Nvidia's GeForce GTX 750 Ti has long enjoyed a reputation as the go-to card for the gamer on a budget. The mini-Maxwell offered solid performance for a modest price, and it could run off nothing more than PCI Express slot power thanks to its lightweight TDP. All was well until the Radeon RX 460 came along. AMD's pint-size Polaris card offers higher performance than the GTX 750 Ti does, and it's also capable of droppping into prebuilt systems without a PCIe power connector. Ante, upped.
With the RX 460's arrival, it was only a matter of time before Nvidia fired back with a Pascal-powered budget brawler of its own. To counter Polaris 11, Nvidia is unveiling not one, but two cards this morning: the GeForce GTX 1050 and the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. These cards use a new Pascal GPU, GP107, that promises to cause quite the rumble in the sub-$150 price bracket. Many immensely popular games like Dota 2, Rocket League, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive need only modest graphics cards to run well, and the huge audiences for those e-sports titles have graphics card makers clamoring for mind and market share at that affordable price point.
As you've probably already guessed, gamers building their first PCs or adding a graphics card to dad's Dell won't need to shell out a lot for the privilege of owning a GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti. The GTX 1050 rings in for the same $110 price tag as the Radeon RX 460 2GB card did at launch, and the GTX 1050 Ti will go for $140 and up.
Sadly, we don't have the usual Chiclet-filled block diagram of GP107 to share with you today, but we do have some basic numbers to talk about, at least. Let's consider how GP107's key specs stack up against past and present budget-friendly options from Nvidia and AMD:
|Polaris 11||16||56/28||896||2||128||--||--||14 nm|
GP107's resource allocation puts it somewhere between the GM107 chip on board the GTX 750 Ti and the GM206 part that powers the GTX 950 and GTX 960. This Pascal chip has more muscle in most every regard than GM107, but it fits nearly double the transistors in less die area. Moore's Law marches on, folks. By the way, that's not a mistake in the table above. Every Pascal part we've seen so far has been fabricated on TSMC's 16-nm FinFET process, but GP107 is built on an unspecified 14-nm process. Samsung and GlobalFoundries come to mind as potential sources, but Nvidia hasn't confirmed anything to that effect. We'll have to wait and see.
The fully-fledged GP107 chip and its 768 stream processors will take flight aboard the GTX 1050 Ti. Nvidia pairs that chip with 4GB of GDDR5 RAM running at 7GT/s, and it specifies 1290MHz base and 1392MHz boost speeds for the smallest Pascal in this form. The GTX 1050 comes with one of its Pascal streaming multiprocessor units disabled, dropping the SP count to 640 and the texturing unit count to 40. It also boasts 2GB of GDDR5 RAM. Perhaps to compensate a bit for those cuts, the GTX 1050 runs at 1354MHz base and 1455MHz boost speeds. Both cards offer 32 ROPs and a 128-bit memory interface, and both will dissipate 75W in operation.
Thanks to that modest TDP, neither GTX 1050 needs an external PCIe power plug to do its thing. Some partner cards will come with beefy-looking twin-fan coolers on board, to be sure, and those cards might have external power inputs, but at least builders will have an option of a drop-in graphics card with both models.
Much like the GTX 750 Ti before them, the GTX 1050s should bring a substantial performance boost to the crucial plug-and-play graphics card market. To see just how much of a performance boost we should expect, we did some simple math to see how each card might perform in a few theoretical measures of graphics prowess. Have a look:
|GeForce GTX 1050||47||58/58||2.9||1.9||112|
|GeForce GTX 1050 Ti||45||67/67||2.8||2.1||112|
|GeForce GTX 750 Ti||17||43/43||1.1||1.4||86|
|GeForce GTX 950||24||57/57||2.4||1.8||106|
|GeForce GTX 960||38||75/75||2.4||2.4||112|
|Radeon RX 460||19||67/34||2.4||2.2||112|
On paper, the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti clobber the GTX 750 Ti in pixel fill rates, texture filtering rates, and polygon throughput. In fact, the GeForce GTX 950 and GTX 960 are the more sensible points of comparison. The GTX 1050 duo can move many more pixels per second than those GM206-powered cards can, and they're pretty closely matched in every other regard. Impressive stuff, considering that the GTX 950 used to sell for around $160 and that GTX 960 4GB cards moved for north of $200. The RX 460's theoretical figures keep it in the running with those GeForces in most every regard save pixel fill rate, so it'll be interesting to see how Polaris 11 and GP107 stack up.
Nvidia didn't send GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti cards to the press for review ahead of today's launch, so we're mostly left wondering how those theoretical figures translate into real-world performance. We do have some internal numbers from Nvidia for the GTX 1050, at least. That card is purportedly capable of running Grand Theft Auto V at 62 FPS and Gears of War 4 at 65 FPS on a 1920x1080 display at medium settings, while esports titles like Dota 2 and Overwatch should run above 60 FPS at high settings. Our sense of those figures is that the GTX 1050 and the RX 460 2GB will be close competitors.
We don't have a similar set of internal performance data to pigeonhole the GTX 1050 Ti with, but our friends at Asus say the card is capable of delivering GTX 960-class performance for 1920x1080 gaming. If that's the case in practice, Nvidia could have a real winner on its hands. AMD's $140 RX 460 4GB couldn't quite catch a GeForce GTX 950 in our review, and the GTX 1050 Ti appears to offer even more performance than that card does.
Despite showing off some illustrations that star an adorably stubby GTX 1050 reference card, Nvidia won't be releasing a Founders Edition version of either GTX 1050. Instead, it's up to the company's board partners to bring these cards to life. Nvidia's partners already have a veritable fleet of custom cards prepared to join battle with the RX 460, and many of those don't seem much longer than the PCI Express slot itself. Keep an eye on our news page throughout the day as we learn more about those products. We'll be working to get one or both of Nvidia's latest into TR's labs for a full review as soon as we can, too—stay tuned.