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 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 continue, 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.

Far Cry Primal

So far, the reduction in memory bandwidth brought about by the 96-bit memory bus hasn't had too much of an impact on the GTX 1050 3GB's gaming performance, but some engines do rely on it to a larger extent than others and the Dunia Engine is a good example of this. This benchmark demonstrates that ramping up compute performance can't fully mitigate a large 25 per cent drop in bandwidth, resulting in the older 2GB card delivering a 7.1 per cent advantage, rising to 13 per cent on the GTX 1050 Ti. The 3GB card is still way ahead of the AMD competition though and the drop vs the vanilla 1050, while significant, isn't game breaking.

Far Cry Primal: 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

Ghost Recon Wildlands

Ghost Recon Wildlands, released in 2017, possesses a truly punishing benchmark. Its ultra setting can brutalise even a GTX 1080 Ti, so we've pared things back to very high settings for our budget GPU challenge. The boost to performance over the 2GB version of the GTX 1050 is fairly minimal here, clocking in at just 3.6 per cent - which is surprising as we would have expected this title to utilise video memory more extensively. The GTX 1050 Ti pulls ahead but its performance uplift falls sure of the cost increase between our Gigabyte 1050 3GB and the typical £150 baseline for the higher-end card.

Ghost Recon Wildlands: 1080p, Very High, TAA

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

Rise of the Tomb Raider

We are back in familiar territory with Rise of the Tomb Raider running at very high settings with high textures, which sees the new Nvidia offering slotting in at a midway point between the vanilla GTX 1050 2GB and the top-tier GTX 1050 Ti. However, this doesn't tell the full story as the game is memory-limited on the two gig card, resulting in visible stutter. This is represented by the lowest one and five per cent scores, where the 33 per cent and 17 per cent increases offered on the 3GB card vs the 2GB original dwarf the 9.5 per cent mean average increase. Although not a dramatic boost for the new GPU, it is significant - clearly you need a three gig VRAM minimum to get a console quality experience, which uses the equivalent of PC's high-preset textures.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 1080p, Very High, SMAA

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

The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 is another title that leans more heavily into the memory sub-system, but it's also a game where the increase in GPU compute power added for the GTX 1050 3GB manages to balance out the 25 per cent reduction in bandwidth. The Witcher 3 doesn't require more than 2GB of memory at 1080p resolution, so the existing GTX 1050 2GB manages to inch ever-so-slightly ahead in our benchmark. With a less than one per cent advantage though, clearly it's margin of error stuff and unlikely to be noticed in gameplay. Even the lowest one per cent score is close between both GTX 1050 cards. What we're seeing here is Nvidia's entry-level hardware delivering console-like performance in one of the game's heaviest scenes, with a much higher level of visual quality.

The Witcher 3: 1080p, Ultra, POST-AA, No Hairworks

  • 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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