The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 has been one of the most popular graphics cards for gaming laptops over the past few years. Why is it such a good option for mobile gaming? And should it still be your GPU of choice when you’re customizing a new gaming laptop?
The answer to both questions is a resounding, “absolutely.” Let’s make a case for the GTX 1050 laptop.
GTX 1050 graphics card
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card is a high-powered gaming GPU that was released in 2016. You’ll find this gaming GPU - and variations of it - in lots of different gaming computers, from tower desktops to laptops. The GTX 1050 was hugely popular because of its strong processing capabilities and affordability. And it’s just as popular today as when it was released.
Why are there so many gaming laptops still equipped with GTX 1050 GPUs? A lot of it has to do with the expert-engineered Pascal architecture.
What’s Pascal architecture?
Outside of tech, the term “architecture” usually refers to the design of buildings. In the tech world, though, “architecture” refers to the design of computer systems. We’re not talking about software or OS interfaces. Computer architecture refers to how all the physical components of a computer - the circuitry, the motherboard, the switches - are arranged and interconnected.
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 has one of the most advanced and powerful computer architectures ever built: Pascal architecture
What makes Pascal architecture so much better than other types of GPU builds? There are 4 major breakthroughs that Pascal innovated:
- Larger FinFET chip
- 5 teraFLOPS performance
- Faster deep learning
- Larger memory bandwidth
Let’s review those in layman’s terms.
1. Larger FinFET chip
What makes Pascal so powerful is that it utilizes the world’s largest FinFET chip … What the heck is that? …
As you may know, all the graphics that your GPU generates correspond to electrical pulses in 0s and 1s. It works like Morse code:
- When the electrical current is shut off, you’re given a value of 0
- When the electrical current is running, you’re given a value of 1
- Computers read a “language” of alternating 0s and 1s, which spell out words (like putting letters together to form words)
- These “words” give instructions to the GPU on what graphics to produce
A FinFET chip is a computer chip that holds little gates called transistors. Each transistor can hold an electrical charge. In other words, each transistor can receive instructions that are sent by the CPU. The more transistors there are, the more data the GPU can queue and process at once. The more transistors there are, the faster your GPU will be able to produce the high-quality graphics that are in modern PC games.
Why it matters for gaming
The GTX 1050 has the world’s largest FinFET chip, which is about 16 nanometers long. That may not sound very big, but it actually holds about 150 billion transistors. This GPU can receive a massive amount of data in a very short span of time.
When you’re playing a PC game on higher graphics settings, especially games that have a huge amount of visual detail
, there’s naturally going to be a lot more data that your GPU must process. Because it has more transistors, a GTX 1050 GPU is well-equipped to process graphics for visually-intensive games. It has the extra capacity to run all that extra data transfer.
2. 5 teraFLOPS performance
How fast is the GTX 1050? It’s 5 teraFLOPS fast - which means it’s a very, very fast processor.
FLOPS is a unit of measurement that stands for “floating-point operations per second.
” A floating-point unit is a very large number that’s compressed into an exponent (the exponent is the “floating point”). For example, the number 20 x 109
is an example of a floating-point calculation. 109
is a humongous number, so for mathematical purposes, it’s easier to express the number as an exponent.
In computer systems, larger calculations require floating-point operations. Not all computer processors have the capability to perform them, but the NVIDIA GTX 1050 can. That’s a good thing, because graphics processing often requires floating-point operations, especially for visually detailed PC games.
Basically, FLOPS measures how many floating-point operations a GPU can perform in a single second. 1 teraFLOPS equals 1 trillion FLOPS, so 5 teraFLOPS amounts to a whopping 5 trillion FLOPS. For all intents and purposes, the GTX 1050 can perform as quickly as a supercomputer
Why it matters for gaming
Let’s say you’re playing an ultra-detailed PC game like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on a monitor with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. Think about the huge graphics calculations that must be done:
- First, your GPU must process each individual “object:” trees, mountains, characters, weapons, animals, bushes, landscape textures
- Then it’s got to make calculations to figure out how many pixels it’s going to allocate to each object for a crisp and realistic image
- It’s also got to simultaneously account for movement by your character, by AI characters, and by the environment, because movement changes the pixel-makeup of the image
These are all extraordinarily large calculations, and if they’re performed too slowly then your game will suffer from graphical lag or pop-in textures. That’s why 5 teraFLOPS is a pretty dang good valuation of the GPU’s processing speed.
3. Faster deep learning
Pascal architecture incorporates hardware that enables fast “deep learning.” To understand what deep learning is, you’ve first got to understand what an artificial neural network is.
Artificial neural network
An artificial neural network is a computer system that resembles a human brain. Typical computer programs follow pre-programmed instructions to carry out tasks. A neural network system can “learn” how to perform tasks without relying on program rules.
While your CPU is processing data, it can analyze the processed material and it automatically identifies certain key characteristics. If it needs to process the same thing again, it’ll remember how to do it so the processing won’t take nearly as long. That’s what deep learning is.
Neural training is always performed by your CPU, but a good GPU can help your CPU learn faster. CPUs need extra RAM for neural training, so if you have a GPU with a dedicated graphics card, your CPU will have a lot more available memory to learn. Pascal architecture gives a 12x boost in neural network training, reducing training from weeks to just hours.
Why it matters for gaming
Neural network training can be great for enemy AI. In most games where it exists, neural learning is used to simulate the behavior of the player. In the Forza series, for example, you can race your own “Drivatar” that drives in a very similar fashion as you. It’s also possible that PC games will be able to adapt to your play preferences without you having to manually adjust your game settings. But more practically, neural learning helps the GTX 1050 process graphics faster.
What is downsampling?
When you’re playing a PC game on medium or low settings, the GTX 1050 will try to compensate for the fewer pixels by generating new pixels that are derived from a high resolution of the same image. This process is known as “downsampling.”
Downsampling can give your game better graphics on lower settings, but it’s an intensive process. The GTX 1050, however, can use neural learning to complete downsampling faster. After a few down samples of a particular image, it’ll commit those pixels to memory so it won’t have to downsample that image again. As you can see, there are lots of different factors that affect processing speed, and this is one of them.
4. Larger memory bandwidth
Pascal architecture utilizes a special kind of memory design called CoWoS® (Chip-on-Wafer-on-Substrate). It’s basically a faster kind of memory that can give your laptop a 3x boost in memory performance.
Unlike other types of memory, Pascal memory has a huge amount of memory sticks that are vertically stacked. Vertical stacking (as opposed to horizontal stacking) allows for more transistors to be built into the chip. But the best thing about Pascal memory is that it’s “unified.”
What is unified memory?
Unified memory is a memory address that can be accessed by both the CPU and GPU within the GPU. In other graphics cards, the CPU doesn’t have access to GPU memory, and the GPU doesn’t have access to the main system memory.
Why it matters for gaming
Your GPU uses its own internal memory to store vital information about each task it's performing. Think of memory as a workspace for your graphics card - the larger the workspace, the more tasks your GPU can perform simultaneously. Pascal provides your GPU with larger-than-average memory so your GPU can complete processing tasks faster.
Your graphics performance will also get a boost from the unified memory. Unified memory is great because it alleviates bottlenecking, which happens when your CPU runs out of memory bandwidth causing it to stall on giving instructions to your GPU. That’s often what causes visual lag when you’re gaming. But with unified memory, the CPU can just borrow some of the GPU memory if it runs out of system memory. Likewise, the GPU can borrow system memory if it runs out of its own GPU memory. Sharing is caring, right?
Why is a GTX 1050 laptop good for gaming?
Let’s sum it all up. With a GTX 1050 graphics card, you’ll have faster, smoother visuals with less interruption. An NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 laptop is great for gaming because of the:
- Excellent Pascal architecture
- Smarter AI
- Budget-friendly price
NVIDIA widely touts its Pascal architecture, and for good reason. This really is one of the most advanced GPU builds ever made:
- Larger FinFET chip: Can tackle huge quantities of visual data that you’ll find in the most visually intensive PC games
- 5-teraFLOPS speed: Can perform graphics calculations faster than the standard GPU
- Faster deep learning: Can boost the speed in which your CPU learns to perform routine tasks
- Larger memory bandwidth: More memory bandwidth means smoother visuals and less lag
If you enjoy playing PC games where it’s you against the bots, you’ll love having a GTX 1050 graphics cards. This GPU features smart AI algorithms, including:
- 16-bit floating-point instructions (for 21 teraFLOPS AI training)
- 8-bit integer instructions
What all that means is that when you’re gaming against AI opponents, the AI will be highly responsive and won’t take as long to process and react to your moves.
One of the best things about the GeForce GTX 1050 is that it’s a best-value GPU
. It provides you with similar performance to a high-tier GPU, but for a price that’s more in line with a medium-tier graphics card. Because of the lower price, your GTX 1050 gaming laptop will be less expensive. You could allocate those savings toward boosting your RAM
or upgrading the CPU
Differences between GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti
The GeForce GTX 1050 comes in two models: the GTX 1050 and the GTX 1050 Ti. Both are great for a gaming laptop, but there’s a couple of differences between them.
The GTX 1050 Ti has more CUDA cores than the standard 1050. CUDA cores are small parallel processors that perform the processing tasks in a GPU. The GTX 1050 Ti is faster than the GTX 1050 because it has more of these CUDA cores. The only downside is that the Ti costs a little more.
Can GTX 1050 run VR?
A GeForce GTX 1050 laptop is capable of running VR games. But if you’re looking for a great VR laptop
, you might want to explore getting a gaming laptop that’s equipped with either GeForce GTX 1070 or GeForce GTX 1080 graphics cards
. These graphics cards are advanced models of the GTX 1050, and they each have a little more processing power. Of course, that means that your gaming laptop could be a little more expensive.
If you’re on a tight budget, we recommend you pick one of our customizable gaming laptops
, choose a GTX 1070 graphics card, and pick a smaller amount of internal storage - which should still be plenty for all your computer needs. And don’t forget to pick up a great VR headset
to go along with your new laptop while you’re at it.