Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 3GB: performance analysis

Benchmarking the last Pascal.

In testing the GTX 1050 3GB, I used our existing test bed featuring a Core i7 6700K running with an all-core turbo of 3.5GHz, paired with 16GB of 3000MHz DDR4 memory. All games were run from a pair of Crucial BX500 SSD drives. In getting a grip on performance, the new card was compared to the other GP107 products - GTX 1050 2GB and GTX 1050 Ti - along with two versions of the competing RX 560.

In truth, the 560 situation is a bit of a mess with editions available with both 14 and 16 compute units, some with PCI power, something without (boost clocks are more sustained with the extra juice). On top of that, 2GB and 4GB versions of the RX 560 are available, some with overclocks, some without. We chose to test both 14 and 16 compute unit editions locked to the same clock speeds - but expect mild variations in performance across the many versions available.

In addition to pitting the GTX 1030 3GB against its nearest rivals, I've also included benchmarks taken from Nvidia and AMD cards from the next rung up - in this case, the GTX 1060 3GB and AMD's RX 570, which usually comes equipped with four gigs of memory. Suffice to say that there's a big, big leap in performance there - but a rather steep jump in cost too.

Before we begin, a quick word on our benchmarking system. Users on mobile phones get simple tables with average frame-rates and lowest one per cent scores (defined by rounding up the worst frame-times, averaging and converting to frame-rate for convenience). Desktop users get our deluxe benchmarking system where every frame we capture is available as real-time telemetry you see play out in real-time when running the embedded videos. Tick the cards you want to see and even swap them about as the video plays. Mouse over the barcharts in order to see how each card compares and click on the barchart itself to swap between frame-rate numbers and the perhaps more useful percentage differentials.

Assassin's Creed Unity

Until the arrival of Origins, Assassin's Creed Unity was - for our money - the most beautiful, technologically challenging game in the series. Getting on for four years on from release, it's still a visual marvel. And on top of that, it's also heavy on VRAM too. Interestingly though, the original two gig GTX 1050 holds up fairly well. Nvidia's brute-force approach to compute with the new card seems to hold up - the GTX 1050 3GB sits right between the 1050 and 1050 Ti. It handily outperforms the nearest AMD rivals though the GTX 1060 3GB beats it comprehensively: an extra 50 per cent or so in financial outlay delivers 72 per cent more performance.

AC Unity: 1080p, Ultra High, FXAA

  • GTX 1050 2GB
  • GTX 1050 3GB
  • GTX 1050 Ti
  • GTX 1060 3GB
  • RX 560 (14 CUs)
  • RX 560 (16 CUs)
  • RX 570

Ashes of the Singularity

Next up we have Ashes of the Singularity, here running its punishing benchmark in DirectX 12 mode. We're running on the extreme preset here, albeit with MSAA disabled - which would just be too much for a budget GPU to cope with. Once again, the GTX 1050 3GB sits directly between the existing products based on the GP107 processor, but the step-increases in performance are considerable. The new card is 19 per cent faster than the vanilla 2GB model, but the 1050 Ti has a 17 per cent uptick in overall performance against the newcomer. The gap with RX 570 and GTX 1060 remains very large indeed, but it's interesting to note that a title with a definite liking for AMD hardware logs a fairly convincing win for Nvidia in the budget segment with the 1050 3GB.

Ashes of the Singularity DX12: 1080p, Extreme, No AA

  • GTX 1050 2GB
  • GTX 1050 3GB
  • GTX 1050 Ti
  • GTX 1060 3GB
  • RX 560 (14 CUs)
  • RX 560 (16 CUs)
  • RX 570

Battlefield 1

Battlefield 1 on ultra in DX12 mode is simply nightmarish for the two gig GTX 1050, with slideshow-like performance that is accurately captured in our charts below. Even dropping to high settings produces the same terrible results. Dropping back to DX11 and being more realistic with settings is the key there, but the good news is that the GTX 1050 3GB goes a long way to addressing the DX12 challenge, thanks to its extra gig of memory. I did notice some prolonged stutter straight after a level loaded - unseen on the 4GB cards - but performance perked up rapidly and we were good to go. This game favours AMD graphics hardware across the stack and it's one of the very few benchmarks where the RX 560 challenges Nvidia's budget-orientated GPU.

Battlefield 1: 1080p, Ultra, TAA

  • GTX 1050 2GB
  • GTX 1050 3GB
  • GTX 1050 Ti
  • GTX 1060 3GB
  • RX 560 (14 CUs)
  • RX 560 (16 CUs)
  • RX 570

Crysis 3

So far, our benchmarks seem to have vindicated Nvidia's gambit of hobbling memory bandwidth while ramping up compute power and VRAM to compensate. But not every title is going to show all-round improvements - some really do thrive on that wider bus to the GDDR5. Crysis 3 does actually deliver a very slight reduction in performance. It's only a couple of percentage points in this case, but it is there. The difference is unlikely to be noticed during gameplay, so some might say that the rebalancing of the product has worked - but this does assume that you've got a GTX 1050 3GB like our Gigabyte model, which only costs a small amount more than the older version.

Crysis 3: 1080p, Very High, SMAA T2X

  • GTX 1050 2GB
  • GTX 1050 3GB
  • GTX 1050 Ti
  • GTX 1060 3GB
  • RX 560 (14 CUs)
  • RX 560 (16 CUs)
  • RX 570

The Division

Tested under DirectX 12, The Division is another title where ultra settings offers a profound challenge to the VRAM-limited GTX 1050 2GB. Yes, you can run the benchmark and get a result, but geometry and texture streaming is nerfed, sometimes delivering blank, misshapen environment detail. At 1080p resolution and given an extra gig of RAM, the revised GTX 1050 offers up a massive 38 per cent increase in performance and solves all of the streaming issues seen in this benchmark. The game does seems skewed more towards compute rather than memory bandwidth, as the GTX 1050 Ti is only around seven per cent faster.

The Division DX12: 1080p, Ultra, SMAA

  • GTX 1050 2GB
  • GTX 1050 3GB
  • GTX 1050 Ti
  • GTX 1060 3GB
  • RX 560 (14 CUs)
  • RX 560 (16 CUs)
  • RX 570

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 3GB Analysis:

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry  |  digitalfoundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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