Adjusting their GeForce GTX 1050 Family info page over the weekend, NVIDIA quietly announced that the expansion of the GeForce 10-series of cards with another entry: the GeForce GTX 1050 3GB. Slotting between the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and original GeForce GTX 1050 (2GB), the GTX 1050 3GB is, despite the name, not actually equal to the original GTX 1050 2GB. Instead it features 768 CUDA cores but on a smaller 96-bit memory bus.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. After launching the GTX 1060 in July 2016, NVIDIA followed up with the GTX 1060 3GB, which featured 1152 CUDA cores to the GTX 1060 6GB’s 1280.

NVIDIA GPU Specification Comparison
  GTX 1060 3GB GTX 1050 Ti GTX 1050 3GB GTX 1050 (2GB) GT 1030 GDDR5
CUDA Cores 1152 768 768 640 384
Texture Units 72 48 48 40 24
ROPs 48 32 24? 32 8
Core Clock 1506MHz 1290MHz 1392MHz 1354MHz 1227MHz
Boost Clock 1709MHz 1392MHz 1518MHz 1455MHz 1468MHz
Memory Clock 8Gbps GDDR5 7Gbps GDDR5 7Gbps GDDR5 7Gbps GDDR5 6Gbps GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 192-bit 128-bit 96-bit 128-bit 64-bit
FP64 1/32 1/32 1/32 1/32 1/32
TDP 120W 75W 75W 75W 30W
GPU GP106 GP107 GP107 GP107 GP108
Transistor Count 4.4B 3.3B 3.3B 3.3B 1.02B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 16nm Samsung 14nm Samsung 14nm Samsung 14nm TSMC 16nm
Launch Date 08/18/2016 10/25/2016 5/2018 10/25/2016 5/2017
Launch Price $199 $139 - $109 $80

Going down to the silicon, the GeForce GTX 1050 3GB does indeed feature 3GB of VRAM, an extra GB over the original GTX 1050, which in turn only ever came in a 2GB version in the desktop space. But ultimately, the GTX 1050 3GB is another GPU configuration: the card has an extra enabled SM – now matching the GTX 1050 Ti at 6 SMs/768 CUDA cores – while also equipped with a cut-down 96-bit bus as opposed to the 128-bit bus of its other desktop GTX 1050 series siblings. In actual memory bandwidth numbers, this translates to 84 GB/s as opposed to 112 GB/s.

Otherwise, the raster engine and TMU counts are presumably identical to the GTX 1050 Ti, as the SM count requires the frontend to be a fully enabled GP107 part. As for clockspeeds, the GTX 1050 3GB features faster base and boost than both GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050 2GB.

Things get a bit trickier on the backend though. While NVIDIA's published specifications don't offer clarity on this, the company's designs normally have a 1:1 ratio between ROP partitions and memory controllers. Meaning that as this configuration has a 96-bit memory bus – and thus only 3 out of 4 memory controllers are enabled – then it has almost certainly lost a ROP partition as well. This also means that a quarter of the GPU's L2 cache (256KB) has also been shut off, leaving the chip with just 768KB of L2.

This is a prime example of why unusual memory configurations are more important than they may seem at first, as several parts of the GPU are strongly bound to the size of the memory bus. It also means that estimating the card's performance based on just clockspeeds and functional block counts is harder than it may seem, as now one needs to take into account memory bandwidth, ROP throughput, and cache hits.

Unofficial GTX 1050 3GB Block Diagram

All told, the existence of this card is not entirely unexpected, but it is odd. That NVIDIA is going with a 3 memory channel configuration stongly implies that the company has built up a stockpile of GP107 parts with one bad ROP/L2/MC partition, which is not unusual but GP107 is also a small enough die that the need to salvage to this level isn't quite as great. Otherwise, NVIDIA could have produced a 3GB card with a 128-bit memory bus and unbalanced memory configuration (2x1GB + 2x0.5GB), which brings its own tradeoffs but is generally the more straightforward option. At any rate, it's rare to see a salvage part like this enter the retail market this late in the cycle.

In total, NVIDIA cited the performance difference to PCWorld as averaging out to around 10% uplift of the GTX 1050 3GB over the 2GB. And so once again, we are now looking at multiple GPU configurations being sold at retail under a GTX 10x0 banner.

Contextually speaking, this new SKU comes in at a time of cryptocurrency mining demand, which has inflated prices and reduced availabilities for video cards all around. In that sense, where there may not have been room for an in-between GTX 1050 SKU, there is now. Or given diminishing cryptodemand, silicon that could be re-configured for consumer GeForce use. And in terms of competition, the GTX 1050 series match up with the AMD Radeon RX 560 (16 and 14 CU variants), a nominally single SKU which amusingly has had its own share of naming troubles. Lastly, recent NVIDIA GeForce launch cadence would suggest that the post GeForce GTX 10-series are on the horizon, a situation where Pascal-based lower-end product launches are easily compatible with.

And for NVIDIA’s part, a quick look at their own Linux driver documentation of supported GPUs by PCI ID shows the amount of variants and configurations for GP107 and GP106, with some device IDs implying GP104-based GTX 1060 cards. Though not all of the PCI IDs may reflect a currently-selling product, some might be regional or simply unpublicized; for the rumored GTX 1060 5GB, it had already found itself on NVIDIA’s driver support lists earlier this year. So the appearance of another configuration isn’t necessarily out of the blue. For the GTX 1050 3GB today, it may not be based on GP107, and given that most manufacturers rarely, if ever, comment on the lowest performing parts in their stack, future clarification is unlikely.

But while strange GPU configurations at the lower-half of performance brackets are not uncommon, as is the dearth of clear specification documentation, the obfuscating nomenclature is less palatable. As mentioned at the time of the GTX 1060 3GB launch, NVIDIA hadn’t had multiple GPU configurations selling under a single retail GTX model number for some years now, but now they’ve done it again – excluding the recent naming shenanigans with entry-level GT 1030 GDDR5/DDR4 as well as the MX150 variants. Keeping the different GPU configurations separate to the memory configuration like with the GTX 1060 is still unintuitive or misleading for most consumers, who may not research entry-level components or be unaware of how GPUs are configured. It appears that NVIDIA has no intention of changing from its ongoing nomenclature philosophy.

Going forward, however, this approach hardly educates the consumer. For one, all previous references to the “GTX 1050” would need to be updated; on the GTX 1050 Family page, the performance graphs still refer to the “GTX 1050,” something that undiscerning readers would not pick up on.

As noted to PCWorld in response to availability and pricing, the GeForce GTX 1050 3GB will be in the same price bracket as the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050 2GB.

Source: NVIDIA

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  • baka_toroi - Monday, May 21, 2018 - link

    Damn this post-modern world where nothing has meaning anymore.
  • Alexvrb - Monday, May 21, 2018 - link

    What I don't understand is why the RX 560 variants and 1050 variants don't get some extra designation... such as 560SE or 1050+. Something, anything.
  • Oxford Guy - Monday, May 21, 2018 - link

    All that is required is that they change the (insert British colloquialism here) number. GTX 1050, GTX 1055, GTX 1057.

  • Dragonstongue - Monday, May 21, 2018 - link

    LMFAO it must be difficult for Ngreedia and AMD to do exactly this, instead they rebrand the same GPU using the same damn name that uses a "leaner" design, so some poor fool goes in and buys what they think should be as fast as their buddies is, just to find out it never will be.

    there are SO many numbers they can use in any given generation, as well as naming, you mentioned some.

    for Nvidia they already have 1050, 1050Ti, if it "happens" to be slower then 1050Ti but faster than 1050, call it Geforce 1050 SE or 1051 SOMETHING ELSE, we buy them, it is what keeps their business alive, I guess they want to confuse people as much as they possibly can

    AIB are no better more often than not where they can EASILY give a "new" name to the "same card" so even online e-trailers do not fk up describing it, cannot tell you how many times the about to mention RX 560 14CU was not advertised as having only 14CU and only by going to the GPU makers website can you "sometimes" find this information which should be very visible.

    For Radeon, hmm Radeon 560 or Radeon 560 that uses 2 less shader cluster yet the one with 2 less (14CU instead of 16CU) often enough ends up costing MORE not about a slap to customers face.

    They absolutely should stop being putzes and do a better naming style...1050-1051/52/53-1050Ti....Radeon RX 560 (16CU) RX 559 (like 560 but 14CU) at least at a GLANCE you should be able to tell what is actually better and not worse.

    like a run of the mill corvette vs the high performance model (same damn name, but they are "smart enough" to call it C7..C7 LT1..C7 Z05..C7 Z06..C7 R (the paint jobs would be akin to an Asus ROG variant or MSI Gaming X, but the underlying "car" is of course the base C7 or the extra C7 R type thing.
  • Samus - Tuesday, May 22, 2018 - link

    Couldn't agree more! I've long stood by the facts of series numbering that ALL of these fucking companies seemingly ignore the latter digits in their models for no apparent reason whatsoever.

    Oh wait, confuse the customer. Got it, that's what I forgot about. Silly me.
  • edzieba - Tuesday, May 22, 2018 - link

    They do: the extra designation is "3GB".

    You could slap a few random characters after it "XT" or "BG" or whatever, but why use a random meaningless string when you can use something that also happens to tell you another part of the spec?

    For those familiar with GPUs they will be looking at benchmarks before buying anyway. For those unfamiliar, adding some random characters tells them no more about the GPU than adding the memory capacity as a suffix.
  • Lord of the Bored - Tuesday, May 22, 2018 - link

    The 3GB designation does not inherently tell anyone anything about performance. Even an educated customer would be justified to assume the 3 GB version was, in other respects the same as the larger RAM versions.
    It reads as "This is a 1050 with 3 gigabytes of RAM", not "this is a different thing with different performance" This should be called a 1050 MX.
  • edzieba - Tuesday, May 22, 2018 - link

    "MX" does not tell anyone anything inherent about the performance either.
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, May 22, 2018 - link

    Hence why people suggested a "1055" or the like. An differentiation by suffixes has been around since the start (Geforce 2 "MX/Ultra/GTS/Ti/Pro"), differentiation based on RAM size being different chip configurations is still rather limited and not as ingrained into consumer minds.
  • philehidiot - Tuesday, May 22, 2018 - link

    If "MX" as a differentiation method doesn't tell you anything about performance being different, by the same logic neither does "1050" or "1080". In my head, the model number tells you the GPU performance and spec and the memory capacity tells you just that. If you bought an iPhone 8 with 64GB of memory, you'd expect that the phone spec would be the same as another iPhone 8 with 128GB and just the memory is the differentiator. The idea of a model name is to tell you what spec you're getting and it's damned underhand to alter that spec by changing it along with the RAM. It means that if you want to compare models you can't just do it easily on the shop floor in your head, you have to research and generate a table and look at ridiculous numbers of benchmarks. They will differentiate performance with "Ti" when it's higher but not with anything else when lower. Mad.

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