A Holiday Project
Can a low cost GTX 1050 Ti graphics card turn that OEM PC into a gaming PC?
A couple of years ago, I performed an experiment around the GeForce GTX 750 Ti graphics card to see if we could upgrade basic OEM, off-the-shelf computers to become competent gaming PCs. The key to this potential upgrade was that the GTX 750 Ti offered a great amount of GPU horsepower (at the time) without the need for an external power connector. Lower power requirements on the GPU meant that even the most basic of OEM power supplies should be able to do the job.
That story was a success, both in terms of the result in gaming performance and the positive feedback it received. Today, I am attempting to do that same thing but with a new class of GPU and a new class of PC games.
The goal for today’s experiment remains pretty much the same: can a low-cost, low-power GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card that also does not require any external power connector offer enough gaming horsepower to upgrade current shipping OEM PCs to "gaming PC" status?
Our target PCs for today come from Dell and ASUS. I went into my local Best Buy just before the Thanksgiving holiday and looked for two machines that varied in price and relative performance.
|Dell Inspiron 3650||ASUS M32CD-B09|
|Processor||Intel Core i3-6100||Intel Core i7-6700|
|Memory||8GB DDR4||12GB DDR4|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 530||Intel HD Graphics 530|
|Storage||1TB HDD||1TB Hybrid HDD|
|Power Supply||240 watt||350 watt|
|OS||Windows 10 64-bit||Windows 10 64-bit|
|Total Price||$429 (Best Buy)||$749 (Best Buy)|
The specifications of these two machines are relatively modern for OEM computers. The Dell Inspiron 3650 uses a modest dual-core Core i3-6100 processor with a fixed clock speed of 3.7 GHz. It has a 1TB standard hard drive and a 240 watt power supply. The ASUS M32CD-B09 PC has a quad-core HyperThreaded processor with a 4.0 GHz maximum Turbo clock, a 1TB hybrid hard drive and a 350 watt power supply. Both of the CPUs share the same Intel brand of integrated graphics, the HD Graphics 520. You’ll see in our testing that not only is this integrated GPU unqualified for modern PC gaming, but it also performs quite differently based on the CPU it is paired with.
Our subject graphics card is the MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti OC Edition with 4GB of memory. It has a retail price of just $139 (available on both Amazon.com and Newegg.com) and should represent a very reasonable price point for a user to pay to upgrade a PC.
While most of the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050 cards are shipping without the need for 6-pin external power, make sure you double check if you stray from this specific model. You don’t want to order a card that requires a connector that your PC may not have!
The installation process for both of these OEM PCs was straight forward and something that anyone that has a screw driver handy should be able to accomplish. The ASUS M32CD machine has two screws that allow you to remove the side panel.
Once removed, you simply take out the two back panel covers and install the graphics card into the longest PCI Express slot on the motherboard, locking it into place with a click. A screw keeps the card tight, then you simply replace the side panel and move your monitor output from the motherboard display connections to the new MSI GTX 1050 Ti.
The Dell Inspiron is just as simple, but takes advantage of a hinge-style opening mechanism that allows it to maintain a smaller footprint.
The rest of the process is nearly identical. Remove the side panel, unhinge the retention plate on the outside of the case (it will swing open), open the case, install the GTX 1050 Ti in the longest PCI Express card slot and you’re done. Again, move the display output cable from the connections on the motherboard to the ones on the GTX 1050 Ti add-in card.
Once you boot back into Windows, you’ll need to visit GeForce.com and download the latest drivers from NVIDIA. Running that simple installer will get all the software you need on your machine; reboot and then you are ready to start gaming.