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Nvidia 1050: Cheap 1080p/60FPS Graphics?

I’ve been lucky/dorky enough to live a life in the mid-range of graphics cards, so I must confess that what goes on with entry-level boards is a bit mysterious to me. Clearly though, that’s where a whole heap of people need to focus their interests – in many cases purely because of cost, in others because they’re stuck with some nasty off-the-shelf PC that doesn’t have enough space or power supply connectors for a Big Mama card. Nvidia’s next, the GeForce GTX 1050, is for those folk – the idea is it can do most modern games at medium settings in 1080p, at a cost of approx $110/£115.

Haven’t used one myself, so can’t give you first-hand experience: this is just a heads up sorta thing. If you prefer red to green, AMD’s RX 460 is more or less equivalent, with its 2GB version running about a tenner cheaper and the 4GB a tenner dearer than the 1050. On paper the 1050 is a little faster, but in practice YMMV – some games play nicer with GeForces, some with Radeons.

The 1050 also comes in two flavours, the standard and the Nvidia-traditional Ti boosted version. Numbers, if you want ’em: 768 CUDA cores, 4GB of GDDR5 memory and max clockspeed of 1392MHz for the Ti, but 640 CUDA cores, 2GB and 1455MHz for the standard. If you’re thinking about one of these, I’d nudge you towards the £139 Ti, primarily because of the memory. 4GB allows a lot more headroom for decent textures, which are one of those things which can make the difference between a game looking a bit haggard and relatively sharp’n’shiny.

Nvidia are pushing the 1050 towards the esports market, as yer Dotas and LOLs don’t tend to ask too much in terms of hardware requirements. If you’re still toting a four-to-two year old low or even mid-range card, this should be a decent jump for a whole bunch of other stuff too – should get you the magic 60 frames per second at 1080, potentially making the difference between that and dropping down to your monitor’s non-native and therefore sludgy-looking 720p.

Nvidia claim you’ll get your 60/1080 in big mainstream hits such as Overwatch and GTA V, which perhaps makes it appealing as part of a ‘not too much more than a console’ gaming box.

Possibly the main draw here, though, is that the thing doesn’t require any power connectors and is fairly short – so you should be able to drop it right into a PCI-E slot on even the most basic motherboard, without worrying that you don’t have the cables or the space. Most variants of the 1050 do still take up two slots in your case, however, so check you’ve got the room for that.

People who’ve felt painted into the corner by their old Dell or HP system should be able to avail themselves of this. And folk with low-profile or otherwise teeny cases may want to plump for this to power a TV PC or similar too.

Again though, you should be able to achieve something very similar with AMD’s only slight older RX 460. See which you can turn up cheapest, I reckon.

The first GTX 1050 Ti cards are due on on October 25th, while the GTX 1050 is due “on or before” November 8th.

If you want my advice, I’d strongly recommend trying to get your hands on another £100 somehow and picking up either a Radeon RX 480 or GeForce GTX 1060 – both come in between around £210 and £250 depending on manufacturer and store (and, as with the 1050 and 460, both are better and worse than each other in different ways). You get a whole lot more poke for your money and thus it’ll be longer before you need to upgrade again, but if you are one of those without a roomy case and a power supply with a bunch of unused plugs, that might not be plausible.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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