NVIDIA's 10-series GPUs are a serious step up from what came before it. It's not just a case of "oh, new graphics card better than old one, more at 11." The Pascal cards are a true generational leap forward at both the top and bottom end of the range.
But while it's easy to get wide-eyed for the GTX 1080 Ti or the $3,000 Titan V, we shouldn't forget the mass market cards at the lower end of the price bracket.
The new entry-level for gaming from NVIDIA is the GTX 1050, and the slightly beefed up 1050 Ti. Is it worth your time? That depends on what you want to do with it.
How to save money on a new graphics card
Right now, the best graphics card options are really expensive. The trouble is that the recent cryptocurrency boom has severely increased demand because there are plenty of currencies you can successfully mine with GPUs.
Our advice is to avoid buying unless you really have to, because let's face it, spending potentially hundreds of dollars more than you need to isn't a good idea. But that's not to say there aren't deals out there worth taking advantage of, and we're doing our best to make sure we're bringing you those deals regularly.
What you get and what it costs
There are two versions of the GTX 1050 on the market, one with 2GB of VRAM and the 1050 Ti with 4GB of VRAM. In some laptops, there may still be 4GB GTX 1050 options, but for the most part the Ti took the place of the higher-spec base model.
The two cards share most of the same features, like support for NVIDIA Ansel and both will supply tear-free gaming to a connected G-Sync display. Bluntly put, the 1050 Ti will perform better in games, but at a higher price.
Check out the full specs of the two cards at the link below.
Perfect for budget gaming laptops
One of the best things of the 10-series GPUs is that there are no longer any dedicated mobile variants. The laptop versions won't deliver as much absolute power as the desktop cards, but for the most part, it's the same GPU but in something you can toss in a bag.
In early 2017 I compared my own Dell Inspiron 15 7000 with a 4GB GTX 960M to an ASUS Strix GL753 with a 4GB GTX 1050 inside. The results were pretty astonishing, especially considering that the 960M wasn't the previous generation's entry level GPU.
Even on high settings in some games the GTX 1050 was approaching or exceeding 60FPS (Gears of War 4 and Dirt Rally). In others, still comfortably exceeding 30FPS which puts it in front of a console in most cases. The GTX 1050 Ti would probably have fared even better.
The point really is this: If you're in the market for a budget gaming laptop, even a 2GB GTX 1050 will probably give you a better time overall than an older laptop with a last-gen GPU. Besides offering good performance, the 10-series GPUs in general are more efficient, which is important in a laptop especially.
A great card for "esports" titles
The GTX 1050 can do more than you might think, but one area it's particularly good is for folks looking to play predominantly "esports" titles. That is, games like CS:GO, League of Legends, Dota 2, Rocket League and such. These games are all playable on low-end hardware, which in turn is probably part of the reason they're so successful.
The system requirements for CS:GO are so low you can basically play it on a modern Ultrabook with integrated graphics. A GTX 1050 will play it at high frame rates no problem. Same with the other titles mentioned.
The main thing to remember is that if these games are your main focus, then the GTX 1050 will allow you to build a very affordable PC that will give you a great experience.
And as mentioned above, if you get the 4GB 1050 Ti you'll be able to play more intensive games like Gears of War 4 with some of the graphical settings turned up a bit and get a very playable experience.
Who the GTX 1050 is not for
Even though it's a decent card for not a lot of money, there are circumstances you shouldn't even consider a GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti.
- If you want to game at a higher resolution than 1080p.
- If you want to stream of PC games.
- If you're a video editor that will use the GPU in the rendering process.
- If you like to play all your games on Ultra graphics settings and or play at 100+ FPS.
It isn't ridiculous to want to play at super high frame rates anymore. 144Hz and 165Hz monitors are more common and affordable than ever, and at 1080p even 240Hz monitors are now hitting the market. But aside from the most basic of titles, a GTX 1050 probably isn't the best fit for these.
Likewise, if you have aspirations of going above 1080p, look elsewhere. The sweet spot for great 1440p gaming is the GTX 1070 while hitting 4K well needs you to step up to a GTX 1080 or GTX 1080 Ti.
Content creators may also find the GTX 1050 a little restrictive. If you're a streamer, it's probably OK if you're predominantly going to stream console games, but less so if you're going to be playing and streaming PC games from the same computer. Equally if you're going to use the GPU to render videos, you might be better saving up and getting something more powerful.
The bottom line
The question asked if the GTX 1050 is good for gaming. The answer is yes, surprisingly so, but also within certain boundaries. This is a budget GPU that delivers surprisingly good results in its 1050 or 1050 Ti form.
It's great in lower-cost gaming laptops, perfect for "esports games" like League of Legends and CS:GO and even packs more punch than you might expect in some more intensive titles. You won't be playing PUBG at high frame rates, but this card is no junker.
Where it falls flat is if your needs or desires are loftier. If you're pairing it with a 1440p or 4K display to game with, think again. If you're going to use it to play PC games and stream from the same PC, you probably want something with more grunt. Likewise if you're a video editor.
But with prices starting at around $135 for the 2GB GTX 1050, you can definitely get into PC gaming without breaking the bank.
Updated May 4, 2018: We've checked this post to ensure you have the latest information.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine