we don't really have a reference to go off. For the base models, MSI has created a 150mm long PCB though the total length of the card has been extended to 177mm thanks to an unnecessarily long plastic fan shroud.
The cooler features a single 80mm fan which pushes air over a plain looking aluminium heatsink. Forget about heatpipes or copper bases, this little all-aluminium heatsink measures just 95mm long, 90mm tall, 18mm thick and tips the scales at just 118 grams. The cooler is comically small for a gaming graphics card but with a TDP rating of just 75 watts we suspect it's all you need.
Speaking of power, neither model requires an external 6-pin PCIe connector and MSI hasn't felt the need to include one which is great. This makes upgrading rickety old rigs a breeze as neither card will put dodgy power supplies at risk of imploding, at least no more risk than they were already at. They have also stuck with a basic 3+1 power phase design, though this should be more than enough to keep these little graphics cards happy.
As these are the OC (overclocked) models, MSI has bumped up the core clock speeds ever so slightly. The base clock for the 1050 has been boosted by just 3.7% to 1404MHz while the 1050 Ti has been increased by 3.9% to 1341MHz. At most this will help squeeze an extra frame or two out of the stock speeds.
On the I/O portion of the card, MSI has included a DisplayPort 1.4 connector, HDMI 2.0 and Dual-Link DVI output on both models. These outputs should have most users well covered and all three can be used simultaneously if need be.
Benchmarks: Total War: Warhammer, DOOM
Looking at the DirectX 12 performance in Total War Warhammer we see that the GTX 1050 is 3% faster than the RX 460, though this was just a 1fps advantage so much the same performance here. The GTX 1050 Ti was 15% faster than the standard 1050 and consequently 18% faster than the RX 460. Impressively, the GTX 1050 Ti also matched the performance of the GTX 960.
Focusing on DOOM's Vulkan performance, we find that the GTX 1050 is 19% slower than the RX 460 though it did deliver the same 68fps using OpenGL as the RX 460 did using Vulkan. So technically both cards are capable of delivering the same performance in this title. Meanwhile, the 1050 Ti was 42% faster than the 1050 when using Vulkan but just 22% faster using OpenGL. This was because of the GTX 1050's 2GB VRAM buffer. Vulkan is very heavy on VRAM usage in this title and kills 2GB cards.
Benchmarks: Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The GTX 1050 and RX 460 shared the same 23fps minimum frame rate in our Rise of the Tomb Raider test and when comparing the average frame rate the 1050 Ti was 10% faster, not to mention that it was 38% faster than the RX 460, but still 18% slower than the RX 470.
Testing The Witcher 3 with HairWorks disabled handed the performance advantage to the GTX 1050 as it was 9% faster than the RX 460 4GB while the GTX 1050 Ti was 16% faster than the 1050 and 26% faster than the RX 460. The 1050 Ti was also able to best the GTX 960 and R9 380 in this test.
Benchmarks: Star Wars Battlefront, Ashes of the Singularity
The GTX 1050 averaged 47fps in Star Wars: Battlefront, topping the RX 460 by 12%, and the GTX 1050 Ti was another 11% faster, beating the GTX 960 while being only 9% slower than the R9 380.
The GTX 1050 Ti was 15% faster than the GTX 1050 in Ashes of the Singularity when comparing the DX11 performance and 19% faster when using DX12. Even when using DX12 the GTX 1050 was still faster than the RX 460, albeit by a single frame.
Benchmarks: Tom Clancy's The Division, Overwatch
The GTX 1050 Ti averaged 37fps in The Division, just 8% slower than the R9 380 and just 9% faster than the GTX 1050. Still, both were faster than the RX 460 here with the GTX 1050 providing an extra 4fps on average or 13% faster.
The GTX 1050 blitzed the RX 460 in Overwatch, providing 33% more performance at 1080p using the ultra quality settings. Meanwhile, the GTX 1050 Ti was another 12% faster than the vanilla 1050 averaging an impressive 104fps.
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Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.