The GTX 1050 is Nvidia’s cheapest current-generation graphics card, aiming to take on the world of Full HD eSports gaming. ESports games include the likes of Overwatch, CounterStrike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2.
But this card isn't just for eSports: like the competing AMD Radeon RX 460, this GPU is capable of playing the latest games at Full HD if you’re willing to dial back your settings just a little.
Thanks to Overclockers UK for supplying this review unit
First and foremost, though, this is a GPU that’s best suited to ultra-budget PCs, or as an upgrade to a much older GPU that doesn’t have an external power connector. Thanks to its low power consumption, you'll also find the GTX 1050 in laptops such as the Dell XPS 15.
The model on review here is EVGA’s interpretation, which retails for around £110. This is pretty much the going rate for the GTX 1050 and is fairly representative of the 1050 market as a whole. While this review will make comparisons with its closest competitor, the RX 460, the two sit in slightly different categories.
Related: Best graphics cards
The GTX 1050 uses Nvidia’s ultra-efficient Pascal architecture, used in the 1050 Ti, 1060, 1070 and class-leading GTX 1080. If this battle was won only on power efficiency, there would be no contest here.
But there’s more to it. This is the most stripped-down Pascal chip around with just 640 CUDA cores. This lack of cores is made up for by a high boost clock speed of 1,455MHz on this particular model. It also comes equipped with 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
EVGA has opted for a compact design, with the card measuring just 145mm in length. This means it will fit into the most compact gaming rigs, although since it's dual-height, you'll need to consider clearance below your motherboard’s PCI-E slot.
It’s cooled by a small heatsink and a single fan, and comes in EVGA’s fairly plain but stylish black and grey plastic shroud.
This is one area the GTX 1050 has quite an advantage over the RX 460: there are many more compact GTX 1050s on the market, and small RX 460s are really only beginning to appear.
You get DisplayPort 1.4, DVI-D and HDMI 2.0b connectors, matching the RX 460 for outputs. There’s no ATX power connectors to be found: this card is powered entirely by the PCI-E bus.
I benchmarked the GTX 1050 in our regular test machine, which has the following components on board:
Keep in mind that if you’re adding the GTX 1050 to a much older system with slower memory, fewer processing cores and slower storage – which is where I imagine plenty of GTX 1050s will end up – your results might differ considerably, particularly in the AAA games tested here.
I ditched TrustedReviews’ usual suite of benchmarks here and focused on the types of games for which the GTX 1050 is designed. I swapped out Tomb Raider and GTA V for Overwatch and CS:GO, although I kept both Hitman and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor to find out how capable this card is when playing AAA games at Medium settings.
The results here aren’t comparable to our other GPU tests (aside from the RX 460), which were carried out at High and Ultra settings.
CounterStrike: Global Offensive
By far the easiest game on test, CS:GO is a fast-paced shooter played by eSports professionals at the highest level. Pretty much any graphics card can play it, even integrated Intel HD Graphics. Still, in these sorts of games, more frames per second is always better, especially if you have a high-end monitor with a very high refresh rate.
Not surprisingly, the GTX 1050 achieved a scintillating 256fps in this test, achieving a score that was 19% greater than the cheaper RX 460.
Again, the GTX 1050 made light work of Overwatch, achieving an average frame rate of 112fps. That’s 28% faster than the RX 460 at identical settings. Keep in mind that Overwatch is very good at using graphics settings that match your GPU perfectly, so RX 460 owners won’t necessarily have a worse time.
This GPU isn’t made for AAA gaming, but why limit yourself? Hitman is one of the most challenging games with a built-in benchmark, so this should push the GTX 1050 to its limits. I ran the benchmark at Medium settings to avoid crippling the 2GB of memory. The test was conducted in Direct3D 12 mode, which tends to favour AMD.
The score here was 46fps, around 12% slower than the RX 460. This wasn't unexpected, however. Running the GTX 1050 in DirectX 11 mode made for much higher frames per second, well above 55fps.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
In this final gaming test, the GTX 1050 scored 79.1fps, just 9% faster than the RX 460, which closed the gap considerably here.
3DMark: Fire Strike Extreme
I also ran a synthetic benchmark, which showed up a serious discrepancy between the GTX 1050 and the RX 460. Nvidia’s GPU managed a result of 3,201 – 28% faster than the RX 460. This result is an outlier and shouldn’t affect your buying decision, but it nonetheless shows that when both cards are pushed beyond their limits, the GTX 1050 seems to handle itself better.
Power consumption is the kicker. The GTX 1050 has a tiny TDP (thermal design power) of just 75W, meaning it draws all its power from your motherboard. On board our high-end, overclocked PC during the Hitman benchmark, the entire system drew just 150W; that’s 61W less than the RX 460.
That 75W TDP is also the same as the GTX 1050 Ti, which will set you back about £140 – but net you performance that’s much better for AAA games.
The GTX 1050 is the finest example yet of Nvida’s Pascal architecture being put to good use. It might not manage incredible benchmark results, but as a replacement component for an old or broken GPU, it’s fantastic; and it shouldn’t require you to upgrade your power supply.
Given that the going rate for a GTX 1050 is around £110, your closest competition here is the RX 460, which retails for between £90 and £110. Normally I’d simply say buy the most expensive GPU you can afford, but I think in this case the increase in performance offered by the GTX 1050 outweighs its higher price.
If you can scrape together an extra £20, it’s absolutely worth it.
The best-value low-budget GPU for eSports gamers.
Thanks to Overclockers UK for supplying this review unit