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Nvidia unveils its GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti for laptops

The pint-size Pascal empowers portable players

Boy, that mobile GeForce GTX 1070 is something, ain't it? The power-efficient puissance of Nvidia's Pascal architecture has certainly brought portable performance to a new plateau. It might not match the desktop GTX 1070 blow-for-blow, but it truly is faster than the GTX 1060 6GB—an impressively fast graphics card in its own right.

The thing is, did you see that on-battery test in our review of Gigabyte's P57X v6? For those who skipped our earlier review, the relevant frametime graph is reproduced above. Long-time TR readers will already know as much, but for those who are just joining us, those frame times would make for a miserable experience. Even though the FPS average of those frames works out to 30 FPS, that plot indicates an intolerably jerky experience all the way through, at least in that test. Folks who want to game on the go are buying machines that really need to be plugged in to produce the best performance.

Moving between power outlets and truly being on the move is the difference between "portable" and "mobile" in a nutshell. Some folks really do want proper mobile performance, though. The laptop version of the GTX 1060 is a better compromise than the mobile GTX 1070, but the GTX 1060's GP106 chip is still pretty thirsty for today's slim & light laptops. Drawing upwards of 100W from a battery means that even the largest laptop batteries probably won't survive much past an hour or so.

Folks who have wanted real PC-gaming-on-the-go until now have had to settle for the GTX 960M. That chip is based on the now-venerable GM107 part we first saw in the GTX 750 Ti almost three years ago. As impressive as it was then, it's time for an update. So just as the GTX 750 Ti was replaced in the sub-75W, no-PCIe-power-connector-required space by the GTX 1050 Ti, the 960M is now being replaced by the dynamic duo of the GTX 1050 and the GTX 1050 Ti.

Yes, just like with the higher-powered Pascals, the GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti are headed into laptops in more or less unaltered form. I say "more or less" because there have been some changes, of course. Contrary to what you might expect, though, the changes are mostly in favor of higher performance. Check out this fancy chart full of specs:

Base clock speed Boost clock speed Memory
Memory transfer rate
GTX 1050 32 40 640 1354 MHz 1455 MHz 128-bit 7 GT/sec
GTX 1050 (mobile) 16 40 640 1354 MHz 1493 MHz 128-bit 7 GT/sec
GTX 1050 Ti  32 48 768 1290 MHz 1392 MHz 128-bit 7 GT/sec
GTX 1050 Ti (mobile) 32 48 768 1493 MHz 1620 MHz 128-bit 7 GT/sec
GTX 960M 16 40 640 1097 MHz 1176 MHz 128-bit 5 GT/sec

The items of particular note above are the core clock rates. While the laptop GTX 1050 hews fairly close to its desktop counterpart, the 1050 Ti takes a leap forward, with a 200 MHz bump to its base clock and a 220 MHz increase in its boost clock range. That's a big jump, and an unusual move for a mobile version of a desktop GPU. 

Curiously, Nvidia's documentation also lists the laptop GTX 1050 as having just 16 ROP units—half that of the desktop card. At a glance, that change seems pretty major. We'll have to see if we can get our hands on a laptop equipped with one of these chips and put it to the test against the desktop GTX 1050 to see whether there's a major difference in performance for real-world use. Despite the halved ROP count, the mobile GTX 1050 retains a 128-bit path to memory.

Besides the clock rates, the laptop GTX 1050 will apparently be available in a configuration with 4GB of local memory. That's in contrast to the desktop part, which is only available with 2GB. Both laptop cards will be using the same 128-bit path to 7 GT/sec GDDR5 memory as their desktop counterparts.