Nvidia has silently confirmed the release of a new RTX 3050 variant today, but it's a slower model aimed at the OEM market only. This variant comes with a slight reduction in core clocks and CUDA cores. But all its other core specifications, including the memory configuration and TDP, remain the same.
Unfortunately, Nvidia has not stated why this new model was created, which is barely any different from the standard model. The neutered version comes with an 11% reduction in CUDA core counts from 2560 to 2304 (20 SMs to 19 SMs) and around a 2% reduction in core clocks.
In real-world use, the performance degradation between the two cards shouldn't be noticeable at all with such a minor deviation in core count and especially clock speeds – if anything. Furthermore, Nvidia's GPU Boost 4.0 algorithm should be able to boost clocks even higher than the standard variant due to power consumption remaining the same between the two models.
Presumably, Nvidia has disabled some cores to increase yields from slightly defective GA106 dies manufactured at the factory. This is the only logical explanation we have right now, but it makes a lot of sense.
This isn't the first time Nvidia has pulled this maneuver on the GPU market. Over the past few generations, we've seen several GPU models featuring two to four different versions to optimize manufacturing efficiency. The most notable examples of this are the RTX 3080 12GB and GTX 1060 3GB, which featured more or fewer CUDA cores than their vanilla counterparts.
Nvidia also released OEM-exclusive models of graphics cards in the past, but it hasn't done so in a very long time. But unlike OEM models of the past, this new 3050 model lacks any OEM branding and shares the same naming scheme as the vanilla RTX 3050 8GB.
This could be problematic for customers choosing gaming PCs from OEMs and customers looking at graphics cards on the used market. Without a proper distinction between the two 3050 models, customers won't be able to know which GPU they are buying until they purchase the machine and fire up GPU-Z on the system. Hopefully, this potential issue doesn't become a reality.
Pricing and availability are unknown, and since this neutered 3050 is OEM exclusive, it's doubtful it has an MSRP of any sort. But since Nvidia has released the specs of the new GPU on its main website, it should already be in the hands of Nvidia's many OEM partners. So expect new machines to be updated with the new 3050 at any time.