There was a bit of GPU controversy last month as both AMD and Nvidia released entry-level GPUs built on their latest platform. AMD released the RX 6500 XT, while Nvidia launched the RTX 3050. Nvidia came out ahead in that matchup thanks to superior performance and the fact that its GPU fielded 8GB of VRAM, while AMD’s offering was gimped to the nines and offered a paltry 4GB of VRAM. Nvidia’s GPU cost $50 more and both price points are largely theoretical, but the RTX 3050 was judged the superior card overall.
Now it appears Nvidia might be trying to match AMD’s low-price offering with its own 4GB card, which is an odd decision considering the amount of scorn heaped upon AMD’s latest GPU. Nvidia might also be releasing another 8GB version of the RTX 3050 as well, potentially doubling down on the most affordable member of the Ampere family.
The news of an incoming 4GB 3050 was spotted by Tom’s Hardware, which flagged a tweet identifying the card in TechPowerUp’s GPU database. The news is somewhat bewildering as pundits declared Nvidia’s 8GB version a pretty decent GPU due to its sizable frame buffer and PCIe 4.0 x16 configuration, especially when compared to AMD’s offering. The AMD card only sports a PCIe 4.0 x4 connection, which can heavily impact performance on older systems that only have PCIe 3.0, which is a likely target for such an entry-level upgrade. When benchmarked on older systems, AMD’s newest GPU showed declines in performance on a PCIe 3.0 system as high as 36 percent, and the 4GB of RAM was a major issue as well. As we reported at the time, AMD’s card was pilloried by reviewers.
Despite the Internet hate train, Nvidia might be preparing its own $199 model to compete directly with AMD’s newest silicon. The listing for the rumored GPU notes that it is based on a GA107 die, which was previously a mobile part, and was used for both the RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti laptop chips. The bigger GA106 die is currently used by the 8GB RTX 3050 as well as the RTX 3060. In addition to using a tiny mobile GPU, the alleged GPU will sport 4GB of VRAM, which is strange since a big part of Nvidia’s pitch with its entry-level Ampere card was “ray tracing for the masses.” Good luck enabling any kind of ray tracing on a GPU with just 4GB of VRAM. The feature places heavy demands on GPU memory, and 4GB is not going to cut it.
On the upside, the listing shows the card will come with a 128-bit memory bus, which is twice as wide as AMD’s 64-bit offering. It also should come with PCIe 4.0 x8, which again, is double what AMD supports in the RX 6500 XT. Compared to the 8GB version of the card, the newest entry will have roughly 10.5 percent less CUDA cores, but the same number of ROPs, approximately the same clock and memory speeds. Whether that be enough of a compromise to let the card run AAA games at 1080p at maximum quality remains to be seen, however.
On a similar note, Igor’s Lab is reporting that Nvidia is also prepping a “new” version of the RTX 3050 with 8GB of VRAM with the same specs as the existing card, but using the smaller GA107 die to help lower TDP by 15 watts, which makes it seem more like a card for mining than gaming. MSRP for this new variant is unknown, but perhaps it will split the difference between the existing card and the 4GB model, which would have it arriving right around $229 or so. Igor says in speaking with Nvidia’s partners about the rumored GPU that the GA107 version is pin-compatible with the existing GPU, and since a smaller die helps with yields from Samsung the “new” version might be the one that is shipped in higher volume than the current model. This allows board partners to easily swap it out if they so desire.