2020 and so far 2021 has been a miserable time if you’re a gamer looking to make some upgrades. Ryzen, Big Navi, Ampere are damn near impossible to get a hold of. Scalpers continue to hoover up PS5/Xbox Series inventory and Cryptominers any high end GPUs they can get their mitts on. Lead times for stock replenishment are getting kicked down the road further and further. If you’re a gamer with the burning need to buy a graphics card, any graphics card even, just to get you through lock down, what do you do? If you’re Nvidia what do you do? Bring your old retired cards out of retirement to game again!
“Pascal!”, I hear you exclaim. “Isn’t that like… 5 years old?”. I would reply, “why yes diligent reader, quite right you are!”. Pascal based GTX 1050s are rumored to be coming out of retirement to fill the void left by COVID and the avalanche of demand stemming from everyone being stuck at home, COVID related transit/logistics and manufacturing constraints and the massive uptick in both bot/scalper and cryptomining.
TSMC has quickly become a familiar name with anyone in the tech space, with their famed 7 Nanometer processing node being of choice by many a silicon vendor nowadays. All AMD Ryzen CPUs are based on the technology, Apple’s own M1/A14 Silicon is based on its 5nm variant. Nvidia use 7nm TSMC for their professional cards, while consumer is over with Samsung on their 8nm nodes. Capacity is definitely overstretched to cover the demand right now, which is certainly not helping the shortages. Pascal by comparison is resident to the TSMC 16nm and Samsung 14nm nodes instead, so with freer capacity on those nodes, Nvidia hopes to be able to cater to a particular type of customer with the GTX 1050 series, e-sports and casual gamers.
In a surprising turn of fate, the former End of Life GTX 1050ti rapidly became a hot seller in under 4 months, driven by a dearth of high end cards and an influx of replenished supply of the almost 5 year old card. It makes sense. The 1050Ti is hardly state of the art by any stretch of the imagination, but for the 1080p gamer, it has a lot to offer for not a lot of money. A 4GB Frame Buffer, DX12 Support, a low 75w TDP, Vulkan 1.2 and CUDA 6.1 support, it’s hardly antiquated. For games on medium settings at 1080p or e-sports titles like Rocket League or CS:GO it can more than handle it’s own.
The GP107 in particular that powers the GTX 1050Ti is fabricated on Samsung’s 14nm process, so it’s likely an under-utilization of capacity here is what drove the decision to ramp up supply. That and the fact it’s still ridiculously popular. Judging by Steam’s January 2021 survey, the 1050Ti is the 2nd most popular card on the site, with the higher end 1060 being the No.1, period. Let that sink in. The most popular card right now being used by people on Steam is a 5 year old Pascal based GTX 1060. That shows how much longevity Pascal has had, and how long GPUs have stayed relevant in general.
Pascal is proof that just because tech is old, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily obsolete or even a bad proposition years down the line. I can speak from experience that an AMD Radeon R9 290 still has enough grunt to even run Cyberpunk 2077 well at 1080p. Sure if you’re targeting Ultra settings at 144Hz you’re gonna need something with more grunt, but if you’re willing to work with your quality settings a bit, there’s certainly a lot of play-ability still in older cards. The graphics card market being what it is right now doesn’t give the prospective card buyer a ton of options, but if buying used ain’t your jam and you’d rather set your money on fire than cave to a scalper, then the 2015/2016 GTX 10 series might be your ticket. At the end of the day, it’s all about the games. Anything that lets people be part of this amazing media form and the community that comes with it especially during these super hard times is worth taking a look at.