Every time a new generation of Nvidia GPUs comes along it is easy to focus on the powerful high end model of each generation, the GTX 570, the GTX 1080, you get the idea. But in the shadows, with very little publicity, older generations used to release entry level GPUs for a reduce price, identified in their model number as GT, rather than GTX. The GT low end GPUs were traditionally aimed at providing modest graphical capabilities at systems with limited power consumption, budget and space. Thus making it easier to do things like video oR photo editing and some very light gaming but they were really never targeted at hardcore gaming audiences.
Nvidia stopped doing entry level GPUs on 2014, probably because integrated GPUs were doing those tasks just fine… but something changed this year when Nvidia release the GT 1030… Which is currently the most modern low end GPU? That has been released by Nvidia… usually sold for less than $80. And this thing is… tiny. Put next to any “Gaming” GPU and it creates quite the contrast.
A lot of it comes down at how little power it uses and therefore how little cooling it needs. You can straight up buy some of these with passive cooling. Really amazing. If you are looking for raw power for the lowest budget you can probably do better with buying an old gaming GPU, like the one in my trashtop video in the corner. But if you are limited to a very anemic power source or you want access to modern APIs such as DirectX11 and 12 or Vulkan, then should you consider a GT 1030 to play on 1080? I paired it with a first generation i5 750, which is the actually the best desktop CPU I actually own to find out.
Games like Overwatch work absolutely flawlessly over 60 FPS, and do not even force this GPU so much… which is not a huge surprise given Overwatch’s notorious GPU optimization so let’s try something a little bit less efficient Like the Notorious Nier Automata, one of the few games I have been unable to play on my older GT 640, and the source of a lot of anguish for PC Gamers all around. As I have mentioned in the past this game utilizes a very heavy global illumination method that can bring a GPU to its knees pretty quickly. On some specific areas of the game this proved true for the 1030. Thankfully you can reduce global illumination or downright disable it using the FAR mod that I have talked about in previous video, which gets use closer to a comfortable 30 FPS, which is not bad for 1080. Another game that I was curios to try was Dishonored 2, another notorious contender in the worst optimization category. With post process effects disabled, as explained in a my video about this game, it was surprisingly able to keep itself over 30 fps.
I must however, point out that the game by default utilizes some clever tricks regarding dynamic resolution to maintain an FPS target, so a lot of these scenes are not properly being rendered in 1080, but I was still willing to mention this game due to how well it did. Next is PUBG, I have been looking for a setup to play more of this game on its super low settings and 1080 and to my surprise it did ok? The 1030 was able to maintain between 30 and 40 fps while in open areas and closer to 50 inside buildings… which is not bad for a game with such drastic performance requirements. It is really hard to say what is good and what is bad on this game anymore. There are performance optimizations in the horizon for this game so I might circle back to this one very soon.
Now, one of the potential reasons for going with a modern low end GPU rather than a potentially cheaper older high end GPU is support of newer APIs. Doom is a good example of this, as I explained on a video on the corner, Doom was one of the first mayor releases to support Vulkan… a render API that can potentially allow for less overhead and better performance. I made a video talking about how much of a difference it can make. This is of course, fully supported by the 1030 which leads to some very interesting results. There are still some instances in very heavy combat when you might see freezes or drops, but this is surprisingly mitigated by disabling most shadows. Great performance for such a frenetic game running on 1080.
The final test I was interested on was Wolfstein 2, on 1080 and shadows disabled. This game surprised me by being Vulkan only which cuts off a number of older GPU from even starting the game. Thankfully the 1030 is able to get started, although it has a hard time with this game on 1080… even with shadows disabled. Using an adaptive internal resolution does seem to get the game closer to somewhere more playable but it is not as good as it was for previous examples.
So, should you consider a 1030 versus buying an older GPU? It will likely come down to priorities. You can get some decent mileage out of buying an older GPU, like the GTX 570 used on the trashtop for a smaller price, but that will require a better PSU since that uses 7 times the amount of power of and takes a significant amount of space so it might also not even fit a smaller case. Not to mention that it will not be able to reap the benefits of newer APIs.
While it would be interesting to do a full on comparison between the GT 1030 and an older GPU that has more or less the same price. For now I would like your opinion. Is this a valid option for people under a budget? Or are the reduced power use and small size a waste of time?