Nvidia truly knocked it out of the park with the GeForce GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti. Not only are these graphics cards a worthy successor (and worthwhile upgrade) for the legendary GTX 750 Ti, Nvidia’s cards are notably cooler, notably more power-efficient, and notably more powerful than AMD’s Radeon RX 460.
Heck, even the $110 MSI GTX 1050 OC outpunches the $140 4GB Sapphire Nitro RX 460 OC by an average of 11.69 percent at Medium graphics, split between minor wins in half the games and flat-out embarrassing victories in the other half. The $140 EVGA GTX 1050 Ti SC Gaming—which is the same price as the 4GB RX 460 we tested—widens the gulf even further to a whopping 28.72 percent average performance advantage. And the GeForce cards manage that domination without the help of an additional power connector, unlike the 4GB Radeon RX 460, which means that Nvidia’s cards can indeed slip effortlessly into prebuilt big box PCs.
It’s not quite R.I.P. Radeon RX 460, but it’s damned close.
The GeForce GTX 1050 family wipes the floor with AMD’s entry-level card in every traditional gaming metric, but AMD’s cards still hold a major advantage when it comes to budget gaming: FreeSync monitors. FreeSync monitor are significantly cheaper than G-Sync monitors,starting at around $130 on Amazon for a basic 1080p display, and the gameplay-smoothing, tear- and stutter-killing joy of a variable refresh rate monitor can’t be overstated. If you plan on buying a variable refresh rate monitor to pair with your new graphics card, a Radeon RX 460 and FreeSync display combination could be enticing, especially if you plan to stick with Radeon cards for the long haul.
But I’d rather buy a GTX 1050 Ti and rely on its nearly 30 percent average performance advantage over the RX 460 in the vast majority of circumstances.
Another Radeon advantage: If you plan to slap a second card into your system at some point in the future, the Radeon RX 460 would be your only option, as the GTX 1050 lacks SLI support. Most people who buy graphics cards in this price range would be better off investing in higher performance today rather than accepting lower performance with an eye toward the future, especially if you’re slapping a sub-$150 graphics card into a prebuilt computer. Most “big box” PCs don’t include extra PCI-E slots anyway.
AMD’s price cut for the Radeon RX 470 makes things interesting, as it offers far superior performance to Nvidia’s new cards. At its new $170 “suggested e-tail price” (SEP), an RX 470 would only cost $30 more than a GTX 1050 Ti. But be wary: The vast majority of RX 470 cards still sell for $185 or up on Newegg (a 33-fpercent premium over the GTX 1050 Ti), and the cheapest ones charge you for shipping. More crucially, the Radeon RX 470 demands the use of a six-pin power connector, which nullifies its potential for upgrading a “big box” computer into a gaming rig. It also draws significantly more energy than the GTX 1050 and Radeon RX 460 through that connector, and throws off much more heat under load.
The Radeon RX 470 will rock your gaming socks if you have both the budget and the PC for it, but this is a totally different class of card than the GTX 1050 lineup.
Nvidia isn’t just competing with AMD though—it’s also competing with older GeForce cards. The $110 GTX 1050 outperforms the older GTX 750 Ti by an average of 34.44 percent across our games suite at Medium graphics, hitting at least 50 frames per second in everything but Ashes of the Singularity. It’s a worthwhile upgrade. The $140 GTX 1050 Ti beats last-gen’s more potent GTX 950 by an average of 25.95 percent—a modest, but still sizeable leap made all the more impressive because the GTX 1050 Ti is powered wholly through your motherboard.
Snag the GTX 1050 if you’ll stick to e-sports or less intensive games at Medium settings, but if you plan on holding onto the card for a few years, I’d suggest spending extra on a GTX 1050 Ti and its more future-proof 4GB of RAM. The GTX 1050 Ti also lets you hit roughly 60 fps with far more consistency than its lesser-powered sibling, as well as sneak in some higher-quality graphics settings. If you don’t mind console-like frame rates, both of these cards clear 30 fps even at Ultra settings. Finally, between the card’s superb power characteristics and support for HDR, 4K over HDMI, and more, these cards should be killer options for home theater PCs.
Bottom line: The MSI GTX 1050 OC and EVGA GTX 1050 Ti SC Gaming both kick ass. They’re hands-down the best graphics cards options in the $100 to $150 price range. There’s no need to upgrade to either from a GTX 950, but if you’re moving up from an older-generation GPU, or simply want to turn a non-gaming PC into a gaming PC with minimal hassle, the GeForce GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti come highly recommended.