Budget Gaming Gets A Boost - NVIDIA Announce The GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 TI

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅18.10.2016 14:03:55

It's been a long four months since NVIDIA debuted their Pascal GPU architecture and the market's current top-performing consumer GPU. Cards pitched both at the mainstream and performance end of the spectrum have both been released, namely the GTX 1060 6GB and GTX 1070, whilst the bleeding-edge high end enthusaist with deep pockets could be positively gleeful about the GTX TITAN X Pascal Edition. Despite what might look like a relatively comprehensive launch though, the entry-level and budget gaming sector has been largely overlooked by NVIDIA, at least in terms of brand new hardware. Their competition meanwhile have saturated their release at this end of the market, hoping to capitalise on NVIDIA's high-end focus. This month things change as NVIDIA launch the what may be the last consumer GTX 10-series GPUs – the GeForce GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti.

The Importance of Hardware Updates in the Entry-Level Market

Since the release of new the ‘next generation consoles’ – i.e. the Playstation 4 and XBOX One – the AAA PC gaming market has seen a massive three-fold increase in the performance required to maintain high-quality experience standards. That doesn't mean 4K Ultra settings at 144Hz or similar astronomical requirements, but a set of experiences as mainstream as 60fps gameplay at 1080p with medium quality settings. Where once a GTX 650 or 750 Ti would suffice, today they would struggle to maintain such a good experience; that sort of underlying weakness is a problem for both consumers and developers keen to have as many people playing their games as possible.

The change in hardware requirements comes at a boom period for PC gaming. Not just the platform of choice for developers across a range of experiences from AAA FPS to indie platformer, the enormous popularity of eSports and streaming has seen the rise of the casual gamer despite the PC’s relative complexity. Where historically eSports and popular streaming titles have had modest requirements, notably Legue of Legends and CounterStrike: GO, today's current crop of titles such as Blizzard's Overwatch have ramped up the graphics significantly.

Currently the entry-level, which for the sake of argument we'll class as discrete cards priced at below $150, is catered to by only one brand new GPU, AMD's Radeon RX 460. The rest of the segment is filled out with NVIDIA's aging GTX 750 TI of 2014 vintage and a motley crew of older models which have reduced in price sufficiently to enter the price bracket. The entry-level for NVIDIA graphics hardware clearly needed a refresh to give newcomers an affordable and robust solution for today’s popular games.

The Technical Specs

At the heart of both GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti is NVIDIA’s GP107 GPU. Based on NVIDIA’s Pascal architecture and manufactured on Samsung’s 14nm FinFET process, the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti are new entry-level models with subtle differences in specification that are tailored to the most popular online titles as well as performing well with some of the most demanding triple-A games on the market today.

The number of CUDA cores and clock frequency will naturally take most of the headlines, but perhaps the most important number in the technical specs is the TDP: just 75W. This means that the default specification of both the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 TI infer it can operate on PCI-E slot power alone, and hence requires no addition PSU upgrades from most current 300W ‘white box’ PSUs in pre-built systems today. That keeps costs down, reducing barrier to entry; but it does also mean that power delivery through the motherboard needs to be robust at the top-end of the PCI-Express slot specification.

GeForce 10-series Quick Comparison Chart

On to the performance specifications. The cards feature either five or six SMM for a total of 640 or 768 CUDA cores, down from 1280 on the GTX 1060 6GB, and an incremental step down in core Base Clock frequency. Boost overclocking is also relatively modest compared to its larger sibling, topping out at +100Mhz rather than +200. This paints a picture of a GPU held tightly to power restrictions which could be unleashed on partner designs with an extra 6-pin power connector.

The reference memory specifications give a great indication of intentions of the two GTX 1050-class designs. Restricted to 2GB GDDR5 clocked at 3.5 GHz (7Gbps effective), the GTX 1050 will likely struggle with the highest image quality settings, where as the GTX 1050 TI’s 4GB GDDR5 should be more able to cope with bumping up the quality settings towards the upper end of the spectrum. Neither are likely to be have enough raw grunt to push higher resolutions, despite their cutting-edge architecture; even the GTX 1060’s faster memory, wider 192-bit memory bus, and larger frame buffer still sees it struggle at 1440p.

As outlined, the performance required in today’s triple-A titles is far higher than those released even as recently as four years ago. Naturally the new hardware has to reflect this. Compared to the GTX 650, a workhorse of the Kepler era, the GTX 1050 on paper boasts roughly triple the performance and almost doubles the performance of the 1st generation Maxwell GTX 750Ti. The proof will be in the pudding, or in this case the reviews, which are due to coincide with the card’s October 25th launch.

One feature we do however know will be lacking on the GTX 1050 is SLI. In line with its removal from the mainstream gaming GTX 1060, neither the GTX 1050 nor the GTX 1050TI will support NVIDIA's dual-GPU implementation. As always news of a feature being removed from a particular price bracket is a disappointment, but it should be said that the number of consumers affected will be tiny.

Release Models

Unlike previous members of the GTX 10-series there will be no Founder's Edition of either the GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 TI. Instead NVIDIA's partners - the likes of ASUS, GIGABYTE, EVGA and MSI - will do the heavy lifting in terms of the launch models available, and that could prove to be great news for the consumer.

A mainstream ASUS GTX 1050-series model

At launch there will be a huge number of partner designs to choose from for both SKUs, with wide variation in cooling solution and factory overclock. Some models will also feature an additional 6-pin PCI-Express power connector, enabling higher overclocks well beyond the reference and potentially even into the 2GHz range, although that result will vary greatly. There is also additional scope for single-slot solutions and particularly compact models for mini-ITX systems, all with at least the guaranteed performance of the reference spec.

Currently NVIDIA haven't announced a GTX 1050 for the notebook space, but don't be surprised if the GPU makes a splash in that market in the not too distant future.

The Upgrade Cycle

Given the information NVIDIA have released thus far we believe that there are three main groups for whom this hardware is most appropriate:

1. Newcomers to the PC as a gaming platform. Not everyone can afford to spend a thousand dollars or more on a PC, especially when it’s their first venture onto the platform. The GTX 1050 should offer solid performance on the titles they may be most interested in, especially PC exclusives, without breaking the bank and eliciting a hefty dose of buyers remorse.

2. Current PC users who have been ‘making do’ with integrated graphics Integrated graphics solutions such as those on the Intel Skylake platform are all well and good, but struggle with many of the most popular games that even have relatively low performance requirements. A dedicated GPU, even one on the entry-level band, can be a real shot in the arm for performance and hence overall enjoyment.

3. Budget gamers on a long-term upgrade cycle. A good example is someone who built a new machine with a solid CPU and GTX 650 GPU in early 2013 and is seeing new games or expansion releases for existing games start to struggle. The classic profile is that of an MMO gamer – they love one game to almost the exclusion of all others, but changes to that game’s underlying engine is starting to stretch their GPU to the breaking point.

Clearly that’s a wide swath of potential users, and relatively few of them will have the technical knowledge to take advantage of new hardware straight away. Tweaking game settings is an immensely involved process which can be revelatory in terms of the improvement to the gameplay experience you have, but unless you know from AA from your AF or the impact of dynamic shadows it can be a bewildering process. It’s this group who should be best served by GeForce Experience.

Now into its third major version, GFE has evolved into a lightweight and unobtrusive desktop app which can be the gateway not only to optimised game settings but also Streaming, Capturing, Sharing and more. The substantially improved UI also makes it more approachable to newcomers, and of course it can auto-detect your library of compatible games.

Price and Availability.

NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti are set to go on sale next week, on Tuesday October 25th. The GTX 1050 is priced at $109, whilst the GTX 1050 Ti is a little more expensive at $139; both are well below the $150 barrier that is often make or break for component upgrades. International pricing has not been revealed at the time of publication, but the current weakness of Sterling means that approx. £110 for the GTX 1050 and £140 for the GTX 1050 Ti (both Inc. V.A.T.) is our prediction for the UK.

Assuming that the pricing is accurate the GTX 1050 squares up directly against AMD’s own entry-level gaming card, the Radeon RX 460. Meanwhile the GTX 1050 Ti will be substantially cheaper than the RX 470, a card which is currently selling for around £175 (inc. V.A.T.). Performance in today’s crop of games will therefore be critical in assessing which is the best purchase for gamers on a budget beyond the satisfaction of buying the most popular brand.

Barring a Holiday 2016 surprise in the form of a GTX 1080 TI, these cards are the last new cards we expect to see from NVIDIA this year, and round out the GTX 10-series. Pascal has certain made waves in the market beyond what many were expecting, and sets up 2017 rather nicely for both hardware and gaming.

More information on NVIDIA's GTX 10-series can be found at Geforce.com.

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