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Nvidia's GTX 1050, 1050 Ti seize the entry-level GPU performance crown from AMD

For the last few months, AMD has enjoyed a fairly strong market position with its RX 460 and RX 470 GPUs. While neither AMD nor Nvidia has had much luck keeping their hardware at suggested prices, that situation has slowly improved over time. Unfortunately for AMD, Nvidia’s new GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti land today, and they’re not pulling any punches.

First a quick review: The GTX 1050 Ti is a 4GB card with 768 CUDA cores, 48 texture units, 32 render outputs (ROPS), and a 128-bit memory path (768:48:32). The GTX 1050 is a 640-core GPU with 40 texture units and the same 32 ROPS (640:40:32). The 1050 Ti has 4GB of RAM, while the 1050 has 2GB, but both cards offer 112GB/s of main memory. Reviews are now available on both cards from sites like Tom’s Hardware, DigitalTrends, and Hot Hardware, showing that the RX 460 is generally outclassed in both DirectX 12 and DirectX 11, by both the 1050 Ti and the 1050. Furthermore, the GTX 1050 Ti can hit high clock rates — its 75W TDP doesn’t prevent the card from holding a maximum frequency around 1.8GHz.

Even before the GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti launched, there was good reason to think this would be the case. The RX 480 and RX 470 compete against their own GeForce competition by offering more cores, more memory bandwidth, and more texture units, but have fewer render outputs (32 on the RX 480 vs. 48 on the GTX 1060, for example). They also run at much lower clock speeds. The RX 460’s 896:56:16 configuration doesn’t offer AMD much room to compete against the GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti, and its performance is markedly lower than its new Nvidia rivals.

In THG’s review, the RX 460 manages to best the 1050 in just one game — Doom. It loses every other title. Hot Hardware records a win for the RX 460 over the GTX 1050 in Ashes of the Singularity, where THG indicates a loss, but THG tests at playable quality settings (1920×1080, Standard) while HH tests maximum detail levels and unplayable frame rates (1920×1080, Crazy). Digital Trends benchmark data also shows the 1050 Ti and 1050 beating the RX 460 in every benchmark.

Whether the 1050 Ti or 1050 is better depends somewhat on your budget. Regarding price/performance ratios, the 1050 gives a better showing. But this card is also limited to 2GB of RAM, which could limit its longevity. AMD has announced that its RX 460 and RX 470 are getting price cuts, to $100 and $170 respectively, but while this gives the RX 470 a strong position against the GTX 1050 Ti, it only works if the RX 470 is actually available at that price. Consider the RX 470’s current pricing and ask yourself if that’s likely to be the case:

It is normal for AIB partners like Sapphire and XFX to have a range of SKUs and prices. It is not normal for a GPU to be selling for so far above introductory MSRP/SEP months after its launch. There was only one RX 470 listed as in-stock at the previous $179 MSRP, and AMD’s ability to deliver more cards at its new price point is seemingly nonexistent, given its failure to keep RX 480 or RX 470 prices at such points to-date. Still, the RX 470 does deliver much stronger performance than the GTX 1050 Ti, and that’s more than we can say for RX 460.

Frankly, it’s not clear that even a price cut to $100 can save RX 460’s budget position. While it holds out reasonably well in DX12 games, the 1050 torpedoes the RX 460 in every DX11 title, even with 4GB of RAM. In a situation where AMD offers 90% of Nvidia’s DX11 performance and 110% of its DX12 performance, you can make a reasonable argument for weighting DX12 titles more heavily (it’s not an argument I agree with personally, but it’s not crazy, either). But in this case, the RX 460 still tends to lose DX12 games by 5-7%, and it loses DX11 titles by 20-50%. That’s not a sustainable position, and it’s not something AMD is going to be able to fix with a price cut, unless it slashes the RX 460 to $80.

With both companies having finished their refresh cycles, Nvidia clearly came out ahead on this one. AMD’s Vega has an unknown launch date, leaving them without a high-end competitor. Its GPU prices are still stuck well above SEP (forcing its cards into comparisons where they don’t fare well), and its overall position is weak. Even the bright spot we noted in our GTX 1060 review — the Fury compared extremely well against that card — is rapidly fading. There are no Fury’s in stock at Newegg, and a bare handful at Amazon. AMD desperately needs Vega in-market, but the company has refused to commit to launch dates. Zen, we know, is coming in Q1 — but Vega is an unknown.

With all that said, we’re not giving Nvidia any freebies on this, either. Whether the GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti are a good deal will depend on whether the cards are actually available in-market and for their list prices, and we’ll keep an eye on that situation over the next few weeks. The GTX 1080 and 1070 were bait-and-switches, not GPU launches, and it took months for their availability to improve. If you find one of these cards at list, grab it — but if you don’t, don’t hesitate to consider other cards. After the way launches have been handled in 2016, we’re not taking anyone’s word for granted when it comes to GPU pricing.

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