The low-end discrete graphics card space has seen something of a resurgence after a long nap. The last new cards introduced into the sub-$100 space were based on AMD's GCN 1.0 Radeon R5 240 from 2013 and Nvidia's Kepler GT 730 from mid-2014. AMD's Radeon RX 550 has had the low-end space all to itself for the last couple of weeks, but EVGA graphics cards based on Nvidia's GT 1030 are now available to shoppers looking to add a little bit of graphics grunt and next-generation display outputs to new and existing systems. The company has three different models on display, each in its own unique form factor.
For those who haven't kept pace with rumors about low-end cards, Nvidia's GT 1030 is the company's most affordable Pascal-based offering. GeForce GT 1030 cards have 384 stream processors, or about 10% of the quantity found in the company's top-shelf GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and Titan Xp cards. Nvidia's reference specifications call for a boost clock of 1400 MHz for that little cluster of SPs, though all three of EVGA's cards bump the boost speed up to 1544 MHz, with base clocks of 1290 MHz. The GPU gets 2 GB of 6 GT/s GDDR5 memory on a 64-bit memory bus, which handicaps the GT 1030 in memory bandwidth compared to the Radeon RX 550, a card that packs 2 GB or 4 GB of 7 GT/s GDDR5 RAM on a 128-bit bus. The upshot of the slow memory and tiny graphics core is reduced power consumption. We've yet to see a GeForce GT 1030 card with a PCIe power connector.
Now onto the different varieties on display. EVGA's GeForce GT 1030 SC Single Slot delivers exactly what the name promises. The card has a full-height PCB topped off with a black-anodized aluminum heatsink and a small fan. Tiny fans have developed a reputation for unpleasant acoustic properties over the years, so hopefully this one has PWM control similar to those in EVGA's higher-end offerings. The port cluster on the SC Single Slot contains only a pair of dual-link DVI-D ports—perhaps useful for upgrading an old system, but an instant disqualification for use in most HTPCs.
The company's GeForce GT 1030 SC Low Profile is similarly forward in describing its most noticeable attribute. The PCB is a low-profile affair bedecked with a thicker cooler that pokes out a bit into a second expansion slot. EVGA specifically says the card comes with a low-profile slot cover in the box, and the dual-link DVI-D and HDMI 2.0 outputs mean this card could potentially power an HTPC connected to a 4K television—though gaming at native resolution will certainly be asking for too much. The cooler on the Low Profile card has a small fan, so if you're looking for complete silence, keep reading.
The EVGA GeForce GT 1030 SC Passive Low-Profile is a lot like the offering above except that the fan-equipped cooler gives way to a passive unit. The heatsink is quite tall, but the lack of fan noise probably makes it the best choice among EVGA's GeForce GT 1030 offerings. The card has the same HDMI 2.0 plus dual-link DVI-D arrangement as the card above.
We should note that while both of EVGA's low-profile cards have HDMI outputs for connecting to a 4K television, GeForce GT 1030 cards don't meet the system requirements for 4K Netflix streaming on Nvidia graphics cards. If 4K streaming's not in the cards, the AMD Radeon RX 550 could make for a better gaming pick if size allows.
EVGA's GeForce GT 1030 SC Low Profile is going for $75 at Newegg. We would expect the GeForce GT 1030 SC Single Slot and the GeForce GT 1030 SC Low Profile Passive to hit store shelves soon at about the same price.
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