Sub-$150 Pascal: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 & GTX 1050 Ti Review

MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
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by Rob Williams on October 25, 2016 in Graphics & Displays

Since the first Pascal release this past spring, NVIDIA has rolled-out a handful of high-end (and really high-end) GPUs, so now, it’s time to get the low-end settled. That’s fulfilled with the release of the GeForce GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti – both 75W parts. Priced at $109 and $139, respectively, both cards target the 1080p resolution. Let’s see how they fare against each other, and AMD’s Radeon RX 460.

Introduction, About NVIDIA’s GTX 1050 & GTX 1050 Ti

With the winter months ahead of us, we’d assume a GPU vendor would release a card hot enough to heat a room, but today, we have the opposite. In fact, these new GPUs (yes, two!) don’t even require a power connector. So, if your goal is to bask in the warmth of your PC while gaming, you better get on overclocking that CPU.

With its GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, NVIDIA sneaks in past AMD’s Radeon RX 460 and sits somewhere in the middle of that card and the RX 470. The non-Ti model, as you might suspect, targets the RX 460 head-on. Which of those two will rule supreme? Well, it’s not often that a new model comes out targeting another that doesn’t come ahead, so that should answer your question up-front.

Both of these GPUs are suitable for 1080p gaming, but there are some caveats to be aware of. The GTX 1050 includes a meager 2GB of VRAM, so you’ll need to prepare to adjust settings quite heavily in today’s games if 60 FPS is your target. And even then, it’s probably best to assume that you won’t be achieving 60 FPS outside of simpler games. As for the Ti model, it sports twice the VRAM, a typical 4GB. That alone makes it a more appropriate 1080p card in 2016, but pushing things even further, it also includes 20% additional cores.

MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti

While all of the usual vendors are releasing their own takes on the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti today, the models we received came from MSI. NVIDIA’s suggested pricing for the non-Ti model is $109, whereas the Ti model is $139. As we’ll see in the results, that extra $30 can go a long way.

Here’s a quick roundup of NVIDIA’s current crop of cards:

NVIDIA GeForce SeriesCoresCore MHzMemoryMem MHzMem BusTDP
TITAN X3584141712288MB10000384-bit250W
GeForce GTX 1080256016078192MB10000256-bit180W
GeForce GTX 1070192015068192MB8000256-bit150W
GeForce GTX 10601280≤17006144MB8000192-bit120W
GeForce GTX 1050 Ti768≤13924096MB7000128-bit75W
GeForce GTX 1050640≤14552048MB7000128-bit75W

Something tells us the TITAN X doesn’t have much to worry about! Starting with our last GPU review, we’ve begun putting together a simple chart that gives our impressions of where a particular card is best-suited, resolution-wise. In the GTX 1050’s case, we can’t in good conscience call the 1080p performance anything but “Poor”, but that doesn’t mean that it’s pointless. It simply means that 60 FPS shouldn’t be an expectation, and if you are fine with that, then the card should suit you well. As for the Ti, it gets upgraded to “Good”, thanks not only to its increased framebuffer, but also the additional cores. These are not ratings we’re hauling out of our butts; these are based off of our hands-on testing (minus the TITAN X; those are educated assumptions since we never received the card.)

I should also note that these ratings have the potential to change over the next couple of days. Due to a lack of time, I was unable to spend some honest time tweaking each game on each card to figure out its best playable result, so that will be taken care of after this review. If any of the ratings deserve to be changed, I’ll update the table below. Why would they have the potential to change? Simply because our benchmarked settings are sky-high; already inappropriate for such cards. Hence the need for further testing.

NVIDIA GeForce Series1080p1440p3440×14404K
TITAN XOverkillOverkillExcellentGreat
GeForce GTX 1080OverkillExcellentExcellentGood
GeForce GTX 1070ExcellentGreatGoodPoor
GeForce GTX 1060GreatGoodPoorPoor
GeForce GTX 1050 TiGoodPoorPoorPoor
GeForce GTX 1050PoorPoorPoorPoor
Overkill: 60 FPS? More like 100 FPS. As future-proofed as it gets.
Excellent: Surpass 60 FPS at high quality settings with ease.
Great: Hit 60 FPS with high quality settings.
Good: Nothing too impressive; it gets the job done (60 FPS will require tweaking).
Poor: Expect real headaches from the awful performance.

Writing this review has come down to the wire, so if you need clarification on something, or if I forgot something, please feel free to leave a comment and berate me. In the meantime, let’s take a quick look at our test system:

Graphics Card Test System
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-5960X (8-core) @ 4.0GHz
MotherboardASUS X99 DELUXE
MemoryKingston HyperX Beast 32GB (4x8GB) – DDR4-2133 11-12-11
GraphicsAMD Radeon R9 Nano 4GB – Catalyst 16.5.3
AMD Radeon RX 460 2GB – Catalyst 16.10.2 Hotfix
AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB – Catalyst 16.6.2 Beta
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB – GeForce 365.22
NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN X 12GB – GeForce 365.22
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 4GB – GeForce 375.57 (Beta)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB – GeForce 368.64 (Beta)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GeForce 372.90 (ASUS Strix)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB – GeForce 368.19 (Beta)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB – GeForce 368.25
AudioOnboard
StorageKingston SSDNow V310 1TB SSD
Power SupplyCooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid 1300W
ChassisCooler Master Storm Trooper Full-Tower
CoolingThermaltake WATER3.0 Extreme Liquid Cooler
DisplaysAcer Predator X34 34″ Ultra-wide
Acer XB280HK 28″ 4K G-SYNC
ASUS MG279Q 27″ 1440p FreeSync
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (10586) 64-bit

Framerate information for all tests – with the exception of certain time demos and DirectX 12 tests – are recorded with the help of Fraps. For tests where Fraps use is not ideal, I use the game’s built-in test (the only option for DX12 titles right now). In the past, I’ve tweaked the Windows OS as much as possible to rule out test variations, but over time, such optimizations have proven fruitless. As a result, the Windows 10 installation I use is about as stock as possible, with minor modifications to suit personal preferences.

In all, I use 8 different games for regular game testing, and 3 for DirectX 12 testing. That’s in addition to the use of three synthetic benchmarks. Because some games are sponsored, the list below helps oust potential bias in our testing.

(AMD) – Ashes of the Singularity (DirectX 12)
(AMD) – Battlefield 4
(AMD) – Crysis 3
(NVIDIA) – Metro: Last Light Redux
(NVIDIA) – Rise Of The Tomb Raider (incl. DirectX 12)
(NVIDIA) – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(Neutral) – DOOM
(Neutral) – Grand Theft Auto V
(Neutral) – Total War: ATTILA

If you’re interested in benchmarking your own configuration to compare to our results, you can download this file (5MB) and make sure you’re using the exact same graphics settings. I’ll lightly explain how I benchmark each test before I get into each game’s performance results.

Note: For some reason, Hitman gave me unexpected results, so those were scrapped for this review. The same applies to power consumption; our test rig was drawing more power than usual, and I’m not sure why. Due to tight timing, I was not able to investigate before publishing.